Sunday, June 21, 2015

Best Song: "It Might as Well Be Spring" (1945)

Scene from State Fair
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 1945 and The Academy is celebrating its 18th year. This was the first ceremony after World War II. Due to this, the show was glitzier and moved from its plaster statues to bronze. Despite the joy, The Lost Weekend won Best Picture and became the first to also win the Palme d'Or. In the Best Original Song category, State Fair won for the song "It Might As Well Be Spring."

The Nominees

Song: "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive"
Film: Here Comes the Waves
Performers: Bing Crosby, Sonny Tufts

As one could likely tell after last week, it seems like Bing Crosby turns almost every song he sings into gold. Here's another example of that ability. While the song basically amounts to "cheer up," it actually is a fun and catchy number that makes you want to sing along. The rhythm is bouncing and the lyrics are upbeat enough that you'll memorize them immediately. It is hard to really hate Crosby just because he seems to fill every song he sings with passion, even if this number shatters the illusion for laymen like myself who never thought that he did black face. Still, he doesn't lay the gimmick on the character (and out of context, it doesn't make sense), but that song is still great.

Song: "Anywhere"
Film: Tonight and Every Night
Performers: Janet Blair

According to IMDb, there are "two" versions of the song. One involves Rita Hayworth dancing to a xylophone that doesn't have lyrics. This version that I found with lyrics feels like it ends abruptly. I am unsure if there's a conjoined version or not. However, I still think that Janet Blair's voice adds a certain passion to this song that makes its brief run rather beautiful and its sweeping melody fills the instruments with life. I like the song overall, but I still feel like there's a longer cut that would have been far more interesting and better.

Song: "Aren't You Glad You're You?"
Film: The Bells of St. Mary's 
Performers: Bing Crosby

It's the second Bing Crosby on this entry. It's also in a film that was a sequel to last year's winner. While it does have the notion of being short, Crosby knows how to make a pop song with comical yet professional rhythm that you'll just want to keep listening to. It is optimistic and full of great lyrical choices. The only issue is that I don't necessarily think that it's as great as the other song, though largely because that one was a whole production number where this is a stripped down piano ballad. It is still great in a year that is so far going strong.

Song: "The Cat and the Canary"
Film: Why Girls Leave Home
Performers: Pamela Blake

This is unfortunately another case of being unable to find the song anywhere online. In fact, reviews on IMDb also claim that this is a lost film.

Song: "Endlessly"
Film: Earl Carroll Vanities
Performers: Constance Moore

One of the more unfortunate trends on this year's line-up is that I cannot find yet another song. It makes me feel bad to ever go without considering all of the songs, but sometimes I am left no choice. Here's hoping that this doesn't come up again.

Song: "I Fall in Love Too Easily"
Film: Anchors Aweigh
Performers: Frank Sinatra

Listen, I like Frank Sinatra and admit that his voice brings passion to a very lonely and longing voice. However, I don't know if there's really anything to this song out of context. Yes, his voice emphasizes something deeper in the most basic of lyrics. However, what's on the surface isn't all that interesting and while it may work in context, it doesn't hold up as a great or inspired song, specifically even by Sinatra's vast and impressive canon of songs.

Song: "I'll Buy That Dream"
Film: Sing Your Way Home
Performers: Anne Jeffreys

The song is overall one of the more hokey numbers on this list. The idea of imagining people wearing glasses when they're older is just... silly. People wear them when they're younger, too. However, the song does deserve points for incorporating "auto-gyros" into a song. The rest is fine, but feels like nothing more than a very specific woman's envisioning of her autumn years in love. It works because of this, but I don't really feel like there's anything necessarily special about it. As I said, it's mostly hokey.

