When the original Ghostbusters became a major hit and iconic part of popular culture upon its release in 1984, a big part of the phenomenon was its ubiquitous theme song. Written and performed by Ray Parker, Jr., the catchy tune turned two different lyrics - “who you gonna call?” and “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” into ever-present mid-‘80s catchphrases.
Ghostbusters II, five years later, may not have been quite as beloved, but it also featured a memorable theme song, Bobby Brown’s “On Our Own.” The release of the new reboot of Ghostbusters is now just three weeks away, so naturally there’s also a pop star-performed theme song, which was released Thursday. The theme of the 2016 Ghostbusters is called “Ghostbusters (I'm Not Afraid),” and it’s performed by the rock band Fall Out Boy, featuring rapper Missy Elliott.
The song - like the movie it comes from - can best be described as a semi-cover of the 1984 original: The beat and riff are very different, yet the opening lyrics are still “There’s something strange/in the neighborhood/who you gonna call/Ghostbusters" - and the words of the first two verses are identical to Parker’s song, including the 1984 version's “Ghostbusters” chant. The chorus, however, is different - simply “I’m Not Afraid” repeated by vocalist Patrick Stump - and Elliott contributes an original rap part. The song also doesn’t use the phrase “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” although it does bring back the Parker song’s guitar riff at the very end.
Will the new song be as iconic as the one from 1984? Probably not; it doesn’t have the spontaneity of the Parker version, and it sounds more like a standard Fall Out Boy song with lyrics that happen to be about Ghostbusters than a natural movie theme song. Those skeptical of the Ghostbusters remake project likely aren’t going to be convinced to give it a chance just because of this song.
Then again, anyone objecting to the new song may be overrating the sacredness of the source material a bit. Parker’s theme, while one of the best of its kind, was at its heart a novelty 1980s movie theme. And if you don’t like the new version, the original isn’t going anywhere - and that goes for the original Ghostbusters movie, too. If nothing else, at least Ray Parker, Jr. is most likely getting a songwriting credit and royalty check out of the deal.
Ghostbusters arrives in theaters July 15, 2016.
The Ghostbusters soundtrack, featuring both the Fall Out Boy song and Elle King’s previously released song “Good Girls,” comes out on the same day.