‘The Karate Kid’ Spin-off ‘Cobra Kai’ Waxes On the ’80s Music Nostalgia
It's been less than a week since The Karate Kid spin-off Cobra Kai hit YouTube Red, and it's already being hailed as both a creative masterpiece and a hit in the ratings, with the streaming service reporting 5.4 million first-day views of the inaugural episode and more than 15 million views overall. And for fans of the music from the era of the original movie, which hit theaters in the summer of 1984, the 10-episode series does not disappoint.
The primary focus of Cobra Kai is the redemption of one-time Southern California bad-boy Johnny Lawrence, a role reprised by William Zabka. From the moment he gets into his beat-up, mid-'80s Pontiac Firebird in the first episode, it's clear where his musical loyalties lie, as he cranks Poison's "Nothin' But a Good Time." Later on, feeling sorry for himself while driving around swigging from a bottle of whiskey in a paper bag, flashbacks from his defeat at the 1984 All-Valley Under-18 Karate Tournament to Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) racing through his mind, Foreigner's "Head Games" provides the soundtrack.
Eventually coming to terms with his past, Lawrence reopens the Cobra Kai dojo and takes on his young neighbor Miguel Diaz - who has been the target of high school bullies - as his first student. While setting up the studio, Diaz's cellphone goes off with a cheesy pop song ringtone, Lawrence chides him for his taste in music.
"And change that ringtone," he says. "Get some Guns N' Roses or something."
"What's...Guns N' Roses?" a perplexed Diaz asks.
"I'm gonna pretend you didn't say that," Lawrence says.
During the third episode, Lawrence is seen sporting a vintage Van Halen tour t-shirt from their legendary "1980 Invasion Tour." The tee was no coincidence, as the band was Zabka's first concert ever at the age of 14, which he recounted in a tweet while backstage at one of the band's last tour dates in 2015.
Diaz, shown cranking Ratt's 1985 single "Lay It Down" while in his bedroom practicing karate, makes up for his previous folly when showing Lawrence a website he's built, and his phone goes off once again, this time with the band's smash hit "Round and Round" as the ringtone.
"Is that..." Lawrence begins.
"Ratt?" Diaz says, "Awesome, right? I went online and looked up Guns N' Roses and ended up going on this whole '80s rock rabbit hole. That shit is dope!"
Elsewhere during the series viewers will hear tracks by Boston, the Alan Parsons Project, Queen and even a revisiting of the song "Young Hearts," from the obscure '80s electro-pop act Commuter, that appeared on the first Karate Kid soundtrack. Most strikingly is a brief moment of bromance between Lawrence and LaRusso to REO Speedwagon's "Take It on the Run" which has to be one of the musical highlights of the show.
Right now, the first two episodes of Cobra Kai are streaming for free on YouTube.