You’re the Best, [Insert Character Here]
September 5, 2019 6:13 AM   Subscribe

As Daniel LaRusso finds his tournament rhythm in The Karate Kid, we watch him plow through a number of challengers in a montage set to music: "you're the best...around...nothing's gonna ever keep you down!" That song is now iconic - it’s a popular callback reference - but it was written for a different fighter.

"You're the Best" was written by Bill Conti, who was a composer for Rocky and who wrote the all-time great theme song "Gonna Fly Now," which was a #1 hit in 1977 and was nominated for an Oscar (but Neil Diamond gave the trophy to Barbra Streisand for the theme from A Star is Born). Conti - among dozens and dozens of other films - went on to serve as composer for Rocky(s) II, III, and V, and for Rocky Balboa.

Conti originally wrote "You're the Best" for a training scene of Rocky III, (that’s how it looks in the film, here’s the scene with “You’re the Best” in its place), which explains the out-of-place-for-a-teenage-boy-rookie-at-a-karate-tournament-but-fit-for-a-boxing-champion lyrics “try to be best but you’re only a man and a man’s got to learn to take it,” "history repeats itself" and "you've reached the final bell."

Sylvester Stallone did not think “You’re the Best” was the right signature song for his film, and asked the band Survivor to write him a song instead, to go with the opening scene. When Stallone sent Survivor a cut of the Rocky III opening, it was synced with "Another One Bites The Dust" by Queen. Jim Peterik (Survivor's founding member and the writer of "Eye of the Tiger") recounted in an interview: "Frankie [Survivor guitarist] and I are watching this, the punches are being thrown, and we're going, 'Holy crap, this is working like a charm.' We called Stallone and said, 'Why aren't you using that?' He goes, 'Well, we can't get the publishing rights to it.' Frankie and I looked at each other and went, 'Man, this is going to be tough to beat.'"

Survivor came up with "Eye of the Tiger.". The song was a giant hit: it was #1 for six weeks in 1982, was top-5 in 17 countries, and earned Survivor an Oscar nomination (but Olivia Newton-John gave the trophy to “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman).

Two years after Rocky III, Conti served as composer for The Karate Kid, and offered "You're The Best" to director John Avildsen. The rest is history.

Survivor went on to write the signature song for Rocky IV: “Burning Heart” was top-5 in 8 countries and ended 1986 as one of the 10 biggest songs of the year in the U.S.

[Previously - The Karate Kid rehearsal movie - parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13.]

[Not previously, but related - Gary Gulman has a clever stand-up bit about some of the silliness of The Karate Kid, including the crane kick that ends the movie.]
posted by AgentRocket (26 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
No, you're the best!
posted by Fizz at 6:16 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


I was semi-obsessed by this song not too long ago because I'd swear that I saw a cover of it being used in another cartoon (not the middle "callback" one above), and I was about 90% sure that it was in Rick and Morty, but no. (R&M does have a training montage scene, but it's to "X Gon' Give It To Ya".)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:27 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


Karate Kid III....I was a projectionist at a movie theater while a senior in college....the film slipped off the platter and wasn't being picked up and re-wound, so by the mid-point, there was a sea of VERY EXPENSIVE PRINT STOCK lying all around whirring machinery and we had to stop the film, give everyone refunds, and very carefully (over the course of hours) re-wind the film back onto the platter by hand.

That has nothing to do with that song, but it's still a memory I'll hold forever.
posted by xingcat at 6:28 AM on September 5, 2019 [11 favorites]


This is an amazing post! I had no idea!
posted by wellred at 6:31 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


excellent post, excellent movie song (terrible actual song). The soundtrack and score to this movie are just amazingly evocative of 80's pop and movie sensibilities, it's a great listen.
posted by skewed at 6:33 AM on September 5, 2019


I was a projectionist at a movie theater while a senior in college....the film slipped off the platter and wasn't being picked up and re-wound,

So not your best.
posted by Fizz at 6:34 AM on September 5, 2019 [6 favorites]


What I've learned from this post is that "Another One Bites the Dust" syncs up with "Eye of the Tiger." Can we get a mash-up, please?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:38 AM on September 5, 2019


[Insert November here]
posted by maudlin at 6:45 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


I love how, when Daniel is preparing to do the crane kick, we get a shot of Mr. Miyagi's face with a "I really hope this bullshit move I taught him doesn't get him killed" look on it.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:45 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was semi-obsessed by this song not too long ago because I'd swear that I saw a cover of it being used in another cartoon

It was used for the "Nudecathalon" montage in Bob's Burgers. (Link is audio-only, so safe for work if you use headphones.)
posted by tobascodagama at 7:31 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


Can we get a mash-up, please?

