Oscar’s Best Songs vs. Billboard’s Number Ones

At this Sunday’s Academy Awards, Pharrell could become the first musician to win an Oscar for Best Original Song while atop the Billboard charts. The Academy and the People tend to diverge on greatness in music—whose taste is superior? We investigate.

Chris Randle is a writer from Toronto who has written for The Globe and Mail, The...

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Unless some mercurial actor happens to be recommending a friend’s book during the festivities, my investment in the Oscars is low. They don’t even work as meaningless spectacle; most of each ceremony seems to be that transitory hum in between the fatuous speeches, like a house made out of insulating foam. I do, however, have an inexplicable affection for the Best Original Song category, which started off ratifying entries from the American repertoire (“The Way You Look Tonight,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”), flailed around entertainingly while the use of pre-existing pop music transformed film scores, and now exists as the event’s demanding misfit child, forever mandating unwieldy medleys or the presence of Bono. Any club that includes both Irving Berlin and Juicy J can’t be all bad.

If Pharrell wins for “Happy” this weekend, though, he might become the first musician to ever receive an Oscar statuette and top the U.S. Billboard charts simultaneously, suggesting a dialectical experiment: listen to every Best Original Song alongside its concurrent #1 single and see which I liked best. The tastes of the Academy versus the People, however distantly refracted through the record industry. “Popular culture … is the arena of consent and resistance,” in the words of Stuart Hall, who did not win an Oscar.

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1959
Best Original Song winner: “Gigi” (from Gigi)
#1 Billboard single: “Venus,” by Frankie Avalon

The Academy Award for Best Original Song dates back to 1935, but there was no comprehensive singles chart, however flawed, until the Billboard Hot 100 emerged a quarter-century later, roughly coinciding with the beginning of the rock era. That phrase, “the rock era,” rings of neat demarcation, as if every pop crooner entered the musical fossil record at once, though in fact certain older styles and performers continued to hang around. A teen idol like Frankie Avalon wasn’t too far removed from the pre-radio youths who put a cute face on the latest songs crossing off Broadway. But “Venus” is no standard: the short list of cover versions appropriately includes Barry Manilow. It just sounds smarmy, and I can’t think of a less attractive affect than that.

Advantage: “Gigi”

1960
Best Original Song winner: “High Hopes” (from A Hole in the Head)
#1 Billboard single: “Theme from A Summer Place, by Percy Faith & His Orchestra

“Theme from A Summer Place” remains the most enduring instrumental #1 ever, at nine weeks, and if you click that hyperlink it might become an unwelcome guest of your skull for nearly as long.

Advantage: “High Hopes”

1961
Best Original Song winner: “Never on Sunday” (from Never on Sunday)
#1 Billboard single: “Blue Moon,” by the Marcels

A rare cover that manages to be funny without succumbing to smug parody, the Marcels’ doo-wop version of “Blue Moon” splits those lonely lyrics across two minutes of chattering unquiet. It’s like strangers ushering you into a noisy party.

Advantage: “Blue Moon”

1962
Best Original Song winner: “Moon River” (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
#1 Billboard single: “Johnny Angel,” by Shelley Fabares

Kitschy as it may be, “Moon River” aged better than most other things related to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, like weird coyness about sex work, or Truman Capote’s face. I was hoping that “Johnny Angel” would fall into the brief teen-death subgenre, but its crushing is too idealized for mortality to ever intrude.

Advantage: “Moon River”

1963
Best Original Song winner: “Days of Wine and Roses” (from Days of Wine and Roses)
#1 Billboard single: “He’s So Fine,” by the Chiffons

I love this Chiffons track in part for its air of spontaneity: the laconic doo-langs, “but then again he can’t shy, he can’t shy away forever,” that svelte 1:50 running time. Girls invented pop-punk.

Advantage: “He’s So Fine”

1964
Best Original Song winner: “Call Me Irresponsible” (from Papa’s Delicate Condition)
#1 Billboard single: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” by the Beatles

A minor Beatles single, audibly shrugged off, except that it completed their 14-week, multi-song occupation of the #1 spot; positions 2-5 were filled by “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.” (They also set up what might be my favourite Hot 100 record of all: when “Hello, Dolly!” succeeded “Can’t Buy Me Love,” 63-year-old Louis Armstrong became the oldest performer to ever chart that high, and remains so.) Nothing fromHard Day’s Night got an Oscar nomination.

