Published on July 14th, 2015 | by Andy Sedlak
‘She’s the One’ – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 
Summary: A forgotten soundtrack from a forgotten film. It has all the makings of a dud, except it’s not. This album matches the looseness of an outtakes record with the focus of a dedicated studio release.
Released: Aug. 6, 1996
Producers: Rick Rubin, Tom Petty, Mike Campbell
Label: Warner Bros.
Peak Billboard Position: 15
Part of our mission at Overdue Review is to roll up our sleeves and dig into the past. We scan the annals of history for forgotten gems, exaggerated successes and everything in between. Whatever we find, we aim to recognize it for what it is and – with the wisdom of years – assign accurate placement within the pop culture spectrum.
On paper, this release seemed so absurd that it shouldn’t actually exist. Tom Petty wrote the soundtrack for a 1996 Jennifer Aniston movie?
It was called what? She’s the One?
I’ve never heard of it.
And Cameron Diaz was in it?
What the hell?
Turns out Petty was only asked to contribute a single song to the romantic comedy. The Heartbreakers, however, quickly signed on to score the entire picture. Band members Mike Campbell, Howie Epstein and Benmont Tench all received individual credits for their work. Even longtime Heartbreakers roadie Alan “Bugs” Weidel was credited as a “music recording assistant.”
Although technically a “soundtrack” album, the accompanying CD release was split between new Heartbreakers recordings and leftovers from 1994’s superb Wildflowers. Producer Rick Rubin presided over recording sessions that featured faithfully recorded cover songs, multiple takes of newer compositions and a smattering of appearances from Lindsey Buckingham and Ringo Starr.
I’ve been to Tom Petty shows. I’ve seen the four-hour Runnin’ Down a Dream documentary more times than I or my wife would care to publicly admit. And I didn’t know Songs and Music From the Motion Picture She’s the One — the record’s full and exhausting title — existed.
Yet, from the opening jangle of “Walls (Circus),” I knew I was going to like it.
Petty plays “Walls (Circus)” live.
The She’s the One soundtrack probably never got the spotlight Petty’s releases were accustomed to. It became his lowest-charting album since the 1987 bomb Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough), which is generally regarded as when the Heartbreakers bottomed out. The Edward Burns-directed film was a modest critical success, but the movie (it had a budget of only $3.5 million) never made an imprint on the popular consciousness.
Just like the Rubin-produced Wildflowers, the soundtrack to She’s the One has aged remarkably well. Petty sounds goose-loose on Lucinda Williams’ “Change the Locks” and Beck’s “Asshole.” The two best compositions on the album (“Walls” and “Angel Dream”) are each featured in two different versions. There are even instrumentals (“Hope On Board” and the jazzy “Airport”). For filmmaking purposes, the instrumentals were probably scene-specific. But on the soundtrack they underscore a fun, just-for-the-hell-of-it vibe.
In truth, She’s the One is one of the rare Heartbreakers releases with both the looseness of an outtakes record but also the focus of a dedicated studio release.
From “Walls (Circus):”
You got a heart so big
It could crush this town
And I can’t hold out forever
Even walls fall down
One of the album’s most interesting and fun cuts, “Zero From Outer Space.”
The Heartbreakers, known predominantly for their hits-filled live shows, don’t spotlight these songs in concert. It might serve them well to feature the freak-flag fun of “Zero From Outer Space” (the way Petty stresses the word “fuckin’” in the first verse is awe-inspiring) and “Supernatural Radio.”
From “Zero From Outer Space:”
You think that you’re above me
You think that you’re so big
Well, I saw you kick that dog
When the wind blew off your wig
The album’s table-pounding roadhouse moments are offset by the gritty coming-of-age sentiment of “Grew Up Fast” and two versions of the eloquent “Angel Dream.” Although the differences between versions of “Angel Dream” are subtle, they’re immediately recognizable.
From “Angel Dream (No. 4):”
Now I’m walking this street on my own
But she’s with me everywhere I go
Yeah I found an angel, I found my place
I can only thank God it was not too late
Petty and the boys perform “Angel Dream” on stage.
The lean, guitar-heavy sound of “Climb That Hill” reminded me of “Cabin Down Below” and “Honey Bee” from Wildflowers. “California” is a way-above-average Heartbreakers album cut. “Hung Up and Overdue” might as well serve as the theme song for the website you’re currently reading.
In spite of being lost in the flood of the Heartbreakers’ history, She’s the One shouldn’t be considered a wreck. The album, eventually certified Gold, met with critical success in the summer of ’96. Rolling Stone and Q each gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Entertainment Weekly gave it a rating of A-. It currently holds a rating of 3/5 stars from AllMusic.
Soundtracks are meant to bolster the films they’re associated with. But there’s a gap between Petty’s release and Burns’ Aniston-starring film. For one, not every song on the soundtrack is featured in the movie. Reversely, some of the instrumental scores featured in the film are not included on the soundtrack. In some ways, it’s a bit of a shame that Petty’s “soundtrack” needed to share its title with the film. The more I researched it, the more the movie’s source material seemed like a jumping-off point for Petty and his reliable crew of Heartbreakers.
Following the release of the She’s the One soundtrack, Petty and the Heartbreakers were quiet until 1999’s Echo, which was unfairly scrutinized by everyone from authoritative critics to Petty-hungry fans to the composers themselves. An Anthology release was issued the following year, but it wasn’t until 2002’s The Last DJ that the Heartbreakers found themselves back on rock radio.
Petty’s dedication to raucously heartfelt rock music continues to this day. His reputation among music scholars is that he’s never released either a masterpiece or a complete dud. Petty is consistent, for better or worse.
The “soundtrack” to She’s the One deserves another examination from the Petty faithful. The obtuse and captivatingly rag-tag concoction of songs made for an interesting shakeup that somehow led to a cohesive whole.
If it was released today, it would be heralded by fans as the Heartbreakers’ best work since the album before it.