WON: "When You Believe," The Prince of Egypt
SHOULD'VE WON: "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing," Armageddon
Over the years, the Academy has infamously ignored a number of iconic soundtracks in the category of Best Original Song, most egregiously Saturday Night Fever and Purple Rain. Albeit not as legendary as those two, another incredible soundtrack passed over was 1998's City of Angels, the Meg Ryan-Nicolas Cage vehicle which, while not exactly the greatest film, sported some truly fantastic tunes.
Most of the City of Angels songs were previously released and hence ineligible for consideration - for instance, U2's "If God Will Send His Angels" and Sarah McLachlan's immensely successful "Angel" - but two, the best two records on the soundtrack, were directly written for the picture.
Alanis Morissette's captivating "Uninvited" is handily the most powerful post-Jagged Little Pill work she's done. The Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" is even better, a hypnotic piece of alternative rock that not only finds the group at the very top of their game but is arguably one of the strongest records of the entire decade. "Iris" garnered Grammy nominations in both Song and Record of the Year and was ranked number 39 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest pop songs of all-time.
Another terrific tune (from another not-so-terrific film) snubbed here - Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody," from the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack.
Leave it to the Academy, of course, to pass over those three songs in favor of what is perhaps the sleepiest Best Original Song line-up of the '90s.
The winner here, The Prince of Egypt's "When You Believe," sounds fantastic on paper - Oscar-winning composer Stephen Schwartz teaming with those incomparable divas Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey - yet somehow, even with Houston and Carey tearing it up vocally, is an underwhelming dud. Lyrically, this stuff is about as compelling as a Hallmark card. I'm left yearning for the prior year's "Journey to the Past" and "Go the Distance," which themselves paled significantly in comparison to the Disney tunes from earlier in the decade. Same thing goes for Quest for Camelot's "The Prayer," which, despite being performed by Celine Dion, is like Nyquil to the ears.
Randy Newman's "That'll Do," from Babe: Pig in the City, is nicely orchestrated and performed by Peter Gabriel (I've come to realize Newman songs are so much better when not performed by Newman himself), but also just kind of lethargic. It's no "If I Had Words," which was so pitch-perfect and moving in the first Babe picture. This feels like a tune Newman put together at the 11-o'-clock hour to get the film into Original Song consideration.
The only two notable songs from this line-up are Aerosmith's rollicking, sweeping "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing," from Armageddon (another cinematic atrocity with a decent soundtrack), and Allison Moorer's lovely "A Soft Place to Fall," from The Horse Whisperer. The Aerosmith track carries the usual Diane Warren baggage in corniness but, with the dense production, which actually rings a bit of the City of Angels music, it's unusually unnoticeable. The Moorer song is lyrically more interesting but produced and performed so low-key that it borders on the drowsy.
It's a close call but I'll throw Warren her Oscar bone here.
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)
- "Streets of Philadelphia," Philadelphia (1993)
- "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)
- "(I've Had) the Time of My Life," Dirty Dancing (1987)
- "The Windmills of Your Mind," The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
- "The Way We Were," The Way We Were (1973)
- "Let the River Run," Working Girl (1988)
- "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
- "Under the Sea," The Little Mermaid (1989)
- "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
- "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," The Lion King (1994)
- "Beauty and the Beast," Beauty and the Beast (1991)
- "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)
- "Take My Breath Away," Top Gun (1986)
- "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)
- "A Whole New World," Aladdin (1992)
- "My Heart Will Go On," Titanic (1997)
- "Flashdance...What a Feeling," Flashdance (1983)
- "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," Arthur (1981)
- "Last Dance," Thank God It's Friday (1978)
- "Colors of the Wind," Pocahontas (1995)
- "You Must Love Me," Evita (1996)
- "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)," Dick Tracy (1990)
- "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)
- "When You Believe," The Prince of Egypt (1998)
- "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)