Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma!

Elvis was never the King and the Bee Gees couldn’t spike a ‘Fever’ with a blowtorch: A look at Oscar’s long history of sour notes in the race for Best Song

Posted on

There was champagne. ”Oh, yeah,” says Aimee Mann. ”I mean, to get nominated for an Oscar, it’s always like a break-out-the-champagne experience.” Mann, the maverick songstress whose music served as a kind of mournful Greek chorus throughout Magnolia, is looking back at this same time last year, when one of her plaintive nocturnes, ”Save Me,” became a left-field nominee for Best Song. ”I don’t know if I had, like, a specific ceremony,” she goes on, ”but lots of people gave me champagne.”

Why does it come as a surprise that a songwriter, especially a woefully underappreciated one like Aimee Mann, might want to pop a cork over an Oscar nomination? After all, she says, ”there’s an aspect where it’s just fun to get nominated for an award, even if it’s an award that you don’t understand.” And as awards go, Oscar’s certainly no slouch. The paradox is the ”don’t understand” part. When members of the Academy nominated Mann for Best Song, they inducted her into one of the weirdest clubs in Hollywood — a veritable fun house of incomprehension. Which giants of 20th-century music tower alongside her at the Academy’s ceremonies? Debby Boone. B.J. Thomas. Christopher Cross. And the incomparable Michael Sembello. Which eternal monuments of melody precede ”Save Me” in the pantheon? Try 1978’s ”Theme From Ice Castles (Through the Eyes of Love),” from Ice Castles, naturally. Or, from the previous year, The Magic of Lassie‘s spellbinding ”When You’re Loved.” Or ”Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” which graced 1987’s obsessive saga of shop-window lust, Mannequin. (If you suddenly find yourself humming the power ballad from Mannequin, please go to our website and collect your booby prize.)

You can see why an Oscar-nominated songwriter might hesitate, if only for a moment, before slipping the Veuve Clicquot into an ice bucket. Then again, scan the list of movie tunes that were not recognized by the Academy, and you might be tempted to guzzle the whole bottle in one sitting. Among the obscurities that the august alliance didn’t consider up to snuff: Cole Porter’s ”In the Still of the Night,” George and Ira Gershwin’s ”A Foggy Day,” ”Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” ”Nice Work If You Can Get It,” ”Love Walked In,” and ”Our Love Is Here to Stay.” A bunch of far-out experimental stuff from the Elvis Presley movies, such as ”Jailhouse Rock,” ”Love Me Tender,” and ”Can’t Help Falling in Love.” A handful of meandering duds by the Beatles: ”And I Love Her,” ”Can’t Buy Me Love,” ”If I Fell,” ”A Hard Day’s Night,” ”You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” ”Ticket to Ride,” and ”Help!”

Shall we go on? Okay.

Bob Dylan’s ”Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Curtis Mayfield’s ”Superfly.” Blondie’s ”Call Me.” Paul Simon’s ”Late in the Evening.” Prince’s entire Purple Rain soundtrack. The whole Waiting to Exhale soundtrack. And — yes — every inch of polyester splendor from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. All of it eligible, and all of it deemed, in the immortal words of Wayne and Garth, not worthy.