Sunday, May 29, 2016

Best Song: "Streets of Philadelphia" (1993)

Scene from Philadelphia
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 1993 and The Academy is celebrating its 66th year. Director Stephen Spielberg finally won Best Picture for his Holocaust drama Schindler's List. He would also win big for Jurassic Park. Director Jane Campion became the second woman to be nominated for Best Director for The Piano. The film's star Anna Paquin became the second youngest actress to win Best Supporting Actress at the age of 11 (Tatum O'Neal from Paper Moon is still the youngest). Both Holly Hunter and Emma Thompson received dual nominations in Best Actress (The Piano and The Remains of the Day respectively) and Best Supporting Actress (The Firm and In the Name of the Father respectively) - marking the first occurrence. Meanwhile, Disney took a year off from their Best Original Song domination long enough for "The Streets of Philadelphia" to have their say.
The Nominees

Song: "Again"
Film: Poetic Justice
Performers: Janet Jackson

And we're off to a strong start. I have to admit that this is a really good song from a melodic standpoint. The rhythm continually builds in a way that compels the listener. It's catchy before trailing off into sweet sentiments. As a whole, I think that it is one of the more infectious ballads that I've heard nominated in quite some time. If nothing else, Janet Jackson does impressive work by holding the melody down and singing with enough passion to make me care about her struggles. Overall, I really like this song and think it's just reflective of what good musicianship can be instead of shallow rock and pop jams that have flooded this category before.

Song: "The Day I Fall in Love"
Film: Beethoven's 2nd
Performers: Dolly Parton, James Ingram

Right as my optimism was sinking in, "The Day I Fall in Love" breaks in and plays into all of the stuff that I generally didn't like about the 80's. Yes, Dolly Parton and James Ingram are great enough performers to pull off ballads. However, this power ballad stuff is just too corny and soulless in this case. The song goes nowhere, and it ends up only relying on a melody that is actually pretty infectious... when they're not singing. It's a decent song, but in case you forgot what movie this was for, just know that there's a "Roll over Beethoven" line midway through that should spoil any romantic mood. It is too self-indulgent likely to even recognize the joke, and that's generally why this is a baffling nominee for reasons beyond it being a slow year.

Song: "Philadelphia"
Film: Philadelphia
Performers: Neil Young

I will admit that Neil Young is a bit of an acquired taste, and I'm not entirely sure if my initial reaction is the most positive. His voice does sound a bit comical, even if the subject matter is very tender and beautiful. By the end, the song does work and it transcends the idiosyncrasies that bother me. Still, I like the production a lot more than the song itself, and its slow build is very endearing. Maybe in time I will grow to like it more, but first I need to grow acquainted with Young's style of singing, which still sounds a bit silly for me. Otherwise, not sure why there's two songs that use Philadelphia in the title. Seems a little confusing.

Song: "A Wink and a Smile"
Film: Sleepless in Seattle
Performers: Harry Connick Jr.

In doing what little research I do for this column, I am surprised that this isn't composed by Randy Newman. In all honesty, it has all of the peppiness of his best work and the wit that usually comes with. It also helps that Harry Connick Jr. just has one of those great voices that gets you moving. As a whole, I like the balance between upbeat and romantic in a way that may be corny, but nevertheless works so well in bringing this silly song to life. It may not be the best song, but it definitely puts a smile on your face when the whimsy kicks in and the heartwarming features overwhelm you. 

The Winner

Song: "The Streets of Philadelphia"
Film: Philadelphia
Performers: Bruce Springsteen

Listen, I get that what the song is saying is important. I get that Philadelphia is one of those crucial LGBT films, and I commend its status in pop culture. However, I feel like this is too much of a message song for me to entirely back its quality. Bruce Springsteen is fine and I think that he has plenty of passion in his voice. I even think that the production is really good, even if I feel like it borrows way too much from U2's "One" to be totally original. However, it's too much of an understated song to really have impact. Frankly, even "Philadelphia" had more interesting stuff going on. It's just that Springsteen's song had production and more sympathetic undertones to its credit. It's not a terrible song, but the idea of it winning for being a message song does take away a little for me.

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. "Belle" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
16. "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters (1984)
17. "Friend Like Me" - Aladdin (1992)
18. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
19. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
20. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
21. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
22. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
23. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
24. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
25. "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Yentl (1983)
26. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
27. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
28. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
29. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
30. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
31. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
32. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
33. "Again" - Poetic Justice (1993)
34. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
35. "Cry Freedom" - Cry Freedom (1987)
36. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
37. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
38. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
39. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
40. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
41. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
42. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
43. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
44. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
45. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
46. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
47. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
48. "Two Hearts" - Buster (1988)
49. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
50. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
51. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
52. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
53. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
54. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
55. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
56. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
57. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
58. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
59. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
60. "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. "A Whole New World" - Aladdin (1992)
4. "The Way We Were" - The Way We Were (1973)
5. "The Way You Look Tonight" - Swing Time (1936)
6. "The Morning After" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
7. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
8. "Swinging on a Star" - Going My Way (1944)
9. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
10. "Under the Sea" - The Little Mermaid (1989)
11. "It Goes Like It Goes" - Norma Rae (1979)
12. "Theme From Shaft" - Shaft (1971)
13. "For All We Know" - Love and Other Strangers (1970)
14. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
15. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
16. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" - Mary Poppins (1964)
17. "I'm Easy" - Nashville (1975)
18. "Beauty and the Beast" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
19. "Talk to the Animals" - Dr. Dolittle (1967)
20. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
21. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
22. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
23. "Fame" - Fame (1980)
24. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
25. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
26. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
27. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
28. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
29. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
30. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
31. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
32. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
33. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
34. "The Streets of Philadelphia" - Philadelphia (1993)
35. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing (1987)
36. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
37. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
38. "Up Where We Belong" - An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
39. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
40. "Take My Breath Away" - Top Gun (1986)
41. "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" - Dick Tracy (1990)
42. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
43. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
44. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
45. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
46. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
47. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
48. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
49. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
50. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
51. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
52. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
53. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
54. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
55. "Let the River Run" - Working Girl (1988)
56. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
57. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
58. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
59. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
60. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)

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