Prior to 1970, the Best Song Oscar nominees were dominated by the likes of Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Henry Mancini and Michel Legrand, who all wrote cheese from time-to-time, but, man, did their cheese have style. Like gorgonzola.
Not so post-seventy. There was a lot of cheese nominated and it was mostly the cheese that won. But this cheese resembled Velveeta.
Face it, for the last several years, the only reason it seems there was a Best Song category was to justify Dianne Warren’s career. The Best Song nominating committee should, from here on out, be referred to as the Dianne Warren Commission. Enough! I can not and will not in good conscience render any sort of homage to this kind of fromage.
Believe it or not, every once in awhile a decent song will slip through the nominating committee’s cracks. Rarely does it have a chance of winning, but at least it earns some kind of proper. In fact, compiled, these tunes would make a terrific CD package, lovingly entitled, Oscar Songs That Don’t Suck.
Randy Newman’s songs would fill disc one. Amazingly, the nasal-voiced songwriter has been nominated six times and never, ever won. This year, in fact, he’s nominated for “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2, surprisingly against a pretty solid group of contenders. In the past, “That’ll Do” from Babe: Pig in the City lost to Stephen Schwartz’s “When You Believe.” We all love Stephen Schwartz, right? All those great albums he’s put out that know one’s ever heard of or buys …the same Stephen Schwartz who penned the lyrics for Pocahontas’ “Colors of the Wind” which beat Newman’s “You’ve Got A Friend” from Toy Story.
The question: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” The answer: No. Not when this insipid little ditty from Elton “I Used To Write Good Music” John beat “Make Up Your Mind,” Randy Newman’s track from The Paper.
The pain continues, but at least Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid was listenable. Not as imminently listenable as Newman’s “I Love To See You Smile” from Parenthood, which has since become a television commercial classic.
Going all the way back to 1982, Randy Newman’s “One More Hour” from Ragtime lost out to a song so cheesy, it was written by four cheeseheads. And I don’t mean they’re from Wisconsin. Carole Bayer Sager, the Dianne Warren of her time, or maybe of all-time, teamed up with Christopher Cross, Peter Allen and a latter-day Burt Bacharach to pen “Arthur’s Theme,” the “Best Song” of 1981.
The inclusion of another great American singer-songwriter, Bruce Springsteen, would nicely round out that first disc. Springsteen fared an eensy-weensy bit better, actually winning the Oscar for “Streets of Philadelphia” from the Jonathan Demme film, Philadelphia. (Neil Young was also appropriately nominated that year for his song “Philadelphia” from the same film.) Springsteen wasn’t so lucky when his song “Dead Man Walking” from the movie of the same name lost to that damned Stephen Schwartz.
Disc Two would feature all the great, and all too often overlooked pop songs from the past thirty years of Oscar. From this year’s “Save Me,” Aimee Mann’s impressive cut from Magnolia, through Isaac Hayes’
“The Theme from Shaft,” these Oscar songs not only don’t suck, some of them are downright freaky.
Although “Uncle F*cker” is a far superior song, I guess it wasn’t nominated because no one could figure out what how to televise the “Uncle F*cker” dance number. Nonetheless South Park’s “Blame Canada” from Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman deserves top placement, followed by “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space,” Menken/Ashman’s gospel-flavored number from Little Shop of Horrors. To finish off the funny sandwich, Mel Brooks and John Morris’ “Blazing Saddles.”
Adding a slice of cheese, one of my favorite guilty pleasures, mainly because Joe Cocker can make anything good, the Lite-FM classic “Up Where We Belong” with Paul Williams’ “The Rainbow Connection” sprinkled on top, but only if Kermit is singing.
Who better to follow a winsome frog than the Prince of the Air, the Bringer of Light, the Dark Lord, Lucifer? Jerry Goldsmith’ black mass “Ave Satani” from The Omen might seem out of place in this package, but not if it’s succeeded directly by the infectious pop song “That Thing You Do!”
Finally, no compilation would be complete without “Live and Let Die” from the cute-Wing Paul McCartney; I don’t care if the compilation is Armenian folk music.