Sunday, November 27, 2016

Best Song: 50 Songs That Should've Been Nominated

Scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
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

For starters, I would like to apologize for taking several weeks off and not completing this recap in a timely fashion. The holidays are a busy time and as such, it is difficult to stay on top of this writing. However, I have been looking forward to this piece because it gives me a chance to explore the other side of the equation: the snubbed songs. While I admit that it's tough to thoroughly research and make a great list, I have scoured the books to find 50 songs that should've made the cut. Some of these are personal favorites while others are obvious pop culture mainstays that deserve recognition. In order to keep this list concise, I will be doing the list in alphabetical order by film. I hope you enjoy this list, and feel free to share your favorite snubbed songs in the comments.


Song: "Animal House"
Film: Animal House
Performers: Stephen Bishop

The film was a huge sensation at the time of release. While it is easy to forget that there's a closing song over the credits, Stephen Bishop's ability to mix 50's pop with comedy makes for a rather fun ditty. It would be hard not to enjoy the breakdown where he asks the audience to "Do the Bluto." This song may not have the legacy of the minutes that preceded it, but it doesn't mean that it's not an underrated gem that perfectly crafts comedy and style.

Song: "Big Eyes"
Film: Big Eyes
Performers: Lana Del Rey

This neo-noir song may not have a lot in the lyrics department, but Lana Del Rey manages to add a sense of espionage and deceit to the music that is pretty catchy. Of course, much like Big Eyes the movie, it's a little understated and is lacking for a generally reliable bunch of performers. Still, it's a pretty solid filler nominee with good production values.

Song: "On the Good Ship Lollipop"
Film: Bright Eyes
Performers: Shirley Temple

It's one of the standards for Shirley Temple that most people still know. The song itself may be a bit dated and silly, but considering that the early Oscars are full of silly and dated songs, this would've fit right in with the other nominees. If nothing else, it's got a pretty good chorus that is upbeat and absurd in equal measures.

Song: "Star Spangled Man"
Film: Captain America:: The First Avenger
Performers: The Star Spangled Signers

The one piece of flack that Marvel gets is that they don't tend to have memorable music. In fact, I'd argue that this Captain America song is the only piece in their roster that you'll recall a day later. Thankfully, it has the pastiche of early Americana and the sense of duty that came with these ra ra ra-style songs. It's mostly a shame that it wasn't used in later films as his theme because it more than builds an enthusiasm that the series lacks at times.

Song: "Car Wash"
Film: Car Wash
Performers: Rose Royce

This one seems a bit obvious in hindsight. While Car Wash the film hasn't exactly aged into a forgotten masterpiece (though it's still good), the theme song remains a radio staple for the working class. Rose Royce's lyrics manage to convey a hard working vibe mixed with catchy beats to make for the best ode to washing your car. Like some other songs, it's easy to forget or not even know that this originated in a movie. Even then, it's still one of those pop hits that should've been more recognizable during awards season.

Song: "Cat People (Putting Out Fire with Gasoline)"
Film: Cat People
Performers: David Bowie

What is a shame is that a musician as accomplished as David Bowie never had one single Oscar nomination in his entire career. He was always pushing boundaries while making soundtrack music more interesting. I admit that "Cat People" maybe isn't his most iconic, but it definitely leaves an impression to hear the slow build into the chaotic, violent imagery of putting out fire with gasoline. It's a vibrant image, and one that should've been more represented in the 1980's. Instead, we had the most mediocre decade imaginiable.

Song: "Gangsta's Paradise"
Film: Dangerous Minds
Performers: Coolio

Imagine if Coolio was our first hip-hop artist to be Oscar nominated. True, the song now is overplayed and silly - not to add that Coolio is a joke. However, there's something immediate and memorable about "Gangsta's Paradise" that made it immediately beloved during the time. It manages to feel as dangerous as its movie suggests. It also fits into a pop mold that most hip-hop of the time didn't. It's by no means the greatest song, but it definitely was a higher representation of what hip-hop music was in film at the time and thus deserved its fair chance at a nomination.

Song: "Who Did That to You?"
Film: Django Unchained
Performers: John Legend

Of the past few years, this may be the snub that I get most annoyed about. Much like Quentin Tarantino's style, John Legend's style blending is phenomenally concise. He manages to add western with his possessive R&B sound. You feel a threat for messing with Legend, especially as he sings the title lyrics. It hits so hard. I'm still annoyed that everyone was more obsessed with getting the lesser Rick Ross song "100 Black Coffins" into the Oscar race. They should've stuck with Legend. He's only gone on to better things since.

