35 Years of Best Original Song: The Conflux of Music and Cinema from Oscar’s Perspective

We take a look back at all the Best Original Song winners and nominees from 1980 through today to see who won, who should have won, and who were snubbed completely.

The Academy Awards celebrate the best in the motion picture industry from the prior year, which of course includes actors, actresses, directors, technical wizards and many others associated with the long and arduous process of creating a movie. Music has long been an integral part of movie-making — so many songs are irrevocably ingrained in our collective minds as associated with a particular scene, or a specific film. Music helps make the cinematic magic happen, whether it’s the orchestral score that ramps up the excitement and drama, or original songs that express aspects of the film through the lens of a songwriter. They may help to frame a scene, set the mood, develop a character, or even further the narrative. The Best Original Song category is intended to honor the songwriters (not the performer) of the best original song written specifically for a film. The song has to appear in the film itself to be eligible (this can include opening or closing credits). Over the decades, the nominees have ranged from obvious and well-deserved to highly questionable. With the 88th Annual Academy Awards approaching on Sunday, 28 February, it’s a good time to look back over the last 35 years and reminisce about Best Original Song selections of the past. Sometimes Oscar got it right, sometimes… not so much.


53rd Annual Academy Awards – 1980 (Held 31 March 1981 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Fame” from Fame – performed by Irene Cara

Music: Michael Gore, Lyrics: Dean Pitchford

Should have won: Dolly Parton’s witty worker’s anthem “9 to 5”, a chart-topper in both pop and country, was at least as deserving as “Fame” and probably should have taken home the trophy. Another strong nominee was “On the Road Again”, Willie Nelson’s classic from Honeysuckle Rose. The category was rounded out with “Out Here On My Own”, also from Fame and co-written by the late Lesley Gore, and “People Alone” from The Competition.

Snubbed: Xanadu was completely ignored, despite a #1 single for Olivia Newton-John in “Magic” and a #8 hit for the title song performed by Newton-John with E.L.O. Blondie’s “Call Me” from American Gigolo was also passed by for a nomination, as was Kenny Loggins’ hit “I’m Alright” from Caddyshack. There was no Oscar love for Paul Simon’s “Late in the Evening”, a Top 10 hit from his film and album One-Trick Pony. And nothing from the Village People’s Can’t Stop the Music?!?!? Well, perhaps we’ll give Oscar a pass on that one.


54th Annual Academy Awards – 1981 (Held 29 March 1982 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Arthur’s Theme (Best that You Can Do) from Arthur – performed by Christopher Cross

Music and lyrics: Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, Christopher Cross and Peter Allen.

Should have won: Oscar really blundered this year. Either the powerhouse duet “Endless Love” by Lionel Richie & Diana Ross, or Sheena Easton’s stunning James Bond theme “For Your Eyes Only” would have been far better choices than the milquetoast theme from Arthur by soft-rock hero Christopher Cross. Also nominated were “One More Hour” by Randy Newman from Ragtime, and “The First Time it Happens” from The Great Muppet Caper.

Snubbed: Stephen Sondheim’s “Goodbye for Now”, performed by Hubert Laws and Cheryl Lynn for Best Picture nominee Reds, was overlooked. Perhaps the most surprising omission, given the Academy’s love for Disney, was “Best of Friends”, written by Stan Fidel and Richard Johnson and performed by Pearl Bailey for The Fox and the Hound.


55th Annual Academy Awards – 1982 (Held 11 April 1983 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman – performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes

Music by Jack Nitzsche and Buffy Sainte-Marie, Lyrics by Will Jennings

Should have won: The stirring duet by Cocker and Warnes deserved to win — when one thinks of a big epic movie theme ballad, “Up Where We Belong” is right at the top of that list. Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes really nail their performances, and it became a classic. That said, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor from Rocky III, one of the most iconic movie themes of the ‘80s, was certainly worthy of strong consideration. Other nominees were “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” from Best Friends, and two songs co-written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman: “It Might Be You” from Tootsie and “If We Were in Love” from Yes, Georgio.