Advantage: “Can’t Buy Me Love”

1965
Best Original Song winner: “Chim Chim Cher-ee” (from Mary Poppins)
#1 Billboard single: “Stop! In the Name of Love,” by the Supremes

The Supremes could do twee: see “Twinkle Twinkle Little Me.” They also did “Love Child.” This song exists somewhere beyond either mode, or any mode, the longing sharpened and made dire by fear, strummed as a tremble.

Advantage: “Stop! In the Name of Love”

1966
Best Original Song winner: “The Shadow of Your Smile” (from The Sandpiper)
#1 Billboard single: “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” by the Righteous Brothers

“A teardrop kissed your lips…” Is the narrator mooning over a cubist painting?

Advantage: “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration”

1967
Best Original Song winner: “Born Free” (from Born Free)
#1 Billboard single: “Happy Together,” by the Turtles

NO CONTEST.

Advantage: “Happy Together”

1968
Best Original Song winner: “Talk to the Animals” (from Dr. Doolittle)
#1 Billboard single: “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” by Otis Redding

This is around the point where the Academy’s traditionalist chauvinism—exacerbated by the show-tune-reared composers and songwriters among its membership, who enjoyed a hammerlock on the Oscar nominating process—becomes glaring. Next to the futile grace of “Dock of the Bay,” with Redding saying each word like he’s ruminated over it for days, some bouncing-ball novelty maintaining that claim to musical centrality could only look laughable.

Advantage: “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”

1969
Best Original Song winner: “The Windmills of Your Mind” (from The Thomas Crown Affair)
#1 Billboard single: “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” by the Fifth Dimension

Forty-five years later, the imagistic similes spiraling through “Windmills of Your Mind” feel psychedelia-adjacent, so it was funny to queue up “Aquarius” and hear the stars, as it were, align. ~*~mystic crystal revelations / and the mind’s true liberation~*~

Advantage: “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” (chart nerd bonus: the first medley to reach #1!)

1970
Best Original Song winner: “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” (from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
#1 Billboard single: “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” by Simon & Garfunkel

The secular-hymnal school of ‘60s songwriting is one I find constantly off-putting, but maybe if Burt Bacharach had run some melodies through it…

Advantage: “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”

1971
Best Original Song winner: “For All We Know” (from Lovers and Other Strangers)
#1 Billboard single: “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me),” by the Temptations

The Temptations broke with their longtime producer Norman Whitfield a year or two after the release of this single, resenting the way his elaborate orchestrations veiled their vocals. Listening to “Just My Imagination,” you can understand why: even the ballad he wrote to placate them after much “psychedelic soul” abounds with instruments and effects, reducing Eddie Kendricks’s falsetto almost to a murmur. Then Paul Williams arrives at the bridge, giving “every night on my knees I pray” the acoustics of a confessional box, and I remember, oh yeah, Whitfield was responsible for “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Not much psychedelia, soulful or otherwise, had such a sense of narrative.

Advantage: “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)”

1972
Best Original Song winner: “Theme from Shaft (from Shaft)
#1 Billboard single: “A Horse with No Name,” by America

As if to underscore what a freak occurrence the Academy’s rare accidental coolness was, Isaac Hayes did switch from his all-gold-everything stage outfit to a tuxedo—furred, midnight blue. But there was canniness to their selection too, because despite getting knocked off into parodies of parodies of parodies, the original’s swaying poise remains. It was a token pick that refuses the designation.

Advantage: “Theme from Shaft

1973
Best Original Song winner: “The Morning After” (from The Poseidon Adventure)
#1 Billboard single: “Love Train,” by the O’Jays

I’ll be honest: after seeing “Love Train” here, I didn’t even listen to that fucking Poseidon Adventure song.

Advantage: “Love Train”

1974
Best Original Song winner: “The Way We Were” (from The Way We Were)
#1 Billboard single: “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” by John Denver

In Lipstick Traces, Greil Marcus argues that punk emanated from a hidden lineage of avant-garde blasphemy, but the juxtaposition above could make a nihilist out of anybody. Denver was so fanatically committed to inoffensiveness he hedged his pro-sunshine sentiments.