Song: "Fight the Power"
Film: Do the Right Thing
Performers: Public Enemy

A whole novella could be written on Do the Right Thing's touchy relationship with the Oscars. For that matter, it's no surprise that Public Enemy weren't able to break into the Oscar race int he late 80's. After all, they sung against behaviors that the voters still stood for (specifically John Wayne). It's a powerful song, and one that continues to resonate today. It may have just been too dangerous for the era, and that is enough to kinda forgive its snubbing. Even then, that doesn't excuse its excellent craft.

Song: "Mama Guitar"
Film: A Face in the Crowd
Performers: Andy Griffith

A Face in the Crowd is a timely masterpiece that says a lot about modern politics. It is the only reason that I got to discover this song, which seems to have been written out of history. It's got a great rockabilly beat and Andy Griffith is a better singer than he lets on. The song may be simple in the way that Haley and the Comets were simple, but it gets the job done with upbeat aggression that recalls Americana beautifully. Not a great song, but it is deserving of more recognition.

Song: "Boom Clap"
Film: The Fault in Our Stars
Performers: Charli XCX

Okay, this may seem like one of the oddball picks. To be honest, I think the song fills the ear worm clause that makes for a good Oscar nominee. It was a radio hit as well as a key part of The Fault in Our Stars. Charli XCX may be mostly a teeny bopper singer, but that doesn't mean that she can't release an infectious string of lovelorn lyrics. I wanted to deny this song, but it's just so catchy and it only gets more so as time goes on. If nothing else, it would be more representative of a younger audience that the Oscars complain of not reaching.

Song: "Flash Gordon"
Film: Flash Gordon
Performers: Queen

Hey guys, Queen never got an Oscar nomination. I know that Flash Gordon isn't a great movie, but the banal simplicity of this song is a thing of beauty. Once you hear it a few times, you too will be singing "Flash, Ahh!" randomly in your daily life. Again, not the best Queen song, but it definitely has that ear worm quality that they were known for (if only there was a loophole for "Bohemian Rhapsody"...).

Song: "Strange Love"
Film: Frankenweenie
Performers: Karen O

Karen O has been nailing the soundtrack songs over the past few years. She finally got recognized for Her, but the work on Frankenweenie is also deserving of some acclaim. It has her oddball voice making a song for children wishing to embrace their outsider nature. It may not be the most immediate song on this list, but it reflects Karen O's ability to find sincerity in pop without resorting to a conventional style.

Song: "Furry Walls"
Film: Get Him to the Greek
Performers: Russell Brand

Maybe Get Him to the Greek isn't the greatest movie nor does it have that great of a soundtrack compared to Walk Hard. However, there's still something to the underlying comedy found in this song that I like. It has the catchy chorus and the lyrics are absurd yet poignant. It fits the bill as a fun filler nominee, and one with a playfulness that I wish the Oscars embraced more often.

Song: "On the Open Road"
Film: A Goofy Movie
Performers: Bill Farmer, Aaron Lohr, and Disney Chorus

This is the greatest song about going on a road trip from Disney's most underrated 90's movie. If only songs like this were nominated, maybe we would be having more fun during those performances than singing mundane love songs. Also, it would get more people to travel and enjoy their lives. What's not to love?

Song: "Mrs. Robinson"
Film: The Graduate
Performers: Simon & Garfunkel

In hindsight, isn't it criminal that The Graduate's soundtrack never got the recognition that it deserved. For starters, Simon & Garfunkel's careers would be nothing without these songs and even then nothing comes close to their cultural impact. "Mrs. Robinson" is probably the best of two to choose for an obvious nomination. It is upbeat and explores infidelity in an exciting way. Also, good luck getting it out of your head once you hear it a few times. It serves as the motif of the film, so it'll be in your head by the time that the credits roll.