Snubbed: The most obvious exclusion was Jackson Browne’s Top 10 hit “Somebody’s Baby”, from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Perhaps the Academy voters couldn’t get past the film’s crude humor to fairly consider the song. David Bowie’s darkly intense “Cat People (Putting out Fire)” from Cat People and Sting’s obsessive “I Burn for You” from Brimstone & Treacle were long-shots for sure, but both are fantastic. The collaboration between Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle for Francis Ford Coppola’s One From the Heart was also ignored.


56th Annual Academy Awards – 1983 (Held 9 April 1984 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Flashdance… What a Feeling” from Flashdance – performed by Irene Cara

Music and Lyric by Giorgio Moroder, Keith Forsey and Irene Cara

Should have won: Irene Cara’s pop/dance anthem was the correct pick, and her second lead vocal on a Best Original Song Oscar-winner following “Fame.” “Flashdance… What a Feeling” beat out “Maniac” by Michael Sembello from the same film, and two songs from Barbra Streisand’s Yentl: “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” and “The Way He Makes Me Feel”. Also nominated was “Over You” from Tender Mercies.

Snubbed: Olivia Newton-John’s Top 5 hit “Twist of Fate” from the abysmal Two of a Kind was overlooked, as was another Irene Cara/Giorgio Moroder collaboration on “The Dream” from DC Cab, and Joe Jackson’s “Memphis” from Mike’s Murder. The Streets of Fire soundtrack included the smash hit “I Can Dream About You” by Dan Hartman, but Oscar showed no love. “Holiday Road”, a beaming novelty hit for Lindsey Buckingham from National Lampoon’s Vacation, was also skipped. Rita Coolidge’s lovely take on a James Bond theme, “All Time High”, didn’t make the cut.


57th Annual Academy Awards – 1984 (Held 25 March 1985 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from The Woman In Red – performed by Stevie Wonder

Music and Lyric by Stevie Wonder

Should have won: Wonder’s lovely but syrupy ballad won over a much better and more emotionally intense performance: Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” from the film of the same name. “Against All Odds” is much stronger overall and should have won. Also nominated were serious contenders from Footloose: the title song by Kenny Loggins and another number one single, “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” by Deniece Williams. Rounding out a strong list was Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters.”

Snubbed: Prince & The Revolution’s “Purple Rain” was somehow consigned to the “Best Original Song Score” category, which it won (beating The Muppets Take Manhattan and Songwriter by Kris Kristofferson). This was the last Academy Award show to feature this category. Evidently it qualified because there was a series of songs written by one artist for the film. Strange. Had it simply been nominated in the Best Song category, “Purple Rain” would have been the easy choice for winner. Also passed by was Eurythmics’ haunting “Julia” from 1984, Philip Oakey (of the Human League) and Giorgio Moroder’s electronic anthem “Together in Electric Dreams” from Electric Dreams (which also featured two lovely ballads by Culture Club). Also failing to earn a nomination were Rick Springfield’s “Love Somebody” from Hard to Hold, Paul McCartney’s Top 10 hit “No More Lonely Nights” from Give My Regards to Broad Street, and two big country hits by Dolly Parton from Rhinestone — “God Won’t Get You” and “Tennessee Homesick Blues.” John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band’s hit “On the Dark Side” from Eddie and the Cruisers was another omission, as was Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On” from Beverly Hills Cop.

1985 and on…

58th Annual Academy Awards – 1985 (Held 24 March 1986 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Say You, Say Me” from White Nights – performed by Lionel Richie

Music and Lyric by Lionel Richie

Should have won: It’s hard to argue over Richie’s win for the soulful love ballad “Say You, Say Me” against a weak field. “Separate Lives” by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin was really its only legitimate competition. “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News was a mediocre selection at best (although Back to the Future was the year’s biggest box office hit). The category was filled out with “Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister)” from The Color Purple and “Surprise Surprise” from A Chorus Line.

