Sunday, April 10, 2016

Best Song: "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" (1987)

Scene from Dirty Dancing
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 1987 and The Academy is celebrating its 60th year. Director Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor wins Best Picture and eight additional awards. It was the second film after Gigi to receive nine nominations and win all of them. Meanwhile, Michael Douglas became the second actor ever to win for acting and producing this year with his Best Actor win for Wall Street (the producing was for Best Picture's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). Meanwhile, the Best Original Song category participated in some Dirty Dancing as they sang "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" into a win.

The Nominees

Song: "Shakedown"
Film: Beverly Hills Cop II
Performers: Bob Seger

I will give Bob Seger credit. He at least puts an effort into his production. You get the sense of energy in his music without resorting to hollow synthesizer music. With that said, there's something else about this type of 80's rock that is inevitably too corny or uninspired to be taken seriously. It is goofy lyrically and has an embarrassingly egocentric guitar solo that only makes it harder to take seriously. I know that songs like this aren't meant to be taken seriously, but then isn't that part of the problem? It's a decent song structurally, but there's not a whole lot here that doesn't wear thin after the first two minutes. I can't wait until rock music sounds serious again in this category.

Song: "Cry Freedom"
Film: Cry Freedom
Performers: Chorus

I have to admit that there's plenty that I'm likely taking out of context. For starters, I'm sure that the song works better in relation to Cry Freedom. It probably has a bigger impact if I knew why they were singing - albeit in a language that I don't know. However, there's something magnificent about the production that becomes overwhelming and beautiful the longer it goes. The unifying vocals sing hopefully and fill you with excitement for whatever's to come. It's simple and catchy while hitting every mark that makes a good song. It's surprising to see it here among a bunch of mediocre American songs, but I definitely think that it more than deserves some attention on this list.

Song: "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now"
Film: Mannequin
Performers: Starship

It could be that all of these 80's songs are wearing me out, but I kind of like this song. As much as it annoys me that Jefferson Airplane became this mediocre band, that goes beyond what I'm analyzing here. The song is uninspired by context to their earlier work, but there's still something hopeful and exciting about this song that makes it anthemic. I like that the song builds and reaches the chorus, which is one of the corniest out there. This is by no means one of the greatest nominees in history, but it works as a standard for what this 80's pop group should strive for. It's a well constructed song that mixes the earnest with the cornball and produces something unique. I guess that it's good enough when you see what its competition is.

Song: "Storybook Love"
Film: The Princess Bride
Performers: Mark Knopfler

There is nothing wrong with this song, but I have to admit that it left little to no impression on me. The song may be a good ballad, but it has no real passion and purpose. The lyrics are pretty mundane and even Mark Knopfler feels like he fell asleep halfway through the writing process. There's not a lot really to take out of this song besides a cheesy tie-in to out of the more subversive comedies of the 80's. While I like the movie, this song does very little to enrich my excitement for said film. Among the titles on this list, I am likely to forget this one very, very quickly.

The Winner

Song: "(I've Had) The Time of My Life"
Film: Dirty Dancing
Performers: Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes

There should be credit to one thing about this song. Among every title in this bunch, it is at least the best produced. There's a sense of authenticity to the song, especially in the breakdown. I enjoy hearing a variety of instruments each get time to shine. It's beautiful in its own way and makes the song feel more uplifting. It also helps that the male/female duet thing doesn't seem as overbearing as it did at the start of the decade. This isn't a great song and is possibly one of the cornier winners of this decade. However, I still think that it works more often than fails, and that's enough for me to rank it as one of the better entries on 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. "Somewhere Out There" - An American Tail (1986)
6. "The Man That Got Away" - A Star is Born (1954)
7. "Ben" - Ben (1972)
8. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
9. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
10. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
11. "Nobody Does it Better" - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
12. "Out Here on My Own" - Fame (1980)
13. "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters (1984)
14. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
15. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
16. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
17. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
18. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
19. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
20. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
21. "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Yentl (1983)
22. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
23. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
24. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
25. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
26. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
27. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
28. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
29. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
30. "Cry Freedom" - Cry Freedom (1987)
31. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
32. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
33. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
34. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
35. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
36. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
37. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
38. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
39. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
40. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
41. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
42. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
43. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
44. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
45. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
46. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
47. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
48. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
49. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
50. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
51. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
52. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
53. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
54. "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. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing (1987)
32. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
33. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
34. "Up Where We Belong" - An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
35. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
36. "Take My Breath Away" - Top Gun (1986)
37. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
38. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
39. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
40. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
41. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
42. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
43. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
44. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
45. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
46. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
47. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
48. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
49. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
50. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
51. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
52. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
53. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
54. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)

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