Do We Need an Oscar for "Best Song"?

Okay, so this probably should have gone in the "Justin's Oscar Musings" article, but its too late for that.

After the Oscar's, I was surprised at how hostile a lot of critics were to the "best Song" category. I said to myself, who cares, its tradition, just leave it alone. Then I remembered that these poor bastards actually sat and watched the Oscars that night (I watched Restrepo instead) meaning they had to sit through all these songs that were fighting for an Oscar. And for what? What did the category actually mean to cinema?

I started going over some past Oscar winner's and realized there is absolutely no point whatsoever in having a "Best Song" category anymore. Most of the best uses of song-scene combination that came to my mind off-hand were ineligible for this award anyways (Ghost/"Unchained Melody", The Departed/"Shipping Up to Boston"). No, we're talking about song's that were written for a movie. And typically the picture's end-credits at that...So, I ask you, dear readers, what the hell is the point of this? What in the blue hell does a single song have that can contribute to a film putting in line with Acting, Writing, Directing, Cinematography, Sound, Editing, and Art Direction?

Do you remember a "Best Song" that was in any way meaningful to a film? I mean, I enjoyed "Lose Yourself", "I Need to Wake Up" and pretty much every winner from the 1980s, but come on. Most of this crap is entirely irrelevant to the film in which they appeared. Many of which are ONLY used in the end credits, or possibly the trailer. So what's the point?

The "Best Song" category is a fossil; a remnant of a time when the movies were bursting out in song and dance every year. When musicals were prevalent, this category was relevant. And perhaps, in modern musicals, it still is. But there are hardly enough musicals each year to warrant an entire Oscar category devoted to it. These days, all it does is consume time during the Oscar telecast, as we all sit and listen to songs we don't give a damn about, because its become some sort of bizarre tradition. It's like giving out an award for Best Logo at the NHL Awards. It's entirely superfluous and irrelevant. Abolish this bastard back to the bronze age (isn't alliteration fun?).

I encourage you to discuss this below, though will not be surprised if no one cares enough to do so. Smile

Comments 6
George Prax's picture

it's funny, I kind of half agree with you, but last year's winner was a song from Crazy Heart, a movie about a musician and I believe the song was actually featured in the movie. Year before, the song that won was a Bollywood performance from the end of Slumdog Millionaire. So sometimes it's not as irrelevant as it might seem. I can also think of Lose Yourself from 8 Mile a few years back, that stupid ass Celine Dion song from Titanic, as much as I hate it it deserves credit.

I don't think it's as irrelevant as you think and it's just a matter of it being hit or miss depending on the year. But the same could be said about animated feature or even documentaries sometimes. But you raise some valid points I think.

Justin Traviss's picture

Ooooo, I don't think you can compare Best Song to Best Documentary or best Animated feature. Each is a filmic art form except song-writing-for-movies. A SCORE is absolutely relevant and should be included. But one damn song? Come on. It just means people like Eminem have an Oscar and people like Christopher Nolan don't. It's silly.

There are SOME years when Best Song is relevant and, as you say, very good. I agree. But there are also some years when a clever advertising campaign or marketing does more for a movie than the movie itself. Everyone was just BUZZING when Eyes Wide Shut was in its super secret production with nude Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. People on the internet LOVED all the crap they put out associated with The Dark Knight. So should we have an award for that?

George Prax's picture

I didn't mean to compare those categories in terms of relevance, more because some years there is just less competition than others. I do agree that there's a line between relevance and marketing though. But like I said, it's just a matter of having some years that are more bare than others. I definitely think that Eminem song was relevant to the movie and deserving of the Oscar it got. Sometimes, an actual song with lyrics is more important to a movie than it's score. It's just a fine line is all.

Justin Traviss's picture

I agree with that too. But I think the fine line is what makes it a removable category. When its a category each year, the Oscar has to be given out. So one year, a great and worthy winner could get it, like some of the ones you mentioned, and another year, some random, "what the hell" type song will win. In which case, it loses any prestige the Oscar has anyways, because it has to be given out. It's a great category to have with musicals or music-movies (8 Mile, Dreamgirls, Moulin Rouge), but stuff like Titanic, yes, My Heart Will Go on was a good song, but again, its a credits song essentially. The score to that film was excellent and it was all pretty much the same as My Heart Will Go On. So the song itself was extra. Toss in some lyrics, and suddenly 2 different people (performer and lyricist) get Oscars. No need to pad the awards. Give them to people who deserve them and actually WORK in the film industry. They have Grammy's for this stuff (and apparently for everything else, as I didn;t realize til just now there are like...110 Grammy's given out each year...nuts). They do NOT, however, have Grammy;s for best Cinematography in a Music Video, or Best Acting in a Music Video, because, in the eyes of the recording industry, it has very little impact on the product. I argue the same is true of a single song in about 99% of films released each decade.

I've said a lot. I will shut up now. Smile

George Prax's picture

I don't agree at all with the comparison to the Grammys. They don't give out ANY awards for videos, all the awards are for actual music. By that logic they shouldn't give out awards for score or sound editing/mixing at the oscars. "credit song" or part of the movie I still think it's relevant for the most part. Because it's an ORIGINAL song inspired by the film. The only thing we really agree on is that the lack of competition in some years makes it have less prestige, but I don't think they should get rid of it.

Justin Traviss's picture

They have two awards for videos. Long form, and short form video.

If the song was original and inspired BY the film, then it should be completed after the film, rather than commissioned during the production process. It's an attempt to get more "names" attached to a project, and having Bruce Springsteen sing your film's "theme song" adds some credibility to the flick. But, despite 2 nominations, Bruce Springsteen doesn't work in the film industry. He is a recording artist, who works on recording albums in the recording industry. John Williams is a musician who works on film scores, in the film industry. For me, there's a HUGE difference there.