Snubbed: There were some egregious omissions this year, especially in light of the overall weakness of the songs that were nominated. It’s hard to fathom that “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, the chart-topping single performed by the Simple Minds and written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff for John Hughes’ classic The Breakfast Club was passed over by the Academy. Another stunning omission was “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)”, written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle and featuring a knockout vocal by Tina Turner. Madonna’s #1 ballad “Crazy for You” from Vision Quest and her dance smash “Into the Groove” from Desperately Seeking Susan were both ignored. Also missing were David Bowie & The Pat Metheny Group’s riveting “This is Not America” from The Falcon and The Snowman, James Brown’s first hit in ages, “Living in America”, from Rocky IV, the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis-produced “Tender Love” by Force MD’s from Krush Groove, Duran Duran’s #1 smash “A View To a Kill” from the James Bond film of the same name, Oingo Boingo’s ‘80s classic “Weird Science”, and the #1 single “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” by John Parr from St. Elmo’s Fire.


59th Annual Academy Awards – 1986 (Held 30 March 1987 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun – performed by Berlin

Music and Lyric by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock

Should have won: “Take My Breath Away” is an undeniably beautiful ballad, and probably the best choice against the songs that were nominated. Its only real competition is the lovely “Somewhere Out There” from An American Tail, performed by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram. The chart-topping ballad “Glory of Love” by Peter Cetera from The Karate Kid Part II was also nominated, along with songs from That’s Life and Little Shop of Horrors.

Snubbed: Prince’s number one smash “Kiss” from Under the Cherry Moon was nowhere to be seen. David Bowie’s “Absolute Beginners” is an absolute classic, but it was probably doomed by the tepid film of the same name. Billy Joel scored a Top 10 hit with “Modern Woman” from the comedy Ruthless People, but Oscar wasn’t impressed. Eric Clapton’s “It’s in the Way That You Use It” from The Color of Money was also ignored. Two more hits from Top Gun that might have been worthy of consideration: Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” and Loverboy’s power-ballad “Heaven In Your Eyes”.


60th Annual Academy Awards – 1987 (Held 11 April 1988 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing – performed by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes

Music by Franke Previte, John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz; Lyric by Franke Previte

Should have won: The #1 duet from Dirty Dancing was the best choice in a weak field that included the tepid but successful singles “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship from Mannequin and Bob Seger’s “Shakedown” from Beverly Hills Cop II. “Cry Freedom” from the movie of the same name and “Storybook Love” from The Princess Bride rounded out the category.

Snubbed: Again an iconic hit from a John Hughes film was shockingly ignored – “If You Leave” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark from Pretty in Pink was a glaring omission by the Academy. Madonna had another #1 movie hit ignored: “Who’s That Girl?” from the film of the same name. A-ha’s “The Living Daylights” is another excellent James Bond theme that the Academy ignored. Two more Dirty Dancing tracks could have easily been nominated: “Hungry Eyes” by Eric Carmen, and the film’s star, the late Patrick Swayze, with his Top 10 single “She’s Like the Wind”. Joan Jett’s performance of the Bruce Springsteen composition “Light of Day” in the movie of the same name was another strong contender.


61st Annual Academy Awards – 1988 (Held 29 March 1989 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Let The River Run” from Working Girl – performed by Carly Simon

Music & Lyrics by Carly Simon.

Should have won: The Academy only deemed three songs worthy of nomination this year – Carly Simon’s winner, “Two Hearts” by Phil Collins from the film Buster, and “Calling You” performed both by Jevetta Steele and songwriter Bob Telson for Bagdad Cafe. Any of the three could have won in such a small field, but I’d probably have given it to Collins for his upbeat Motown pastiche.

Snubbed: “Colors” by Ice-T, from the film of the same name, would have made a big splash had the Academy chosen to recognize it. “Surrender to Me”, a terrific ballad performed by Robin Zander and Anne Wilson from Tequila Sunrise, was worthy of recognition. John Hughes’ She’s Having a Baby featured three potential nominees: the title song by Dave Wakeling, “Apron Strings” by Everything But The Girl and, especially, the stunning “This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush. The Academy also chose to ignore the surprise number-one, Grammy-nominated comeback hit “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys from the film Cocktail. “Century’s End” by Donald Fagen from Bright Lights, Big City was also deserving of strong consideration.