Advantage: “The Way We Were,” if only for its own secret history

1975
Best Original Song winner: “We May Never Love Like This Again” (from The Towering Inferno)
#1 Billboard single: “Lovin’ You,” by Minnie Riperton

Is that “candle in the dark” lyric on a soundtrack cut from a fiery disaster movie supposed to be ironic? When Minnie Riperton sings la la la la la, I imagine her stringing each syllable into a flower crown.

Advantage: “Lovin’ You”

1976
Best Original Song winner: “I’m Easy” (from Nashville)
#1 Billboard single: “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” by the Four Seasons

It’s kind of hilarious that Nashville won its only Oscar via Keith Carradine’s passive-aggressive ballad, utterly decontextualized from his fictional womanizer and their manipulative sensitivity. The slyness in “December, 1963” is all dadly nostalgia, elision after chuckled elision (“you know, I never even knew her name”), including one of the narrator’s premature ejaculation. Insincerity has its pleasures, whether that incongruous disco bassline, a crayon-bright synth solo, or Frankie Valli et al. actually carrying off “sweet surrender, what a night,” but I prefer the song exposing male guile to the one reveling in it.

Advantage: “I’m Easy”

1977
Best Original Song winner: “Evergreen” (from A Star is Born)
#1 Billboard single: “Rich Girl,” by Hall & Oates

What am I supposed to say about Daryl “of Fame” Hall and John “Power Perm” Oates? That they were Robin Thicke minus the sexual repulsiveness? That “Billie Jean” wasn’t not in their debt? That nobody had a better “Sun City”cameo? That this track gets its expert work done in less time than Timberlake’s last album lavished on codas?

Advantage: “Rich Girl”

1978
Best Original Song winner: “You Light Up My Life” (from You Light Up My Life)
#1 Billboard single: “Night Fever,” by the Bee Gees

The featureless banality of “You Light Up My Life” begins to unnerve after discovering its composer/director/screenwriter/producer was also a sexual predator. Even the Grammys managed not to fuck up disco this badly.

Advantage: “Night Fever”

1979
Best Original Song winner: “Last Dance” (from Thank God It’s Friday)
#1 Billboard single: “I Will Survive,” by Gloria Gaynor

Two classics, one chastened attempt to compensate for 1978’s Saturday Night Fever snub. “I Will Survive” has become a mise en abyme now, wasted across a hundred trite musical cues, but I hear something new every time Donna Summer leads her tempo onto the dancefloor.

Advantage: “Last Dance”

1980
Best Original Song winner: “It Goes Like It Goes” (from Norma Rae)
#1 Billboard single: “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II,” by Pink Floyd

Pretty ironic discography entry for somebody as controlling as Roger Waters! I bet he gets a kick out of that in between brooding about how much he hates everyone else from Pink Floyd!

Advantage: “It Goes Like It Goes,” lovelessly

1981
Best Original Song winner: “Fame” (from Fame)
#1 Billboard single: “Rapture,” by Blondie

Not the David Bowie one with that riff. The Irene Cara one with the slightly desperate ambition.

Advantage: “Rapture”

1982
Best Original Song winner: “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” (from Arthur)
#1 Billboard single: “I Love Rock and Roll,” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

I might hold more ambivalent feelings about rock and roll, I may have spent half an hour last week replaying Toto’s “Africa,” but I will never fuck with Christopher Cross.

Advantage: “I Love Rock and Roll”

1983
Best Original Song winner: “Up Where We Belong” (from An Officer and a Gentleman)
#1 Billboard single: “Billie Jean,” by Michael Jackson

Respect to Buffy Sainte-Marie, but…

Advantage: “Billie Jean”

1984
Best Original Song winner: “Flashdance… What a Feeling” (from Flashdance)
#1 Billboard single: “Footloose,” by Kenny Loggins

Oh man, this pairing would only be more ‘80s if Oliver North were covertly facilitating it. Although the Logg lends “Footloose” a pleasingly slouchy twang, Giorgio Moroder’s sudden accelerations to hi-NRG speed make lyrics indistinguishable from “Fame” glide.

