Sunday, April 3, 2016

Best Song: "Take My Breath Away" (1986)

Scene from Top Gun
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 1986 and The Academy is celebrating its 59th year. Director Oliver Stone becomes the first Vietnam War veteran to win Best Picture and Best Director for Platoon. Paul Newman's win for Best Actor for The Color of Money made him the fourth winner to be nominated for portraying the same character twice. Newman's wife Joanne Woodward won Best Actress for The Three Faces of Eve in 1957, thus making them the second married couple to both win Oscars. Best Documentary also featured a tie, the fourth overall, for Artie Shaw: Time is All That You Got and Down and Out in America. Meanwhile, The Oscars felt the need for speed as the Best Original Song category sang "Take My Breath Away."

The Nominees

Song: "Somewhere Out There"
Film: An American Tail
Performers: Phillip Glasser, Betsy Cathcart

Kicking this week off is a rather powerful yet simple song that also welcomes James Horner to the nomination club. While I know that there's a more traditional cut of this song, there's something far more endearing and powerful about the original, sung with childlike earnestness by Phillip Glasser and Betsy Cathcart. The lyrics' simplicity matching the fondness for speculation of hope is so endearing that it may be difficult for me not to vote for this song. It's just so immediate and it grabs you within instances of starting. I like the cracking vocals and everything that's rugged about it. Overall, one of the better nominees that I've heard in quite a few weeks.

Song: "Glory of Love"
Film: The Karate Kid, Part II
Performers: Peter Cetera

It should come as no surprise that I don't have patience for the 80's cornball songs like this. It's bad enough that there's not a whole lot of substance here. It also hurts that the song is four minutes and runs out of steam in the first minute. The chorus is one of the cheesiest things that I've listened to from this decade, and I don't believe at all that Peter Cetera is masculine enough to fight for anyone's honor vocally. I think that its one positive trait is that its production is above par and actually has percussive accompaniment, though it still has an unmemorable production at that. It's mostly layered vocals, and it only serve to add cornball to cornball in one of the more obnoxious songs to be nominated from this decade.

Song: "Mean Green Mother From Outerspace"
Film: Little Shop of Horrors
Performers: Levi Stubbs and Chorus

I am unsure, but I think that this may be the first Best Original Song nominee to have profanity in it. Of course, it's fine because Little Shop of Horrors is a rich musical full of enough amazing songs to fill up this year's list. While this isn't my favorite of the bunch, it definitely has the energy and sass to make you move and jive along with the singer. Levi Stubbs owns the song with attitude and energy. I think that its back half gets a little redundant, but it definitely is a great song compared to a lot of recent nominees. It makes you want to move. I can't say the same for some of these titles.

Song: "Life in a Looking Glass"
Film: That's Life!
Performers: Tony Bennett

It's so refreshing to have so many throwbacks in this week's column. It's not just because I dislike the 80's aesthetic of music, but also because it proves that some styles have a timeless impact. When I started this song, I was immediately confused, thinking that I pulled up the wrong one. It's just so crisp and to the point in the traditional ballad format. Tony Bennett does what he does best here, and you love listening to him sing the melancholic lyrics that suggest that you should live life to its fullest. I admit that it does drag on, but the overall sentiment carries the song further than the corny lyrics would suggest. Overall, possibly the second-most endearing song on this list behind "Somewhere Out There" and evidence that some styles never truly go away. It just takes the right people making them to pull it off.

The Winner

Song: "Take My Breath Away"
Film: Top Gun
Performers: Berlin

I will admit that on the spectrum of 80's songs, this falls on the more enjoyable side. For starters, there is a great production and every instrument has a moment of memorable rhythm. I think that the song is at times hypnotic and Berlin really know how to play with melody. I understand why this won, especially since Top Gun was an unstoppable hit. However, I do think that even at four minutes, it begins to get a little self-indulgent and you become impatient. The beginning is just so immediately encouraging that you forgive most of its faults. 

*On a side note, Berlin is the first band on this list that I've actually seen in concert during a New Years Eve show. It was a good concert and they played all of the hits. What is probably the most noteworthy thing is that the singer sang this song while looking at my sister, as if serenading just her. Even if I don't love this song, it does hold that special value in my life.

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. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
31. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
32. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
33. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
34. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
35. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
36. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
37. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
38. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
39. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
40. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
41. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
42. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
43. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
44. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
45. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
46. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
47. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
48. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
49. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
50. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
51. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
52. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
53. "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. "Take My Breath Away" - Top Gun (1986)
36. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
37. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
38. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
39. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
40. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
41. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
42. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
43. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
44. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
45. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
46. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
47. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
48. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
49. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
50. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
51. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
52. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
53. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)

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