Sunday, January 31, 2016

Best Song: "You Light Up My Life" (1977)

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 1977 and The Academy is celebrating its 50th year. This was the year in which director Woody Allen's Annie Hall won Best Picture, becoming one of the few comedies to win in this category. The Turning Point set a record with most nominations (11) without winning a single one. Jason Robards became the fourth actor to win back-to-back Oscars in the Best Supporting Actor category (1976 - All the President's Men, 1977 - Julia). Meanwhile, The Academy told everyone that "You Light Up My Life" with a Best Original Song win.

The Nominees

Song: "Candle on the Water"
Film: Pete's Dragon
Performers: Helen Reddy

Much like the grief that I got previously for ranking "Talk to the Animals" a tad too high, I must admit that this is another oddity from my childhood that is difficult to separate from bias. It's just a beautiful song that manages to feature plenty of optimism and Helen Reddy doing a tender melody that captures the essence of these type of songs. I'll admit that it isn't immediately as catchy, but its slow build is endearing and I cannot help but love its purity in a film that could've easily filled up several of these spots. Still, a very solid entry and one that's tough to beat.

Song: "Someone's Waiting For You"
Film: The Rescuers
Performers: Shelby Flint

Well, Disney sure came out strong in 1977, didn't they? Following "Candle on the Water" is another tender and moving ballad. While I will admit that my lack of familiarity with The Rescuers keeps me from loving this one as much, it definitely does the trick of being an optimistic song about overcoming strange odds. It's a beautiful number that makes me excited to finally get into my personal golden age of Disney (the 90's) when this column will be a very difficult Sophie's Choice situation. For now, we have two top notch songs in one year, and that's pretty good as is.

Song: "The Slipper and the Rose Waltz"
Film: The Slipper and the Rose
Performers: Richard Chamberlain and Gemma Craven

Well, I'll give it points for being a compelling waltz. I like how the melody maneuvers through the romanticism of the lyrics in a way that creates an atmosphere. Even if it's repetitive, it manages to feel a little seductive and entrancing in ways that you don't often hear on this list. However, I think that the repetitive nature and maybe that I don't have a fondness for waltz music is keeping me from loving it more. It's good and I think that it probably works within context, but it's just all right on its own.

Song: "Nobody Does it Better"
Film: The Spy Who Loved Me
Performers: Carly Simon

I will admit that I am not a huge James Bond fan, so the music doesn't have an immediate affinity for me. However, there's something  here that is immediate and gripping that makes me enjoy it. Carly Simon's vocals are heartfelt and powerful in ways that hint at ache. However, I want to give more credit to Marvin Hamlisch, whose piano work here pretty  much sells the song and makes it literally hard to say that anyone did better in the Best Loser column than this one. It's just so moving and emotional in ways that feel a certain rawness. It also helps that it's immediately catchy.

The Winner

Song: "You Light Up My Life"
Film: You Light Up My Life
Performers: Kasey Cisyk, Didi Conn

Well, this is awkward. There's three songs on this list that I would've pitted to win based on my general enjoyment. This wasn't the first place vote. I am not saying that it's a bad song, but there's a few ballads on this week's line-up that have similar rhythms and achievements that make it hard to prefer one over the other. This is still a pretty good song, though I still think that "Nobody Does it Better" does it, well, better. This is a good song, but I think that it is missing something extra without proper emphasis within the film. I don't exactly know what. It is really good, but I find myself wanting a little more from 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. "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. "Ben" - Ben (1972)
6. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
7. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
8. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
9. "Nobody Does it Better" - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
10. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
11. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
12. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
13. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
14. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
15. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" - Mahogany (1975)
16. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
17. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
18. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
19. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
20. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
21. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
22. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
23. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
24. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
25. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
26. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
27. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
28. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
29. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
30. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
31. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
32. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
33. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
34. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
35. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
36. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
37. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
38. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
39. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
40. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
41. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
42. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
43. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
44. "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 We Were" - The Way We Were (1973)
4. "The Way You Look Tonight" - Swing Time (1936)
5. "The Morning After" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
6. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
7. "Swinging on a Star" - Going My Way (1944)
8. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
9. "Theme From Shaft" - Shaft (1971)
10. "For All We Know" - Love and Other Strangers (1970)
11. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
12. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
13. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" - Mary Poppins (1964)
14. "I'm Easy" - Nashville (1975)
15. "Talk to the Animals" - Dr. Dolittle (1967)
16. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
17. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
18. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
19. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
20. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
21. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
22. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
23. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
24. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
25. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
26. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
27. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
28. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
29. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
30. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
31. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
32. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
33. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
34. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
35. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
36. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
37. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
38. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
39. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
40. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
41. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
42. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
43. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
44. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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