Sunday, May 22, 2016

Best Song: "A Whole New World" (1992)

Scene from Aladdin
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 1992 and The Academy is celebrating its 65th year. Director Clint Eastwood wins his first Best Picture with Unforgiven, which is also the most recent western to have won the category. Eastwood also becomes the seventh person to be nominated for acting, directing, and producing the same film. After losing for The Godfather Part II, Al Pacino wins his first Oscar for Best Actor in Scent of a Woman. Thanks to Aladdin, Alan Menken becomes the third person to win two awards in a year for consecutive years. Along with last year's Beauty and the Beast, he won this year for introducing audiences to "A Whole New World."

The Nominees

Song: "Beautiful Maria of My Soul"
Film: The Mambo Kings
Performers: Antonio Banderas

If there's one conflict that comes with foreign language music, it's generally that I cannot judge the lyrics. The one benefit is that Antonio Banderas is a great singer, and his soulful voice manages to swoon me as the song goes on. Otherwise, the production is really solid and I like how the horns manage to be vibrant, but also tender. If I chose to look up an English translation, I'm sure that I might be more prone to like it. However, this is still a pretty good song and I am glad to see that The Academy is starting to branch back out into different styles of music. It makes for a far more interesting competition.

Song: "Friend Like Me"
Film: Aladdin
Performers: Robin Williams

As I mentioned last week, this is my preferred decade of Disney movies, so the music is going to be hard to ignore. It also helps that once again Alan Menken is behind the boards working on an infectiously exciting and lively song that makes you wish that the last 30 years of Best Original Song nominees tried to have fun. Add in Robin Williams, whose vocal work here pretty much is astounding and adds so much personality to the song. It's so good that you almost want to give Williams an Honorary Oscar just for how far his voice goes. It's comical but assured in the best ways possible. This will be a hard song to top (except for the obvious one that took this category).

Song: "I Have Nothing"
Film: The Bodyguard
Performers: Whitney Houston

Well, that was a very competent song. While I don't know that I enjoyed it being as long as it was, Whitney Houston definitely has a voice that grabs you and overwhelms every note. At times, it is saccharine. However it meshes well with the production and manages to create something that is at least enjoyable. The production overcomes the music's corniness that makes this anthemic in certain respects. While this song hasn't quite aged as well as "I Will Always Love You," it at least proved why Houston was a viable star in her time. She had the chops, and even her more middle of the road music had a power to them.

Song: "Run to You"
Film: The Bodyguard
Performers: Whitney Houston

While I'm still baffled by how "I Will Always Love You" escaped the nomination circuit, I have to admit that this song does an amazing job of showcasing what Whitney Houston does best. Every note she sings has a passion, and you believe her when she gets to the chorus. You want to run with her because of how longing she is to do so. It may still have a corny production, but Houston overcomes any glitch by just giving her soul to the song. Considering the legacy of the film's more iconic song, it's a wonder that this hasn't been as saturated in pop culture. It's just so strong in the way that all great power ballads could be.

The Winner

Song: "A Whole New World"
Film: Aladdin
Performers: Brad Kane, Lea Salonga 

Remember how I went on about loving 90's Disney music? Well, here's a prime example of the bias. Again, I commend Menken, whose melody and production is some of the best in family movie history. Beyond that "A Whole New World" is such a concrete and fascinating idea that combines romantic imagery with the sense of discovery. Thankfully, everything about the song coalesces together beautifully in a way that overwhelms the senses and sticks with you long after you've listened to it. Considering that this is the highest ranking Disney song so far, it's going to be tough competition going forward, though I'm sure that there'll be a few that come close enough.

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. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
34. "Cry Freedom" - Cry Freedom (1987)
35. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
36. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
37. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
38. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
39. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
40. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
41. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
42. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
43. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
44. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
45. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
46. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
47. "Two Hearts" - Buster (1988)
48. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
49. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
50. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
51. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
52. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
53. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
54. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
55. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
56. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
57. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
58. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
59. "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. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing (1987)
35. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
36. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
37. "Up Where We Belong" - An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
38. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
39. "Take My Breath Away" - Top Gun (1986)
40. "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" - Dick Tracy (1990)
41. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
42. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
43. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
44. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
45. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
46. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
47. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
48. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
49. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
50. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
51. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
52. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
53. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
54. "Let the River Run" - Working Girl (1988)
55. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
56. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
57. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
58. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
59. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)


  1. "While I'm still baffled by how 'I Will Always Love You' escaped the nomination circuit..."

    Sir, "I Will Always Love You" was a song written in 1973 and made famous by Dolly Parton. It wasn't original, much less written for The Bodyguard, thus rendering it ineligible.

    1. Thanks for the information. I had an inkling that it was disqualified for some reason, but didn't do my job and take the extra minute to research. I think it's just that "I Will Always Love You" is so ingrained in the culture because of this movie that I made that mess up. It's like Sinead O'Conner's cover of "Nothing Compares 2 U." You forget the original because someone did an interesting take. Still, it's weird that The Bodyguard and Aladdin pretty much dominated this year's category.