Advantage: “Flashdance… What a Feeling”

1985
Best Original Song winner: “I Just Called to Say I Love You” (from The Woman in Red)
#1 Billboard single: “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” by REO Speedwagon

Why couldn’t Stevie win for “Wild Wild West” instead? Why didn’t literally anything from Purple Rain take his place?

Advantage: “I Just Called to Say I Love You”

1986
Best Original Song winner: “Say You, Say Me” (from White Nights)
#1 Billboard single: “These Dreams,” by Heart

The Lionel Richie track is sort of interesting in that he’s phasing between two or three different songs, possibly trying to escape their garishly dated production.

Advantage: “These Dreams”

1987
Best Original Song winner: “Take My Breath Away” (from Top Gun)
#1 Billboard single: “Lean on Me,” by Club Nouveau

I can’t deal with the hideous synths on Club Nouveau’s mangling of Bill Withers, which sound like sound effects from an NES game about spiders. The critic Tom Ewing gave “Take My Breath Away” a clever taxonomy some years ago: “It feels like the start of something, a harbinger of the soon-come glory age of the film tie-in, when balladosaurus rexbestrode the charts, roaring and beating its chest and weeping for week upon emotional week. Of course the evolution of this sonic megafauna was gradual. Play ‘Take My Breath Away’ next to something later, and functionally similar, like ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing,’ and ‘Breath’ seems thoughtful, almost delicate. But the key species characteristics of the titan song are present: the stateliness, the sense of scale, the yearning, most of all the epic abstraction.”

Advantage: “Take My Breath Away”

1988
Best Original Song winner: “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” (from Dirty Dancing)
#1 Billboard single: “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” by Billy Ocean

Let’s not perpetuate the historical revisionism that Dirty Dancing had a good soundtrack just because they put “Be My Baby” on it. Billy Ocean is a B-list soul singer, and in the music video above he keeps summoning disembodied cartoon lips, but the man could still switch it up while repeating the same verb dozens of times.

Advantage: “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car”

1989
Best Original Song winner: “Let the River Run” (from Working Girl)
#1 Billboard single: “The Living Years,” by Mike & The Mechanics

oh christ get me out of this decade

Advantage: “Let the River Run,” a representative of pop’s late-’80s nadir which at least eschews a children’s choir, or the line “I’m sure I heard his echo in my baby’s newborn tears”

1990
Best Original Song winner: “Under the Sea” (from The Little Mermaid)
#1 Billboard single: “Black Velvet,” Alannah Myles

Have you ever noticed that “Under the Sea” is about finding a haven from constant violence and death? Or how the instruments’ roll call echoes Neneh Cherry at the start of “Buffalo Stance”? I like “Black Velvet,” excellent karaoke selection, sort of a Shania test run, and I can’t even remember any other songs from The Little Mermaid, but “Black Velvet” doesn’t have a crab playing steel drums.

Advantage: “Under the Sea”

1991
Best Original Song winner: “Sooner or Later” (from Dick Tracy)
#1 Billboard single: “One More Try,” by Timmy T

Stephen Sondheim needs to earn that EGOT somehow, and if it benefits North America’s second-tier burlesque festivals, so much the better. The master did manage one or two characteristic couplets here (“delight me / excite me”). Meanwhile, Timmy T reminds us all of that special musical era when a mediocre karaoke performance could reach #1 if it sounded enough like freestyle.

Advantage: “Sooner or Later”

1992
Best Original Song winner: “Beauty and the Beast” (from Beauty and the Beast)
#1 Billboard single: “Save the Best for Last,” by Vanessa Williams

In a contest of anonymity against idiosyncrasy, Williams’s genericized voice oddly seems to suit her material more.

Advantage: “Save the Best for Last”

1993
Best Original Song winner: “A Whole New World” (from Aladdin)
#1 Billboard single: “Informer,” by Snow

Disney’s Aladdin was the first movie I ever saw in theatres, which means my first experience of Cinema was this very racist song describing Arabs as duplicitous bandits. The fact that “Informer” topped the chart for seven weeks also feels vaguely racist.

