Sunday, October 16, 2016

Best Song: "Let It Go" (2013)

Scene from Frozen
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 2013 and The Academy is celebrating its 86th year. Director Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture. McQueen became the first black director to have a film win this category. The film's Best Supporting Actress winner Lupita Nyong'o became the 16th person to win for their debut performance. American Hustle became director David O. Russell's second film consecutively to be nominated in all four acting categories. It also would lose all of its double digit nominations. Best Director winner Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) became the first Mexican to win the category. Best Actress winner Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) became the sixth person to win in both lead and supporting. Best Original Song disqualifies Alone Yet Not Alone after their Oscar campaign broke the rules. Meanwhile, the category's winner Robert Lopez became the youngest EGOT winner in history for the song "Let It Go."

The Nominees

Song: "Happy"
Film: Despicable Me 2
Performers: Pharrell Williams

I don't know what future generations will think of "Happy," but it really was inescapable in the worst ways possible. Whereas "Let It Go" at least had melody and innovative lyrics, half of this song is redundant pep meant to make you feel, ahem, happy. I think that Pharrell Williams is a gifted musician and he definitely knows how to write a hook. This song is fine, but I always feel annoyed by songs that tell you to be enthusiastic. The songs shouldn't tell you to smile. You should just do so. On another note, it's bizarre that this came from Despicable Me 2. While Minions will live forever (unfortunately), I think that this song will outlive the film. 

Song: "The Moon Song"
Film: Her
Performers: Karen O

I am still amazed that Her ended up being as big as it was. It was such a beautiful film that in any year before likely wouldn't have made a dent in the nominations. However, I love that Karen O is an Oscar nominee, and she makes the most of her acoustic ballad. There's tenderness and you feel as isolated as her lyrics suggest. I love how unassuming the song is. It's evidence that a song doesn't have to be big to make an impact. Sometimes it takes simply digging into your soul and pulling out a silly love song.

Song: "Ordinary Love"
Film: Mandela:: Long Walk to Freedom
Performers: U2

Welcome back, U2. It's been a few years since we last saw them on this list. For a year packed with Top 40 hits, it's nice to hear this slightly more obscure song making the cut. I definitely think that it captures a peaceful essence that makes U2 appealing. The song isn't great, but their compassion and ability to take simple ideas into a catchy tune is enough. I like this song overall despite everything. It's not as good as their Gangs of New York song, but at least they didn't get nominated for a hollow song that pandered to Oscar sensibilities.

Song: "Alone Yet Not Alone"
Film: Alone Yet Not Alone
Performers: Joni Eareckson Tada

I know, I know. This song was revoked of a nomination. However, I felt it was important to include all of the nominees in this challenge, if just for posterity. Considering that I'm still bitter that they didn't just move the sixth place winner into Alone Yet Not Alone's spot, I was worried going into this song that it would be below the dredges. Yes, it's very much a mediocre spiritual song lyrically, but I do think that it has so much heart and earnestness that I can frankly overlook it. Had this not courted controversy, it likely would still get a good review from me, even if I don't think that it's exceptional. If nothing else, it's a nice offset from the other pop songs on this year's list.

The Winner

Song: "Let It Go"
Film: Frozen
Performers: Adele Dazeem

My name is Thomas Willett, and I have only heard Frozen's "Let It Go" five times in my entire life. I am blessed in that way. With that said, I made my notions a few weeks back alluding to Frozen. I don't like the film, largely from a production standpoint. It looks like vomited ice cream. While I think that structurally "Let It Go" is actually a well constructed song, I feel like there's a hollowness on the entry to the first chorus that bothers me. It's not triumphant and Idina Menzel sounds like she's singing into a tin can. I liked when Disney's big songs had a little bass in their tones. If this song had a better emphasis on its instrumentation, I probably would admit that this song is good... in moderation. I send out a hug to all frustrated parents who have to hear this song for eternity. It's not as good as anything from Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, or even Hercules for that matter. It's fine, but I do believe that what ruins this song is that it lacks authority in that final moment. The build works, but then it kind of whimpers out. Frozen is still an ugly film, but I think we can work to make this song better.

