Sunday, June 5, 2016

Best Song: "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" (1994)

Scene from The Lion King
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 1994 and The Academy is celebrating its 67th year. Director Robert Zemeckis' comedic period drama Forrest Gump wins Best Picture. With his Best Actor win for the film, Tom Hanks becomes the fifth person to win a lead acting award in back-to-back years, and the only in Best Actor since Spencer Tracy. It was also the most nominated film since Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with 13 nominations. Dianne Wiest's win for Bullets Over Broadway made her the first person to win two acting Oscars from films directed by the same person (the other being Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters). The Best Action short also featured the fifth time that a category has tied in the Oscars' history. Meanwhile, Best Original Song returns to the land of Disney with three nominations for The Lion King, including a win for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."

The Nominees

Song: "Circle of Life"
Film: The Lion King
Performers: Carmen Twillie, Lebo M.

Here we are once again. After taking a week off from Disney, the studio returns to rule the 90's with three nominations for The Lion King. In all honesty, this is a tough one to overlook largely because I feel that it is maybe among the best that Disney has produced as well as one of the most overwhelming songs that has been nominated. I admit that it lacks the emotional crux of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," but there's an immediacy to this one that sets it up as one of the best opening numbers to any music-based film. As a whole, I think that its only flaw is that maybe voters thought that the African stuff was too silly. I don't think that, but I need to figure out what gives the comparatively tepid ballad an edge over this. It seems like you never get a nominee like this, at least not anymore. It's just so wonderful and powerful at every turn.

Song: "Hakuna Matata"
Film: The Lion King
Performers: Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Jason Weaver, Joseph Williams

I get that the general attitude around "Hakuna Matata" has become part of the vernacular, but I have to say that of the songs you could've nominated for this film, this seems like one of the lesser selections. Sure, it's nice to have a comedic song break up the tension. It's even nice to sing at passing, but it lacks the finesse that "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" has for instance. If nothing else, this is the first Oscar-nominated song (I think) to feature a fart and burp joke. Way to go Disney, breaking barriers back in 1994 like nobody's business. What's more impressive is that it doesn't derail the greatness of the movie, either. 

Song: "Look What Love Has Done"
Film: Junior
Performers: Patty Smyth

Oh, how it's so hard to take anything seriously when you have to consider that this is from the pregnant Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Maybe it is because I never watched it, but it still seems baffling that Junior exists. Why does it exist, and why does it have such a well constructed song? I admit that it sounds corny when played over the footage in the above clip. However, it's generally a very sweet and endearing song for what it is. It doesn't break any new ground, but man... it got the short shrift by being from Junior, didn't it. I was better off before remembering that this existed.

Song: "Make Up Your Mind"
Film: The Paper
Performers: Randy Newman

It's hard to stay mad at Randy Newman. Had this been a less Disney-centric week, he likely could've taken home the Best Loser win. However, this song is still very catchy and it reflects everything that he does oh so well as a composer. There's a whimsical melody underneath that manages to keep you moving. I love the uncertainty of the lyrics as well. It moves and sways so effortlessly that you cannot help but dance. Even if I think that he has done better, his average is still better than most people's hardest work. If nothing else, I am likely to check this song out again, just to get lost in the sound of it all.

The Winner

Song: "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?"
Film: The Lion King
Performers: Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Sally Dworsky, Joseph Williams, and Kristle Edwards

Well, it's no "The Circle of Life." I get why it could win. It's an immediate and immersive romantic ballad that sways audiences with every small tic. This is definitely a well produced soundtrack and it's impossible to find a dud in the group. However, this is one of the more conventional and obvious selections that one could go with if you had to give this soundtrack one award. It's a good love song, even if I think that it is a little bare boned compared to the other entries. It may not be my favorite Disney song, but at least the heavy presence and diversity just from The Lion King here suggests just how successful this studio was in knocking out great song after great song.

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 Circle of Life" - The Lion King (1994)
7. "The Man That Got Away" - A Star is Born (1954)
8. "Ben" - Ben (1972)
9. "Somewhere in My Memory" - Home Alone (1990)
10. "I Love to See You Smile" - Parenthood (1989)
11. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
12. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
13. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
14. "Nobody Does it Better" - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
15. "Out Here on My Own" - Fame (1980)
16. "Belle" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
17. "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters (1984)
18. "Friend Like Me" - Aladdin (1992)
19. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
20. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
21. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
22. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
23. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
24. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
25. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
26. "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Yentl (1983)
27. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
28. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
29. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
30. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
31. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
32. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
33. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
34. "Again" - Poetic Justice (1993)
35. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
36. "Cry Freedom" - Cry Freedom (1987)
37. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
38. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
39. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
40. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
41. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
42. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
43. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
44. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
45. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
46. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
47. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
48. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
49. "Two Hearts" - Buster (1988)
50. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
51. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
52. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
53. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
54. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
55. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
56. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
57. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
58. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
59. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
60. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
61. "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. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" - The Lion King (1994)
32. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
33. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
34. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
35. "The Streets of Philadelphia" - Philadelphia (1993)
36. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing (1987)
37. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
38. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
39. "Up Where We Belong" - An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
40. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
41. "Take My Breath Away" - Top Gun (1986)
42. "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" - Dick Tracy (1990)
43. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
44. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
45. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
46. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
47. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
48. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
49. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
50. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
51. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
52. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
53. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
54. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
55. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
56. "Let the River Run" - Working Girl (1988)
57. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
58. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
59. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
60. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
61. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)

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