Song: "Sound of Silence"
Film: The Graduate
Performers: Simon & Garfunkel

How great is The Graduate soundtrack? It produced many of Simon & Garfunkel's best songs that are still beloved to this day. It is hard to imagine a world where "Sound of Silence" isn't constantly being used in memes and in melodramtic movie moments. It's a powerful song whose charging melody is one of the most iconic tunes in 60's pop music history. While "Mrs. Robinson" likely would've gotten the nomination first, this song manages to end the film while also resonating in its eerie exploration of loneliness. Maybe "Sound of Silence" is more culturally relevant today and deserved the nomination. Who knows. All that is given is that The Graduate deserved to dominate this category.

Song: "Young and Beautiful"
Film: The Great Gatsby
Performers: Lana Del Rey

As I wrote at the time, I love Lana Del Rey's cinematic technique. Her ability to do towering orchestration with her deep voice is a thing of beauty reminiscent of a bygone era. Her lyrics also have a sense of nostalgia that makes you immediately long for the past. Add in a great subtext about growing old and ugly, and you get a song that has some tragedy in its romance. It is one of the best movie songs of the decade period, and I can only hope that Lana Del Rey eventually gets the recognition that she deserves.

Song: "A Hard Day's Night"
Film: A Hard Day's Night
Performers: The Beatles

Much like The Graduate's lack of Oscar nominations, just consider for a minute that The Beatles as a group never were nominated for this award. While I chose "A Hard Day's Night," this is something that could be applied to any of the dozens of songs that they released on soundtracks for their movies. Yes, Paul McCartney received his fair share of later nominations, but it isn't the same. He never wrote a song as good as his Beatles days. It's not even close.

Song: "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out"
Film: Harold & Maude
Performers: Cat Stevens

Here's another one of those folk rock era hits that seem like an obvious Oscar contender. Cat Stevens' ode to choice is both a banal look at the subject as well as one of the most upbeat and enjoyable music experiences. There's a million ways to sing this song, and that's the beauty of Stevens' most memorable tune. It may seem silly and simple, but its impact resonates far beyond its folk rock limitations. It is one of the best songs of that decade as well as one of the best soundtrack songs period.

Song: "I Won't Say I'm in Love"
Film: Hercules
Performers: Susan Egan

All of the Hercules love was spent on "Go the Distance." That's not a problem, as it's still a good song. However, it's nowhere near as fun as the love ballad-style existential crisis that this song has. Much like the rest of the songs, it borrows heavily from 60's R&B and manages to be one of the most successful in balancing harmonies, lyrical creativity, and just being a catchy song about love. More than anything, it's one of the many songs that were unfortunately not nominated during Disney's heyday. Give it a listen and try not to enjoy its playfulness.

Song: "God Help the Outcasts"
Film: The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Performers: Bette Midler

In hindsight, it is hard to see why The Hunchback of Notre Dame failed to show up at the Oscars. It is one of the most artful films with a soundtrack to match. Then again, Victor Hugo literature doesn't make for the most accessible 20th century subject matter. With all of this said, the religious subtext of the film shines best in this song that serves as a prayer for guidance. It is one of Disney's all time best, and its understated status is unfortunate. It is unassuming in its powerful harmonies and simple lyricism. It's hard not to fall in love with this song's desire to find hope in a hopeless place. It is Disney at its best, and it's a fact that should've been recognized at the time.

Song: "Yellow Flicker Beat"
Film: The Hunger Games:: Mockingjay - Part 1
Performers: Lorde

Unlike other artists, I admit that Lorde is probably one of the more acquired tastes of modern pop. With that said, I am one of those who finds her ambient style of pop to be effective. If nothing else, this ranks among the best songs that The Hunger Games released. It maybe wasn't the best song of the year, but it's worth giving a shot if voters wished to appeal to a younger crowd. Even then, Lorde may stand a good chance of eventually releasing an Oscar-worthy song sometime in the future. For now, she has a pretty solid catalog of music.

Song: "Jailhouse Rock"
Film: Jailhouse Rock
Performers: Elvis Presley

Speaking as other top musicians of the time were constantly showing up at the Oscars, there's something alarming about The King not showing up at least once or twice. After all, he made songs worthy of recognition on a regular basis. It's hard not to put "Jailhouse Rock" at the top of this list. From its opening seconds, it is one of the most immediately and exciting songs of Elvis Presley's career. Like the song says, "Let's rock." The imagery is also good enough to make this more than a generic party song. What's not to love about this silly ode to prison parties?

