On the Academy’s tune tribulations

Posted by · 4:47 pm · July 4th, 2009

Eminem in 8 MileFor the most part, I feel like this Eric Felten op-ed (in a new weekly Wall Street Journal arts column called “De Gustibus”) has its heart in the right place.  But in chastising the Academy for all but doing away with the Best Original Song category with a recent rule change, he takes some rather cheap shots at the group for awarding, in fact, some of the most worthy movie tunes of the alst few years.

Forgive me but I happen to think Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and Three 6 Mafia’s “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” to be, however on the nose, powerful additions to their respective films, and the Academy uncharacteriztically brave for singling them out.

That having been said, it is true that members of the Academy rarely seem to recognize song work that stands the test of time.

Says Felten:

At the most recent Academy Awards, Beyoncé Knowles performed in a medley of movie tunes, at one point tossing in a phrase from “At Last.” It was the song that she had sung for the Obamas’ Inaugural Ball dance a month before, a performance that copied Etta James’s 1961 recording of the song — and earned a bitter rebuke from Ms. James: “She had no business up there singing . . . my song that I’ve been singing forever.”

But of course “At Last” isn’t Etta James’s song. It was written by Harry Warren and lyricist Mack Gordon for the delightful Glenn Miller vehicle “Orchestra Wives” in 1942. According to the Academy, “At Last” wasn’t even the best song in that picture — Warren was nominated instead for “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.” And yet more than a half-century later, artists are still fighting over who can claim “At Last” as their own.

I nevertheless can see the point Patrick Goldstein is making in response to Felten, decrying the same dismissal of hip-hop I did while drawing a connection to the Journal’s politics:

Once again, it’s a lost opportunity for conservatives in their attempt to somehow be relevant in the always turbulent pop culture affairs of the moment. When the right was at its political height, it was because it offered provocative new thinkers with a fresh, unorthodox take on the issues of the day. If the right wants to have the same influence on pop culture, it has to be just as engaged. For a start, it has to get out of the nostalgia business.

→ 9 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

9 responses so far

  • 1 7-04-2009 at 5:37 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    How weird to pick on “Lose Yourself,” of all songs, when that looks likely to remain the only bona fide modern popular classic the Academy has rewarded this decade.

  • 2 7-04-2009 at 6:29 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Yeah, I actually like “Lose Yourself” and I’m almost completely repelled by anything hip-hop. My favorite winner this decade still remains “Into the West,” though, something I haven’t found many people to agree with.

  • 3 7-04-2009 at 8:25 pm

    Georgie said...

    I can’t stand Eminem, but I love Three Six Mafia.
    And last year, out of three, they managed to pick the wrong song … either of the others would have been fine by me. Jai Ho was probably the third best song in Slumdog Millionaire.

  • 4 7-04-2009 at 9:45 pm

    Glenn said...

    Usually hate Eminem, but “Lose Yourself” is the only moment he has approached brilliance. Such a great song and I’m glad it won. “Hard Out Here for a Pimp” not so much.

  • 5 7-05-2009 at 12:40 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Personally, I think “Into the West” is by far the weakest winner of recent years. Purposeless dirge, in my opinion.

  • 6 7-05-2009 at 1:19 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Into The West is lovely as it is, but rode on the LotR hype and was an inevitable winner.
    I believe the category is simply a bit strange because I feel it’s very difficult wether a song was really written for a film or not. And how that song is used, end credits is something entirely different than an montage or even an diegetic song.

  • 7 7-05-2009 at 9:12 am

    Dario said...

    I have nothing against ‘Into the West’, but it had the misfortune of winning (on a tide of The Return of the King victories), even though it had been nominated against three of the most beautiful film tunes: ‘A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow,’ ‘You Will Be My Ain True Love’ and the near-perfect ‘Belleville Rendez-vous.’

  • 8 7-05-2009 at 2:42 pm

    limeymcfrog said...

    Given the bevy of Original song sins the academy has comitted over the years, awarding hip-hop songs should not even make the shortlist of complaints.

  • 9 7-05-2009 at 3:05 pm

    G1000 said...

    The biggest gripe I have with the Original Song Category was when, in 2007, they nominated three songs from the mediocre “Enchanted”, while the best musical of the year, “Once”, got only one nod. Thankfully, “Falling Slowly” ended up winning. That doesn’t change the fact that the Academy messed up.