I’m always curious about the songs that end up in movies. Are they already in existence and just end up being a perfect fit for the movie, or are they written specifically for the movie?
My guess would be either or. I’m sure a director might be drawn to a song before a movie is completed in some cases…and in others I would imagine there are some politics involved, where they have to use a particular artist, band or songwriter for their movie.
Let’s understand first that “Best Song” is different from “Best Score”. The score is the music that is underneath the dialogue or helps to drive the emotion or drama of a movie in various scenes.
The very first Oscar for best song was awarded in 1934. “The Continental” written by Con Conrad with lyrics by Herb Magidson was sung by Ginger Rogers in the movie “The Gay Divorcee”. Wow, that movie title would have a whole new context these days 🙂
Here is a video clip from the movie:
Of course, the movie was a musical. But these days, musicals aren’t as common in film form unless they are filmed versions of Broadway musicals or Disney films.
The best song nominations are very often at the end of a movie, during the credits. Which makes me wonder if a lot of people actually stay long enough to hear them. Maybe the intention is to keep people in their seats during the credits, or to prevent you from turning the movie off, in the case of a DVD or streamed movie. I wonder if that actually works? There are certainly people who like to watch the credits, or who take that time to soak the movie in, but a lot of people don’t bother.
This years nominations are all quite different. “Let It Go”, from the Disney movie “Frozen” is your typical Disney pop ballad, sung by Idina Menzel and written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her husband Robert Lopez, who have written songs for Disney before in the movies Finding Nemo and Winnie The Pooh. In this case, of course, Disney commissioned the song specifically for the movie. I was curious about it because I wrote a song with that very name about 20 years ago. I guess without the context of the movie, it’s hard to judge the song on its own merit, but it is not a stand out for me. I can see, however, that it might appeal to the little girls that the movie is mainly targeting.
Another nominated song is “Ordinary Love” by U2 from the movie “Long Walk To Freedom”. This is Nelson Mandela’s story, and although I didn’t see the movie, I do know his story well. When I listened to the song, I more or less expected to relate to the lyrics because of that, but I have to say I was confused by them to some degree. I do like some of the imagery in lines like “The sea throws rock together, but time leaves us polished stones”, but the chorus lines “we can’t fall any further if we can’t feel ordinary love” probably has some sort of mystical meaning to the writers, that go right over my head. I just don’t think the song is a stand out.
The movie “Juno” which came out in 2007 had a couple of songs in it by the Moldy Peaches. I know there are Moldy Peaches fans out there because a couple of my guitar students requested one of the songs that was used in the movie “Anyone Else But You”. The group described themselves at the time as “anti-folk”, “lo-fi” and “garage-rock”. For me, they were “sophomoric”, but that’s just a matter of personal preference, I guess :-). This year, “The Moon Song” from the movie “Her”, strikes me exactly the same way. ‘Nuff said.
My favourite song on this year’s list of nominees, is the song “Happy” from “Despicable Me 2” by Pharrell Williams. Reflecting its title, of course, it’s a very upbeat and catchy song. It is, by no means, lyrically deep. But then again, I was drawn to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, so I don’t have to hear deep lyrics to find happiness.
Online there is huge support for “Let It Go” and although that isn’t necessarily a reflection of what the Academy is going to choose, I think it’s a strong possibility that it will win. There are, honestly, some years that I find the field of nominees lacking. But then again, I suppose in some years there isn’t a whole lot to choose from.
I’ll be watching…