Sunday, May 8, 2016

Best Song: "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" (1990)

Scene from Dick Tracy
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 1990 and The Academy is celebrating its 63rd year. Director Kevin Costner updates the western with Dances with Wolves as it wins the Best Picture and becomes the first western to win since Cimarron and one of the few to win for a directorial debut. Whoopi Goldberg became the second black woman to win an award (the first was Hattie McDaniel for Gone With the Wind) for Best Supporting Actress for Ghost. Meanwhile, Dick Tracy put up the good fight win three wins, including a Best Original Song win for "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)," which also helped to make composer Stephen Sondheim an EGOT. 

The Nominees

Song: "Blaze of Glory"
Film: Young Guns II
Performers: Jon Bon Jovi

I was really excited to put 80's corniness behind me. Alas, we come to a Jon Bon Jovi song that reminds me how corny the 90's could be when they tried to be earnest. While I enjoy country music just find and think it could be anthemic in films, there's something that feels false about this. The initial instrumentation is fine, but the choice to blend it with heavy guitars creates an unsettling mood that makes it feel disconnected. This is a rock song masquerading as a country anthem. It doesn't help that the chorus also isn't that great and very little creates a rallying sensation as much as it thinks that it does. This isn't an awful song, but it's a boring and uninspired way to start the 90's.

Song: "I'm Checking Out"
Film: Postcards From the Edge
Performers: Meryl Streep

If there's one thing that I do not like, it's Meryl Streep singing. In recent years, I have been aware of her talents when used in Ricki and the Flash and Into the Woods to name but just two. She may be a good actress, but her voice is rough. Thankfully, it is in the middle of the road here, and the results are satisfying enough to make me admit that I kind of like this song. While it has a tinge of novelty, especially since it does feel like it borrows too much from Elvis Presley, I think that Streep gives a solid performance with the stock lyrics and an unmemorable melody. It's a fine song, nothing special, and it manages to set the mood nicely. I just wish that she sang this well later on. Maybe we would've been spared some terrible music.

Song: "Promise Me You'll Remember"
Film: The Godfather Part III
Performers: Harry Connick Jr.

Well, this is looking to be an eclectic bunch of nominees. With very little overlap, we have done country, rock, and now adult contemporary. So far, I think that this song edges the rest out on sheer production value, especially as the song is given passion by Harry Connick Jr. and sung with so much longing and passion. Maybe it's my nostalgia that makes me find these songs so moving, but I end up getting lost in how the production slowly moves the listener through a sense of longing and results in something beautiful. While I wish that it maybe was a little shorter, this is still a very good song that brings the heart and leaves behind something iconic in a film that has unfortunately been thrown through the wringer in subsequent years.

Song: "Somewhere in My Memory"
Film: Home Alone
Performers: Choir

... and then there was John Williams. While I had a strong animosity for Home Alone, I am amazed at how quickly I became overwhelmed by the beauty of this song. The melodies are immediately beautiful, lifting the listener into the joyous holiday spirit. A minute later, the choir kicks in and takes the music into a sublime territory. As a whole, this is just a very well produced song that reflects what Williams does best - or at least what he does usually. I don't know that the lyrics have stuck yet, but I'm still feeling a response to this song that most of the past few columns haven't. Here's hoping that Williams never goes away and just continues to write great music for every film ever.

The Winner

Song: "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)"
Film: Dick Tracy
Performers: Madonna

I don't know if kids today could really get the impact of Dick Tracy. It is a comic book of its time made by the director of the Communism epic Reds. I think that's one thing to consider when thinking of this song, which is just fine. I think that the music is given a nice seductive twist that plays into the noir very well. However, I still think that the only reason that this song won was because of how popular Madonna was in the previous years. Everyone wanted her to do something, and that's where this nomination came from. Of course, it's just a lackluster year in general. Still, this may be one of the more confusing winners if just because of how decent and uninteresting it is.

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. "Somewhere in My Memory" - Home Alone (1990)
9. "I Love to See You Smile" - Parenthood (1989)
10. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
11. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
12. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
13. "Nobody Does it Better" - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
14. "Out Here on My Own" - Fame (1980)
15. "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters (1984)
16. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
17. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
18. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
19. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
20. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
21. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
22. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
23. "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Yentl (1983)
24. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
25. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
26. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
27. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
28. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
29. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
30. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
31. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
32. "Cry Freedom" - Cry Freedom (1987)
33. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
34. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
35. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
36. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
37. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
38. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
39. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
40. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
41. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
42. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
43. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
44. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
45. "Two Hearts" - Buster (1988)
46. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
47. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
48. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
49. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
50. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
51. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
52. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
53. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
54. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
55. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
56. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
57. "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. "Under the Sea" - The Little Mermaid (1989)
10. "It Goes Like It Goes" - Norma Rae (1979)
11. "Theme From Shaft" - Shaft (1971)
12. "For All We Know" - Love and Other Strangers (1970)
13. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
14. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
15. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" - Mary Poppins (1964)
16. "I'm Easy" - Nashville (1975)
17. "Talk to the Animals" - Dr. Dolittle (1967)
18. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
19. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
20. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
21. "Fame" - Fame (1980)
22. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
23. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
24. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
25. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
26. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
27. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
28. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
29. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
30. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
31. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
32. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing (1987)
33. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
34. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
35. "Up Where We Belong" - An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
36. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
37. "Take My Breath Away" - Top Gun (1986)
38. "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" - Dick Tracy (1990)
39. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
40. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
41. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
42. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
43. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
44. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
45. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
46. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
47. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
48. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
49. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
50. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
51. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
52. "Let the River Run" - Working Girl (1988)
53. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
54. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
55. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
56. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
57. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)

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