Sunday, April 5, 2015

Best Song: "The Continental" (1934 )

Left to right: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
Welcome to Best Song, a new weekly column released on Sunday dedicated to chronicling the Best Original Song category over the course of its many decades. The goal is to listen to and critique every song that has ever been nominated in the category as well as find the Best Best Song and the Best Loser. By the end, we'll have a comprehensive list of this music category and will hopefully have a better understanding not only of the evolution, but what it takes to receive a nomination here. It may seem easy now, but wait until the bad years.

The Preface

The year is 1934 and the Academy Awards is in its seventh year. It Happened One Night has won Best Picture and the world has grown in need of introducing the category of Best Original Song. In this case, we'll be seeing the rise of familiar musical favorites Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, who performed "The Continental"  in the film The Gay Divorcee. While the duo is greatly known for their song and dance routines, is the song really deserving of the first win in this category?

The Nominees

Song: "Love in Bloom"
Film: She Loves Me Not
Performers: Kitty Carlisle and Bing Crosby

It would make sense why Bing Crosby would be among the original line-up of nominees. With his soothing voice, he knows how to croon any old song. While I am not as wild about Kitty Carlisle's part, the song itself is a fine and simple ditty about love. It is hard to judge against contemporary music, or even later Crosby such as most of Going My Way or White Christmas. Compares to those, this song is a bit of a slog and not memorable. However, there's enough passion and melody to not be a total waste. The song itself is fine, but I'm sure that they were holding out for a better Crosby song.

Song: "Carioca"
Film: Flying Down to Rio
Performers: Etta Moten

Talk about double dipping. While Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers didn't actually perform this song, they were dancing in it. However, this is quite a catchy song that I feel is elevated by its filmed version. While the melodies and the quirky lyrics manage to add a majestic quality to it, it's the dance moves that essentially make this song something memorable. In terms of stuff that I am likely to revisit from this year's nominees, this is an easy front runner. I can only hope that the remaining songs on this list are as fun to listen to.

The Winner

Song: "The Continental"
Film: The Gay Divorcee
Performers: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

*Editor's Note: I have previously stated that "The Continental" didn't have lyrics. This was brought to my attention by a reader to be false as I listened to a video that featured a dance routine but not the actual lyrics. For those who are wondering, the above is a video of the actual song with said lyrics.

Rounding out this list of three song nominations is yet another Astaire/Rogers number in which they sing the steps to how to dance the aforementioned Continental. It is very fitting with the time and includes a swinging beat. Compared to the films it did beat, it's a lot more lively than "Love in Bloom" and on par with "Carioca." The production is rather solid and gets you interested in the dance quickly. I would give it the edge because it feels like it's the most fitting of the era and is by no means a bad song.

Best Loser

A comprehensive list and ranking of the songs that were nominated but did not win. This is a list predicated on which song that was nominated I liked the best.

1. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)

Best Best Song

A comprehensive list and ranking of the songs that won this category. 

1. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)

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