Believe it or not, I have never seen The Karate Kid.
I know, right? Hasn’t everybody seen it? Well, sure, except for guys like me, who were totally and prematurely embittered towards the entire experience. Guys who were in sixth grade when The Karate Kid came out.
If you were a guy my age in the 1980s, and you had an Italian last name, and people liked you, I hated your guts. You can only understand this hatred if you have Italian blood, like I do. You automatically scrap with the blond kids at school; it just happens. You rub elbows with other “Italian-American” kids with varying degrees of attitude about it. You’re just fighty in your bones, for some fucked-up reason.
So seeing classmates idolize this Ralph Macchio guy*, who did martial arts like the total assholes I encountered, only made me want to kill him. Of course there was a blond kid, as the villain. And Pat Morita was Mr. Miyagi, at a time when that role was basically a ubiquitous stock TV character. Kids at my school would quote him, aloud, saying something like “whacks on, whacks off.” I wanted no part of any of this.
That’s how I had no idea Joe Esposito’s “You’re The Best” was related in any way to The Karate Kid.
(*There was an editor at Marvel Comics named Ralph Macchio. As children, we had no way of knowing it wasn’t the same guy, and this only made the hatred worse.)
I mentioned in a previous article that I have to battle extreme anti-motivation every morning. I do this in a number of different ways. Most often, I call up the opening of the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece Full Metal Jacket on YouTube, while I’m having coffee, and put on my headphones. It absolutely never fails to get me running.
I’ve seen that over 100 times, and I still laugh along with Private Pyle, and the choking always makes it stop. Private Joker mumbling in the first moments? That’s me, dude. That’s me. I never see the sucker punch coming.
Six minutes later, I’m kicking ass. Guaranteed. Wanna see my war face?
Joe “Bean” Esposito is the performer of “You’re The Best”, and almost literally a billion other things. He used to work with Donna Summer, who died prematurely due to the cancerous debris aerated after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. I bring this up because certain groups are trying to revise history as far as 9/11/01 is concerned. I still write about 9/11 because I’m still enraged about it. Funny how that works regarding horrific tragedy, yes? Especially when presidential campaigns in our country are partially funded by the country that perpetrated 9/11? You expect me to just let all this shit go? Fuck you.
YOU SEE? DO YOU SEE WHAT I HAVE TO PUSH THROUGH EVERY MORNING? WHY I HAVE TO SEEK MOTIVATION? AND FOCUS?
Let’s try this again-
Joe “Bean” Esposito is the performer of “You’re The Best”. That’s him singing, and playing guitar. The song doesn’t even bother with an intro. Just P-CHOWWWWW on guitar, then Joe starts to sing almost immediately. Time is of the goddamn essence!!!
I don’t believe this song should be classified the way it currently is, alongside lesser stabs at inspiration like “Eye Of The Tiger” (Survivor), or the truly awful “Take It To The Limit”, from Scarface. Great hambones, the soundtrack to Scarface is abysmal. Like Blade Runner, it’s Vangelis. Vangelis! Greek dude who uses one name! The proto-Yanni! Chariots of Fire Vangelis! ECCH!!!
(The above clip is probably the best example of a Vangelis score, in my opinion.)
The lyrics of “You’re The Best” aren’t noteworthy; they’re serviceable lessons about being a man, learning to take it, et cetera. Esposito sings them in a capable register that could easily pass for a wrestler or daredevil. He’s not too hoarse, like Bryan Adams or Rod Stewart, and he’s got the necessary wallop. Before you even realize it, “Bean” is in your head, making you jump rope.
The slogans masquerading as lyrics are why this song is such a natural fit in training montages. It’s almost difficult to sit still while it’s playing.
History repeats itself
Try and you will succeed
Never doubt that you’re the one
And you can have your dream
You’re the best (around)
Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down
You can’t beat that! It’s fucking musical adrenaline!
Esposito even drives the point home over the out-chorus, howling “NOTHING!!!” He’s assuring you that even though the song may be ending, your triumphs have only just begun. NOTHING CAN EVER KEEP YOU DOWN. NOTHING.
Remember the Bene Gesserit mantra, from Frank Herbert’s Dune? Consider committing it to memory, as I have, so you can call upon it in weak moments:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will allow it to pass over me and through me. When it is gone, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
“Where the fear was will be nothing. Only I remain.”
All those dudes with “No Fear” shirts and stickers back in the ’90s; they didn’t know shit. Frank Herbert? He knew.
Fight till the end
‘Cause your life will depend
On the strength that you have inside you
Gotta be proud
Standing out in the crowd
When they odds of the game defy you
Try your best to win them all
And one day time will tell
When you’re the one that’s standing there
You’ve reached the final bell
At 1:25 the guitar solo kicks in, and it’s a proper 1980s all-American hot dog, just what the doctor ordered. I don’t think I need to point out how absolutely glorious this is. It doesn’t sound dated because it’s in a class by itself. It set the high watermark for inspirational montage music, transcending culture, race, and gender. Well, maybe not gender, because it’s about “being a man”, but what do you want? What’s a good inspirational song for women that doesn’t sound like cheerleaders?
I’m being completely serious here, ladies. Why does all your uptempo music sound like cheerleaders? Because it does. It all fucking does! It started with Toni Basil’s “Oh Mickey” and it never stopped!!!
Speaking of cheerleaders, 2:15 brings in extra voices that scream “FIGHT!” They sound offbeat, but they’re actually perfectly timed. FIGHT! Listen to that sound FIGHT! A little bit of all you’ve got will never bring you down!
What does that even mean? It doesn’t matter! Don’t you get it by now?
You’re the best. Around.
And nothing’s gonna ever bring you down.