Singing in the shower is our chance to experience our own private versions of being rock stars. The water stream is our spotlight, the rising steam our theatrical haze, and for a few minutes, whether we sound like Florence + the Machine or Florence Foster Jenkins, we get to rule the world. In other words, as David Bowie sang, “We can be heroes… forever and ever.” Or at least until the hot water runs out.
It’s been 20 years since Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman belted Bowie’s words into each others’ faces in Baz Lurhmann’s Moulin Rouge, all while standing atop a giant elephant-shaped boudoir. That means we’ve all had 20 years to belt along to its iconic soundtrack while in the shower. The 2001 film remains a gonzo masterpiece, the film that taught an entire generation what “Voulez vous coucher avec moi” meant, and that the song “Roxanne” is in fact about a prostitute. But its soundtrack is its own singular work of art, a collection of (as mandated by the law of all early-’00s film soundtracks) music from and inspired by the film. It also seems to have been scientifically engineered to be screlted along to at max volume at bathtime.
So open up Spotify, plop your cell phone in a big plastic cup for optimal amplification, and flip that faucet on as we embark on a journey through the Moulin Rouge soundtrack album, ranked from worst to best by shower singability.
14. BECAUSE WE CAN
Sing it with me: “Because we can can can. Because we can can can can can can can can can.” If you shun lyrical complexity and prefer the comforting embrace of repetition and routine, this may be the shower jam for you. Admittedly, the fact that a Fatboy Slim dance track with excessive vocal sampling by Jim Broadbent exists is fantastic. Love Jim and the way he says “popping book” in Paddington 2. But I don’t need him in the shower with me.
13. DIAMOND DOGS
In 2001, Beck teamed up with Timbaland to cover a Bowie song. And while that’s kinda cool, this cover is basically the same as the original. Nice Bowie impression, Beck, but we came to Moulin Rouge for Freedom, Beauty, Truth, and Nicole Kidman. If this song comes on while you’re drying off, no biggie, but make sure this thing is nowhere on your singalong queue, or you’ll have to do that annoying thing where you get out of the shower to press skip, and you’re gonna make the floor all wet and probably cause water damage to your phone. We do not stan.
12. CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION
Look, I enjoy a scrub-and-sing to Bono from time to time. I’ve had a crying-and-crooning shower moment to “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” as much as the next guy. But this particular song is not necessarily The Vibe. Fret not, though, for it shall soon pass, and you can always use these three minutes for more personal grooming projects. As you’re not likely to be as tempted to join in on Bono’s smoky T. Rex cover as you would with, say, the generation-defining majesty of Ewan McGregor’s swoon-inducing voice, you will be entirely un-distracted to focus on the sensitive areas that may need to be trimmed and tucked.
11. SPARKLING DIAMONDS
Moulin Rouge was Nicole Kidman’s first film post-Tom Cruise divorce, making this a sort of anti-Scientologist “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.” That’s really where its shower life begins and ends, though, because (particularly in the soundtrack version) this reads more chaotic than cleansing, a mashup of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Material Girl” punctuated by One of Our Greatest Actresses shouting things like “Olé!” and “YEOWWWWWW!” But if you want to rig a rubber ducky to a swing, whirl it around your tub, and then pretend it falls off the swing because of tuberculosis, be my guest.
10. RHYTHM OF THE NIGHT
Lest we forget, the original Corona version of this song was needle-dropped on season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race every time Ru complimented Crystal Methyd’s Debarge-style hair. So naturally, this Valeriya revamp works as an excellent shampoo moment. Plus it’s three minutes and 49 seconds long, which means you’ll have a good barometer of how long it’s recommended to clean your scalp, and an extra 49 seconds to just shake your ass.
9. EL TANGO DEL ROXANNE
The most decidedly “extra” track from a film filled with them, this tangoed-up take on the Police classic may wind up just too damn dramatic for everyday showering. But if you’ve fallen in love with a courtesan and are feeling jealous that she has to go on a date with a rich but slimy Duke, this is the song for you. For those of us who will never have the “masc for masc” swagger of Jacek Koman playing Moulin Rouge’s Unconscious Argentinean, the vocal is likely to sound a bit too much like someone playing a Vaguely Ethnic Pirate, so this may be a skip. But I also know someone who plays this often while shaving her legs, and I can’t think of anything with more fuck-me energy than that.
8. LADY MARMALADE
This one is not for the weak. If you possess the vocal dexterity to be a Pink, a Mya, a Lil’ Kim, and a Christina Aguilera, then you’d best be singing this daily while absolutely covered in suds. For the rest of us, this is exclusively a lip-sync moment, although even 20 years later, this song still feels just too damn filthy for a place that’s supposed to be all about getting clean. How we’re still not dealing with the fallout from the seismic earthquake caused by Lil’ Kim’s verse, I will never know.
