Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 02/ 9/2010

For Oscars, time to sing a new song

By Jen Chaney

Two of this year's nominees in Oscar's best original song category: T. Bone Burnett (left) and Ryan Bingham, already Golden Globe winner for "The Weary Kind" from "Crazy Heart." (AP)

Here's a challenge for your Tuesday: look at the list of this year's Academy Award nominees for best original song. Now try to hum one of them.

Can't do it, can you?

Don't worry, you're not alone. Most avid filmgoers and award-season scorekeepers couldn't sing "Loin de Paname" from "Paris 36" if their very "vies" depended on it. In what has become an annual phenomenon, we're once again looking at a slate of Oscar-nominated songs that, while recognizing some fine work, pays tribute to music that most people with a working radio or iPod have never heard.

Clark Collis wrote a nice, long story on this very subject in Entertainment Weekly's current Oscar issue, which, for reasons that defy Internet logic, I was unable to track down on the Web. But EW's Oscar guru, Dave Karger, wrote a blog post that touches on many of the same themes addressed in Collis's piece and cites the '80s as a time when pop music and Oscar enjoyed a much more symbiotic relationship.

Consider the songs that won the Academy Award for best original song between the years of, say, 1971 and 1990. With a couple of exceptions -- most notably, 1979's "It Goes Like It Goes" from the movie "Norma Rae," which had no business beating Kermit the Frog's well-known ditty about rainbows, and 1988's "Let the River Run" from "Working Girl" -- every single one of these tunes reached the masses.

Theme from "Shaft," winner in '71? You know it and love it.

"Last Dance" by Donna Summer, the disco victor in '78? You'd dance to that right now if I fired it up.

"Flashdance ... What a Feeling," Oscar's triumphant 1983 tune? In a flash, it still takes over your soul.

"Say You, Say Me" by Lionel Richie, which won in 1985?

Okay, so I didn't say they were all good. The point is you could probably name all of these tunes in fewer than five notes. And whether these pop songs were of the highest quality or not, at the very least they certainly seem emblematic of their era.

Flash forward to the '00s and that same statement only applies to one of the decade's winners -- "Lose Yourself" by Eminem.

So why has this happened? Is it because the music industry is so fractured that universally known pop music no longer exists? (I'd say no.) Have the original songs created for movie soundtracks gotten notably less catchy? (Not necessarily, although Collis's article -- which, again, I *so* wish I could link to -- points out that soundtracks no longer sell the way they once did and studios now invest less time and money in movie music.)

I think the truth is that the Academy's approach to honoring cinematic tuneage needs a revamp. Certainly the voters should still recognize original songs and original scores. But I propose a new award: best adapted song.

This would allow the Academy to applaud tracks that may not have been written expressly for the purposes of a certain film, like, say, Sad Brad Smith's "Help Yourself" from "Up in the Air," which was booted out of the best song race this year because a portion of it had been previously rendered. (And yeah, I know it's not exactly sweeping the dance clubs either, but it's a great song and deserved to compete.)

More importantly, a category like this would also allow more rock, pop and hip-hop favorites that play prominent, even iconic roles in modern movies to be recognized. Imagine a world where, say, "Tango de Roxanne" from "Moulin Rouge" could win an Oscar. Or "Mad World" from "Donnie Darko." Or "Where is My Mind?" from "Fight Club."

Hey, if we can do 10 best picture nominees, why not?

Guest Celebritologist Jen Chaney oversees online movie coverage for the Post and feels strongly that "Blame Canada" was robbed of its rightful Oscar in 1999.

By Jen Chaney  | February 9, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Awards Season  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Jackson's doctor charged with involuntary manslaughter; Brangelina sues tabloid
Next: Angelina Jolie visits Haiti; 'Catch' captain dies


I am still not over the fact that Jon Bon Jovi lost to...wait...I don't even remember what "Blaze of Glory" lost the Oscar to...**googles**...."Sooner Or Later (I Always Get My Man)" by Stephen Sondheim from Dick Tracy...oy vey.

At least he lost to Sondheim, but seriously, anyone out there remember THAT catchy little ditty?

Didn't think so, but now try & spend the rest of the day getting "SHOT DOOOOWWWNNNN in a blaze of glooorryyyyyy!!" outta your heads.

Nuff said. >:-(

Posted by: wadejg | February 9, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Oscar-worthy songs don't have to be pop songs. One could argue it's best when they're not. ("Say You, Say Me"? No thanks.)

One of my favorite Oscar-nominated songs was "Beautiful Maria of My Soul" from "The Mambo Kings" -- integral to the storyline and era, but it lost, I think to some Disney song.

Bjork's "I Have Seen Them All" was haunting and incredible in "Dancer in the Dark" but you'd never hear it on the radio. That song lost, too. (All anyone remembers is that damn swan dress Bjork wore when she sang it.)

Oh, and I actually do remember "Sooner or Later," wadejg, and I really, really hate Sondheim (in fact, that song may be one reason why).

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | February 9, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Whatever the winner might be, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please,

don't let Antonio Bandares sing it.

Posted by: mdreader01 | February 9, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Didn't Falling Slowly from the movie Once, win last year or the year before? I love, that song and have two versions on my Ipod.

Posted by: hodie2 | February 9, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

What happened to "Happy" from "Precious?" Doesn't everybody sing that song for everything now?

But the real loser this year is They Might Be Giants for "The Other Father's Song" from "Coraline." Catchy tune.

Posted by: mdreader01 | February 9, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The same concept applies to Bond songs. Tons of great ones thru at least part of the 70s. It all started doing downhill when Duran Duran did one for A View To A Kill (I think).

Even the ones that didn't overwhelm you in the intro, like From Russia With Love or You Only Live Twice, were great backing soundtrack pieces the likes you simply don't hear anymore.

Posted by: grog00 | February 9, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

don't let Antonio Bandares sing it.

Posted by: mdreader01


But he is, how you say, TOO sexy...

Posted by: DorkusMaximus1 | February 9, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Alright, don't throw things at me....I actually own and enjoy the soundtrack from Dick Tracy. To quote reddragon " ho can sing".

Posted by: hodie2 | February 9, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Vice-President In Charge of Celebritology Chaney, now I have to go find a copy of "South Park: Bigger, Longer, And Uncut" before I start singing "Blame Canada". Oh! And the "I'm Super" song!

Posted by: Bawlmer51 | February 9, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Everyone was singing it's "Hard out Here for a Pimp".

Posted by: mcleve | February 9, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

It's been a joke ever since the BeeGees' songs were not nominated the year they did the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever.
I vote to eliminate the original song category altogether. Most of the nominated songs are sung over closing credits so how is that contributing to the movie? I vote instead to add a vocal performance category. Andy Serkis deserved an Oscar for his work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and this year an actor like Sigourney Weaver (Avatar) or Ed Asner could win for their work (Up). This is a category that's long overdue. Robin Williams won a "special" Oscar for his vocal performance on Aladdin, for example, but no one since.

Posted by: scandibaby | February 9, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Another reason for the Academy to revisit this category: the playing of the songs for the live broadcast has to be an audience killer.

Posted by: northgs | February 9, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

mdreader01, very funny. It was still a great song DESPITE Antonio's singing it. So THERE.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | February 9, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Springstein's haunting "Streets of Philadelphia" was one of my faves.

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | February 9, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

How about office space sound track didn't get Oscar but I still sing " damn it feels good to be a gangsta"!!! Lol

Posted by: snowflakegarcia | February 10, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company