Sunday, March 20, 2016

Best Song: "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (1984)

Scene from The Lady in Red
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 1984 and The Academy is celebrating its 57th year. Director Milos Forman's Amadeus swept the ceremony with 8 Oscars, including Best Picture. Haing S. Nigor was a significant winner for Best Supporting Actor for The Killing Fields, as he was a Cambodian surgeon who had no previous acting experience. Peggy Ashcroft became the oldest Best Supporting Actress winner at the age of 77 for her role in A Passage to India. This ceremony was also famously remembered for Sally Field's Best Actress win for Places in the Heart where she says "The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!" (mistaken for "You really like me."). Meanwhile, the Best Original Song decides to take a break from what it's doing with "I Just Called to Say I Love You."

The Nominees

Song: "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)"
Film: Against All Odds
Performers: Phil Collins

I know that it is popular to dislike Phil Collins nowadays, but I honesty find no fault with his work. In fact, I think that he's very good here with his mixture of balladry and familiar midway drum entrance. Of course, the chorus is the moneymaker element of it all, as I feel that it gives the song a stronger emphasis and helps you to remember it better. I like Collins' passion overall in this song, and I feel like even for its bland familiarity in the lyrics department, it's just a very well put together song that compensates for any weak portions.

Song: "Footloose"
Film: Footloose
Performers: Kenny Loggins

This is looking like the perfect year for theme song nominations. With Kenny Loggins' entry into the game, he brings a familiar and iconic song that you're likely to still hear on the radio. With that hokey guitar riff in the middle and his passionate yearning, it's just a fun song overall and one that definitely gets you in the mood to do whatever it is Footloose means. It's immediately catchy and hits all the right marks as a pop song. With several idiosyncrasies scattered throughout, this is just an infectious number that makes you wonder why more theme songs from movies haven't been nominated in the past. 

Song: "Let's Hear it For the Boy"
Film: Footloose
Performers: Deniece Williams

I guess that it makes sense why this song made the cut. After all, Footloose was a phenomenon and part of it was for the music. This song's melody is catchy and you definitely get a sense of energy as you listen to it. Deniece Williams gives it her all, which compensates for what doesn't work for the song. The melody is just mediocre and sounds like it came out of a Super Mario Bros. video game, but without as much emphasis on clever rhythm. As much as I like Williams' vocally, there's something tinny and hollow about the beat that's underneath her, as if it's there solely because the radio wouldn't play a'capella. It's an all right song, but this song really could've used music or something underneath her singing to make it actually great.

Song: "Ghostbusters"
Film: Ghostbusters
Performers: Ray Parker Jr.

You may ask yourself why I am about to praise a song that uses synthesizer when I seem to have a vendetta against every other song that uses it. Well, the reasoning is simple. The production is stronger, but there's a difference between writing a theme for Ghostbusters and Flashdance. The latter is a dance movie taking place is a fictional version of the real world. Ghostbusters is a sci-fi film, and synthesizers have been associated with the genre for decades. It compliments the tone appropriately. It also helps that the underlying melody is just infectious and Ray Parker Jr.'s lyrics are so playful and fun. There hasn't been too many nominations quite like "Ghostbusters" before (maybe "Theme From Shaft"), and it helps it to stand out more. Flashdance is mundane and dull. Ghostbusters has a sense of energy to it that gets you into its silly, playful mood.

The Winner

Song: "I Just Called to Say I Love You"
Film: The Woman in Red
Performers: Stevie Wonder

I have listened to approximately 300 songs for this column so far, and I am serious when saying that this blows the biggest amount of dicks of any song that I've ever had to listen to for this list. 

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. "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters (1984)
13. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
14. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
15. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
16. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
17. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
18. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
19. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
20. "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Yentl (1983)
21. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
22. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
23. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
24. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
25. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
26. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
27. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
28. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
29. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
30. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
31. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
32. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
33. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
34. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
35. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
36. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
37. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
38. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
39. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
40. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
41. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
42. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
43. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
44. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
45. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
46. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
47. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
48. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
49. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
50. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
51. "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. "Up Where We Belong" - An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
34. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
35. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
36. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
37. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
38. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
39. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
40. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
41. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
42. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
43. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
44. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
45. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
46. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
47. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
48. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
49. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
50. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
51. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)


  1. I believe that this is so far the only year in which every single Best Original Song nominee hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

    I will say, however, that I find the absence of any song from Prince's Purple Rain quite baffling. Perhaps the songs were all so good that the Music branch just saved it for Best Original Song Score (the last time that category was awarded).

    1. That's interesting, and I think you are right about the Billboard Hot 100. If anything, I recognized all of these songs - which isn't very common. 3/5 of them are actually very good, too (none of which won surprisingly). I would probably trade out "Let's Hear it For the Boy" and "I Just Called to Say I Love You" in favor of any Purple Rain song - possibly the title song (that's just a great soundtrack front to back)? It definitely deserved a lot more praise.

      The one thing that I wish that I did was pay attention to what songs were snubbed. Much like Purple Rain (which I wasn't aware was this year), I have recently thought back on Saturday Night Fever not showing up even though "Staying Alive" is very deserving. I'll probably do some research later and make a list out of the songs I wish were nominated.

      But I still hate "I Just Called to Say I Love You" so, so much. Having had to hear it back when I worked at a grocery store every day, I am irrationally hostile towards its banality.