A Letter To The Academy Re: Best Song


Dear Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,

I cannot say that I was at all surprised when “Let it Go” from the film Frozen won the academy award in the Best Song category. Let’s face it, “Let it Go” was a shoe-in from the moment the celluloid synced up with the audio on the big screen. Soundtracks were flying off the shelves and digital sales were at an all-time high. Boy, it was like a Rice/Menken clamor all over again.

“Let It Go” had some stiff competition this year, however. Pharrell Williams‘ infectious and positively fun “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 is a powerhouse. Can you all get that song out of your heads? I certainly can’t. Wasn’t U2 nominated as well? Why, they were, and they didn’t take home four Oscars? My goodness. Lest we not forget the hauntingly beautiful and nuanced “Moon Song” from Her featuring the top two prominent indie darlings possible, songwriter Karen O. and Ezra Koenig. Talk about a song absolutely contributing to a film in a way that was not only chillingly romantic but also made us, as common folk viewers, really connect with drector Spike Jonze and his image for a gorgeous film.

Of course, I suppose it’s entirely subjective in the long run. Perhaps “Let It Go” served just as much a purpose for its own context as “Ordinary Love” did for a striking tribute to Nelson Mandela and his humanitarian legacy. For that matter, maybe the tune from Frozen also provided a much-needed break from the cynicism and drudgery of popular music that “Happy” did. (I would know about needing a break from cynicism.)

I’m not trying to diminish your choice in the “Best Original Song” category, esteemed members. It’s a fine song that no doubt deserved recognition. It’s just that I, your humbled servant and oft-critic who devotes too much time thinking on these subjects, wonder upon what criteria you have been basing who will prevail as winner. Must it be grand and superfluous in production? Must the song come from a studio that has garnered countless wins before? How much must the song play into the plot, theme, and context of the film to truly deem itself the “Best?” How many cups of coffee and graphic t-shirts of underrated albums must one have in his arsenal to write on this in a fury? (The last query is more of a personal reflection and less of question you can field. Unless, of course, you can, in which case shoot me back an email and we’ll hash this all out.)

What I’m getting at is that it often seems arbitrary with whom gets the award, and those that do come from camps that are otherwise hugely prestigious despite true talent of songwriting and performing. Are Ezra and Koenig empirically better than Idnia Menzell? Who can say? Though, maybe you could stop being so transparent with your choices and give the award to the songs with less extravagance and really surprise us, and pleasantly so.

Sincerely, a disgruntled viewer yet long-time fan.

P.S. I cannot forgive you over Leonardo DiCaprio’s loss. You have made a grave error in judgement. That is all.

Born and raised on classic rock and oldies, Jake Tully consumed music voraciously growing up in Central California. He has his wonderful grandparents to thank for his love of music, as well as the amazing luck to have seen hundreds of concerts in his lifetime. He considers himself an eclectic consumer of all media, and further reading can be found at his blog.

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