Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published February 24th 2019
Some good songs come out of the Oscars
Academy Awards time - over for another year. I'm not a huge fan. I think that since the year 2000 I have liked 5 of the winners of best picture. I like to be entertained when I'm watching a film, not depressed or preached to (or both). And, for what it's worth, five is the same number of best feature documentary winners I've liked in the same time period.
But, really, apart from the top 4 awards (film, director, actor, actress), I find myself interested in 4 other awards – feature documentary, screenplay (adapted and original) and original song. This column is, shock, about the songs.
Now, I'm not going to sit here and type that I've heard all winners. A lot of the early winners are just not my sort of music, and there seems to be a modern thing for rewarding overblown and over-sung ballads. I'm not saying all are bad, but enough are to give me the irrits. I think the Academy rewards people who belt out a song instead of sing it, and ignore songs that actually fit in with the movie or have – I don't know – a beat.
And so, with all of that in mind, here are my favourite 10 Oscar® Best Original Song winners, in year order.
1947 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' performed by James Baskett from Song Of The South
This film is considered so offensive nowadays that I believe Disney has not re-released it with all their others on DVD. I saw it as a kid because I loved the Brer Rabbit tales by Enid Blyton, and it was re-released in the cinema, or maybe it was a special screening; I was young and the details elude me. And this song always stuck with me. Maybe it's because of that early association with having a good time, but I still really like it. Just a happy song.
1969 'Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head' performed by B.J. Thomas from Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid
I really liked this film, and that freeze frame at the end just leaves a lump in the throat that won't go away. I always associate this song (no matter who sings it) with the film, but B.J. Thomas' voice just sounds so rich that his has always been my favourite version, and it is really a fine song.
1971 'Theme From 'Shaft'' performed by Isaac Hayes from Shaft
Oh, come on, who couldn't help but like that deep, Isaac Hayes voice over a funky guitar sound with the female chorus behind him? It doesn't just suit the film, but seems to encapsulate the entire era that spawned it. Copied and aped so often, but none have come close to the original.
1980 'Fame' performed by Irene Cara from Fame
I wasn't a huge fan of the film (though I did like the stage musical and the TV series), but this song is just a joyous celebration of ambition. It captures the film and its themes perfectly. That and the fact it is a damn fine song. Irene Cara owned the early 80s… I wonder what happened to her? (I know I could look it up, but laziness is a curse I am forced to live with).
1985 'Say You, Say Me' performed by Lionel Richie from White Nights
I was dragged along to see this film at the cinema by a female friend, and really liked it, and maybe that's why what is essentially a standard 1980s ballad still sticks in my mind as a good song. I don't mind Lionel Richie (Can't Slow Down was a classic album) and this sits very well in his back catalogue. Listening to it again for this column, I'd forgotten just how catchy it really is. Fine piece of work.
1986 'Take My Breath Away' performed by Berlin from Top Gun
I personally would have gone with Kenny Loggin's 'Danger Zone' but that track wasn't even nominated. However, this track, despite being yet another ballad, is a fine piece of work, I enjoyed a lot of Berlin's work from this time period, and so I won't complain. Mind you, I have trouble taking Top Gun seriously ever since I saw Quentin Tarantino's explanation of the true (and crude) meaning of the film…
1993 'Streets Of Philadelphia' performed by Bruce Springsteen from Philadelphia
Depressing film, though amazingly well acted, with two awesome tracks nominated (the other being Neil Young's 'Philadelphia') and this one winning, and deservedly so. Look, I am a fan of Springsteen and so am possibly biased, but this track is still amazing.
2002 'Lose Yourself' performed by Eminem from 8 Mile
This track was the first Eminem track I liked, even though the film was just the Rocky, Purple Rain, overcoming the odds story-line that has been done to death again and again. When he isn't dissing people or just out-and-out boasting, Eminem can write lyrics of real depth and meaning which is why he continues to sell alums that are quite good (I really enjoyed 2017's Revival) but it did all start for me with this track.
2012 'Skyfall' performed by Adele from Skyfall
25 was such an awesome album that it tends to overshadow much of her earlier work. This James Bond theme song showcases her voice magnificently. She actually sings; she doesn't scream, she doesn't vocoder, she sings. Too many non-Australian artists have forgotten the art of singing, I feel. But this title track from a decent film is magnificent.
2018 'Shallow' performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper from A Star Is Born
While not my favourite song from the soundtrack album (that would be 'Alibi'), it is still an amazing song. And, for a change, the Oscar® went to a song that was actually popular, well-received and generally liked. I think the addition of Bradley Cooper helps it stand out, otherwise, it would be just another screechy power ballad. As it is, it is a fine piece of music and a well-deserved winner.
And there you are, my favourite winners of the Academy Award for best original song. Please note, these are my favourites. And while a certain online friend complained about the absence of Celine Dion, that's her call. So, what else did I get wrong? What did I get right? Comments, suggestions, etc. are always welcome.