62nd Annual Academy Awards – 1989 (Held 26 March 1990 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid – performed by Samuel E. Wright

Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Howard Ashman

Should have won: The Little Mermaid started a string of massively successful and critically acclaimed animated features by Disney, many of which featured Oscar-nominated songs. “Under the Sea” was the best choice in a very weak field that also included another song from the same film, “Kiss The Girl”. “After All”, a syrupy ballad by Cher and Peter Cetera from the film Chances Are was also nominated, along with “The Girl Who Used To Be Me” from Shirley Valentine and Randy Newman’s “I Love To See You Smile” from Parenthood.

Snubbed: Another memorable song from The Little Mermaid, “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, is arguably better than either of the two that were actually nominated. Prince struck out with any of his songs from Batman, including the Top 20 hit “Partyman” which was featured prominently in the movie. In retrospect, the omission of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” from Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing seems a major oversight. George Harrison’s “Cheer Down” from Lethal Weapon II would have been a worthy nominee.


63rd Annual Academy Awards – 1990 (Held 25 March 1990 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Sooner or Later” from Dick Tracy – performed by Madonna

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Should have won: A Madonna recording finally won for Best Song, but it ended up being a track she didn’t write; instead it was her lovely vocal on Stephen Sondheim’s “Sooner or Later” for Dick Tracy that earned the award. It was clearly the right choice over a remarkably weak field of nominees, including “Blaze of Glory” by Jon Bon Jovi and largely forgettable songs from Postcards from the Edge, The Godfather Part III and Home Alone.

Snubbed: Roxette’s #1 ballad “It Must Have Been Love” likely would have been nominated, but it wasn’t written specifically for Pretty Woman – it had already been a single in their native Sweden when producers sought it out for use in the film. This year also showed that an award should go to best use of a song in a film, as the year’s biggest movie Ghost made The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” relevant all over again. However, it was ineligible for an Oscar; same with Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” from Pump Up the Volume.

1992 and on…

64th Annual Academy Awards – 1991 (Held 30 March 1992 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Beauty and the Beast” from Beauty and the Beast – performed by Angela Lansbury

Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Howard Ashman

Should have won: “Beauty and the Beast” is a classic Disney theme and it richly deserved to win the Oscar. Angela Lansbury performs it with charm and grace. Disney dominated the field this year, with two more songs from Beauty and the Beast nominated: “Belle” and “Be Our Guest”. “When You’re Alone” from Hook, an adaptation of Disney’s Peter Pan, was also nominated, along with Bryan Adams’ smash power-ballad “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” from the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Snubbed: The most stunning omission was Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” from the film Rush, which would go on to win a Grammy. The soundtrack to Boyz in the Hood, which included hits by Tony! Toni! Toné! and Tevin Campbell, was also ignored. Also neglected were two successful and well-received soundtracks of hip-hop flavored material for the films Juice and New Jack City. Stevie Wonder’s soundtrack to Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever failed to earn a nomination. John Mellencamp’s “Sweet Suzanne” from Falling from Grace and Glenn Frey’s “Part of Me, Part of You” from Thelma and Louise also deserved consideration.


65th Annual Academy Awards – 1992 (Held 29 March 1993 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “A Whole New World” from Aladdin – performed by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga

Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Tim Rice

Should have won: Another win for Disney, but it’s hard to argue with the magical ballad “A Whole New World”, which was made into a hit single by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle. Another song from Aladdin, “Friend Like Me”, was also nominated. Two scorching tracks written for The Bodyguard and sung by Whitney Houston – “I Have Nothing” and “Run To You” – were nominated, along with “Beautiful Maria of My Soul” from The Mambo Kings. A very strong field, but the right song won.