Song: "Magic Dance"
Film: Labyrinth
Performers: David Bowie

How good is David Bowie? He managed to take a line from an obscure Cary Grant film (The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer) and turn it into an effective pop song for one of the weirdest musicals of the 1980's. His seductive voice only deepens the appeal of its kookiness. Considering that "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" somehow got nominated during this same era, there's no excuse for ignoring the delirious brilliance of Bowie. Of course, you could choose any song from Labyrinth and warrant a place on this list. He's just that good.

Song: "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride"
Film: Lilo & Stitch
Performers: Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu, Kamehameha Schools Children's Chorus

Maybe the heyday of Disney was dying by the time of Lilo & Stitch, but it's still one of the best animated movies that they ever released. Their opening song that uses traditional Hawaiian music to grandiose effect is among their catchiest. It's easy to want to go on a surfboard out at sea while listening to this song. The guitar riff is excellent and the backing vocals are a nice touch. If I understood the language better, there's a good odds that I would sing along with it every time.

Song: "Part of Your World"
Film: The Little Mermaid
Performers: Jodi Benson

In fairness, The Little Mermaid wasn't shy of Oscar recognition. It did have several songs nominated. With that said, how do you not nominate "Part of Your World"? It is the ultimate call to action song in Disney history. The sense of longing to belong is so bittersweet that Jodi Benson's optimism resonates through the sadness. Most of all, there's a great exposition to the song that makes you understand her struggle. It's a powerful song from a soundtrack full of them. It's easy to see how it could've not been nominated, but even then it's sad to see.

Song: "Suicide Is Painless"
Film: M*A*S*H*
Performers: Johnny Mandel

Considering the success of the Robert Altman film, it's hard to see how people weren't more engaged with this song. Yes, it was dark comedy about a disturbing subject matter. However, it's still one of those melancholy tunes that are so immediate and recognizable that one cannot help but sing along. While it cannot be held against it, the subsequent TV series using a lyrics-free version of this song only helps to solidify its cultural impact even further. 

Song: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
Film: Meet Me in St. Louis
Performers: Judy Garland

Considering how many other Christmas songs were Oscar-nominated, it doesn't make sense why this new simple standard missed the cut. There's a joy to its nuanced quietness. The message is clear and you in fact want to have a merry little Christmas. Good luck not hearing it in holiday rotation. It's that good. Of course, the Oscars used to only nominate one song per film. For that matter, "The Trolley Song" is the better of the two. However, there's no denying the obviousness of a dual nomination nowadays.

Song: "Everybody's Talkin'"
Film: Midnight Cowboy
Performers: Harry Nilsson

This lack of nomination is on par with The Graduate, only more confusing. Considering that Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture, one has to wonder why Harry Nilsson's standard failed to make the cut. It is so ingrained into the film that it's impossible to ignore. Also, it was one of the best folk rock songs of the era, managing to embody city life through an abstract metaphor. Also, the guitar melody is very catchy and Nilsson's voice is immediately recognizable. It's another case of cultural relevance from later on making snubbed films seem all the more baffling in hindsight.

Song: "I'll Make a Man Out of You"
Film: Mulan
Performers: Donny Osmond, Jerry Tondo, Harvey Fierstein, Matthew Wilder, Eddie Murphy, Lea Salonga, Chorus

What did Mulan do to not receive any Best Original Song nomination? It was one of the final great Disney princess movies in a long line of hits. It also had some of the most exciting music of its time. For a generation, "I'll Make a Man Out of You" is the best Disney song. Not only does it somehow make Donny Osmond cool, it also makes for an awesome montage through song. There's so much energy and focus within a few minutes that it's a technical feat. It also helps that the lyrics are catchy and impossible not to sing along with.

Song: "Reflection"
Film: Mulan
Performers: Lea Salonga

More than "I'll Make a Man Out of You," it's hard not to see Mulan's existential hit "Reflection" being nominated. Over the course of a short time, it manages to capture the ennui of being young and insecure with your place in life. It's a song about striving to be yourself while also pleasing your peers. It's a deep and moving song that gets better with age. The message is simple and the song is somewhat understated. Otherwise, it's one of Disney's most beautiful hidden gems.

