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Are chart-topping Best Song nominees a thing of the past?

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My favorite thing about my Sirius/XM satellite radio subscription has been the rebroadcasting of Casey Kasem’s old American Top 40 radio shows. (Side plea to Sirius/XM: Please bring them back to the ’80s channel!) A few months ago I caught an AT40 show from 1984 and was astonished at how many of the chart entries were from movies (The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” from Beverly Hills Cop, Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” from Purple Rain, Dan Hartman’s “I Can Dream About You” from Streets of Fire, etc.). Earlier this week I checked out the Best Song nominees from that year (exactly 25 years ago, by the way) and they were:

“I Just Called to Say I Love You,” from The Woman in Red (performed by Stevie Wonder)

“Ghostbusters,” from Ghostbusters (performed by Ray Parker, Jr.)

“Footloose,” from Footloose (performed by Kenny Loggins)

“Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” from Footloose (performed by Deniece Williams)

“Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now),” from Against All Odds (performed by Phil Collins)

What do all five songs have in common? They all topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for at least two weeks. And the Best Score winner that year? Prince’s hit-laden Purple Rain. Compare that to this year, where the Best Song candidates include forgettable new numbers from Nine, an okay track from Crazy Heart, and the Avatar theme, “I See You,” which is essentially a musical retread of Titanic‘s “My Heart Will Go On.” Even though it’s sung by Leona Lewis, I haven’t heard it on the radio once.

Now, I know many people would debate whether the five nominees from 1985 are all of the highest quality, but it’s undeniable that they all were massively popular. But an Oscar nominee that’s also a hit song seems a thing of the past; there hasn’t been a top 40-charting nominee since Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love” (from Shrek 2)  in 2004.

So what killed the chart-topping Oscar nominee? Is today’s dance and R&B based radio climate too tough for songs from films to penetrate? Are the Academy’s qualification rules for the category just too strict? I’m fearing we may have to suffer through painful performance numbers at the Oscars for the foreseeable future.

Image credit: Everett Collection

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