Snubbed: A nomination for Siouxsie & The Banshees’ wonderfully creepy “Face to Face” from Batman Returns would have been a nice surprise. The Boomerang soundtrack was loaded with hits, including “Give U My Heart” by Babyface and Toni Braxton. “The Best Things in Life Are Free” became a major hit for Janet Jackson and Luther Vandross from the film Mo’ Money. One of the most iconic soundtracks of the ‘90s, Singles, also was released in 1992, featuring tracks by Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Lenny Kravitz, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and more — none were nominated. George Strait’s soundtrack to Pure Country was massively successful, but was also snubbed by the Academy. Sting’s “It’s Probably Me” (featuring Eric Clapton on guitar) from Lethal Weapon II was a startling omission as well. Madonna had a number-one hit with “This Used To Be My Playground” from A League of Their Own, but the gorgeous ballad was snubbed by the Academy. The most glaring omission, though, came from Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which earned four Academy Award Nominations but Annie Lennox’s powerful “Love Song for a Vampire” was shockingly excluded. Considering the strong field of nominees and the outstanding tracks that were left out, 1992 is arguably the strongest year for originals movie songs of the last 35 years.


66th Annual Academy Awards – 1993 (Held 21 March 1994 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Streets of Philadelphia” from Philadelphia – performed by Bruce Springsteen

Music & Lyric by Bruce Springsteen

Should have won: Springsteen’s song is undoubtedly powerful, but another nominee from the same film – Neil Young’s ghostly “Philadelphia” – is the stronger of the two, and it should have taken the award. Another solid nominee was Janet Jackson’s beautiful ballad “Again” from Poetic Justice. Rounding out the category were “The Day I Fall in Love” from Beethoven’s 2nd and “A Wink and a Smile” from Sleepless in Seattle.

Snubbed: The popular soundtrack to Judgment Night, which features hard rock and hip-hop artists collaborating, was ignored by the Academy; so was the acclaimed and successful hip-hop collection for the film Menace II Society. Tina Turner was overlooked again, as her new recording “I Don’t Wanna Fight” from the biographical film What’s Love Got To Do With It? became a hit single, but did not garner an Oscar nomination. Another track from Philadelphia, Peter Gabriel’s “Lovetown,” was worthy of strong consideration. Nothing from k.d. Lang’s soundtrack to Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was deemed worthy of a nomination.


67th Annual Academy Awards – 1994 (Held 27 March 1995 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” from The Lion King

– performed Kristle Edwards, Joseph Williams, Sally Dworsky, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella and Elton John

Music by Elton John; Lyric by Tim Rice

Should have won: Disney reigned supreme again with Elton John and Tim Rice’s magnificent “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” – anything else winning would have been a shocking upset. Two more songs from The Lion King were nominated: “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata”. Also up for awards were “Make Up Your Mind” by Randy Newman for The Paper, and “Look What Love Has Done” from the film Junior.

Snubbed: The Crow soundtrack features outstanding tracks by The Cure, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine and many others, but Oscar didn’t look its way. Reality Bites became one of the most successful soundtracks of the decade, but its number-one hit “Stay (I Missed You)” by Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories was overlooked by Oscar. Madonna’s lovely ballad “I’ll Remember” hit #2 on the pop chart from the film With Honors, but Oscar wasn’t impressed. The uplifting duet “We Will Find a Way” by Oleta Adams and Brenda Russell from Corrina, Corrina richly deserved a nomination. The acclaimed hip-hop soundtrack to Above the Rim was ignored despite scoring several major hits. One omission was perhaps surprising, but in a good way; “All For Love”, a number-one hit for Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting from The Three Musketeers – and a horrifying embarrassment for all involved – was thankfully passed over by Oscar.


68th Annual Academy Awards – 1995 (Held 25 March 1996 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas – performed Judy Kuhn

Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

Should have won: Another deserving triumph by Disney, as the lovely ballad “Color of the Wind” – popularized by Vanessa Williams – earned the studio its fourth Best Original Song Oscar in five years. Another Disney track, Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story, was also nominated. Other contenders were Bruce Springsteen’s “Dead Man Walking” from the film of the same name, Bryan Adams’ ballad “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” from Don Juan Demarco, and “Moonlight” from Sabrina.

