WON: "I Just Called to Say I Love You," The Woman in Red
SHOULD'VE WON: "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)," Against All Odds
Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" is a sweet, charmingly corny trifle, easily the most notable thing (well, besides Kelly LeBrock) from Gene Wilder's underwhelming midlife crisis comedy The Woman in Red. Its performance by Wonder and the cast of The Cosby Show is truly one of the great and iconic sitcom moments of the 1980s. In most years, I wouldn't much mind Wonder having prevailed.
Alas, in 1984 Best Original Song, Wonder's victory was downright criminal. Not only did "I Just Called to Say I Love You" defeat four vastly superior tracks but its presence also aided in keeping Prince's sublime Purple Rain from scoring a single nomination in Original Song.
Purple Rain, which did score its leading man an Oscar in the now-defunct "Best Original Song Score" category, could have conceivably filled out an entire Original Song line-up on its own, with the legendary likes of the title track, "When Doves Cry" (which scored a Golden Globe nom), "Let's Go Crazy," "I Would Die 4 U" and "The Beautiful Ones." Alas, perhaps because of vote-splitting among the contenders (or, just as likely, some Academy members' aversion to Prince), it ended up missing-in-action on Oscar nominations morning.
As for the four truly kickass nominees that did make the cut, I think I can split the foursome into two tiers, one a tad superior to the other, but both leaps and bounds more memorable than the Wonder tune. Note that all four of these songs clocked in at number one on Billboard's Hot 100 in '84.
"Footloose" and "Ghostbusters," from their eponymous blockbusters, are among probably the 10 or so most recognizable movie tracks of the '80s. Kenny Loggins' "Footloose" marks one of the most exciting and exuberant records of the artist's terrific (and I would argue awfully underrated) career, and the image of Kevin Bacon getting his groove on on the dance floor can't be beat. Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" is surely a tad on the cheesy side, and it's not a record to be listened to over and over again, but it's such a pitch-perfect fit for the film and deliriously catchy. It's also, I think, a pretty timeless record, even with the aggressive '80s production values.
Much as I enjoy "Footloose" and "Ghostbusters," however, I'm even more enamored with the remaining two nominees, neither of which I would hesitate to place on a list of the top 50 songs of the decade.
"Let's Hear It for the Boy," performed by the always-dazzling Deniece Williams (who, despite four Grammys and a handful of hits, never quite got the attention I think she deserved), is an irresistible piece of bubble gum R&B-pop. Good luck not singing along. Ultimately, however, while it is a close call, I have to go with "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" as my winner here, and this is coming from someone who, as you'll see through future categories, isn't always too keen on Phil Collins. He couldn't be better here, however. It's an immensely moving, even haunting record, from the film of the same name (one of the decade's most purely sexy pictures, featuring the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Rachel Ward and Jeff Bridges in beefcake mode).
Oh, and then there's this.
The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...
- "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
- "High Hopes," A Hole in the Head (1959)
- "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
- "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
- "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
- "The Windmills of Your Mind," The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
- "The Way We Were," The Way We Were (1973)
- "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
- "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
- "I'm Easy," Nashville (1975)
- "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
- "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
- "Fame," Fame (1980)
- "Theme from Shaft," Shaft (1971)
- "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
- "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
- "Moon River," Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
- "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
- "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
- "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
- "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
- "Flashdance...What a Feeling," Flashdance (1983)
- "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," Arthur (1981)
- "Last Dance," Thank God It's Friday (1978)
- "Days of Wine and Roses," Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
- "For All We Know," Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
- "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
- "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
- "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
- "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
- "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
- "It Goes Like It Goes," Norma Rae (1979)
- "Born Free," Born Free (1966)
- "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
- "I Just Called to Say I Love You," The Woman in Red (1984)
- "Up Where We Belong," An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
- "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
- "Chim Chim Cher-ee," Mary Poppins (1964)
- "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
- "Evergreen (Theme from A Star Is Born)," A Star Is Born (1976)
- "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
- "You Light Up My Life," You Light Up My Life (1977)
- "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
- "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
- "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
- "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
- "Talk to the Animals," Doctor Dolittle (1967)
- "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)
- "The Morning After," The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
- "We May Never Love Like This Again," The Towering Inferno (1974)