Song: "Linda"
Film: The Story of G.I. Joe
Performers: Shelley Mitchell

I am unsure if this is the full song, as it feels like it ends abruptly. Also, out of context, there's not much that I really enjoyed about it. There have been plenty of songs on this list that have discussed war and the longing for soldiers to return home. Maybe it's just the brevity is bothering me, but its lyrics aren't necessarily motivating me to feel engaged with the song. At most, it feels like an average number about love. I can only hope that I am missing something and that there's more to this.

Song: "Love Letters"
Film: Love Letters
Performers: Dick Haymes

It feels like a very odd case in point that following my complaints about the previous song that this one would summarize what a really good version of the "bring our boys home" motif would sound like. With a very passionate and longing voice backing it, I can actually feel the song's intent as it creates a picture of sending out love letters. Part of me believes that this is one of those that will become more relevant the more that I hear it. For now, I find it to be a really passionate and beautiful song that emphasizes how melody can enhance an emotional response.

Song: "More and More"
Film: Can't Help Singing
Performers: Deanna Durbin

I am sure that I have liked Deanna Durbin songs before. I also am willing to accept that maybe this is not the specific version used in the film. However, I do find an issue with the general approach to this song. Her voice is a little too low, whispering in a way that is supposed to be romantic, but actually makes the quality quiver slightly. I like the overall themes of the song, but I don't feel like anything particularly interesting is being brought to the song. It is fine, but it could have used more of a personality.

Song: "Sleighride in July"
Film: Belle of the Yukon
Performers: Dinah Shore

Well, it definitely is a beautiful metaphor. While I must admit that the song took awhile to grow on me, I began to be taken in by it. The melancholy rhythm and romantic lyrics juxtaposed together nicely in a manner that suddenly made me begin to care. I don't necessarily know if I loved the song, but it definitely had a melody that I came to enjoy. Dinah Shore definitely knows how to bring passion to the nuanced parts of the song and makes me long for a sleighride in July, as odd of a metaphor as that actually is. Still, it is a pretty good song considering how low key it feels at first.

Song: "So in Love"
Film: Wonder Man
Performers: Vera Ellen

While I have complained here about songs that are short and don't get time to establish themselves, I do feel like this one tries to break that rule. In fact, the peppy melody and the solid finale make this one enthusiastic enough to work. It may be a very simple song lyrically, but her way of discussing romance as being something complicated, it manages to make the most of its brevity and ends up creating something special. Again, this may play against it, but at least it still works.

Song: "Some Sunday Morning"
Film: San Antonio
Performers: Alexis Smith

Maybe it's just overkill at this point, but I think that this is one of the better love songs that I have heard in recent weeks. Its biggest asset is that it is very specific to the topic of love and celebrating a wedding day. With a vocal breakdown in the middle, it turns into a charming number that makes you smile. In a way, the passion makes you anticipate the wedding more as this sweet and perfect moment. I feel like everything about the general production of the song is just spot on and I enjoy the optimism that fuels it.

The Winner

Song: "It Might as Well Be Spring"
Film: State Fair
Performers: Jeanne Crain

Oh, Rodgers and Hammerstein, how can you make things fair? While this is a song that pretty much juxtaposes a metaphor into a romantic entanglement, it does so with personality. The thing that makes this song rather exceptional is the way that the vocals manage to feel human and breathe beyond the basic melody. I can feel how the singer feels when singing those lines because there's a break from tradition to the entire thing that is sort of beautiful. As a whole, I really just love what they do with the song. While I am glad that next week will see this category drop from double digits to a more quaint five, I will admit to enjoying finding more specifically defined songs like these. It's just so good and I am glad to have discovered it.

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)
2. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
3. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
4. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
5. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
6. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
7. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
8. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
9. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
10. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
11. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
12. "I've Got You Under My Skin" - Born to Dance (1936)

Best Best Song

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

1. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" - The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2. "The Way You Look Tonight" - Swing Time (1936)
3. "Swinging on a Star" - Going My Way (1944)
4. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
5. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
6. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
7. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
8. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
9. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
10. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
11. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
12. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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