Music Made Famous by Miami Vice
by Justin Farrar | April 14, 2014
Back in the mid-'80s, 10-year-old me watched Miami Vice the way some folks watched Pat Robertson: with an anticipation that bordered on the fanatical. Every single Friday night I anxiously sat myself in front of the family television and got as "pumped" as a preteen boy can get while watching exotic and electrifying images of chic beaches, jai alai and bikini-clad women flash across the scene to maestro Jan Hammer's high-octane, synth-rock theme song.
Of course, music (and how producer Michael Mann incorporated it into the narrative) was a fundamental element of the Miami Vice allure. Though the show wasn't the first on television to spotlight cutting-edge pop music, Mann did it with an over-the-top flair and pure '80s hyper-stylism (synthesizers galore, people) that was utterly novel. After all, the most iconic scene in the program's entire five-season run -- a montage of Crockett and Tubbs cruising through Miami at night, preparing for their high-noon-like showdown with drug lord Esteban Calderone, while Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" permeates the ocean air -- was largely inspired by the kind of music video production pioneered by then-über hip MTV.
The savvy use of music in Miami Vice (not to mention the high-profile cameos from actual pop stars Glenn Frey, Phil Collins and the lovely Sheena Easton) wasn't lost on big-time record executives, or the artists they represented. To have a song featured in the show, even if only for a few measly bars, offered instant nationwide exposure and credibility (i.e. if it's on Miami Vice, then it has to be cool). It's for this very reason that our Music Made Famous by Miami Vice playlist more or less reads like a who's who of '80s pop and rock. There's ZZ Top, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, U2, Tom Tom Club, Sheila E., The Police, El DeBarge, The Pointer Sisters, and countless others. Yet it wasn't just mainstream music that Miami Vice used. Mann's production team also managed to slip some fairly obscure stuff into the soundtrack, including tunes from Echo & the Bunnymen, Afrika Bambaata, Public Image Ltd., Dead Can Dance and Yo! Bum Rush the Show-era Public Enemy. One more thing: Don't be surprised if this playlist induces incessant daydreams of zipping about town in a Ferrari 365 GTB/4.