Snubbed: The popular soundtracks to the films Boys on the Side, Friday, Clueless, Higher Learning and Bad Boys were all ignored by Oscar, as was Batman Forever which featured the electrifying single by U2 “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” (Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose”, also popularized by the film, was ineligible as it had already been on his second self-titled studio album the year before). Coolio’s chart-topper “Gangsta’s Paradise” from Dangerous Minds was inexplicably excluded. The popular Empire Records soundtrack, featuring tracks by popular alternative-pop artists of the day, was also overlooked. Tina Turner has had bad luck with the Oscar’s – her stunning James Bond Theme “Goldeneye”, written by Bono and The Edge of U2, was ignored. Perhaps most shocking was the exclusion of anything from Waiting to Exhale, a monumentally successful soundtrack featuring #1 hits by Whitney Houston (“Exhale”) and Toni Braxton (“Let it Flow”) along with major singles like Mary J. Blige’s “Not Gon’ Cry” and Brandy’s “Sittin’ Up In My Room.” How those songs get ignored while yet another cheesy Bryan Adams ballad gets nominated is a mystery.


69th Annual Academy Awards – 1996 (Held 24 March 1997 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “You Must Love Me” from Evita – performed by Madonna

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; Lyric by Tim Rice

Should have won: Out of another weak field of contenders, Madonna’s recording of the one new song for the film version of Evita was a no-brainer. The only other nominee with a chance was the Diane Warren-penned “Because You Loved Me”, performed by Celine Dion for Up Close & Personal. Other nominees came from The Mirror Has Two Faces, One Fine Day and That Thing You Do!

Snubbed: 1996 was a notably weak year for soundtracks. Baz Lurhman’s Romeo + Juliet and the Trainspotting soundtracks were strong, but the material was largely recorded by artists on their own and not specifically for the films. Disney was overlooked for once, with The Hunchback of Notre Dame failing to earn a nomination for any of its songs. There was the Whitney Houston project The Preacher’s Wife, which yielded several strong tracks that could have been considered. Neneh Cherry’s stunning “Woman” from The Long Kiss Goodnight should have been nominated for sure. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ soundtrack for She’s the One, particularly the single “Walls (Circus),” was a potential nominee. Eric Clapton’s lovely “Change the World” from Phenomenon was perhaps the most surprising omission, along with R. Kelly’s hit ballad “I Believe I Can Fly” from Space Jam.

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.

2003 and on…

76th Annual Academy Awards – 2003 (Held 29 February, 2004 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Into the West” from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – performed by Annie Lennox

Music and lyric by Fran Walsh, Howard Shore and Annie Lennox

Should have won: Annie Lennox’s epic ballad from the last installment of the astoundingly good Lord of the Rings trilogy by Peter Jackson was far and away the best of the nominated songs for 2003. Other nominees were “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” from A Mighty Wind, “You Will Be My Ain True Love”, yet another nomination for Sting, this time from Cold Mountain, “Scarlet Tide” by T Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello, also from Cold Mountain, and “Belleville Rendez-vous” from The Triplets of Belleville.

Snubbed: The most notable exclusion is Bob Dylan’s genius “‘Cross the Green Mountain”, a powerful and poetic journey across a South riven by the Civil War that he wrote recorded for Gods and Generals. The dramatic “Man of the Hour” by Pearl Jam from the film Big Fish also should have been included.


77th Annual Academy Awards – 2004 (Held 27 February 2005 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Al Otra Lado del Río” from The Motorcycle Diaries – performed Jorge Drexler

Music and lyric by Jorge Drexler

Should have won: Jorge Drexler’s truly lovely piece deserved its win over a mediocre group of nominees that included “Learn to be Lonely” from The Phantom of the Opera, “Believe” from The Polar Express, “Look To Your Path” from The Chorus, and Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love” from Shrek 2.

Snubbed: How about the excellent collaboration between Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart and Sheryl Crow on “Old Habits Die Hard” from Alfie? It won the Golden Globe but somehow slipped by Oscar’s notice.


78th Annual Academy Awards – 2005 (Held 5 March 2006 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from Hustle & Flow – performed by Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson

Music and lyric by Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard

Should have won: The hard-groovin’ hip-hop of “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” was the best of the three nominees this year, including Dolly Parton’s “Travelin’ Thru” from the film Transamerica and “In the Deep” from Crash.

