Sunday, October 18, 2015

Best Song: "The Days of Wine and Roses" (1962)

Scene from Days of Wine and Roses
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 1962 and The Academy is celebrating its 35th year. This was the year that David Lean won his second Best Picture with the sweeping epic Lawrence of Arabia with seven total wins. Meanwhile, Days of Wine and Roses won Best Original Song with the eponymous title track from the film.

The Nominees

Song: "Love Song from Mutiny on the Bounty (Follow Me)"
Film: Mutiny on the Bounty
Performers: Bronislau Kaper

This will be a tough one to grade because I try not to hold bias against songs not in English, but they inevitably don't linger with me. As much as I try to be about the production, I am very much into understanding the lyrics for fear of enjoying something hateful or ignorant. However, this song does have a nice meditative quality that flows like a river. I enjoy the vocal harmonies and the way that it is layered over each other in a relaxing flow. While I don't know the context, I can appreciate its production and the way that it soothes the listener while filling with intrigue. It definitely makes me want to follow them into whatever comes next.

Song: "Song from Two for the Seesaw (Second Chance)"
Film: Two for the Seesaw
Performers: Jackie Cain

On the bright side, this is the first soft jazz song to show up on this list. While I do think that it's slowness does wear a little thin on me after awhile, I can appreciate the way that Jackie Cain's voice fluctuates with the rhythm. It's sultry and full of a desire that reaches beyond the song, as if yelling seductively. I like the song in theory of how it approaches its subject matter - which is fresh and immersive. However, I do think that it's a little redundant and hard to fully appreciate, especially since its three minute running time feels a lot longer than it actually is.

Song: "Tender is the Night"
Film: Tender is the Night
Performers: Choir

It's another soothing song that is done by a choir. I will admit that I like the production. The harmonies are on point and capture a swooning quality that gets me in the mood for whatever lays ahead. However, it's a little slow and the vocals don't do much in the way that's unique or compelling. The lyrics are also fine, but offer nothing really immediately memorable beyond the title lyrics. I like the song just fine, but I don't know that it's one that grabs you and demands attention like some of the better ballads on this list.

Song: "Walk on the Wild Side"
Film: Walk on the Wild Side
Performers: Brook Benton

I will admit that this isn't one of my favorite weeks. There isn't a track that stands out to me as being exceptional. However, this is probably my favorite of what there is. It's another jazz number, and this one is richer with personality. I enjoy the sinners analogy that runs throughout most of the song. Even if it's not as rhythmically challenging, I think it is a more confident number that asks for your attention and then lures you in with each horn playing. I don't love it, but it's probably one of the better songs simply for being different and taking a unique approach to theme songs. I doubt this would have the same impact if it was a love song. I don't know the context, but it's seductive enough to work.

The Winner

Song: "The Days of Wine and Roses"
Film: The Days of Wine and Roses
Performers: Choir

Last week, I went on about how much I enjoyed Henry Mancini. I guess that it continues on here, even if I feel like his shtick is more apparent this time around. The vocals are lively yet melancholic in a compelling manner. It feels like a forced happiness that makes the song take on a more haunting quality. I don't know that it works as well, especially since it sounds more understated than purposeful. I wish that I could like this song more, but it just strikes itself between being interesting stylistically and lacking immediacy that makes it immediately memorable. It's fine, but I kind of hoped it would have that impacting moment that made it a great 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. "The Green Leaves of Summer" - The Alamo (1960)
2. "That's Amore" - The Caddy (1953)
3. "A Town Without Pity" - A Town Without Pity (1961)
4. "The Man That Got Away" - A Star is Born (1954)
5. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
6. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
7. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
8. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
9. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
10. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
11. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
12. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
13. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
14. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
15. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
16. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
17. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
18. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
19. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
20. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
21. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
22. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
23. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
24. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
25. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
26. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
27. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
28. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
29. "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. "Moon River" - Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
2. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" - The Wizard of Oz (1939)
3. "The Way You Look Tonight" - Swing Time (1936)
4. "Swinging on a Star" - Going My Way (1944)
5. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
6. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
7. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
8. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
9. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
10. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
11. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
12. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
13. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
14. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
15. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
16. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
17. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
18. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
19. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
20. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
21. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
22. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
23. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
24. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
25. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
26. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
27. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
28. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
29. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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