Friday, September 5, 2014

Reviewing the Oscar nominated songs of the last 35 years, 1981

Continuing from here and presumably you remember how we started. Here are the five nominees (films released in 1980 for the Oscars awarded in 1981):

  • "Fame" from Fame (Michael Gore, music; Dean Pitchford, lyrics) - winner
  • "Nine to Five" from Nine to Five (Dolly Parton, music and lyrics)
  • "On the Road Again" from Honeysuckle Rose (Willie Nelson, music and lyrics)
  • "Out Here on my Own" from Fame (Michael Gore, music; Lesley Gore, lyrics)
  • "People Alone" from The Competition (Lalo Schifrin, music; Will Jennings, lyrics)

Notably absent:
  • "Dogs in the Yard" from Fame
  • "I'm Alright (Theme from Caddyshack)" from Caddyshack
  • "It's My Turn" from It's My Turn
Notes of interest: After Melissa Manchester (allegedly--I haven't vetted this Wikipedia assertion yet) became the first artist to sing 2 Oscar-nominated songs, Irene Cara does the same thing the next year. Both songs are from the same movie so if that nuance was intrinsic to Machester's claim to fame, it stands.
People alone may go very fast
But maybe not so far
Playing alone is still solitaire
This was an unbelievably good year for songs. The weakest of the 5 nominees is "People Alone" from a movie that I rather loved when it was out. I could have never sung the song and even listening to it recently I was delighted to hear Randy Crawford doing her best to work the forgettable lyrics into something enjoyable. I rate "People Alone" with a [4] and would gladly accept any of the 3 absent songs in its place.
Oh, baby, be strong for me
Baby, belong to me
Help me through
Help me need you
"Out Here on My Own" is wonderful, somber, really poignant and well featured in the movie. In any other year, a slam dunk for a nomination, and possibly a win. [8]
Baby I'll be tough, too much is not enough, no
I can ride your heart 'til it breaks
Ooh, I got what it takes
"Fame" is a big, brassy production number and the kind of movie that taps into high school music program zeitgeist, and probably lives there still today. It's probably outlasted the song from Ice Castles in that regard. I don't begrudge it a win but it's not the song I would have selected, although just barely. [8]
They let your dream, just watch 'em shatter
You're just a step on the boss man's ladder
I would have bet you I'd pick "Out Here on My Own" as my winner from this year, until I sat down and listened to the songs closely and as much in the context of their movies as I could. "Nine to Five" is a great overture to the movie and it was a pop culture hit. It made Dolly Parton more than a country music superstar. But then "On the Road Again" did the same for Willie Nelson. Honeysuckle Rose is a lesser movie than Nine to Five, but Nine to Five could survive without its song.  "Nine to Five" [9]; "On the Road Again" [9, and what I'd pick as winner]
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way and our way

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