Sunday, March 3, 2019

Best Song: "Shallow" (2018)

Scene from A Star is Born (2018)
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 2018 and The Academy is celebrating its 91st year. Director Peter Farrelly's Green Book won Best Picture. It was the first ceremony since 1989 to not have a host, which would lead to higher viewer ratings than the previous year. Roma became the first Mexican film to win Best Foreign Film and the first Netflix film to win Best Director. This was the year that the Best Popular Film category was presented and subsequently laughed out of existence. Black Panther became the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination. Meanwhile in Best Original Song, pop star Lady Gaga finally became an Oscar winner with her second nominated song "Shallow" from the crowd-pleasing film A Star is Born.

The Nominees

Song: "When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings"
Film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Performers: Willie Watson, Tim Blake Nelson

It's a bit difficult to entirely pin why, but as a big fan of The Coen Brothers, I found myself not loving The Ballad of Buster Scruggs all that much. It was good, but it felt more like ideas than a cohesive vision. Which is to say that I'm not entirely sure what made this song exceptional besides that it was a subversive, morbid take on the cowboy ballad that doesn't do all that much that's interesting. It's effective in that its execution is simple and to the point. I even like Tim Blake Nelson's approach to singing from a distance. However, it's just a fine song overall and more remembered because of the bizarre build-up to that song in the film. In my opinion, it doesn't work without context. It's merely another cowboy song.

Song: "All the Stars"
Film: Black Panther
Performers: Kendric Lamar, SZA

It's incredible to think that three of this year's Oscar-nominated movies could've had a double nominee. I'd include Black Panther as one who should've had another one on here, if just because of how excellent the music selection was and how it gave the film personality. I don't hate this song and feel like it's just as much to recognize the brilliance of Kendrick Lamar, but... why was this always the song to be nominated? It has a hypnotic beat and kept you grooving, but it's not as interesting as "Pray for Me" or "Opps." Maybe it's just the side effect of having to appeal to young and old voters, but I wanted one of the more enjoyably intense and inventive songs on here. As it stands, this song works just fine at recognizing one of the year's biggest films. The only issue is that when it comes to what song I'm likely to remember first, it's not this one.

Song: "The Place Where Lost Things Go"
Film: Mary Poppins Returns
Performers: Emily Blunt

It seems like a common theme this year, but once again this isn't even my favorite song from the film. Even the other short-listed song ("Trip a Little Light Fantastic") doesn't come close. I'll stand by "A Cover is Not the Book" as the film's best. While its biggest flaw is being a Mary Poppins sequel, what it does with these limitations is something endearing and wonderful, creating one of the most wonderful and whimsical soundtracks of the year. It's a bit of a tender moment here, and it hits all of the right notes. You want to be comforted when you lose something, and Emily Blunt delivers it perfectly well. As much as this was a movie musical that appeals more to the hardcore fans of the genre (that's kind of Rob Marshall's M.O.), it hits all of the right notes for me. I don't know that this movie will ever escape its predecessor, but at least it tries admirably.

Song: "I'll Fight"
Film: RBG
Performers: Jennifer Hudson

I've realized for a while now (I think it was when An Inconvenient Truth won this category) that I don't like the documentary songs at all. They all sound preachy and lack accessibility in ways besides shouting "We're important!" At least with "Born Free" in the '60s, you had a great song full of brilliant imagery. While Jennifer Hudson has once again proven to us that she can sing, what does this song really have that makes it Oscar worthy? The production is fine but nothing stands out about it. It just continues the pat on the back that we're giving Ruth Bader Ginsberg at the moment. I liked the documentary and all, but this song did nothing to enhance my opinion of it. This song, and the recent trend of documentary-nominated songs is way too obnoxious. It's especially infuriating in a year where three of this category's nominees had multiple songs worthy of taking this position.

The Winner

Song: "Shallow"
Film: A Star is Born
Performers: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper

Again, not my first pick ("Always Remember Us This Way"). However, this was always the inevitable winner in part because it's the only song above really good in the group. It's also the moment where you can feel Lady Gaga just pull through greatness in that second half. The breathtaking build is a thing of beauty and its place within the film is why we go to the movies. I wish this movie cleaned up a few more awards elsewhere (including Best Picture if I'm being honest), but it's safe to say that this song has stood the test of incessant play. It may have made Lady Gaga batty at one point (did you see her Grammys performance?), but it was well worth it. She has lived with this song and so have we. In a year where there should've been more culturally relevant songs nominated, "Shallow" was the one that stood above the others in every way. It even had an incredible Oscars performance. As far as recent winners go, this is one of the best. 

