What's Up With Oscar's Best Song Category Anyway?
At the Oscars on Sunday (8 pm/ET, ABC), only three tunes will compete for the Best Song statuette: "Down to Earth" by Peter Gabriel from WALL-E and two songs from Slumdog Millionaire, none of which you had ever heard before they were nominated. How the songs are chosen is notoriously complicated, and the results are always a little suspect. While there have been some legitimate musical masterpieces that have won (Hello, "Moon River"!), it's usually much more random (That Phil Collins dreck from the Tarzan movie over Aimee Mann and South Park? Seriously?). Here's our extremely subjective take on the match-ups through the years — who deserved to win, who pulled a fast one on the Academy and which annoying little ditties will be stuck in your head for hours to come. Take a gander at our lists of the most memorable Best Song winners and nominees — and a few that we think should have been nominated — and then tell us which movie songs are your favorites. (Clicking on each song will take you to a video to refresh your memory.)
1. MOST DESERVING WINS
Oscar politics be damned: There have been those years where the best song actually won. Kudos, Academy!
"Theme from Shaft" by Isaac Hayes from Shaft (1971)
"Last Dance" by Donna Summer from Thank God It's Friday (1978)
"Flashdance... What a Feeling" by Irene Cara from Flashdance (1983)
"(I've Had) The Time of My Life" by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes from Dirty Dancing (1987)
"Lose Yourself" by Eminem from 8 Mile (2002)
"It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" by the Three 6 Mafia from Hustle & Flow (2005)
"Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova from Once (2007)
2. DESERVING, BUT ANNOYING
They might have been the best songs of their years, but this group has the undeniable ability to get their sing-songy melodies stuck in our melons for days — and not in a good way.
"Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" from Song of the South (1947)
"Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
"My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion from Titanic (1997)
3. THEY WUZ ROBBED
It's not all champagne and dreams at the Oscars; somebody has to lose. We tip our hats to these fallen soldiers, who made the nominations cut, but couldn't grab the gold.
"The Rainbow Connection" by Kermit the Frog from The Muppet Movie (1979)
"Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor from Rocky III (1982)
"Mean Green Mother from Outer Space" by Levi Stubbs from Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
"Blame Canada" from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
"I've Seen It All" by Björk and Thom Yorke from Dancer in the Dark (2000)
4. SHOULDA BEEN NOMINATED
Here are a few songs from recent memory that didn't even receive the honor of a nomination, but we think they should have.
"Purple Rain" by Prince from Purple Rain (1984): It's nothing short of a travesty that the soundtrack to Prince's weird semiautobiographical film was snubbed. It's an entire album of gems. (Plus, he sure wasn't going to get to the ceremony for the acting.)
"Old Joe's Place" by the Folksmen from A Mighty Wind (2003): We can't pass a diner anymore without thinking: "Ea A Oe's"
"Let's Duet" by John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer from Walk Hard (2007): John C. Reilly's performance of this double entendre-packed song proves that he is one of our greatest living actors: "I'm going to beat off...all my demons."
"Love Take Me Down (to the Streets)" by Joey Curatolo, Amy Miles and Charles Gansa from Role Models (2008): From the Paul McCartney soundalike singer to the perfect Wings vibe, we're still not sure whether Macca wasn't a secret collaborator on this Gansa-penned tune.
5. WHO KNEW?
Did you know that Jon Bon Jovi can write "Oscar-nominated" on his epitaph? Neither did we.
"What's New Pussycat?" by Tom Jones from What's New Pussycat? (1965)
"I'm Easy" by Keith Carradine from Nashville (1975)
"Say You, Say Me" by Lionel Richie from White Nights (1985)
"Blaze of Glory" by Jon Bon Jovi from Young Guns II (1990)
6. THE YEAR THE OSCARS NOTICED POPULAR MUSIC
In 1984, looking at the list of Best Song nominees was a lot like looking at the Top 40 chart.
"Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" by Phil Collins from Against All Odds
"Footloose" by Kenny Loggins from Footloose
"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr. from Ghostbusters
"I Just Called To Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder from The Woman in Red
"Let's Hear It for the Boy" by Deniece Williams from Footloose
7. LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS
Sometimes when a really popular musician records a so-so song for a movie, the Academy takes that opportunity to reward the performer for his or her impressive career, in the process amping up the star power at the ceremony.
"Let the River Run" by Carly Simon from Working Girl (1988)
"Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen from Philadelphia (1993)
"Can You Feel the Love Tonight" by Elton John from The Lion King (1994)
"You Must Love Me" by Madonna from Evita (1996)
"Things Have Changed" by Bob Dylan from Wonder Boys (2000)
Tell us: What's your favorite Oscar song — nominee, winner or "shoulda been"?
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