Sunday, November 15, 2015

Best Song: "Born Free" (1966)

Scene from Born Free
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 1966 and The Academy is celebrating its 39th year. This was the year that director Fred Zinnemann's A Man For All Seasons won Best Picture. Along with fellow stage adapted drama Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?, this was the last time as of 2015 that only two of the Best Picture nominated films were also nominated for Best Director. Meanwhile, the movie Born Free wins Best Original Song for its titular song.

The Nominees

Song: "Alfie"
Film: Alfie
Performers: Cilla Black

My general issue with this song is that it has the entire format of a great song. I really like the playful melody going alongside that of the tender and sweeping rhythm. I like that the singer is adding her own personality to the various notes that she hits. I like it all, yet there is something that feels off. It could be that the first part feels like a novelty love song, and it doesn't quite click with the part that is actually beautiful and poetic. I want to like this more, but it's sort of disjointed in a way that feels distracting. It's not a bad song, but definitely is one that I think is trying too hard to be greater than it is.

Song: "Georgy Girl"
Film: Georgy Girl
Performers: The Seekers

While I feel that I can get flack for finding "Alfie" to be too distracting, I am quite the opposite on this one. I don't know that this is the deepest song, but it's definitely among the most lively that I've heard this decade. It's also a very easy and insatiable pop song with a very simple hook. I am so glad to hear more contemporary (for the time) songs getting into the mix. I also like that this song could easily loop for five minutes, and I likely would still be able to like it just the same. It's not a very complicated song, but it's definitely one that invokes joy and happiness to those who hear it.

Song: "My Wishing Doll"
Film: Hawaii
Performers: Choir

I like the song conceptually, but I have to admit that I don't quite love it in execution. For starters, it's a good song stylistically that flows majestically. However, I come away wanting something more from it. The melody is fine. The harmonies are good. It's just that for a song that is supposedly incomplete, it doesn't really  make me interested in finding the complete version. It's a fine song, and one that feels like it works within the film. However, I don't know that it's one that personally connects with me in a way that is exciting or visceral.

Song: "A Time for Love"
Film: An American Dream
Performers: Janet Leigh

While this week seems to be a little underwhelming, I think that there's something odd about this choice. For starters, it's a good song lyrically. I think that Janet Leigh delivers the music with a passion that fits. I like the melody as well. It's just that the production is a little too understated to be something greater. Also, I think that the rhythm is a little bothersome, as it feels like it rushes through the background. It feels a little fast, considering that Leigh's vocal interpretation is a little slow. It feels a little jarring in a way that, with better production, could make this a much better song.

The Winner

Song: "Born Free"
Film: Born Free
Performers: Matt Monro

It's tough to rank this song without bringing in bias. Like a very few on this challenge, I have a previous relationship with this song. I enjoy it simply by Matt Monro's delivery. It's immediately powerful, yet gentle. The lyrics are optimistic and affirmative in a manner that makes it even more unique. I don't know that it holds up the iconic song that it is, but it definitely works in capturing this vibe that feels important. From the production to the singing, there's so much that I like about this song, even if the lyrics are just as simple as other ones that I give a harder time for. What is best is that Monro delivers it with purpose and personality. The rhythm is also superb vocally.

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. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
6. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
7. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
8. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
9. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
10. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
11. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
12. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
13. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
14. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
15. "Gegorgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
16. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
17. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
18. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
19. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
20. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
21. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
22. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
23. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
24. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
25. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
26. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
27. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
28. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
29. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
30. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
31. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
32. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
33. "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. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" - Mary Poppins (1964)
9. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
10. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
11. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
12. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
13. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
14. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
15. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
16. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
17. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
18. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
19. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
20. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
21. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
22. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
23. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
24. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
25. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
26. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
27. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
28. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
29. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
30. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
31. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
32. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
33. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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