Ever since the category for Best Original Song was introduced at the 7th Academy Awards ceremony in 1934, the award has celebrated some of the most heartrending music ever to be put onscreen. The award has honoured some of the most well-loved tracks from movie musicals, most recognizable romantic themes and most powerful montage songs in existence.
Original songs can come to define a film as much as an iconic scene or line; the way that "Over the Rainbow" has come to define "The Wizard of Oz" or the stirring theme "Into the West" made "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" even more triumphant.
Adele's "Skyfall" seems like a sure bet this year, but not all nominated songs are so classy. Every once in a while a song shows up in this category that is so hilariously bad, so inexcusably putrid, that reading its very name in the list of nominees hits the brain like a sour note.
Sometimes it is the passage of time that makes these nominees awful, as they pass out of fashion or times change. In other cases, they are just maudlin garbage that somehow ended up in the spotlight in a year light on Disney films or musical adaptations.
Here is our top ten list of the worst "Best Original Song" nominees in the history of the Oscars. Feel free to argue in the comments.
"Learn to be Lonely," 'The Phantom of the Opera' (2004)
<strong>Nominee: Andrew Lloyd Weber, Charles Hart </strong> Originally written as an additional song for The Phantom to sing in the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, "Learn to be Lonely" was cut from the film proper and instead appeared only during the closing credits. This was a wise choice, as the track is, quite frankly, far beneath the quality of the music in the original musical and stands out like a sore, deformed thumb. The lyrics are saccharine, the melody is basic and the concept of the song itself is unnecessary to the flow of the narrative. It came across as one more example of Webber attempting to milk the poor Opera Ghost for just a little more creative mileage.
"Vanilla Sky," 'Vanilla Sky' (2001)
<strong>Nominee: Paul McCartney </strong> "Vanilla Sky" is a deliberately confusing and stylized sci-fi story with a soundtrack that is almost uniformly excellent -- except, of course, for Paul McCartney's original composition, the title track "Vanilla Sky." It stands out as awkward and clunky in a soundtrack otherwise defined by cool, sensual weirdness from bands like Radiohead, Sigur Ros and Thievery Corporation. This song was just trying too hard. Besides, one of Nancy Wilson's original compositions should have been nominated instead.
"I Don't Want To Miss a Thing," 'Armageddon' (1998)
<strong>Nominee: Diane Warren (performed by Aerosmith) </strong> So imagine you're invited to the wedding of a friend from high-school who you've kind of lost touch with. Y'know, the one who works at a gas station and still hangs out with the same four jerks he's known since you were all in junior high. Against your better judgement, you decide to go. It's held at the local community centre with an unused stage on one end and out-of-season tinsel still clinging sadly to the window ledges. There are cocktail weenies and the DJ is a boombox. If you go to this sad, small town wedding, I guarantee you the first thing the bride and groom dance to will be this song.
"Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" 'Don Juan DeMarco' (1995)
<strong>Nominee: Bryan Adams, Michael Kamen </strong> "Don Juan DeMarco," starring Johnny Depp as a young man who believes he is the titular lover of legend, was "The Notebook" of its time. The song itself had potential. Incorporating some of Depp's character's quotes from the film, the track actually appeared in a couple of forms in the film itself, in the background or sung by a mariachi band, and serves as an effective refrain as romance gradually returns to the lives of several of the characters. Then, there is the breathy, overwrought version by Bryan Adams that shows up in the closing credits, which completely destroys the mystique of the song with its complete lack of self-awareness. That's the one that was nominated.
"Blaze of Glory," 'Young Guns 2' (1990)
<strong>Nominee: Jon Bon Jovi </strong> When Emilio Estevez first approached Jon Bon Jovi, he asked if Young Guns II could make use of "Wanted Dead or Alive” in the soundtrack, which is in my humble estimation the absolute best Jon Bon Jovi song in the history of the world. Instead, Bon Jovi offered the original song "Blaze of Glory," which made it eligible for this award while simultaneously making the soundtrack far less awesome than it could have been.
"Glory of Love," 'Karate Kid, Part 2' (1986)
<strong>Nominee: Peter Cetera </strong> This song has not aged well at all. What started out as top chart material has become little more a prime example of '80s feathered hair and excessive synths. It's also a straightforward love song, which doesn't necessarily fit terribly well with the narrative of "Karate Kid, Part 2." Not that it matters to this corny song's nomination, but the "Glory of Love" music video is equally awful, featuring an over-lit and over-blurred Peter Cetera staring right at the camera and singing in a dojo.
"They're Either Too Young or Too Old," 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' (1943)
<strong>Nominee: Arthur Schwartz & Frank Loesser (sung by Bette Davis) </strong> While there is a lot of nostalgia associated with films for the '30s and '40s, all the rose-tinting and fond memories in the world can't hide the fact that Bette Davis cannot sing. The song is out of her range and she is swooping and swallowing to hit the notes. But more than that, the lyrical content of this light-hearted ditty is terribly disturbing. The reason all the men she meets are too young or too old for her? They're all getting blown up overseas while WWII rages.
"That's Amore," 'The Caddy' (1953)
<strong>Nominee: Harry Warren & Jack Brooks (sung by Dean Martin) </strong> If there's a song that conjures the gut-churning discomfort of having your table approached by serenading musicians in a restaurant more than "That's Amore," I don't know what it is. You're just trying to enjoy your goulash on the first date night you and your partner have had in months and you're both exhausted, and some jerk with an accordion wants to sing this into your face. I'd like to hit you in the eye like a big pizza pie, Dean Martin.
"Unchained Melody," 'Unchained' (1955)
<strong>Nominee: Alex North & Hy Zaret </strong> I know I am going to catch some flak for this one, as "Unchained Melody" is a much beloved song. The title track to a little-known prison film from the mid-50s, it's gone on to chart several times via several different covers -- including the Righteous Brothers' 1965 version that was included in soundtrack to the 1990 film "Ghost." But if you go out for awkward karaoke with your co-workers, and you all get too drunk, and someone breaks down and starts bawling about their ex-husband and chooses a song to weep-sing along to while you all are frozen in place, queasy and horrified -- without fail, they will perform misery karaoke to this song. And maybe none of this would have ever happened if the Academy hadn't saved it from obscurity with this Oscar nomination.
"My Heart Will Go On," 'Titanic' (1997)
<strong>Nominee: Celine Dion (Winner) </strong> True story: In high-school, my boyfriend took me to see this film. He adored it, and I hated it. When the boat was sinking and a guy, falling from the bow, hits a propeller on the way down, I laughed out loud. He didn't speak to me for a week because I apparently don't have any feelings. "Titanic" is more than just a film, it is a phenomenon and the flagship song from the soundtrack, "My Heart Will Go On," enjoyed a comparable level of success and notoriety. An entire book has even been written about the album, Let's Talk About Love, on which the song ultimately would appear. My burning hatred for this song cannot easily be put into words. You know how the CIA has been known to use heavy metal, played endlessly and at high volume, as a form of torture? For me, they would have to use "My Heart Will Go On," and I would tell them everything.