1994 Best Original Song - The Lion King Rules the Oscars

WON: "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," The Lion King

SHOULD'VE WON: "Circle of Life," The Lion King

If there is any year in which a single film could/should have filled out the entire Best Original Song category at the Oscars, it is 1994.

Kudos to the Academy for nominating The Lion King's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata," all composed by Elton John and Tim Rice, but why not go the distance and recognize "Be Prepared" and - the picture's most fun song - "I Just Can't Wait to Be King"? The other two nominated tracks here are truly dismal, the worst in adult contemporary - Patty Smyth and Randy Newman (I'm starting to realize why the Academy took so long to give Newman a prize) phoning it in on Junior's "Look What Love Has Done" and The Paper's "Make Up Your Mind," respectively.

If the Academy wished to recognize a non-Lion King tune, they certainly should have instead gone with Lisa Loeb's marvelous, Billboard-topping "Stay (I Missed You)," from Reality Bites. It's a song I wouldn't hesitate to rank among the top 25 or so songs from the decade.

Among the three Lion King tracks nominated here, I would, despite my affection for the supremely entertaining vocals of Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, have to rank "Hakuna Matata" a rather distant third. Much like "Friend Like Me," it's a lot of fun but doesn't quite carry the weight of Disney's best in music.

"Can You Feel the Love Tonight" is, a rarity in this category, soft rock done right, even if the production and background vocals occasionally border on the weepy. While I wouldn't include it among the strongest of Elton John's extensive catalogue, it is a plenty moving piece and I'm not terribly opposed to its victory.

I just don't consider "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," nice as it is, to be quite on the same level as "Circle of Life," The Lion King's spectacularly epic opening number. It's a sweeping piece of music, top 5 Disney for sure, that sets expectations sky-high for the rest of the picture. And while I'm not sure any other moment in the film quite reaches the same exhilarating heights of "Circle of Life," The Lion King is richly deserving of the status it's earned in subsequent years as one of Disney's finest. (And it was surely more worthy of a Best Picture nomination than '94 nominees Four Weddings and a Funeral and Quiz Show.)

The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...

  1. "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  2. "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
  3. "High Hopes," A Hole in the Head (1959)
  4. "Streets of Philadelphia," Philadelphia (1993)
  5. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
  6. "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
  7. "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
  8. "(I've Had) the Time of My Life," Dirty Dancing (1987)
  9. "The Windmills of Your Mind," The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
  10. "The Way We Were," The Way We Were (1973)
  11. "Let the River Run," Working Girl (1988)
  12. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
  13. "Under the Sea," The Little Mermaid (1989)
  14. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
  15. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," The Lion King (1994)
  16. "Beauty and the Beast," Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  17. "I'm Easy," Nashville (1975)
  18. "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
  19. "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
  20. "Fame," Fame (1980)
  21. "Theme from Shaft," Shaft (1971)
  22. "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
  23. "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
  24. "Moon River," Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
  25. "Take My Breath Away," Top Gun (1986)
  26. "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
  27. "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
  28. "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
  29. "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
  30. "A Whole New World," Aladdin (1992)
  31. "Flashdance...What a Feeling," Flashdance (1983)
  32. "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," Arthur (1981)
  33. "Last Dance," Thank God It's Friday (1978)
  34. "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)," Dick Tracy (1990)
  35. "Days of Wine and Roses," Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
  36. "For All We Know," Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
  37. "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
  38. "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
  39. "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
  40. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
  41. "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
  42. "It Goes Like It Goes," Norma Rae (1979)
  43. "Born Free," Born Free (1966)
  44. "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
  45. "I Just Called to Say I Love You," The Woman in Red (1984)
  46. "Up Where We Belong," An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
  47. "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
  48. "Chim Chim Cher-ee," Mary Poppins (1964)
  49. "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
  50. "Evergreen (Theme from A Star Is Born)," A Star Is Born (1976)
  51. "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
  52. "You Light Up My Life," You Light Up My Life (1977)
  53. "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
  54. "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  55. "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
  56. "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
  57. "Talk to the Animals," Doctor Dolittle (1967)
  58. "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)
  59. "Say You, Say Me," White Nights (1985)
  60. "The Morning After," The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  61. "We May Never Love Like This Again," The Towering Inferno (1974)