Advantage: “A Whole New World”

1994
Best Original Song winner: “Streets of Philadelphia” (from Philadelphia)
#1 Billboard single: “The Sign,” by Ace of Base

It figures that an AIDS movie as heteronormative as Philadelphia would approach Bruce Springsteen. It also figures that he would turn around and hand back a contribution in his synthiest mode, recalling Pet Shop Boys’ “Suburbia” or “We All Feel Better In the Dark”; a song far more affecting at its hushed volume than his post-9/11 guitar elegies. If “The Sign” wasn’t three unmarred minutes of open space, I’d even vote for it.

Advantage: “The Sign”

1995
Best Original Song winner: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (from The Lion King)
#1 Billboard single: “Take a Bow,” by Madonna

They should’ve given an Oscar to the ballad from the second Lion King movie, where Rafiki rhapsodizes about how wonderful sex is. And what Babyface does on “Take a Bow” is my idea of perfect harmony.

Advantage: “Take a Bow”

1996
Best Original Song winner: “Colors of the Wind” (from Pocahontas)
#1 Billboard single: “Because You Loved Me,” by Celine Dion

You may be gathering that a lot of Disney numbers won Academy Awards in the ‘90s, often alongside multiple competitors from the same film. (Hercules received a nomination! Sting got one! “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” somehow did not!) After a decade or so of grudgingly acknowledging pop music, the songwriters branch resumed backing quasi-show-tunes over and over again, its reactionary tendencies metastasizing until Andrew Lloyd Webber and schmaltz auteur Diane Warren both held gold statuettes. They couldn’t even identify the effective Warren compositions, such as “How Do I Live” (whose nomination dashed itself against a certain looming iceberg), or this track from what I’m told is Celine Dion’s best album. Next to “You think the only people who are people / Are the people who look and think like you,” Celine sounds subtle.

Advantage: “Because You Loved Me”

1997
Best Original Song winner: “You Must Love Me” (from Evita)
#1 Billboard single: “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” by Puff Daddy ft. Mase

My dad met Tim Rice once. He said he was very polite.

Advantage: “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”

1998
Best Original Song winner: “My Heart Will Go On” (from Titanic)
#1 Billboard single: “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” by Will Smith

“She was really sweet, which has made it impossible for me to dislike Celine Dion anymore. Even though I can’t stand the music she makes—with all due respect, I don’t like it much at all—she herself was very, very nice. She asked me if I was nervous and I said, ‘Yeah.’ And she was like, ‘That’s good, because you get your adrenaline going, and it’ll make your song better. It’s a beautiful song.’ Then she gave me a big hug. It was too much. It was too human to be dismissed simply because I find her music trite.” — Elliott Smith, as quoted by Carl Wilson in Let’s Talk About Love. And did you know “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” samples “He’s the Greatest Dancer”?

Advantage: Nile Rodgers, suspensions of judgment, wounded empathy

1999
Best Original Song winner: “When You Believe” (from Prince of Egypt)
#1 Billboard single: “Believe,” by Cher

Mocked at the time, Cher got the last inhumanly digitized laugh: the uncanny vocal resilience of her gigantic hit surely anticipated the past decade’s broken-robot pop. We heard the future at junior high dances.

Advantage: Cher

2000
Best Original Song winner: “You’ll Be in My Heart” (from Tarzan)
#1 Billboard single: “Say My Name,” by Destiny’s Child

Some musicians sing about self-respect. Others provide cautionary examples.

Advantage: “Say My Name”

2001
Best Original Song winner: “Things Have Changed” (from Wonder Boys)
#1 Billboard single: “Butterfly,” by Crazy Town

Not being a habitué of strip clubs—my friend Susan, who is, tells me it clings to hideous un-life there—I haven’t heard “Butterfly” for at least 10 years. Let’s see what… oh no… why are they rapping so much… why does this video take place inside a screensaver… why are everybody’s piercings where they are…

Advantage: “Things Have Changed”

2002
Best Original Song winner: “If I Didn’t Have You” (from Monsters Inc.)
#1 Billboard single: “Ain’t It Funny,” by Jennifer Lopez ft. Ja Rule

R.I.P. thug love songs ;_;

Advantage: “Ain’t It Funny”

2003
Best Original Song winner: “Lose Yourself” (from 8 Mile)
#1 Billboard single: “In Da Club,” by 50 Cent

50 was great at playing rap’s self-amused pantomime villain for a time, but secretly he was maybe even better at sleek, utilitarian bangers. Eminem’s hectoring-dad “inspirational” mode was never good.

