Oscars Week- Singing Saturday: Best Original Song (updated)

By Niall McArdle

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I was planning a top-ten Best Original Song winners but was beaten to the punch by this excellent post over at Really!!?

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There are four nominees for Best Original Song this year. At one point there were five, but “Alone Yet Not Alone” was disqualified after the Academy discovered that its composer, Bruce Broughton, had been “improperly campaigning”.

WINNER: Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez – “Let It Go” from Frozen. The song became even more famous on Oscars night when John Travolta mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name

Disney’s Frozen was one of the biggest box-office smashes of 2013, freezing out (sorry) many other animated and live-action features, including Despicable Me 2 and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The only film that made more money was Iron Man 3. Disney has done fairly well in the Best Original Song category, so “Let It Go” cannot be discounted from the running.

Pharrell Williams – “Happy” from Despicable Me 2

2013 was quite a year for Pharrell: he lent his vocals to the year’s most controversial song and to one of the year’s biggest dance-hits. And he still found time to record “Happy” for Despicable Me 2. The film was a big box-office success, and like it or not, that matters come the Oscars, so don’t be surprised if the impossibly ageless, hat-wearing Pharell takes home the prize.

Karen O and Spike Jonze – “The Moon Song” from Her

The quirkiest song from the year’s quirkiest movie. Not exactly a hands-clapping, foot-tapping sing-along sort of song, and Karen O’s voice keeps threatening to break, as if the effort of singing such a painful, sentimental hipster anthem is too much. The song is co-written by the film’s writer-director, Spike Jonze. Jonze will probably win Best Original Screenplay for Her, but I’ll be surprised if “The Moon Song” wins Best Original Song.

U2 – “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Road To Freedom

If you haven’t heard this yet, you’ve been living under a rock. It’s in heavy rotation on the radio, there are dozens of covers on You Tube, and its profile (and U2’s, as if the band needed more publicity) was boosted last week when they made a memorable appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s first episode presenting The Tonight Show. If on Sunday night they can match the emotion that they conjured up in Fallon’s studio, the performance should be one of the highlights of this year’s Oscars. This is U2’s second nomination: they were considered a sure bet to take home an Oscar for “The Hands That Built America” from Martin Scorcese’s Gangs of New York (they lost out to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile). The nomination for Best Original Song is the only Oscar nomination that Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom has received. In some categories that can be a disadvantage, but not necessarily Best Original Song. Barring a Disney surge, it’s a safe bet that the Dublin boiys will be going home with Oscar on Sunday. UPDATE: I WAS WRONG. 

And now a selection of some previous Oscar-winners.

Herb Magidson and Con Conrad – “The Continental” from The Gay Divorcee. For several years songs from Astaire-Rogers musicals could always be counted among the nominees

Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields – “The Way You Look Tonight” from Swing Time

Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg – “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz. Not a favourite of mine, but no history of Hollywood songs is complete without it. Just try not to think about the fact that sixteen-year old Judy Garland was probably starving when she sang it.

Leigh Harline and Ned Washington – “When You Wish Upon A Star” from Pinocchio

James Van Heusen and Johnny Burke – “Swinging on a Star” from Going My Way. An aptly-titled song for Bing Crosby: at home he liked to swing liked his kids around a bit.

Ray Evans and Jay Livingston – “Mona Lisa” from Captain Carey

Dmitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington – “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin)” from High Noon (sung by Tex Ritter)

Jay Livingston and Ray Evans – “Que Sera Sera” from The Man Who Knew Too MuchYes, a Hitchcock film won Best Original Song

John Barry and Don Black – “Born Free” from Born Free

Leslie Bricusse – “Talk to the Animals” from Dr Dolittle

Michel Legrand, Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman – “The Windmills of Your Mind” from The Thomas Crown Affair Sung by Noel Harrison

Isaac Hayes “Shaft” from Shaft. Get funky!

Keith Carradine – “I’m Easy” from Nashville. Director Robert Altman encouraged his actors to write their own songs for the film

Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Will Jennings “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman Sung by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes. This became something of an anthem for townie skanks who dreamed of being swept off their feet by handsome men in uniform.

Lionel Richie – “Say You Say Me” from White Nights

Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock – “Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun. Sung by Berlin. See “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman.

Franke Previte, John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz -“I’ve Had the Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing. Sung by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

Bruce Springsteen – “Streets of Philadelphia” from Philadelphia. They had to go to New Jersey to find someone to sing about Philadelphia? Where was Chubby Checker?

James Horner and Will Jennings – “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. Sung by Celine Dion. You hoped you’d never hear this again.

Bob Dylan – “Things Have Changed” from Wonder Boys. Remember when he said ‘don’t trust anyone over 30’? Things have changed.

Eminem – ‘Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile

Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard – “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” from Hustle and Flow. Performed by Three 6 Mafia. After it won the Oscar, host Jon Stewart quipped “I think it just got a little easier out here for a pimp.”

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – “Falling Slowly” from Once.

5 thoughts on “Oscars Week- Singing Saturday: Best Original Song (updated)

  1. Thanks for the call out and the links to all those great songs, which I’ve been waiting for all week. I’m glad you didn’t link to my least favorite Christmas song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” which — amazingly — won best original song in 1950


    1. cheers, gary: interesting story about “baby, it’s cold outside”: Frank Loesser and his wife used to perform that at parties: it was their special party piece, and she was furious when he sold it .


  2. I managed to zip past that picture of U2 nice and quickly. Anything featuring Bono could ruin my entire day.

    OK, Astaire and Rogers always; any song from their films will be number one in my book. As for this year, I have to go with ‘Happy’. I didn’t even know it was from a film, (Despicable what?) and I didn’t want to like it. But it is undeniably irresistible, impossible not to smile, and even my old feet get moving when I hear it.
    Got to be an almost perfect pop song, for any generation.
    Cheers Niall, Pete.


    1. cheers, pete. Astaire and Rogers were lucky: they had Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and George Gershwin writing songs for them. I agree about ‘Happy’: it’s a fun, very danceable pop song that is guaranteed to make you feel better. Bono ruins many a person’s day, so I suggest you mute the TV when they announce Best Song, because I do think that U2 will win, which means a speech from the man.


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