Song: "It Feels Like Christmas"
Film: Muppet Christmas Carol
Performers: Jerry Nelson, Louise Gold, Karen Prell, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Brian Henson, Mike Quinn, David Rudman, Frank Oz

In all honesty, this should've become a holiday standard years ago. While the film has a following, it isn't exactly held in the same regards as other classics. With that said, the upbeat optimism with whimsical melodies makes for an exuberant exploration of the holidays. You find yourself wanting to bring out the best in each other because of this song. It's also one of The Muppets' greatest works (and more deserving of attention than garbage like "Man or Muppet"). Hopefully in time, this song will become a reappraised holiday classic on par with every other movie-based holiday song.

Song: "What's This?"
Film: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Performers: Danny Elfman

This is another example of lyrical creativity being a positive need for more inclusive song choices. The comparison of macabre Halloween culture and cutesy Christmas imagery makes for a fascinating and comical song. Danny Elfman does wonderful work on vocals and makes the darkest lyrics somehow funny. Much like the other snubbed songs on here, its melody and grandiose ambitions are something that should've been recognized at the time. "What's This?" is a powerful and original song unlike almost anything in the Oscar-nominated canon. That should've been a different story.

Song: "Good Company"
Film: Oliver & Company
Performers: Myhanh Tran

While I have used understated a lot, there's few films in Disney's canon as understated as Oliver & Company. It's true that it's not the best movie, or even really good for that matter. However, "Good Company" has that cutesy innocence to it that makes me believe that it is one of the sweetest songs that the studio released during the 1980's. Considering how many child-lead songs made the cut during the era, it's tough to see why this one didn't. It's sweet and short, perfectly embodying a companionship that may be a bit cheesy, but still manages to reflect song craft at a competent level.

Song: "Palo Alto"
Film: Palo Alto
Performers: Devonte Hynes

Palo Alto is one of the best films of the decade both from the Coppola family and in general. It's a great ode to the malaise of teenage years. However, I think that Devonte Hynes perfectly encapsulates the mystic awe that comes with this period in his tune. There's something nuanced and hushed about the tune that lingers. You begin to hear notes in between the notes. Everything is atmospheric. The song is a beautifully crafted melody to one of those films that I hope finds its audience as time goes on.

Song: "Springtime for Hitler"
Film: The Producers
Performers: Group

I can understand why they wouldn't perform this at the ceremony. Imagine randomly popping it on and seeing a Nazi flag and pro-Hitler lyrics. That's part of the beauty. However, it's still the song that made Mel Brooks' career, and it's catchy and delirious. You find yourself shamefully singing along to a song about Nazis. It is comedy, but it also feels edgy in ways that the Oscars usually don't notice. Even then, Brooks knows his way around a melody, and this more than proves it.

Song: "Purple Rain"
Film: Purple Rain
Performers: Prince

To be fair, Prince won an Oscar for Purple Rain. To be fair, he should've won two. Much like David Bowie, his music largely seemed to be ignored by the Oscars. This looming ballad is one of the singer's greatest works, and you cannot help but get lost in its atmosphere. It is beautiful, excessive, and impossible to forget. It's the power that explains why Prince is an icon of immeasurable stature. It's only a surprise that he made many songs as memorable as this. He was that good.

Song: "When Doves Cry"
Film: Purple Rain
Performers: Prince

Another one of Prince's biggest songs also came off of Purple Rain. In this case, an ode to a broken relationship creates an image that is perfectly concise. Imaging doves crying makes the idea of separation almost unbearable. However, it still manages to be catchy along with tragic. Prince was great at that. If nothing else, this is one of his most iconic works and thus should've been recognized as such. That is, if "Purple Rain" didn't take the last available nomination slot.

Song: "How Deep Is Your Love"
Film: Saturday Night Fever
Performers: The Bee-Gees

The Oscars weren't keen on recognizing disco. There was the mediocre "Last Dance" song, but nothing else really made the cut. That's why it shouldn't be a surprise that the most iconic disco album never managed to earn an Oscar nomination. The Bee-Gees' tender ballad is one of the band's most recognizable hits and adds a sentimental touch to the film's third act. It may not be as immediate as the other major hit from the film, but it definitely resonated by finding tenderness in the age of disco. That's pretty difficult to do, especially since everyone was on the dance floor.

Song: "Stayin' Alive"
Film: Saturday Night Fever
Performers: The Bee-Gees

This is THE disco anthem. How was it not nominated remains a mystery. It still embodies a genre and era better than any other song of its time. You feel cool strutting down the street to this song. In fact, you can picture the opening of the film with this song. It has an edge and The Bee-Gees manage to make high pitched singing somehow very manly. More than that, it has one of the best choruses with the least amount of words. Once this song gets pumping, you know what to do. Apparently the Oscars didn't.