Advantage: “In Da Club”

2004
Best Original Song winner: “Into the West” (from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King)
#1 Billboard single: “Yeah!” by Usher

You can really sense the Academy voter pool throwing its collective hands up around now, and not in the Usher-induced way. “Some fucking song about elf heaven? Sure! My nephew loves it!”

Advantage: “Yeah!”

2005
Best Original Song winner: “Al otro lado del rio” (from The Motorcycle Diaries)
#1 Billboard single: “Let Me Love You,” by Mario

Thank you, random selection from the Che Guevara biopic, for keeping the phrase “Oscar-winning band Counting Crows” out of America’s style guides. I would like to ascribe it to communist sympathies, but that seems too optimistic.

Advantage: “Let Me Love You”

2006
Best Original Song winner: “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” (from Hustle and Flow)
#1 Billboard single: “Check on It,” by Beyoncé

This is one of the more obscure Beyoncé singles, especially considering it peaked at #1 for five weeks, although it is more or less a Southern-rap-inflected “Bootylicious.” And forcing an archetypal Three 6 Mafia track onto the Oscars telecast was a rather more audacious change in emphasis. Juicy J’s brief audience with 30 million viewers only feels flukier as the years and dreary nominees pass—their loss, not his.

Advantage: “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”

2007
Best Original Song winner: “I Need to Wake Up” (from An Inconvenient Truth)
#1 Billboard single: “Say It Right,” by Nelly Furtado

They actually changed the category rules after three Dreamgirls numbers canceled each other out and allowed this shitty Melissa Etheridge song to win.

Advantage: “Say It Right”

2008
Best Original Song winner: “Falling Slowly” (from Once)
#1 Billboard single: “Low,” by Flo Rida

They also changed the rules to allow for a coronation of “Falling Slowly.” Wait, “Low” was on the Step Up 2 soundtrack? Why didn’t T-Pain get to perform with grinding modern dancers before a screenplay award was doled out?

Advantage: “Low”

2009
Best Original Song winner: “Jai Ho” (from Slumdog Millionaire)
#1 Billboard single: “Crack a Bottle,” by Eminem

I forgot that this Eminem single existed. Anyway, wasn’t it neat when “Jai Ho” won? And then Nicole Scherzinger lunged for another few seconds of cultural relevance by awkwardly suturing herself onto A. R. Rahman, amidst bindis, beads, and some guy wearing a shirt that says “Jai Ho”? “Appropriation” would be too charitable; it’s more like survivalist cannibalism.

Advantage: “Jai Ho” (original flavour)

2010
Best Original Song winner: “The Weary Kind” (from Crazy Heart)
#1 Billboard single: “Imma Be,” by the Black Eyed Peas

Ugh. I’m seriously going to flip a coin.

Advantage: “The Weary Kind”

2011
Best Original Song winner: “We Belong Together” (from Toy Story 3)
#1 Billboard single: “Born This Way,” by Lady Gaga

“We Belong Together” wouldn’t threaten my personal top 50 of Randy Newman songs, or even top the all-Pixar one, but it’s charming, y’know? Bright piano chords, nice little saxophone solo at the end, an undertone of anxiety that brings to mind his ‘70s albums. He should keep writing them just for the chance to give acceptance speeches.

Advantage: “We Belong Together”

2012
Best Original Song winner: “Man or Muppet” (from The Muppets)
#1 Billboard single: “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” by Kelly Clarkson

I did not expect the musical core of a Muppets movie to at least gesture towards the crushing impossibility of masculinity. Having said that, I still prefer “Rainbow Connection”—or “Me Party.”

Advantage: “Stronger”

2013
Best Original Song winner: “Skyfall” (from Skyfall)
#1 Billboard single: “Thrift Shop,” by Macklemore

This was an odyssey of sorts, so of course I’d get ambushed at the end of it.

Advantage: “Skyfall”

FINAL TASTE TALLY21 allegiances with the Academy, 34 with the People, which I guess makes me a populist, unless Barbara Streisand or John Denver are involved.