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. "When She Loved Me"  Toy Story 2 (1999)
2. "The Green Leaves of Summer" - The Alamo (1960)
3. "That's Amore" - The Caddy (1953)
4. "A Town Without Pity" - A Town Without Pity (1961)
5. "The Rainbow Connection" - The Muppet Movie (1979)
6. "Somewhere Out There" - An American Tail (1986)
7. "The Circle of Life" - The Lion King (1994)
8. "The Man That Got Away" - A Star is Born (1954)
9. "Ben" - Ben (1972)
10. "You've Got a Friend in Me" - Toy Story (1995)
11. "Somewhere in My Memory" - Home Alone (1990)
12. "I Love to See You Smile" - Parenthood (1989)
13. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
14. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
15. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
16. "Nobody Does it Better" - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
17. "That's How You Know" - Enchanted (2007)
18. "Belleville Rendez-vous" - The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
19. "Out Here on My Own" - Fame (1980)
20. "Journey Into the Past" - Anastasia (1997)
21. "Belle" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
22. "I've Seen it All" - Dancer in the Dark (2000)
23. "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters (1984)
24. "Friend Like Me" - Aladdin (1992)
25. "The Moon Song" - Her (2013)
26. "I See the Light" - Tangled (2010)
27. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
28. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
29. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
30. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
31. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
32. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
33. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
34. "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Yentl (1983)
35. "Pi's Lullaby" - Life of Pi (2012)
36. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
37. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
38. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
39. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
40. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
41. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
42. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
43. "Again" - Poetic Justice (1993)
44. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
45. "Cry Freedom" - Cry Freedom (1987)
46. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
47. "That'll Do" - Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
48. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
49. "Listen" - Dreamgirls (2006)
50. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
51. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
52. "Down in New Orleans" - The Princess and the Frog (2009)
53. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
54. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
55. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
56. "Look to Your Path" - The Chorus (2004)
57. "The Hands That Built America" - Gangs of New York (2002)
58. "That Thing You Do" - That Thing You Do (1996)
59. "O... Saya" - Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
60. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
61. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
62. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
63. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
64. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
65. "Two Hearts" - Buster (1988)
66. "Real in Rio" - Rio (2011)
67. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
68. "Travellin' Thru" - Transamerica (2005)
69. "Vanilla Sky" - Vanilla Sky (2001)
70. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
71. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
72. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
73. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
74. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
75. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
76. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
77. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
78. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
79. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
80. "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. "My Heart Will Go On" - Titanic (1997)
4. "A Whole New World" - Aladdin (1992)
5. "The Way We Were" - The Way We Were (1973)
6. "The Way You Look Tonight" - Swing Time (1936)
7. "The Morning After" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
8. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
9. "Swinging on a Star" - Going My Way (1944)
10. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
11. "Under the Sea" - The Little Mermaid (1989)
12. "Lose Yourself" - 8 Mile (2002)
13. "It Goes Like It Goes" - Norma Rae (1979)
14. "You'll Be in My Heart" - Tarzan (1999)
15. "Colors of the Wind" - Pocahontas (1995)
16. "Theme From Shaft" - Shaft (1971)
17. "For All We Know" - Love and Other Strangers (1970)
18. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
19. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
20. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" - Mary Poppins (1964)
21. "I'm Easy" - Nashville (1975)
22. "Beauty and the Beast" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
23. "Talk to the Animals" - Dr. Dolittle (1967)
24. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
25. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
26. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
27. "Fame" - Fame (1980)
28. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
29. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
30. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
31. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
32. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
33. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
34. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
35. "Things Have Changed" - Wonder Boys (2000)
36. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" - The Lion King (1994)
37. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
38. "Jai Ho" - Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
39. "Let It Go" - Frozen (2013)
40. "Into the West" - Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
41. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
42. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
43. "Skyfall" - Skyfall (2012)
44. "We Belong Together" - Toy Story 3 (2010)
45. "The Streets of Philadelphia" - Philadelphia (1993)
46. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing (1987)
47. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
48. "The Weary Kind" - Crazy Heart (2009)
49. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
50. "Up Where We Belong" - An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
51. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
52. "Take My Breath Away" - Top Gun (1986)
53. "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" - Dick Tracy (1990)
54. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
55. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
56. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
57. "Al otra lado del rio" - The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
58. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
59. "You Must Love Me" - Evita (1996)
60. "Falling Slowly" - Once (2007)
61. "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" - Hustle & Flow (2005)
62. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
63. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
64. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
65. "If I Didn't Have You" - Monsters Inc. (2001)
66. "When You Believe" - The Prince of Egypt (1998)
67. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
68. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
69. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
70. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
71. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
72. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
73. "Let the River Run" - Working Girl (1988)
74. "I Need to Wake Up" - An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
75. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
76. "Man or Muppet" - The Muppets (2011)
77. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
78. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
79. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
80. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)

1 comment:

  1. As much as I love listening to songs, I typically don't get affected by the over-played-ness of certain songs except when others allow that to affect their view of the song over time. I try to listen to songs as if for the very first time. That being said, while Frozen isn't as great as when it came out, it's still makes a big statement as a return to form for Disney, and the song "Let It Go" is no exception. It is the only song in this particular Oscar category that will have staying power.

    On the other hand, I'm glad as well that Karen O got an Oscar nom for "The Moon Song." That's enough of a payback for not getting nominated for "All Is Love" from Where The Wild Things Are.