Song: "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"
Film: Shall We Dance
Performers: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers don't need that many more Oscar nominations to their credit. However, the ultimate song about disagreement should've received some recognition. Considering that another song from the film ("They Can't Take That Away From Me") was nominated, it becomes a little baffling why the more playful and creative song didn't make the cut. It still remains a standard that audiences turn to for describing disagreements. It's also just more immediately memorable.

Song: "I Believe I Can Fly"
Film: Space Jam
Performers: R. Kelly

This may be the ultimate snub if one was to go off of cultural relevance in the 90's. This R. Kelly ballad about achieving your dreams was inescapable in ways that most nominated songs of the time were. Even then, it was so much more harmonious and gospel-oriented. Making that accessible was itself a fascinating challenge that R. Kelly met. This was a pop song as an art form. It was before R. Kelly's reputation took a hit, and for a time it did seem like he was going to be the biggest thing. In the years of "I Believe I Can Fly," that may as well have been true.

Song: "America F--k Yeah"
Film: Team America:: World Police
Performers: Trey Parker

One could only wish.

Song: "Beautiful Ride"
Film: Walk Hard:: The Dewey Cox Story
Performers: John C. Reilly

As I've mentioned before, Walk Hard's entire soundtrack is full of great Oscar-worthy songs. They transcend parody and go straight for being great. This is the song that closes the film with a nostalgic look back at living life to its fullest. It may be full of absurd imagery, but it's still so wonderfully crafted that it becomes beautiful. John C. Reilly's singing is also at its best, managing to capture an earnestness. If this was a serious song, it probably would've been nominated. Unfortunately, it was a comedy with a lot of Cox jokes.

Song: "Walk Hard"
Film: Walk Hard:: The Dewey Cox Story
Performers: John C. Reilly

This parody of country tunes received a Golden Globe nomination. It's for good reason. It isn't just a riffing on "I Walk the Line." It is so expertly crafted that it makes the struggles feel real. The chorus is episodic and full of momentous achievement. Reilly gives a frank performance that is haggard and full of winking humor. Yes, it is a song that may or may not be referencing erections as well as personal struggle. But that is part of the brilliance of the film. The soundtrack is nothing but double entendres that pass for genuinely heartfelt songs. This is  comedy at its best.

Song: "All is Love"
Film: Where the Wild Things Are
Performers: Karen O & The Kids

This is another example of Karen O being one of the best up and coming movie collaborators of the past decade. In general, her work on Where the Wild Things Are is a nice twist on the familiar family friendly soundtrack. She manages to create a playful sense of longing that elevates a bare bones source material into its own adventure. If her three major collaborations say anything, she is bound to be recognized with a win one of these days. The ingenuity of this song more than suggests that thoroughly.

Song: "I've Got a Golden Ticket"
Film: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Performers: Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum

Another example of a great call to action song. The melodies travel through the optimistic circles as great things finally happen. The golden ticket symbolizes a future by which the characters are excited to live. While the title has become its own lingo full of great pop cultural meaning, the song takes it one step further. It's impossible to be sad while listening to this song. It defines ear worm beautifully.

Song: "Pure Imagination"
Film: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Performers: Gene Wilder

There is a reason that everyone played "Pure Imagination" when Gene Wilder died. It's such a powerful song with a swinging melody. It also explores creativity in a sensitive and embracing manner that isn't often seen in film. Part of the charm is in Wilder's cadence, which manages to maintain an excitement under its wisdom. The layers are beautiful, and so is the song in general. It embodies the best in music, and it should've been recognized by the Oscars.

Song: "Xanadu"
Film: Xanadu
Performers: Olivia Newton John, Electric Light Orchestra

This may be a silly way to end the list, but consider Olivia Newton John's cultural relevance at the time. She was a big star, just a few years off of Grease. This ode to a magical land where nobody dared to go is a dazzling achievement of love and wonder. It may be corny as all get out, but it still works. It may be the Electric Light Orchestra accompaniment. It could be that the singers are so committed that it's hard to find insincerity in a single line. It may not be the best song, but it sure is catchy.

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