1992 Best Original Song - Whitney Wakes Up the Oscars

WON: "A Whole New World," Aladdin

SHOULD'VE WON: "I Have Nothing," The Bodyguard

In 1977 and 1984, respectively, the Academy egregiously ignored Saturday Night Fever and Purple Rain - then, the two best-selling movie soundtracks of all-time - in the category of Best Original Song at the Oscars.

By 1992, with the smashing success of The Bodyguard (which would go on to top Purple Rain as the all-time best-seller and even win Album of the Year at the Grammys), it appeared the Oscars had learned their lesson in the backlash of giving the cold shoulder to such monumentally popular, not only with general audiences but critics too, successes. The Academy not only recognized the plastered-across-the-airwaves "I Have Nothing" but also a second, somewhat lesser song to boot, "Run to You," both of course performed to perfection by Whitney Houston. (Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" was ineligible, obviously.)

Besides "Run to You," which is a respectable but clear fifth-place finisher here, '92 Original Song is a bit tough to gauge in terms of picking a winner - I like but don't whole-heartedly love the other contenders.

Given my affection for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast in recent years of this category, I was excited to dive into the two nominated tunes from Aladdin, only I realized while revisiting "A Whole New World" and "Friend Like Me" that I've really never been all that enamored with the picture or its music. I love the vocals here - from Brad Kane and Lea Salonga on the former, and the incomparable Robin Williams on the latter - but I don't think either song (composed by Alan Menken, with Tim Rice on the former and the late Howard Ashman on the latter) quite captures the magic of tunes like "Under the Sea," "Part of Your World" or "Be Our Guest." They're perfectly agreeable and "Friend Like Me" is good fun in particular but I'm not left head-over-heels.

Likewise, I respect "Beautiful Maria of My Soul," beautifully performed by Antonio Banderas in The Mambo Kings, but despite the vocal and some nice orchestrations, it's missing that special something that turns a rather ordinary tune into something truly extraordinary. It's not bad by any stretch but I can barely even remember the song as I write this.

Ultimately, I side with "I Have Nothing" here, slightly over "Friend Like Me." It's a prime example of the sort of soft pop-R&B that dominated much of the adult contemporary airwaves in the late '80s and early '90s, through not only Houston but also Anita Baker, Vanessa Williams, Toni Braxton and so on. Houston's vocal turn is dynamite and the production is agreeably glossy.

Overlooked in '92? Two strong original songs from A League of Their Own - Madonna's "This Used to Be My Playground" and Carole King's "Now and Forever."

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