Sunday, February 14, 2016

Best Song: "It Goes Like It Goes" (1979)

Scene from Norma Rae
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 1979 and The Academy is celebrating its 52nd year. This was the year that director Robert Benton's family drama Kramer vs. Kramer won Best Picture. The film's star Justin Henry became the youngest person ever nominated at the age of 8 in Best Supporting Actor. It was also the biggest gap between youngest nominee and oldest (Best Supporting Actor winner Melvyn Douglas, 79, of Being There). Meanwhile, the Best Original Song decided to hold a protest with Norma Rae with the winning "It Goes Like It Goes."

The Nominees

Song: "Through the Eyes of Love"
Film: Ice Castles
Performers: Melissa Manchester

For starters, I have to admit that there's something sounds hollow about the drums. When they go from the verse into the chorus, they sound a little rubbery in ways that are distracting from the song's clear intent to be passionate and overwhelming. The song is good and I like Melissa Manchester's approach to the song. It's full of a strong energy that is undermined by the fact that it doesn't really sound all that new from most of the other songs that I've heard on this column. It's good, but it needed something else to stand out beyond Manchester's excellent voice work.

Song: "The Rainbow Connection"
Film: The Muppet Movie
Performers: Jim Henson

I am sure that I will get some flack for what I am about to say, especially for those who wondered why I rated "When You Wish Upon a Star" so low several months ago. I love this song and it's one of those inescapable tunes that really gets you every time. Kermit the Frog's existential banjo playing has become iconic and while arguably overplayed within The Muppet universe, it still manages to work in its simple, original context. While The Muppets have written several songs that are great, none can compare to the depth and craft that is given to a song that is basically a frog singing to himself in a swamp. It's beautiful and perfect, and the rest of these songs will have to be pretty good to have beaten it.

Song: "I'll Never Say Goodbye"
Film: The Promise
Performers: Melissa Manchester

I really like Melissa Manchester as a singer and definitely can understand why these songs were nominated. She gives her all and manages to capture some heartfelt emotion in the process. The issue is that without context of the film, I don't really get the impact that it likely had back in 1979. I like the song, but hearing so many lovelorn ballads at this point has become difficult to decipher the good from the bad. As it stand, this is still good, but I am not in love with it in a memorable way. Maybe with a few more listens, I'll be able to properly appreciate it.

Song: "It's Easy to Say"
Film: 10
Performers: Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews

Well, I was hoping that there would be more to this song, especially since I generally enjoy Julie Andrews. I think that the song works with context, but here we come across a very simple melody without much immediacy. The piano melody is lovely, but lacks any major hook. I guess that maybe it's the appeal of Dudley Moore that made this a nominated song, or that it was actually a very slow year for this category. Whatever the reason, this is probably the most underwhelming entry this year, and I'm probably going to forget it long  before the others on here.

The Winner

Song: "It Goes Like It Goes"
Film: Norma Rae
Performers: Jennifer Warnes

While I am still confused as to how this beat "The Rainbow Connection," I am mostly impressed by the song's piano work. At times, it sounds like a romantic version of a Bernard Herrmann score (Psycho mostly). Jennifer Warnes also gives it her all and produces a song that definitely captures a tenderness and optimism that is far more exceeding than its title would suggest. Overall, a very solid song with a lot of strong melodies and moments. Overall, it is arguably the best production of the year, and for that alone I am willing to not lose my temper over it winning.

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)
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)
17. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
18. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
19. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
20. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
21. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
22. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
23. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
24. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
25. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
26. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
27. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
28. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
29. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
30. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
31. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
32. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
33. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
34. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
35. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
36. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
37. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
38. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
39. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
40. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
41. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
42. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
43. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
44. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
45. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
46. "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. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
21. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
22. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
23. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
24. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
25. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
26. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
27. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
28. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
29. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
30. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
31. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
32. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
33. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
34. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
35. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
36. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
37. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
38. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
39. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
40. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
41. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
42. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
43. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
44. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
45. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
46. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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