Sunday, March 6, 2016

Best Song: "Up Where We Belong" (1982)

Scene from An Officer and a Gentleman
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 1982 and The Academy is celebrating its 55th year. This was the year that director Richard Attenborough's Gandhi swept the Oscars with eight awards, including Best Picture. Louis Gosset Jr. became the first African American to win  Best Supporting Actor for his role in An Officer and a Gentleman. Meanwhile, the film also managed to find "Up Where We Belong" as it also won in the Best Original Song category.

The Nominees

Song: "How Do You Keep the Music Playing"
Film: Best Friends
Performers: Patti Austen, James Ingram

I don't  know if it's just the feeling I have about 80's ballads, but my initial opinion is to say that this song is very corny. It doesn't really offer much beyond the sappy sentiment. I feel like I've heard this song a few times, and that's mostly from last week. I mean, it's well produced and you probably can enjoy it if it plays at the right time. However, it's still such a middle of the road song in terms of quality and impact (remember, this is a BEST Original Song category) that I have trouble really understanding why this was nominated unless it was a mediocre year.

Song: "Eye of the Tiger"
Film: Rocky III
Performers: Survivor

It is really tough to find anything wrong with Rocky themes. As you already know, I thought very highly of "Gonna Fly Now" a few weeks ago. This one is arguably more iconic, and with good reason. It's got the energy and the power. You get pumped up listening to Rocky's themes. The guitar is rough and you almost feel like punching air to this. Survivor may be a one hit one these days, but they sure made it count with this overwhelming gem. The fact that it is probably the most memorable thing outside of Sylvester Stallone in the entire franchise, it means that it definitely deserves a place on this category, at least for sheer energy.

Song: "It Might Be You"
Film: Tootsie
Performers: Stephen Bishop

It may start appearing as a problem, but I am generally bothered by the production of 80's music. Much like last week's "For Your Eyes Only," I find myself torn between a beautiful song lyrically and vocally. Stephen Bishop gives a tender and sentimental rendition of the song in a way that makes you wish that the piano was more front and center. The addition of the synth/electric tones is a little distracting and makes it feel too glossy. I know that music is transitioning into the next fad, but there's something aesthetically displeasing about mixing traditional romantic ballads with electronics. It's a good song and I probably would enjoy it more without all the glitz and glamour. However, it just feels cheesy when you throw it on top of an already great song.

Song: "If We Were in Love"
Film: Yes, Giorgio
Performers: Luciano Pavarotti

It may be the glossy numbers of which I have complained about for the past two weeks, but this is a breath of fresh air. While I wouldn't consider myself an Italian singer fan, I am aware of Luciano Pavarotti and feel that his booming voice hearkens back to what made certain nominees of the 30's and 40's so appealing. He holds you with every note, being dragged out for emotional emphasis. You end up feeling overwhelmed by how he's singing. Eventually, you just become entranced and while I do think that this song goes on a tad too long, it still is a traditional romantic song in a time where computers are replacing certain production notes, so Pavarotti - whom I never expected to see on this list - gets a pass for this excellent song.

The Winner

Song: "Up Where We Belong"
Film: An Officer and a Gentleman
Performers: Joe Cocker, Jennifer Warnes

In general, I do not like this kind of male/female duel singing. To me it always sounds like a battle of the egos. However, this is one of the more tolerable and actually good ones. I have generally liked Joe Cocker and I've slowly warmed up to Jennifer Warnes through this column. Together, they deliver a pretty solid song that is very much a by the numbers song. Thankfully, it wins simply from a production standpoint by proving that actual instruments can derive passion. You feel the energy of this song and while it is a little cheesy, it is one of the better love songs of the past few weeks and easily one of the more memorable ballads to come out of the bunch. It's not a favorite, but it's just a good enough song to win.

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. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
13. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
14. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
15. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
16. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
17. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
18. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
19. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
20. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
21. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
22. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
23. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
24. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
25. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
26. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
27. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
28. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
29. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
30. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
31. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
32. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
33. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
34. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
35. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
36. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
37. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
38. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
39. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
40. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
41. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
42. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
43. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
44. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
45. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
46. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
47. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
48. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
49. "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. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
49. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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