Sunday, June 12, 2016

Best Song: "Colors of the Wind" (1995)

Scene from Pocahontas
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 1995 and The Academy is celebrating its 68th year. Director Mel Gibson won Best Picture with Braveheart, joining a small group of actors who would win the category as directors. Mira Sorvino becomes the second actress to win Best Actress in a Woody Allen film with Mighty Aphrodite. Emma Thompson's win for Best Adapted Screenplay with Sense and Sensibility makes her the first person to win both for acting and writing. Meanwhile, Disney continues their winning streak by painting all of the "Colors of the Wind" with Pocahontas.

The Nominees

Song: "Dead Man Walkin'"
Film: Dead Man Walking 
Performers: Bruce Springsteen

I will admit that I am not a very big Bruce Springsteen fan. I probably will get flack for calling "The Streets of Philadelphia" a mediocre song trumped by its powerful text. However, I think that there's something ominous and wonderful about this song. It has a lingering uncertainty to things as a man walks to his death. I don't know the context, but even the novelty steel guitar adds a certain weight to the overall song. As a whole, I like how quiet and meditative it is. I also like that it manages to do so without really relying too much on a great hook. This may be one of the few examples of an Oscar worthy song not doing so. Bravo, Springsteen.

Song: "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?"
Film: Don Juan De Marco
Performers: Bryan Adams

What a boring, pretentious song. I get the general gist of Bryan Adams' song with its fake Mexican feeling. I'm sure that had it been edited down by two minutes that it could be far more effective. In its final form, it leaves me growing antsy and wanting to get the song over with. I get the point. I love a woman and it's a great thing. Adams seems passionate yet sleepy. I wish that I could find something of integrity and thrill after the second minute, but not really. It just keeps going until it bores people into a trial separation. Have you ever really loved a woman? I'm sure that you can do so twice during how long this song lasts.

Song: "Moonlight"
Film: Sabrina
Performers: Sting

I'm starting to think that people in 1995 were high on Ambien. So far, the three nominees have been very slow and, for the most part, some of the most painfully dull music that I've heard being nominated for this category. I know it's easy to knock Sting for being dull and pretentious, but then you hear this. It pretty much fits the bill. Even the presence of John Williams on composition doesn't help much. What we get is a solid melody and a conceptually interesting song that with a difference song could be more romantic and effective. Instead, it feels like the past 10 minutes of listening to these two songs have dulled my senses and I am in a comatose state. I am happy to say that the remaining songs are a step way, way up.

Song: "You've Got a Friend in Me"
Film: Toy Story
Performers: Randy Newman

It seems like Randy Newman has been on a roll over the past decade. Every song he writes seems to be of varying degrees of catchy melodies. This is definitely among his best work in film, and I don't think that he's done anything better in the Toy Story franchise. It's such an upbeat song about being friends with someone who is different. There's something endearing about how much it embraces the idiosyncrasies and presents a form of unity that is specific. I love everything about this song and feel that it should've won. If nothing else, it's the catchiest song on this list.

The Winner

Song: "Colors of the Wind"
Film: Pocahontas
Performers: Vanessa Williams

I know that I previously made a quip that Randy Newman should've won. However, I get why this song won. It's astounding that a family film would have a song about the sanctity of the environment. What's even more impressive is how memorable and immersive it ends up being. Vanessa Williams sings with so much passion that you believe every note. It's an impressive song, and one that may be the most impressive ode to nature since "Born Free" practically 30 years ago. Even if this is the second best song of 1995, it's still one of the best works that Disney has made because it is purposeful but not overbearing.

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. "You've Got a Friend in Me" - Toy Story (1995)
10. "Somewhere in My Memory" - Home Alone (1990)
11. "I Love to See You Smile" - Parenthood (1989)
12. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
13. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
14. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
15. "Nobody Does it Better" - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
16. "Out Here on My Own" - Fame (1980)
17. "Belle" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
18. "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters (1984)
19. "Friend Like Me" - Aladdin (1992)
20. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
21. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
22. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
23. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
24. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
25. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
26. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
27. "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Yentl (1983)
28. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
29. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
30. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
31. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
32. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
33. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
34. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
35. "Again" - Poetic Justice (1993)
36. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
37. "Cry Freedom" - Cry Freedom (1987)
38. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
39. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
40. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
41. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
42. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
43. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
44. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
45. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
46. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
47. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
48. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
49. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
50. "Two Hearts" - Buster (1988)
51. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
52. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
53. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
54. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
55. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
56. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
57. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
58. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
59. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
60. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
61. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
62. "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. "Colors of the Wind" - Pocahontas (1995)
13. "Theme From Shaft" - Shaft (1971)
14. "For All We Know" - Love and Other Strangers (1970)
15. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
16. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
17. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" - Mary Poppins (1964)
18. "I'm Easy" - Nashville (1975)
19. "Beauty and the Beast" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
20. "Talk to the Animals" - Dr. Dolittle (1967)
21. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
22. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
23. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
24. "Fame" - Fame (1980)
25. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
26. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
27. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
28. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
29. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
30. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
31. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
32. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" - The Lion King (1994)
33. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
34. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
35. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
36. "The Streets of Philadelphia" - Philadelphia (1993)
37. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing (1987)
38. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
39. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
40. "Up Where We Belong" - An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
41. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
42. "Take My Breath Away" - Top Gun (1986)
43. "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" - Dick Tracy (1990)
44. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
45. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
46. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
47. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
48. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
49. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
50. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
51. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
52. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
53. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
54. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
55. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
56. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
57. "Let the River Run" - Working Girl (1988)
58. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
59. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
60. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
61. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
62. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984

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