Friday, February 24, 2012

An Incredibly Thin Year for Oscar Songs

2011 was not a banner year for original songs in movies. In fact, it might be the worst year in the eighty-four year history of the Academy Awards.

This year only two songs were nominated in the "Best Song" category - "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets and "Real in Rio" from Rio - and to be brutally honest, not only is there a lack of nominees, but these nominees are lacking. 

I'd describe the two nominated tunes as cute and full of kid appeal, but neither is particularly catchy, poignant, or memorable. Songs from prior years have been helped out by superstar performers, successful musical formulas (a string of Disney classics won in the 80s and 90s), or music/dance-oriented movie themes, but this year there is nothing of the sort. For that matter the last decade's meager crop of songs, offers little by way of comparison.

Consider some of the classic winners from previous years. These songs are not only synonymous with the movies in which they were featured, they are often representative of an era.

Among the "Best Song" winners from the 70s:
- Theme from Shaft (1971)
- The Way We Were (1974)
- Last Dance (1978)

Winners from the 80s include:
- Flashdance (1983)
- I Just Called to Say I Love You (1984)
- I've Had the Time of My Life (1987)

In the 90s, there was an impressive string of Disney winners (songs from Beauty and Beast, Aladdin, Lion King, Pocohantas), and we had popular hits like:
- Streets of Philadelphia (1993)
- You Must Love Me (1996)
- My Heart Will Go On (1997)

Now, can you name any Best Song winner since 2000? Well, "Falling Slowly" from Once was a beautiful song that won (but do you remember it?). I did dig that "Jai Ho" song from Slumdog, and Eminem's "Lose Yourself" was a winner, but in total, the quality and popular appeal of hits coming out of Oscar nominated films since 2000 has significantly diminished, when compared to prior decades.

Even the Academy appears underwhelmed by this year's song choices, and for the first time in my memory, none of the nominated songs will be performed during the awards show broadcast. Having said all that, you might still be curious to hear this year's nominees. You can listen to both tunes in this YouTube clip. If you get bored with the Muppet song, the Rio track comes in around the 3-minute mark. 

The big lesson I'm taking away from this year's Oscar nominated songs - we can't let Randy Newman take any more time off.


  1. ahem. Jeff - just between you and me -- there's a grammatical error in your blog title. But don't worry, I won't tell anyone.

  2. Dammit! Second booboo in a headline this week! (Thanks for the tip. It's fixed.) #everyoneneedsaneditor