Sunday, July 19, 2015

Best Song: "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (1949)

Scene from Neptune's Daughter
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 1949 and The Academy is celebrating its 22nd year. Director Robert Rossen's All the King's Men wins Best Picture. This was the last year that all five of the Best Picture nominees were in black and white. In the Best Original Song category, Neptune's Daughter wins with the iconic song about being chilly called "Baby It's Cold Outside."

The Nominees

Song: "It's a Great Feeling"
Film: It's a Great Feeling
Performers: Doris Day

There's a lot of things that make this a particularly challenging song to critique. For starters, short songs don't have long to make an impact. This is both good and bad, especially if you really are into the rhythm and the vocal patterns of the singer. This song is actually really upbeat and I like it quite a bit. However, I do feel that there's so much more that could have been put into this song. According to IMDb, this is the version that was nominated, so I am going with it. While I think that it is fun and I definitely enjoyed it, the brevity keeps me from giving it any stellar remarks.

Song: "Lavender Blue"
Film: So Dear to My Heart
Performers: Burl Ives

Let's just get one thing clear: Burl Ives has one of those impeccable voices alongside Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby. He is distinct and has a certain passion that he brings to his songs. While this is one of his more obscure ones, he definitely makes the silliness of singing "Dilly, dilly" so many times into an endearing part of the song. Much like the previous one, I think that the brevity hurts the song in the long run. However, it still manages to make the most of it with a quick and memorable song that out of context still works as this fun little song.

Song: "My Foolish Heart"
Film: My Foolish Heart
Performers: Martha Mears

I think that maybe this is unprecedented to have so many songs nominated that don't even crack the two minute mark, let alone 90 seconds. Among the three so far, this is probably the least distinct and interesting. I don't have much reason to doubt Martha Mears, who has been good in the past, but there's not enough time here to establish personality and make me care about the general enthusiasm of the song. It is beautiful in its own way, but there's nothing that immediately grabs you and makes you think that it is a great song. Maybe in time if I hear other covers that extend and accentuate what makes the song good, maybe then I will appreciate it. For now, it's probably my least favorite from this year.

Song: "Through a Long and Sleepless Night"
Film: Come to the Stable
Performers: Ken Darby, Eileen Wilson

It could just be that the competition is so weak, but I found this song to be the best. Unlike the others, it actually has a beginning, middle, and end. There's a great vocal melody and the lyrics move with the rhythm. I become entranced in the way that everything flows together. I get caught up in the romanticism. It may not break two minutes, but it still manages to passionately get me in the mood by the song's end. It does help that Ken Darby has a commanding voice that makes me notice him with more clarity. It is a song that makes me care, which is more than I can say for these other good, not great, songs from this year.

The Winner

Song: "Baby, It's Cold Outside"
Film: Neptune's Daughter
Performers: Red Skelton, Betty Garrett

The best part of doing Best Song isn't just the discovery, but finding out what songs that I already knew that were either nominated or won. It gets more interesting when you see Christmas songs win since they seem so novelty now. However, this is one of the bigger shocks because I didn't even know its origins. Much like last week with Bob Hope, I do think that Red Skelton and Betty Garrett make this song something phenomenal. While it is has been covered to the point of losing passion, the original so rich with humor and melody that I had trouble not loving every second of it. This is a pretty great song overall and immediately infectious in ways that I had forgotten about. Definitely worth a listen.

*Note: While I will rank this above "White Christmas," please note that it was originally from Holiday Inn (1942) and was a duet that isn't quite as good as the rerecorded version from the later film White Christmas. Please visit my Best Song column on 1942 to hear that version.

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. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
4. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
5. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
6. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
7. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
8. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
9. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
10. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
11. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
12. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
13. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
14. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
15. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
16. "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. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
5. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
6. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
7. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
8. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
9. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
10. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
11. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
12. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
13. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
14. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
15. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
16. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)


  1. I know a music critic who refers to "Baby, It's Cold Outside" as "the original Blurred Lines", which I find both hilarious and surprisingly accurate.

    1. Care to explain? Is it because the music is stolen from another song, or just that it is an ear worm that has questionable relationship advice?

      I totally get if it's the latter, even if I am in the camp who see it more as an innocent "time and context" thing.

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