For a mashup of lots of songs about being the best, I strongly recommend Neil Cicerega's bizarre Best
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:31 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


Is this an appropriate place to talk about how amazing the Cobra Kai series is?
posted by absalom at 7:54 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


Always fade out in a montage
If you fade out it looks like a long time has passed
Even Rocky had a montage
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:56 AM on September 5, 2019 [7 favorites]


I love this montage and its song for lots of silly reasons, but most of all for the refrain, "you're the best...around."

"Around" is so prosaic, it seems there ought to be something better, but after decades of trying, every alternative is somehow worse!
posted by Caxton1476 at 7:59 AM on September 5, 2019 [6 favorites]


I saw Karate Kid in theaters when I was a kid myself, probably more than once. Watched it over and over once it hit cable. I loved this song--and yet I don't remember it ever coming up outside the film until the rise of the internet. No pop culture callbacks, no radio play, if it had a music video on MTV I don't remember it ever coming up.

A weird thing about Gen X has been the realization that so many of us loved all the same pop culture deep cuts that only gained real traction once we were in our 30s and 40s. So many random little things you think were cool but nobody else appreciated, and then you get older and you find out no, everyone loved that shit.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:58 AM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


"Around" is so prosaic, it seems there ought to be something better, but after decades of trying, every alternative is somehow worse!

It all depends on the context.
-Someone is the best, and finally free? "You're the best... unbound!"
-Someone is the best but the other comparisons are fairly local? "You're the best... in town!"
-Someone is the best when comparing density of best things? "You're the best... per pound!"
-Someone is the best choice to heap things up in piles? "You're the best... at mounds!"
posted by FatherDagon at 9:15 AM on September 5, 2019 [5 favorites]


It was used for the "Nudecathalon" montage in Bob's Burgers

Thanks!
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:34 AM on September 5, 2019


It also pops up in the Futurama episode "30% Iron Chef" as the montage song while Bender is learning to cook (but I can't find a good online clip of it).
posted by thecaddy at 9:41 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


My favorite thing about this song is how it pauses for the unqualified "you're the best!" to sink in, before adding the qualification. Just plain "You're the best!" is great, and "You're the best around" is pretty dang good, but "You're the best ... around" seems like maybe the singer is starting to rethink the matter of who the actual best is. I sometimes find myself singing

You're the best ... around
At least while someone better is out of town!

or

You're the best ... nearby
The actual best is another guy
posted by rossmik at 10:55 AM on September 5, 2019 [15 favorites]


If you like '80s action-movie montage music, you might well enjoy the Blood Bros. mix series.
posted by box at 1:36 PM on September 5, 2019


The Rye or the Kaiser (Theme from Rocky XIII). Newsies scene BPM-synced. You're the Best at Prancercise. OneByOne Bootleg (kinda bad IMO).

And honestly, let me throw this in – remember the dude on Blue's Clues? Afterwards, he did a very Conti-esque song himself, called "Mighty Little Man." Yes, there's like no pixels to that link, and there's a better version of the audio here. Full disclosure: college classmate, but haven't seen him in decades.
posted by WCityMike at 4:43 PM on September 5, 2019


Another one: the song was also used on It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia when both Dee and Charlie are both training for their respective boxing matches.
posted by spoobnooble II: electric bugaboo at 4:45 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


If we are talking montages, one of the best recent examples if from Dave Made A Maze that was brilliantly self aware. One of the biggest misses (probably for the best, actually) is that The Martian didn't have a five minute Mark plays with fiberglass hab canvas montage.
posted by flyingfox at 6:37 PM on September 5, 2019


You're the best ... for clowns!
But no one's left in Puget Sound

- a short story
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:33 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


Is this an appropriate place to talk about how amazing the Cobra Kai series is?

The phrase "better than it has any right to be" comes up frequently in discussions about the show, deservedly. It strikes a nice balance between 80's teen/martial arts movie cheese and more down-to-earth character drama. Pretty much my only gripe is that it's not always clear how much of its "modern progressive values"-mocking is meant in earnest vs. an ironic reflection of Johnny's stuck-in-the-80's mindset. (For some bits it's easy to tell- the show clearly isn't on Johnny's side when he's casually racist to Miguel early on for instance, given that he later corrects [character] on him being from Ecuador and not Mexico)

Most elements of the show that seem somewhat over the top initially are shown to have more realistic layers to them down the road. The fighting remains implausibly choreographed, but that's part of the whole throwback charm.

I've found out recently there are per-episode discussions on FanFare, although they haven't gone past S2E1 for some reason, maybe low participation?

Also, a note for anyone (like me) who didn't grow up with the original movies- all 3 are surprisingly referenced, and recommended for the full backstory (Part III may be best viewed in RiffTrax form). I wouldn't be surprised if something from The Next Karate Kid is referenced at some point too, as the producers have already confirmed it's canon.
posted by Wandering Idiot at 7:59 PM on September 5, 2019


- Someone is the best Indiana Jones sidekick? “You’re the best... Short Round!”
posted by um at 3:59 AM on September 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


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