WON: "Say You, Say Me," White Nights
SHOULD'VE WON: "Separate Lives," White Nights
If 1984 is a merely frustrating year of Best Original Song at the Oscars - given the lack of Purple Rain love and Stevie Wonder having defeated four marvelous songs with a piece of cornball fluff - 1985 is a flat-out aggravating affair, a year featuring not one or two but really five pretty ho-hom tracks, all at the expense of at least half a dozen vastly superior contenders that failed to make the cut.
Eligible for consideration in '85 were, among others: Simple Minds' spectacularly iconic "Don't You (Forget About Me)," from The Breakfast Club; Journey's "Only the Young" and Madonna's dazzling "Crazy for You," both from Vision Quest; Madonna's "Into the Groove," from Desperately Seeking Susan, arguably among both her finest records and the best songs of the '80s; Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero," from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome; Duran Duran's rollicking theme to A View to a Kill; and DeBarge's delightful "Rhythm of the Night," from The Last Dragon. (If nominated, I would've been most torn between "Don't You (Forget About Me)" and "Crazy for You.")
Alas, leave it to the Academy to overlook all of those fantastic tunes in favor of a supremely unremarkable fivesome of nominees.
The big man on campus this year was Lionel Richie, who not only scored two nominations here (winning for "Say You, Say Me," nominated for co-writing "Miss Celie's Blues") but also in '85 went on to win the Album of the Year prize at the Grammys for Can't Slow Down (one of the all-time worst and most inexplicable AOTY victories, by the way, beating Cyndi Lauper, Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Tina Turner).
While I'm mildly fond of "Miss Celie's Blues," mostly on account of my great affection for The Color Purple (it was also composed by the legendary Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton), I cannot find much of anything to be fond about with "Say You, Say Me." It's a record emblematic of all I can't stand about Richie's work, a lifeless, uber-generic, clunky piece of elevator muzak, with the most headache-inducing of '80s soft rock production values. At least "Endless Love" had Diana Ross to provide some merit. This is just like molasses to my ears, almost as dreadful as the two Maureen McGovern winners.
Huey Lewis and the News, another '80s act I'm not the least bit fond of, also showed up here in '85, with "The Power of Love" from Back to the Future. Terrific film, one of the most entertaining pictures of the decade - it certainly deserved more than the four nominations and one win it garnered at the Oscars this year. But "The Power of Love"? Give me a break. This lame yuppie pop-rock could've showed up in just about any '80s comedy.
Beyond Mr. Richie and Mr. Lewis, this category gets a tad brighter, but just a little bit.
"Surprise, Surprise," from Richard Attenborough's unfortunate film adaptation of A Chorus Line, is almost awe-inspiring in the heights of '80s cheese it manages to reach but it does feature a gangbusters performance by Gregg Burge, an immensely talented dancer who tragically died of a brain tumor at age 40, a little more than a decade following the film.
My favorite this year, however, would have to be another Phil Collins-performed record, this time "Separate Lives," his duet with the lovely Marilyn Martin, from White Nights. This isn't a great song - I wouldn't nominate it over any of the aforementioned non-nominees - but it is a nice, listenable piece of adult contemporary, composed by Stephen Bishop, who did such a charming job performing nominee "It Might Be You" (from Tootsie) back in '82.
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)
- "Say You, Say Me," White Nights (1985)
- "The Morning After," The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
- "We May Never Love Like This Again," The Towering Inferno (1974)