35 Years of Best Original Song

The Conflux of Music and Cinema from Oscar's Perspective

by Chris Gerard

26 February 2016


1997 and on...

70th Annual Academy Awards – 1997 (Held 23 March 1998 in Los Angeles)
Winner: “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic  - performed Celine Dion

Music by James Horner; Lyric by Will Jennings

Should have won: “My Heart Will Go On” has become so overplayed that it’s widely reviled, but in reality it’s a stunning recording and Celine Dion delivered a jaw-dropping performance at the Oscar’s. It deserved its win. “Miss Misery” by Elliott Smith from Good Will Hunting was a surprise nominee and it was good to see Smith earn some recognition, but the rest of the nominees were rather pedestrian: “Journey to the Past” from Anastasia, “How Do I Live” from Con Air, and “Go The Distance” from Disney’s Hercules.

Snubbed: Batman & Robin may have been a terrible movie, but the soundtrack was pretty solid, especially the Smashing Pumpkins’ track “The End is the Beginning is the End”. The soundtracks to The Saint and The Jackal feature some really good hard-hitting electronica of the time, but Oscar had no interest. David Lynch’s soundtrack to Lost Highway is one of the best of the year, but it was perhaps too dark for Oscar – although Nine Inch Nail’s “The Perfect Drug” deserved to be nominated. I’m Bout I, Soul Food, Booty Call and Love Jones were all strong R&B/hip-hop collections, but the Academy failed to take notice. The soundtrack to Men in Black became a #1 album, but that wasn’t enough to secure it an Oscar nomination. Oscar voters also ignored Sheryl Crow’s James Bond theme “Tomorrow Never Dies”.


71st Annual Academy Awards – 1998 (Held 21 March 1999 in Los Angeles)
Winner: “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt - performed by Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey

Music and lyric by Stephen Schwartz

Should have won: Ugh. The schmaltzy diva showdown turned shriek-fest “When You Believe” is one of the worst songs ever to take home an Oscar for Best Original Song, and it speaks to the weakness of the field of nominees. Diane Warren’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” recorded by Aerosmith for the atrocious Armageddon, was nominated and should have won as it is nowhere near as awful as “When You Believe”. The other completely forgettable nominees: “That’ll Do” from Babe: Pig in the City, “A Soft Place to Fall” from The Horse Whisperer and “The Prayer” from Quest for Camelot.

Snubbed: Was the soundtrack scene in 1998 as poor as the Oscar nominees would have us believe? Not at all—Oscar voters just seem to have lost all sense of reason.  The soundtrack to City of Angels features terrific tracks by Alanis Morissette (“Uninvited”) and Goo Goo Dolls (“Iris”) that should have been nominated. The film Hope Floats yielded a highly successful soundtrack with several potential nominees. “Siren,” the stunning Tori Amos contribution to the film Great Expectations, deserved a nomination. The Rush Hour soundtrack features the #1 single “How Deep Is Your Love” by Dru Hill and Redman, among others. Disney’s Mulan was ignored, despite several solid tracks, including “Reflection” which became a hit single by Christina Aguilera. How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Bulworth and Players Club are just a few of the multiple R&B/hip-hop flavored soundtracks that became very successful in 1998 but were overlooked by Oscar. Shudder to Think’s glam-inspired “Hot One” from Velvet Goldmine is another overlooked gem.


72nd Annual Academy Awards – 1999 (Held 26 March 2000 in Los Angeles)
Winner: “You’ll Be In My Heart” from Tarzan - performed by Glenn Close and Phil Collins

Music and lyric by Phil Collins

Should have won: 1999 was a big improvement over 1998. Disney was back on top, with Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart” taking home the award. Arguably, though, Aimee Mann’s brilliant “Save Me” from Magnolia should have napped the statue. Other nominees were “Blame Canada” from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2 and “Music of My Heart” from the film of the same name.

Snubbed: Madonna’s psychedelic pop confection “Beautiful Stranger” from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me was certainly worthy of strong consideration.


73rd Annual Academy Awards – 2000 (Held 25 March 2001 in Los Angeles)
Winner: “Things Have Changed” from Wonder Boys - performed Bob Dylan.

Music and lyric by Bob Dylan

Should have won: Bob Dylan’s brilliant and incisive “Things Have Changed” is a perfect tune for Wonder Boys, and absolutely deserved the win. The Academy voters went a bit daring this year with the Dylan pick, and also a nomination for the equally stunning “I’ve Seen it All” by Björk with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke (remember Björk’s swan dress?) Also nominated were Randy Newman’s “A Fool in Love” from Meet the Parents, “A Love Before Time” from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Sting’s “My Funny Friend and Me” from The Emperor’s New Groove.

Snubbed: Spike Lee’s soundtrack to Bamboozled features artists such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, Common and India.Arie contributing songs, but it was overlooked by Oscar. How the Grinch Stole Christmas includes some clever holidays tunes by Eels (“Christmas is Going to the Dogs”) and Barenaked Ladies (“Green Christmas”.) “Deep” by Nine Inch Nails was an excellent contribution to the Lara Croft Tomb Raider soundtrack. The Million Dollar Hotel included two great U2 songs worthy of consideration: “Stateless” and “The Ground Beneath Her Feet”.


74th Annual Academy Awards – 2001 (Held 24 March 2002 in Los Angeles)
Winner: “If I Didn’t Have You” from Monsters, Inc. - performed John Goodman and Billy Crystal

Music and lyric by Randy Newman

Should have won: Another strong crop of nominees, with the award going to Randy Newman for his charming “If I Didn’t Have You” for Monsters, Inc. Arguably the award should have gone to Paul McCartney for his excellent “Vanilla Sky” from the movie of the same name. Also nominated is the lovely “Until…” by Sting from Kate & Leopold, “There You’ll Be” from Pearl Harbor and “May it Be” by Enya from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. 

Snubbed: R.E.M.‘s “All the Right Friends” from Vanilla Sky should have been nominated alongside Paul McCartney’s track.


75th Annual Academy Awards – 2002 (Held 23 March 2003 in Los Angeles)
Winner: “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile - performed Eminem

Music by Eminem, Jeff Bass and Luis Reston; Lyric by Eminem

Should have won: Eminem’s single “Lose Yourself” was by far the most deserving of the 2002 nominees. It became a ginormous smash and is unquestionably one of the most powerful singles of the decade. “Lose Yourself” became the first rap/hip-hop track to win Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. U2’s ponderous “The Hands the Built America” from Gangs of New York was nominated, along with “Father and Daughter” from The Wild Thornberrys Movie, “Burn it Blue” from Frida, and “I Move On” from Chicago. A slam dunk for Eminem.

Snubbed: Madonna’s terrific Bond theme, “Die Another Day”, was a Top 10 hit but didn’t capture Oscar’s fancy. Badly Drawn Boy’s excellent work on the About a Boy soundtrack was also overlooked.

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