Soundtrack Saturday Special Edition! Best Original Song, 1997

Here we are again with another Best Original Song special edition of Soundtrack Saturday.

Those of you who actually read last week’s column didn’t seem to disagree with the 1981 winner, “Fame,” so I’m curious to see how you feel about the winner from the next year I’ve chosen: 1997.

I almost wrote about a different year from the ’90s this week, but I decided on 1997 because two actors nominated for Best Actor in 2010 costarred in two of the films containing 1997 Best Original Song nominees: George Clooney, who’s nominated for Up in the Air this year, in One Fine Day, and Jeff Bridges, a nominee for Crazy Heart, in The Mirror Has Two Faces.

Also,  my Oscar obsession really began with the ’97 awards ceremony. I had watched the telecast almost every year previously, but this was the first time I was truly interested in how things would play out. And I find this year fascinating because so many of the nominated films were independent — in fact, there were so many independent films nominated that the media had dubbed it the “year of the independents.” Yet, if you look at the films from which we get the Best Original Song nominees, most are pretty mainstream — and so are the songs.

Let’s do a quick stat rundown:

The 69th Academy Awards
Date of telecast: March 24, 1997
Host: Billy Crystal

(Per Academy rules, all nominated films were released between January 1 and December 31, 1996, in Los Angeles County, California.)

Best Picture: The English Patient
Best Actor: Geoffrey Rush, Shine
Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Fargo
Best Supporting Actor: Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire
Best Supporting Actress: Juliette Binoche, The English Patient
Best Director: Anthony Minghella, The English Patient

On to our category …

The Oscar went to:
Madonna – You Must Love Me (music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; lyrics by Tim Rice), from Evita

Other nominees:
Kenny Loggins – For the First Time (music and lyrics by James Newton Howard, Jud Friedman, and Allan Dennis Rich), from One Fine Day;
Celine Dion – Because You Loved Me (music and lyrics by Diane Warren), from Up Close & Personal;
Barbra Streisand and Bryan Adams – I Finally Found Someone (music and lyrics by Barbra Streisand, Marvin Hamlisch, Robert John Lange, and Bryan Adams), from The Mirror Has Two Faces;
The Wonders – That Thing You Do! (music and lyrics by Adam Schlesinger), from That Thing You Do!

Here are some trailers to help familiarize you with the films, in case you aren’t already:


One Fine Day:

Up Close & Personal (this is actually a “making of” short and not a traditional trailer):

The Mirror Has Two Faces:

That Thing You Do!:

Most of this crop of nominees kind of makes me want to puke. I don’t mind the winner because I do enjoy Lloyd Webber/Rice musicals. “You Must Love Me” is a nice new addition to the film version of Evita — it was written at the request of director Alan Parker — and its composition marked the first time Lloyd Webber and Rice had worked together on new material in almost 15 years. I think Madonna’s voice is at its best here — the vocal training she went through in preparation for filming really paid off.

Here she is performing the song at the Academy Awards ceremony:

In addition to winning the Oscar, “You Must Love Me” also won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. It eventually went on to be included in the London stage revival of Evita in 2006.

Our next two nominated films — One Fine Day and Up Close & Personal — both star Michelle Pfeiffer and both feature nominated songs I hate with a passion, particularly “Because You Loved Me.” In fact, as I was downloading it to use in this post, my iTunes flashed an error message that said “WHAT THE WHAT?” and shut down.

Both songs have the hallmark of a movie theme song ballad — and were written or cowritten by people who are pros at writing songs for films. And as we all know, Mr. Loggins and Ms. Dion are no strangers to performing songs for movie soundtracks, some of which were nominated for or won Oscars — Loggins has also performed original songs in Caddyshack, Footloose, Over the Top, Top Gun, Caddyshack II, and The Tigger Movie, and Dion also performed original songs in Beauty and the Beast, Titanic, Quest for Camelot, and Bicentennial Man.

Next we have the Barbra Streisand/Bryan Adams duet. When I first heard this song, I was a little perplexed by the pairing, but it kind of works. I don’t loathe this song like I do the Dion song, but I will probably never listen to again. Interestingly, rather than Streisand and Adams performing “I Finally Found Someone” at the Academy Awards ceremony, Dion did. Originally, Natalie Cole was supposed to perform, but pulled out two days before the ceremony because of illness, and Dion was asked to replace her. Streisand was so impressed by Dion’s performance that she contacted Dion about recording a song together.

