Sunday, May 1, 2016

Best Song: "Under the Sea" (1989)

Scene from The Little Mermaid
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 1989 and The Academy is celebrating its 62nd year. Director Bruce Beresford's Driving Miss Daisy wins Best Picture along with three other wins. It becomes one of the only winners to not receive a Best Director nomination. At the age of 80, the film's Jessica Tandy becomes the oldest winner to date for Best Actress. Meanwhile, Kenneth Branagh became the fifth person to be nominated for both Best Actor and Best Actor for the same film with Henry V. Meanwhile, Disney returns "Under the Sea" as The Little Mermaid sweeps the Best Original Song category.

The Nominees

Song: "After All"
Film: Chances Are
Performers: Peter Cetera, Cher

On the bright side, this song isn't nearly as obnoxious as Peter Cetera's other Oscar-nominated song "Glory of Love." If anything, this song at least has an admirable production that goes for the big 80's pomp. As I've mentioned before, I'm not generally into ballads of this sort, so I do end up being a little bored by the song. The issue is also that Cetera does have this blandness to his work that feels like he never felt any passion for his content. Yes, he's enthusiastic, but is there really any soul to his voice as he sings? This is a decent song, but Cetera still is probably one of the worst artists to be nominated during this time.

Song: "Kiss the Girl"
Film: The Little Mermaid
Performers: Samuel Wright

A few weeks ago, I wrote a Theory Thursday column about how the 90's was the best period for Disney movies. Let this be a warning that there might be an unfavorable bias in the decade ahead. For now, there's The Little Mermaid, which managed to get two nominations in this category. However, not nominating "Part of Your World" still feels like a bad move in hindsight. Still, this is another example of Disney doing what they do best. With the great Alan Menken on board, the music is catchy and the chorus is so passionate that you cannot help but sing along. It may not be my favorite song from this film, but it's definitely a great song, and one that helps to usher in the 90's music to come.

Song: "I Love to See You Smile"
Film: Parenthood
Performers: Randy Newman

This is one of Randy Newman's best songs, and with good reason. The song is deviously simple in lyrics, but there's a subliminal longing that plays throughout the song. It's goofy, but it's also passionate. Newman was great at making music that had a richer texture the more that you looked at it. Even the instrumentation of this song has a certain skip in its step that is just so infectious. The idea is simple: I love to see you smile. Then it begins to sing about why that is in such detail that you get lost in the melody. This is just a great song, and it's nice to know that the 80's nominated a song of this caliber in an otherwise very droll period of Best Original Song contenders.

Song: "The Girl Who Used to Be Me"
Film: Shirley Valentine
Performers: Patti Austen

While I like that there's a bittersweet melody underneath all of this, the song doesn't quite distinguish itself over its short running time. On the bright side, that helps to elevate what does work about it. Patti Austin definitely has a tenderness and passion in her voice that immediately makes you intrigued by what she is singing. Considering that the music was by Marvin Hamlisch, the overall content is pretty good. Maybe it works better in context, but here it just comes across as a simple song that isn't quite as engaging as one would hope.


Song: "Under the Sea"
Film: The Little Mermaid
Performers: Samuel Wright

On the bright side, the 80's managed to end on a high note after a decade of clunkers (six ended up in the Best Best Song's bottom 20). It also reminds you of the energy and magic that Disney could have when making movie music. While I still wish that "Part of Your World" at least got nominated, there's something immediate and fun about this song that makes you want to get up and dance. The imagery is so creative and the playfulness of the lyrics is something that feels missing in general in these nominated songs. If you're one of those who felt I ranked "When You Wish Upon a Star" too low, just prepare to be more baffled, as I'm sure that most of these 90's songs may rank way higher. For now, I am tempted just to replay this song again for the next hour.

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. "I Love to See You Smile" - Parenthood (1989)
9. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
10. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
11. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
12. "Nobody Does it Better" - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
13. "Out Here on My Own" - Fame (1980)
14. "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters (1984)
15. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
16. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
17. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
18. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
19. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
20. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
21. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
22. "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Yentl (1983)
23. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
24. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
25. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
26. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
27. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
28. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
29. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
30. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
31. "Cry Freedom" - Cry Freedom (1987)
32. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
33. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
34. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
35. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
36. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
37. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
38. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
39. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
40. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
41. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
42. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
43. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
44. "Two Hearts" - Buster (1988)
45. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
46. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
47. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
48. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
49. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
50. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
51. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
52. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
53. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
54. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
55. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
56. "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. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
39. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
40. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
41. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
42. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
43. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
44. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
45. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
46. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
47. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
48. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
49. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
50. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
51. "Let the River Run" - Working Girl (1988)
52. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
53. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
54. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
55. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
56. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)

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