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. "How Far I'll Go" - Moana (2016)
11. "You've Got a Friend in Me" - Toy Story (1995)
12. "Somewhere in My Memory" - Home Alone (1990)
13. "I Love to See You Smile" - Parenthood (1989)
14. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
15. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
16. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
17. "Nobody Does it Better" - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
18. "That's How You Know" - Enchanted (2007)
19. "Belleville Rendez-vous" - The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
20. "Out Here on My Own" - Fame (1980)
21. "Journey Into the Past" - Anastasia (1997)
22. "Belle" - Beauty and the Beast (1991)
23. "I've Seen it All" - Dancer in the Dark (2000)
24. "Ghostbusters" - Ghostbusters (1984)
25. "Friend Like Me" - Aladdin (1992)
26. "The Moon Song" - Her (2013)
27. "I See the Light" - Tangled (2010)
28. "Eye of the Tiger" - Rocky III (1982)
29. "Gonna Fly Now" - Rocky (1976)
30. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
31. "Pieces of Dreams" - Pieces of Dreams (1970)
32. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
33. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
34. "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" -Mahogany (1975)
35. "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" - Yentl (1983)
36. "Pi's Lullaby" - Life of Pi (2012)
37. "I'm Not Gonna Miss You" - Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me (2014)
38. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
39. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
40. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
41. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
42. "Georgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
43. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
44. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
45. "Again" - Poetic Justice (1993)
46. "Come Saturday Morning" - The Sterile Cuckoo (1969)
47. "The Place Where Lost Things Go" - Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
48. "Cry Freedom" - Cry Freedom (1987)
49. "Live and Let Die" - Live and Let Die (1973)
50. "That'll Do" - Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
51. "Blazing Saddles" - Blazing Saddles (1974)
52. "The Mystery of Love" - Call Me By Your Name (2017)
53. "Listen" - Dreamgirls (2006)
54. "Life is What You Make It" - Koch (1971)
55. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
56. "Down in New Orleans" - The Princess and the Frog (2009)
57. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
58. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
59. "Ready to Take a Chance Again" - Foul Play (1978)
60. "Til It Happens to You" - The Hunting Ground (2015)
61. "Look to Your Path" - The Chorus (2004)
62. "The Hands That Built America" - Gangs of New York (2002)
63. "That Thing You Do" - That Thing You Do (1996)
64. "O... Saya" - Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
65. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
66. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
67. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
68. "Separate Lives" - White Night (1985)
69. "Star!" - Star! (1968)
70. "Two Hearts" - Buster (1988)
71. "Real in Rio" - Rio (2011)
72. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
73. "Travellin' Thru" - Transamerica (2005)
74. "Vanilla Sky" - Vanilla Sky (2001)
75. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
76. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
77. "Endless Love" - Endless Love (1981)
78. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
79. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
80. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
81. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
82. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
83. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
84. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
85. "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. "Shallow" - A Star is Born (2018)
30. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
31. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
32. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
33. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
34. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
35. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
36. "Things Have Changed" - Wonder Boys (2000)
37. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" - The Lion King (1994)
38. "City of Stars" - La La Land (2016)
39. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
40. "Jai Ho" - Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
41. "Let It Go" - Frozen (2013)
42. "Into the West" - Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
43. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
44. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
45. "Skyfall" - Skyfall (2012)
46. "We Belong Together" - Toy Story 3 (2010)
47. "Glory" - Selma (2014)
48. "The Streets of Philadelphia" - Philadelphia (1993)
49. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing (1987)
50. "Remember Me" - Coco (2017)
51. "You Light Up My Life" - You Light Up My Life (1977)
52. "The Weary Kind" - Crazy Heart (2009)
53. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
54. "Up Where We Belong" - An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
55. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
56. "Take My Breath Away" - Top Gun (1986)
57. "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" - Dick Tracy (1990)
58. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
59. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
60. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
61. "Al otra lado del rio" - The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
62. "The Windmills of Your Mind" - The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
63. "You Must Love Me" - Evita (1996)
64. "Falling Slowly" - Once (2007)
65. "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" - Hustle & Flow (2005)
66. "Last Dance" - Thank God It's Friday (1978)
67. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
68. "Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do)" - Arthur (1981)
69. "If I Didn't Have You" - Monsters Inc. (2001)
70. "When You Believe" - The Prince of Egypt (1998)
71. "Say You Say Me" - White Night (1985)
72. "Evergreen (Theme From A Star is Born)" - A Star is Born (1976)
73. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
74. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
75. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
76. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
77. "Let the River Run" - Working Girl (1988)
78. "The Writing's On the Wall" - Spectre (2015)
79. "I Need to Wake Up" - An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
80. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
81. "Man or Muppet" - The Muppets (2011)
82. "Flashdance... What a Feeling" - Flashdance (1983)
83. "We May Never Love Like This Again" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
84. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)
85. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - The Woman in Red (1984)

1 comment:

  1. On "I'll Fight":
    "It just continues the pat on the back that we're giving Ruth Bader Ginsberg at the moment."
    Don't forget composer Diane Warren, now 0/10 at the Oscars.