For every song that wins an Academy Award, there are a handful of near-misses, tracks that will never get the chance to achieve the kind of immortality that a song like "My Heart Will Go On" has. Not to say we’re happy about that, as Elliott Smith was robbed of his rightful trophy on that chilly night in 1997. So with that in mind, we’re taking a closer look at some of the worst Oscar-winning songs in the history of the Academy Awards – as well as those that should’ve won.
“Chim, Chim Cher-ee,” from Mary Poppins – 1964
Everybody knows Mary Poppins. Everybody loves Mary Poppins. But Mary Poppins doesn’t hold a magic umbrella to the Beatles’ epic A Hard Day’s Night, the only Oscar for which went to George Martin for Best Acoring. Also overlooked was the hot little Rat Pack anthem "My Kind of Town," from Robin and the Seven Hoods. Disney’s monopoly on Oscar-winning songs began early.
“Talk to the Animals,” from Dr. Doolittle – 1967
With Burt Bacharach, Quincy Jones and the "Bare Necessities" song from The Jungle Book in the running, there’s simply no reason why a goofy tune like "Talk to the Animals" should win out over such immensely gifted competition. But that’s what happened, and that alone is plenty reason to rationalize blaming the ill-fated Eddie Murphy remakes on it.
“We May Never Love Like This Again,” from The Towering Inferno – 1974.
Imagine what kind of a beautiful world it would be if Mel Brooks had won the statuette for the Blazing Saddles theme song. It was a better nominee, a better film, and would’ve most certainly made for a better awards show – especially if they’d have gotten Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder up onstage together.
“You Light Up My Life,” from You Light Up My Life – 1977
How much more misdirected can the Academy get, praising oversaturated saccharine top-40 sludge over Marvin Hamlisch’s stunningly beautiful “Nobody Does It Better,” from The Spy Who Loved Me? Answer: not much. Carly Simon’s performance of the song was enough to make you fall in love, and has been covered countless times over the years. Who’s covering "You Light Up My Life?" Who wants to remember that? Nobody does.
“My Heart Will Go On,” from Titanic – 1997
There was no stopping Titanic through the late 90s, and Celine Dion & James Horner reaped the benefits of blotting out any hopes Elliott Smith had of commercial recognition for "Miss Misery," the nominated track from Good Will Hunting. Smith killed himself half a decade later, and the pre-emo world would never again get its shot at mainstream legitimacy. For that, we blame you, Celine, though I suppose we should be thankful.
"Up Where We Belong" from An Officer and a Gentleman – 1982
There’s one reason and one reason only why this nonsense 80s ballad is a travesty to the world of music: it was the reason "Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky III was overlooked. There is no greater offense, no greater injustice to the music world than the omission of "Eye of the Tiger" from the Academy’s list of greatest songs ever written. Survivor, the band who wrote and performed the classic rocker for the film after Sylvester Stallone failed to obtain permission to use Queen’s "Another One Bites The Dust," won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the song.
"You’ll Be in My Heart" from Tarzan – 1999
Do you remember how "You’ll Be in My Heart" goes? Can you sing it in your head? No, you can’t. But you’re guaranteed to remember "Blame Canada," from the unfathomably profane South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. It was the only song anybody had on their mind going into the awards show, and Robin Williams’ full reenactment of the song at the Oscars resulted in the single most-discussed performance the show had ever seen.
"(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing – 1987
If you can remember 1987, chances are very high that you’ve got an emergency set of rusty nails and glass shards on hand, for the off-chance that "Time of My Life" happens to cross the airwaves. Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes sang the tune for our generation’s cinematic rites of passage into womanhood, better known as Dirty Dancing, and sappy upbeat white-bread love songs were given a new wave of unwelcome encouragement. The real travesty is what we missed out on: Bob Seger’s "Shakedown" from Beverly Hills Cop II.