Sunday, July 12, 2015

Best Song: "Buttons and Bows" (1948)

Jane Russell in The Paleface
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 1948 and The Academy is celebrating its 21st year. Director Laurence Olivier's Hamlet wins Best Picture while also becoming the first film to also have a Best Director nod from a leading actor. John Huston becomes the first person to direct two different films with acting nominations for Key Largo and The Treasure of Sierra Madre. The Best Costume category is introduced with the first presenter being Elizabeth Taylor. Joan of Arc became the first film to receive over seven nominations without a Best Picture nomination. In the Best Original Song category, western film The Paleface wins with "Buttons and Bows."

The Nominees

Song: "For Every Man There's a Woman"
Film: Casbah
Performers: Tony Martin

Here is an example of a song that works thanks to inflection. While the song itself is kind of unmemorable, I like that Tony Martin feels every line with personality. The rhythm jumps up and down, capturing a certain passion. If the song was better produced and had more complexity, there's a chance that I would like it more. For what it is, it has plenty of good moments and works as its own little love song. Again, it is mostly because Martin is a solid singer and someone who is capable of making a love song sound better than the lyrics would suggest.

Song: "It's Magic"
Film: Romance on the High Seas
Performers: Doris Day

It looks like it is going to be a year of ballads. This time, Doris Day sings a nice little ditty about the power of love. It helps that there's something pure to her voice. She gives off a lingering passion as she sings the lyrics. Much like the previous one, this song's best feature is its ability to fluctuate and emphasize something more wonderful about the love song. I don't necessarily find it to be that great, but it does put me at ease and make me want to swoon when I hear it. It's another good song that captures the feeling of romance well enough to make us actually get lost in the melody.

Song: "This is the Moment"
Film: That Lady in Ermine
Performers: Betty Grable and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

That was such an odd song to begin listening to without a better context. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. gives a booming introduction the likes we haven't heard during Best Song in awhile. With the instrumentation to back it up, it definitely rattles to your core. Without context, it is hard to fully appreciate what it is going for, though Fairbanks does an excellent job of getting us into that passionate moment. While I don't feel as moved by Betty Grable's part, as it does feel a little timid by comparison, it does make for a decent duet in a year full of them. I think its sheer energy is likely what makes it a standout more than its actual quality, which is still quite good.

Song: "The Woody Woodpecker Song"
Film: Wet Blanket Policy
Performers: Gloria Wood, Harry Babbit

When preparing for this column this week, I have tried to understand what exactly would motivate someone to nominate this song. While Woody Woodpecker has become his own entity in pop culture, I do not associate his name with Oscar nominations, let alone his theme song that is featured in this short. However, it is immediately recognizable. His penchant laugh and the classy singer filling in the plot holes. It may just be that this week is light on actually great songs, but this somewhat novelty track still manages to hold up and make me excited to watch it. It's an ear worm that definitely fits the bill of being on this list.

And the winner is...

Song: "Buttons and Bows"
Film: The Paleface
Performers: Bob Hope

It is so nice to finally see Bob Hope back on this list. While it may not be my favorite Best Original Song winner, "Thanks for the Memory" has its place thanks to Hope's personality. He may not be the best singer, but he does fill it with personality. Here, he manages to infuse a simple accordion playing with plenty of upbeat rhythm. I like the track overall and its simple message about a woman being the prettiest person in town is not without its charm. For what it makes it corny, it also has esteem to spare that makes it rather endearing. I wish that Hope appeared more on this list, because he knows how to make stand-out songs that the traditional vocalists cannot.

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. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
10. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
11. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
12. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
13. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
14. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
15. "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. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
9. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
10. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
11. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
12. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
13. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
14. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
15. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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