7. NATURE BOY
This is absolutely where all Moulin Rouge shower journeys should begin, if only for the simple reason that turning on the faucet to the dulcet tones of Ewan McGregor intoning, “The woman I loved is dead” is drama. The fact that it is followed up by the late, great David Bowie absolutely feeling himself to this low-key masterpiece, and that you can feel yourself too, is just icing on the cake. That final note, when Bowie screams “IN RETUUUUUUUUUURN” but it totally sounds like “EVITAAAAAA” is a prime shampoo-bottle-mic-to-the-face belt moment. Skip the Massive Attack remix, though.
6. ONE DAY I’LL FLY AWAY
For an actor who’s appeared in multiple movie musicals over the last 20 years, most recently teaching us all the meaning of zazz, Nicole Kidman actually has a pretty thin voice. It’s lovely enough, but compared to the stratospheric inaccessibility of an Aguilera, it’s also a boon for shower-singers everywhere: Her light mezzo tone is achievable for people of any vocal range or gender identity. This one is more for those of us who’ve finished all our scrubbing necessities, but want to stay in and belt out just one more for shiggles. While its park-and-bark majesty is undercut a bit when it isn’t being sung on top of a giant elephant, its “I wanna get outta here” message is surely accessible to anyone who’s ever longed for a bigger shower.
5. HINDI SAD DIAMONDS
The bulk of this track comes from a Bollywood banger called “Chamma Chamma,” but it should really be called “Scrubba Dubba,” given how much fun it is to rhythmically work up a lather to. Anyone who thinks this absolute banger has no singalong potential is forgetting about its second part, the sound of which I can only describe as Nicole Kidman voguing through a sci-fi hellscape. The sexual revolution is here. Join the movement.
4. COMPLAINTE DE LA BUTTE
For those stumbling upon this track and wondering What the Fuck It Is, this is the song that plays (albeit briefly) when Ewan McGregor steps off the train to Paris at the beginning of the film. Any track that ushers our Fresh-Faced King to 1900s Paris is automatically bumped up a few points — we’re very strict on that matter. But this underrated Rufus Wainwright track is also prime bubble-bath material, particularly for those of us who took high-school French, don’t remember a thing, but still want to retain some semblance of class. Pro tip: this may sound crazy, but particularly in the midst of allergy season, when the inside of your ears are tickling like crazy, pop this song in your headphones, crank it up, and let Rufus’ fast and furious vibrato satiate that itch better than any Q-tip ever could.
3. ELEPHANT LOVE MEDLEY
Some would say it shouldn’t be done. Others would say it can’t. “Elephant Love Medley” is an entire evening of karaoke in four minutes and 13 seconds, but it translates beautifully to the shower, especially if you’re on a tight schedule. Apply that shampoo for “All You Need is Love,” and you’ll be ready to wash your body by “In the Name of Love.” That leaves “Heroes” for rinsing out the shampoo and conditioner application, and you’re home free by the time we get to Whitney Houston at the big climax. Bonus points if you bring in a partner for this song. Bonus bonus points if you live in an apartment building and get your upstairs neighbor to sing the Moon’s operatic voyeuristic insert at the end.
2. COME WHAT MAY
Turn off the lights. Light several candles. Then drop that bathrobe and belt the absolute living shit out of this song. It was written for Romeo + Juliet, but was finally beamed to the pleasure points of our ear holes by Baz’s next pair of doomed lovers. Entire treatises could be written about the elegant simplicity of its hook, the sparse singalong mastery of the phrase “Come what may.” Bathing and cleansing is important, but belting a series of monosyllabic words at a high volume is its own form of self care.
1. YOUR SONG
A word of caution: when I was a child, I used to put this one on and put soap in my mouth during the children’s-choir section so I could blow bubbles for the part where Ewan and Nicole ascend into the clouds. This backfired horrifically when, as I prepared to belt out the next Ewan section, the soap broke in half and I almost choked on it. I do not recommend trying this, but it is both Very Gay and also Good For Ambience.
That said, Moulin Rouge’s version of “Your Song,” where Ewan McGregor is thrust into the spotlight and proceeds to Absolutely Sing His Face Off, is exactly the kind of rock star moment Shower Sings are made for. Never mind that Ewan is kind of the all-in-one shampoo and body wash of mankind, remove the visual, and he kinda does sound here like some guy fucking around with an old track and making it his own. The belted “My gift is my song”! The option-up on “You see, I’ve forgotten if they’re GREEEEEEN OR THEY’RE BLUUUUUE!” Ewan McGregor is screaming “I don’t remember the color of your eyes, but I’m flirting with you” and it’s great! The whole song is about being so much at the center of your experience while singing that an entire city would simultaneously drop what they’re doing and turn on their lights to find out Just Whose Voice That Is. Twenty years ago, Ewan McGregor made this number his, but for less than four minutes in the shower, this is your song.