Friday, January 3, 2014

The Best Movie Songs of 2013

This year, 75 songs were eligible for the Academy Award for Best Song.  Having listened to 64 of them, here are my choices for what should be most seriously considered by the Academy.  Surprisingly, two of them come from a film I was disappointed with:

1) "For The Time Being" from The Way, Way Back (Music and lyrics by Edie Brickell)
The nyahh-nyahh rhythm first put me off, but it then transported me back again into that time where childhood made way for other things. I love how the song gets catchier and sunnier as it goes along. Amongst the possible nominees, I find that it's the one that sticks in my mind most stubbornly (it also has a kind of Paul Simon influence, which makes sense, since Brickell is married to Mr. Simon). I don't associate the song with the movie so much, but heard on its own, it's clearly the best of the bunch. The movie itself was stolen heavily, without much much artistry, from Ivan Reitman's Meatballs, which had its own great series of tunes, including this one. 

2) "Young and Beautiful" from The Great Gatsby (Music and lyrics by Lana Del Ray (Elizabeth Grant) and Rick Howels)
Completely captivating, and a perfect modern-day crib note for Fitzgerald's story, told in that inimitable, heartbreaking Baz Luhrman fashion.

3) "The Moon Song" from Her (Music and lyrics by Karen O and Spike Jonze) 
Extremely sweet, with its simple orchestration, and well used in the film in a key scene (and in a version sung by Scarlett Johansson)--which makes it, in some ways, the best movie song of the year.  

4) "Atlas" from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Music and lyrics by Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, and Will Champion)
Classic Coldplay. Maybe not totally connected to the film, but still superb. It makes for a memorable capper to the second installment of this better-than-expected franchise. 

5) "Get Used to Me" from The Sapphires (Music and lyrics by Diane Warren) 
Believable as a 60s hit (except in its too-growly performance), and as such, it catches my ear. 

6) "He Loves Me Still" from Black Nativity (Music and lyrics by Raphael Saadiq, Taura Stinson and Darien Dorsey) 
Extremely moving gospel tune, from a film filled with deeply-felt music.  

7) "My Lord Sunshine (Sunrise)" from 12 Years a Slave (Music and lyrics by Nicholas Britell) 
No film song has ever sounded like this: it transports us to a ridiculously specific time and place. 

8) "Ordinary Love" from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Music and lyrics by Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., and Brian Burton) 
Yeah, this rocks.

9) "Go Where The Love Is" from The Way, Way Back (Music and lyrics by Edie Brickell) 
Another Brickell song that catches the feel of the film.

10) "Amen" from All Is Lost (Music and lyrics by Alex Ebert) 
Weird and wonderful, like the movie it belongs to... 

11) "Bleed for Love" from Winnie Mandela (Music and lyrics by Dianne Warren) 
The second song by Warren on this list, it's the kind of thing that wouldn't really register with me, excepting for Warren's superb songsmithing, and Jennifer Hudson's excellent performance.

12) "Better You, Better Me" from The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete (Music and lyrics by Alicia Keys) 
A very little seen movie, but a beautiful composition...

13) "Let It Go" from Frozen (Music by Robert Lopez and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez) 
This one is the winner of the Oscar, given the popularity of the film. I prefer the Lopez's wild song about summertime, given to comedy-relief snowman Olaf, but somehow this was the only tune from the film submitted for the award.

14) "Happy" from Despicable Me 2 (Music and lyrics by Pharrell Williams) 
Williams, the voice and songwriter behind two of 2013's biggest hits, "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky," also contributed this wonderfully retro upbeat tune to the year's output.  

15) "You Can't Fix This" from Sound City (Music and lyrics by Stevie Nicks, Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins and Rami Jaffee) 
Noted mostly because of its Stevie Nicks-ishness...I wish I liked more songs from this documentary.

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