Sunday, March 27, 2016

Best Song: "Say You Say Me" (1985)

Scene from White Night
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 1985 and The Academy is celebrating its 58th year. Director Sydney Pollack's Out of Africa won Best Picture. The Color Purple, which had 11 nominations, became one of the highest nominated films to win zero awards. Anjelica Huston's Best Supporting Actress win made her the first third generation Oscar winner following Walter and John. This was also the first year that all acting nominees were born in the United States. Meanwhile, there was a White Night in the Best Original Song category as they sang "Say You Say Me."

The Nominees

Song: "The Power of Love"
Film: Back to the Future
Performers: Huey Lewis and the News

As one can guess, the 80's section of this list is a bit of a drag for a variety of reasons. While I am glad to see actual instrumentation back into the mix in a pop song, it still comes across as a cornball Top 40 hit that doesn't do much for me. On the bright side, the instruments are creating interesting melodies despite the guitar sounding like a tongue-in-cheek. The lyrics leave something to be inspired and are a little too silly for my tastes. Considering that I actually like Back to the Future, I guess that there is a reason that I never think of this song. It isn't awful, but I totally wish that there was something interesting going on here to make me care.

Song: "Surprise, Surprise"
Film: A Chorus Line
Performers: Gregg Burge

What a pointless song. While I admire Gregg Burge overcompensating with an emotional range in his vocals, I think that everything else is flat out disgusting. The instruments feel like they were all suffering from indigestion crossed with helium. It's all an emotion-less journey that never figures out what it wants to do. There's no memorable rhythm and had it not been for Burge, bless his heart, giving it his all - maybe this song would be a total waste of time. With better production values, this song could have been something. Instead, it is garbage laced with static. What happened to using real instruments, people?

Song: "Ms. Celie's Blues"
Film: The Color Purple
Performers:  Tata Vega

Maybe it's just because of how electric this bunch of nominees is, but there's something overwhelmingly enjoyable about this song that is merely vocals and piano. Tata Vega has such passion in her voice that she manages to carry the rhythm of her sultry vocals and presents a very catchy song. The piano is also pretty good and never oversteps its boundaries. I don't know that this is my favorite song ever to be nominated, but it makes me wish that there were more throwbacks like this to populate these lists. I need some emotion and ingenuity in these nominees, and this is one of the few to actually deliver on that.

Song: "Separate Lives"
Film: White Nights
Performers: Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin

Say what you will about Phil Collins, but that man can sure write a ballad. Following last week's amazing entry, this week sees him return with another solid song that is  lyrically rich and features some great melodies. My issue is more in the production, which plays into general issues I have with duets like this. While the piano is a little tinny, my issue is more in the feeling that these two singers are battling each other for dominance, and it doesn't always sound pleasant. I like the song and it does have an overwhelming charm to it, but the incessant 80's-ness of the production is a little distracting.

The Winner

Song: "Say You Say Me"
Film: White Nights
Performers: Lionel Richie 

The issue with doing this column is that I want to grade the song that is used for the film, not any later improved covers. It's caused some controversial low grading. In all honesty, this could have been a better song if the piano didn't sound inebriated on goofballs. Because honestly, Lionel Richie's vocals are incredible and his lyrics have a certain passion to them that make you fall for every single line. The issue goes back to the piano (and the pointless fast breakdown). Had this been more of a traditional sound, this may arguably be in my Top 15 Best Song category. Instead, the production sabotages yet another great song and leaves me wondering how many more brilliant musicians were wrecked because of the dreck production values of the 80's.

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. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
40. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
41. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
42. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
43. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
44. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
45. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
46. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
47. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
48. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
49. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
50. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
51. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
52. "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. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
43. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
44. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
45. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
46. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
47. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
48. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
49. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
50. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
51. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
52. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)

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