Snubbed: Emmylou Harris’ “A Love That Will Never Grow Old” from Brokeback Mountain nabbed the Golden Globe, but somehow Oscar must have missed that broadcast. Also deserving a nod was Lindsey Buckingham’s “Shut Us Down” from Elizabethtown.


79th Annual Academy Awards – 2006 (Held 25 February 2007 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “I Need to Wake Up” from An Inconvenient Truth – performed by Melissa Etheridge

Music and lyric by Melissa Etheridge

Should have won: Melissa Etheridge’s inspirational number from the Al Gore climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth pulled the upset over three songs from Dreamgirls: “Listen” (which should have won easily), “Love You I Do”, and “Patience”. The other nominee was “Our Town”, from Cars, yet another Randy Newman composition.

Snubbed: Prince’s charming “Song of the Heart”, written specifically for the animated film Happy Feet, was the most puzzling snub.


80th Annual Academy Awards – 2007 (Held 24 February, 2008 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Falling Slowly” from Once – performed by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

Music and lyric by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

Should have won: The stunningly beautiful “Falling Slowly” was a surprise winner over three tracks from Enchanted, “Happy Working Song”, “So Close”, “That’s How You Know” and “Raise it Up” from August Rush. Not a hit amongst the bunch, but “Falling Slowly” richly deserved the award over this batch of nominees

Snubbed: “Guaranteed” from Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack to Into the Wild wasn’t deemed worthy of nomination. Jars of Clay’s powerful “The Widowing Field” from We Were Soldiers is another that deserved strong consideration.


81st Annual Academy Awards – 2008 (Held 22 February 2009 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire – performed by Sukhvinder Singh, Mahalaxmi Iyer, Vijay Prakash and Tanvi Shah

Music by A.R. Rahman; lyric by Gulzar

Should have won: Once again, the Academy only deemed three songs worthy of including in the Best Original Song category, and two of them were from Slumdog Millionaire – the winner, “Jai Ho”. and “O Saya”. Also nominated is the touching “Down to Earth” by Peter Gabriel from WALL-E. It’s hard to argue against the exuberant “Jai Ho” but “Down to Earth” would have been worthy of the award as well.

Snubbed: One of the most shocking snubs in the category’s history came with the omission of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wrestler”, fresh off a Golden Globe and considered by many observers a shoo-in for an Oscar.

2009 and on…

82nd Annual Academy Awards – 2009 (Held 7 March 2010 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart – performed by Colin Farrell and Jeff Bridges

Music by Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett

Should have won: “The Weary Kind”, which features a powerful whiskey-soaked vocal by Jeff Bridges, rightfully won against two Randy Newman songs from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog: “Almost There” and “Down in New Orleans”, along with “Loin de Paname” from Paris 36 and “Take it All” from Nine.

Snubbed: The omission of U2’s haunting “Winter” from the film Brothers is particularly baffling. “All is Love” from Where The Wild Things Are would also have been a strong nominee.


83rd Annual Academy Awards – 2010 (Held 27 February 27 2011 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 – performed by Randy Newman

Music and lyric by Randy Newman

Should have won: Oscar regular Randy Newman wins for “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 over fairly weak competition: “Coming Home” from Country Strong, “I See the Light” from Tangled, and “If I Rise” from 127 Hours. Not really that many compelling options, and Newman’s is the most memorable of the group. It deserved to win.

Snubbed: Nobody, really.


84th Annual Academy Awards – 2011 (Held 26 February 2012 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets – performed by Jason Segel and Peter Linz

Music and lyric by Brett McKenzie

Should have won: Well, there was only one other nominee: “Real in Rio” from Rio. Flip a coin. They probably got it right – “Man or Muppet” is a cute piece, imbued with charm.

Snubbed: Burlesque wasn’t exactly a big hit, but it had some solid tunes, including Christina Aguilera’s “Show Me How You Burlesque” and Cher’s Diane Warren-penned “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me”. That could have sparked an epic live performance at the Awards. “Sparkling Day” by Elvis Costello from One Day could also have been a good nominee.