I don’t know, I kind of think she ruins it:

Finally, we have my personal favorite of the bunch. “That Thing You Do!,” from the film of the same name, was written by Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger. Credited to the fictional band from the movie, the Wonders, the song features Mike Viola on lead vocals, with Schlesinger performing backup vocals. It’s a fun, Beatles-esque pop song that also manages to sound a little modern — well, modern for the mid-’90s. I would’ve loved to have seen this one win because it was so different from the rest of the pack.

Here it is, as performed in the movie:

So, what are your thoughts on the Best Original Song nominees for the 69th Academy Awards? Do you agree with the winner? What would you have liked to have seen nominated instead? Let’s talk about it!

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  • Michael Parr

    “That Thing You Do!” was robbed!

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  • The Man I Used To Be

    “and I try and try just to let you go, but it's just so hard to do….” Just try to get that little hook out of your brain today. Mike's voice is a gift from the gods. Happy that he is finally playing this song at his shows again. A flat out, great 3 minute pop song.

  • wayoutjunk

    I agree about “That Thing You Do!”. Heck, it's the only song out of this list I really remember at all.

    Who sang the song during the Oscars ceremony?

  • Dopeburger

    agreed…it's the only nominee that doesn't make me want to vomit in my mouth just a little.

  • leroygrey

    gotta go with “That Thing You Do!”, although I can see the Academy not missing a chance to give Andrew Lloyd Weber some Oscar love; they did the same thing for Bob Dylan a few years later (02?), so they get a free pass for that.
    Still, the song “That Thing You Do!” is practically another character in the film. Schlesinger also wrote the song for “Music and Lyrics” that made that Hugh Grant addictive for me. Schlesinger is the 21st century Randy Newman…

  • Old School

    Love “That Thing You Do” and enjoy that film very much. The song is catchy & fun unlike most nominees.

    I disagree with the harshness on the Kenny Loggins tune. That is a very nice song in my opinion.

    I can't stand Celine Dion, but the song from Up Close & Personal is much better than most of her others to me & fit the film well. It does not bother me as much as it does you either.

    Evita was annoying to me though Madonna did perform the music well.

    Looking forward to when you go back to regular film soundtracks. Enjoy your work here!

  • BobCashill

    Great column as always. But to clarify these are 1996 Best Song nominees, which were awarded in 1997. I went in expecting to read about Dion's Oscar-winning smash of 1997 (presented in 1998), but was instead edified about the warm-up. Purely a technical matter.

  • rwcass

    Kelly explained her reasoning for the listed year in last week's post about the 1980/1981 Academy Awards.

  • BobCashill

    Indeed, I should have gone back one whole week. But I'm a purist. I just don't know what you crazy rock n roll kids get up to sometimes. :)

  • JT

    The Wonders-That thing you do- is a cute pop song..but Madonna/Webber/Rice had it in the bag that night. The song is great and deserved to win.

  • TL

    It's also the only song in the bunch that wasn't written in a transparent attempt to try to bag an Oscar. (I mean, seriously, the only reason Alan Parker wanted a new song for Evita was because all the original tunes wouldn't qualify for best original song.)

  • tracy

    Very cool blog, thanks! Keep up the great work and have fun checking out one of my favorite artists: Catya Maré…you won´t regret it!
    She recently won both the Billboard World Song Contest and Hollywood Music in Media Award and released her third album last week….

  • jeff

    “That Thing You Do!” had to carry the entire movie. And it did. If the song had sucked, it would have ruined the movie. But it was the perfect fit for the movie and makes the movie completely watchable over and over again anytime it pops up on TV. I understand the inclination to acknowledge A.L. Webber, but how can you not reward a song for being all about what a song can do in a movie? So, yes, “That Thing You Do!” was robbed.

  • rob

    Late to the game, but…

    Ebert (and I believe Siskel, who might have been still alive) had a very good point when they argued “That Thing You Do” should be best song. Consider how many times the song is played in the movie. And yet by the final time you hear it, you're not sick of it.

    That, they said, fits the definition of a “Best Song” to a tee.

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