Saturday, February 27, 2016

Best Song: "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" (1981)

Scene from Arthur
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.

*NOTE: Due to tomorrow being Oscar Sunday, Best Song will be running this week on Saturday.

The Preface

The year is 1981 and The Academy is celebrating its 54th year. Director Hugh Hudson's Chariots of Fire famously won Best Picture over predicted favorite Reds and became the first British film in 13 years to win the honor. Henry Fonda won his only competitive Oscar that year for On Golden Pond and at 76 became the oldest Best Actor winner in history. His co-star Katharine Hepburn won Best Actress and, with an additional three wins, became the biggest actress winner in Oscar history (a record that still stands). Three of the films received the "Top Five" nominations: Reds, On Golden Pond, and Atlantic City. This was the first year for Best Make-Up, which went to An American Werewolf in London. Meanwhile, Best Original Song fell in love with a lovable old drunk with "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)."

The Nominees

Song: "Endless Love"
Film: Endless Love
Performers: Lionel Richie and Diana Ross

I will be honest: I do not like these elaborate male/female ballads. While this is more on the tolerable side, I have noticed that this decade is going to be a slog in some corners. With that said, the overall production of this song is solid and I like how it starts off tender and has the singers communicating. It's the end where things start to get excessive and bothersome for me. While it can be seen as unanimous romance, I also see it more as egocentric singers trying to out-sing the other one. It's a good song and I think Lionel Richie and Diana Ross do pretty good work. I just think that this ballad structure is terrible within the genre.

Song: "For Your Eyes Only"
Film: For Your Eyes Only
Performers: Sheena Easton

It is rare that I come up split on a song like this. Sheena Easton's vocals are great. In fact, I would say that she nails the song perfectly. I can feel the passion in every note that she sings. However, the production is godawful and hollow. I mean, what is going on with that melody? The piano comes and goes as it pleases and there's  no consistent melody to compliment the vocalist. What is going on in this song? Did Easton perform in a sound booth and think that the composer would do his job correctly? Get it together Bill Conti. You are usually a lot better than this. When a singer gives you something as beautiful as Easton's voice, you don't mess it up with hollow, soulless electronics and piss poor piano. This isn't the worst song I've ever heard on Best Song, but it sure is the most frustrating. There's so much potential that this song had, and I blame Conti entirely for why this outright failed.

Song: "The First Time It Happens"
Film: The Great Muppet Caper
Performers: Jim Henson, Frank Oz

I am unsure why none of these songs are overwhelming me in an effective way. With that said, The Muppets tend not to disappoint at least in overall production. I enjoy the bombastic nature of this tune mixed with the beautiful sentiments and the melody building over time. I don't think much else of it because I believe that they have done better songs. However, it's still one of the best produced this year, and I will give it points for that. If nothing else, it deserves points for being memorable.

Song: "One More Hour"
Film: Ragtime
Performers: Jennifer Warnes

Welcome to the Best Original Song category the great Randy Newman. I have generally liked his melodic structure, as I feel that he is among the best in capturing personality and emotion in equal measures. Considering how lackluster the rest of this year's nominees are, the underwhelming waltz that builds during this song feels quaint and beautiful. I don't know that there's really any standout moment here, but it definitely is a very well constructed song that captures a certain longing and melancholy that makes me appreciate it from a craft perspective.

The Winner

Song: "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)"
Film: Arthur
Performers: Christopher Cross

If nothing else, this song at least has a catchy chorus to fall back on.  It is a very corny one, but it still manages to make for an enjoyable and catchy melody. I  like the way that Christopher Cross sings as well, as he has a certain passion that makes the song work. I think that overall, it is probably one of the few times that I would agree that this is the Best Song nominated of the bunch. However, the song stinks of cheesiness and the overall quality is above average at best. It is not a terrible song, but it really leaves something to be desired, as there's no discernible hook and sounds like second-rate Billy Joel.

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 Rainbow Connection" - The Muppet Movie (1979)
5. "The Man That Got Away" - A Star is Born (1954)
6. "Ben" - Ben (1972)
7. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
8. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
9. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
10. "Nobody Does it Better" - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
11. "Out Here on My Own" - Fame (1980)
12. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
13. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
14. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
15. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
16. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
17. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" - Mahogany (1975)
18. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
19. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
20. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
21. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
22. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
23. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
24. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
25. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
26. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
27. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
28. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
29. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
30. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
31. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
32. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
33. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
34. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
35. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
36. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
37. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
38. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
39. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
40. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
41. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
42. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
43. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
44. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
45. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
46. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
47. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
48. "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. "It Goes Like It Goes" - Norma Rae (1979)
10. "Theme From Shaft" - Shaft (1971)
11. "For All We Know" - Love and Other Strangers (1970)
12. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
13. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
14. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" - Mary Poppins (1964)
15. "I'm Easy" - Nashville (1975)
16. "Talk to the Animals" - Dr. Dolittle (1967)
17. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
18. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
19. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
20. "Fame" - Fame (1980)
21. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
22. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
23. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
24. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
25. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
26. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
27. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
28. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
29. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
30. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
31. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
32. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
33. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
34. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
35. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
36. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
37. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
38. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
39. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
40. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" (1981)
41. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
42. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
43. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
44. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
45. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
46. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
47. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
48. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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