85th Annual Academy Awards – 2012 (Held 24 February 2013 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Skyfall” from Skyfall – performed by Adele

Music and lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

Should have won: Finally, a winner worthy of the award: Adele’s lush and stunningly dramatic Bond theme “Skyfall”. And we also finally get a full compliment of nominees: “Before My Time” from Chasing Ice, “Everybody Needs a Best Friends” from Ted, “Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi and “Suddenly” from Les Miserables. There was zero chance of anything by “Skyfall” winning, and sure enough Adele took home the well-deserved Oscar.

Snubbed: Critics’ darlings Arcade Fire were omitted from the Best Original Song category for their haunting “Abraham’s Daughter” from The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 & Beyond.


86th Annual Academy Awards – 2013 (Held 2 March 2014 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Let it Go” from Frozen – performed by Idina Menzel

Music and lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Should have won: Yet another triumph for Disney, and one that’s really hard to argue. “Let it Go” became a phenomenon, as did its parent film Frozen. It won over three outstanding nominees, especially U2’s stellar “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Also nominated were “Happy” by Pharrell Williams from Despicable Me 2 and “The Moon Song” from Her, written by Karen Orzolek of alternative rock band Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and the extraordinary director Spike Jonze.

Snubbed: Coldplay’s “Atlas,” for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, was passed by, along with several other strong contenders. Three potential nominees from Iron Man 3: Heroes Fall were also skipped: “Some Kind of Joke” by AWOLNATION, the hyperactive “Some Kind of Monster” by electro-rockers Neon Trees, and Imagine Dragon’s “Ready Aim Fire”.


87th Annual Academy Awards – 2014 (Held 22 February 2015 in Los Angeles)

Winner: “Glory” from Selma – performed by John Legend and Common

Music and lyric by John Legend and Common

Should have won: “Glory” was by far the favorite to win the Oscar, and is undoubtedly deserving — it’s one of the greatest Best Original Song winners of all time. Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” was also a very strong nominee, and in most years likely would have won. Rounding out the field were “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie, “Grateful” from Beyond the Lights, and “Lost Stars” from Begin Again.

Snubbed: Lorde’s “Yellow Flicker Beat” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Pt. 1 was ignored, along with several other strong tracks from that soundtrack. “Summer Noon” by Tweedy from Boyhood is a curious omission. The haunting “Hal” by Yasmine Hamdan from Only Lovers Left Alive would have been a nice surprise. Fall Out Boy was shut out for “Immortals” from Big Hero 6, as was Lana Del Rey’s “Big Eyes” from Tim Burton’s film of the same name. British arena-rockers Coldplay were also snubbed for “Miracles”, written for Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken.

Which brings us to this year…

88th Annual Academy Awards – 2015 (Held 28 February 28 in Los Angeles)


“Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey – performed by The Weeknd

Music and Lyric by The Weeknd, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala, Quenneville and Stephan Moccio

“Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction – performed by J. Ralph and Antony Music by J. Ralph; Lyric by Antony Hegarty

“Simple Song #3” from Youth – performed by David Lang

Music and Lyric by David Lang

“Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground – performed by Lady Gaga

Music and Lyric by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga

“Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre – performed by Sam Smith

Music and Lyric by Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes

Who will win? Lady Gaga notched a Golden Globe for her acting performance in American Horror Story: Hotel, but her song was overlooked. That won’t happen on Oscar night — she’ll take home the award to put with her Grammys, and legendary hitmaker Diane Warren will score her first ever Oscar after seven previous nominations. If it’s not Gaga, look for it to go to the Weeknd.

Who should win? Lady Gaga’s song is the best of the group, and is deserving of the honor. The most surprising nominee is Sam Smith’s widely reviled “Writing’s on the Wall”, which has to go down as one of the worst James Bond themes ever. There should be an independent investigation into how that piece of mush got nominated.

Who was snubbed? Brian Wilson’s original song for his biopic Love and Mercy, was the most shocking omission. Other potential nominees were “One Kind of Love” and “Love Me Like You Do” from Fifty Shades of Grey, “See You Again,” a #1 hit from Furious 7 by Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth, and the witty “Squeeze Me” from N.E.R.D. for The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.