Oscar Flashback: ‘Footloose,’ ‘Ghostbusters’ no match for Stevie Wonder in Best Original Song

This article marks Part 17 of the Gold Derby series analyzing 84 years of Best Original Song at the Oscars. Join us as we look back at the timeless tunes recognized in this category, the results of each race and the overall rankings of the winners.

The 1984 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” from “Against All Odds”
“Footloose” from “Footloose”
“Let’s Hear It for the Boy” from “Footloose”
“Ghostbusters” from “Ghostbusters”
“I Just Called to Say I Love You” from “The Woman in Red”

Won: “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from “The Woman in Red”

Should’ve won: “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” from “Against All Odds”

Stevie Wonder‘s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” is a sweet, charmingly corny trifle, easily the most notable thing from Gene Wilder‘s midlife crisis comedy “The Woman in Red.” Its subsequent performance by Wonder and the cast of “The Cosby Show” is truly one of the great and iconic sitcom moments of the 1980s. In most years, Wonder would have made for a fine winner.

Alas, in 1984 Best Original Song, Wonder’s victory was downright criminal. Not only did “I Just Called to Say I Love You” defeat four vastly superior tracks but its presence also aided in keeping Prince‘s sublime “Purple Rain” from scoring a single nomination in the category.

“Purple Rain,” which did score its leading man an Oscar in the now-defunct Best Original Song Score category, could have conceivably filled out an entire Best Original Song line-up on its own, with the legendary likes of the title track, “When Doves Cry” (which scored a Golden Globe nomination); “Let’s Go Crazy”; “I Would Die 4 U”; and “The Beautiful Ones.” Alas, perhaps because of vote-splitting among the contenders (or, just as likely, some voters’ aversion to Prince), it ended up missing-in-action on Oscar nominations morning.

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As for the four truly wonderful nominees that did make the cut, one can split the foursome into two tiers, one a tad superior to the other, but both leaps and bounds more memorable than the Wonder tune. Note that all four of these songs clocked in at number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1984.

“Footloose” and “Ghostbusters,” from their eponymous blockbusters, are among probably the 10 or so most recognizable movie tracks of the 1980s. Kenny Loggins‘ “Footloose” marks one of the most exciting and exuberant records of the artist’s terrific career, and the image of Kevin Bacon getting his groove on on the dance floor can’t be beat. Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters” is surely a tad on the cheesy side, and it’s not a record to be listened to over and over again, but it’s such a pitch-perfect fit for the film and deliriously catchy. It’s also an undeniably timeless record, even with the aggressive 1980s production values.

Terrific as “Footloose” and “Ghostbusters” are, however, even better are the remaining two nominees.

“Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” performed by the always-dazzling Deniece Williams (who, despite four Grammys and a handful of hits, never quite got the attention she deserved), is an irresistible piece of bubble gum R&B-pop. Good luck not singing along. Ultimately, however, while it is a close call, the edge has to go to Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now).” The future Oscar winner has never been better. It’s an immensely moving, even haunting record, from one of the sexiest films of the decade, featuring the luminous Rachel Ward and Jeff Bridges at his most dashing.

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The Oscar winners ranked (thus far):

1. “Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
2. “The Way You Look Tonight” from “Swing Time” (1936)
3. “High Hopes” from “A Hole in the Head” (1959)
4. “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956)
5. “Mona Lisa” from “Captain, Carey, U.S.A.” (1950)
6. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from “Neptune’s Daughter” (1949)
7. “The Windmills of Your Mind” from “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968)
8. “The Way We Were” from “The Way We Were” (1973)
9. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969)
10. “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’)” from “High Noon” (1952)
11. “I’m Easy” from “Nashville” (1975)
12. “You’ll Never Know” from “Hello, Frisco, Hello” (1943)
13. “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” from “The Harvey Girls” (1946)
14. “Fame” from “Fame” (1980)
15. “Theme from ‘Shaft’” from “Shaft” (1971)
16. “Secret Love” from “Calamity Jane” (1953)
17. “White Christmas” from “Holiday Inn” (1942)
18. “Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961)
19. “When You Wish Upon a Star” from “Pinocchio” (1940)
20. “Thanks for the Memory” from “The Big Broadcast of 1938” (1938)
21. “Lullaby of Broadway” from “Gold Diggers of 1935” (1935)
22. “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” from “Song of the South” (1947)
23. “Flashdance…What a Feeling” from “Flashdance” (1983)
24. “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” from “Arthur” (1981)
25. “Last Dance” from “Thank God It’s Friday” (1978)
26. “Days of Wine and Roses” from “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962)
27. “For All We Know” from “Lovers and Other Strangers” (1970)
28. “All the Way” from “The Joker Is Wild” (1957)
29. “It Might As Well Be Spring” from “State Fair” (1945)
30. “The Last Time I Saw Paris” from “Lady Be Good” (1941)
31. “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” from “Here Comes the Groom” (1951)
32. “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” from “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” (1955)
33. “It Goes Like It Goes” from “Norma Rae” (1979)
34. “Born Free” from “Born Free” (1966)
35. “Never on Sunday” from “Never on Sunday” (1960)
36. “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from “The Woman in Red” (1984)
37. “Up Where We Belong” from “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982)
38. “Three Coins in the Fountain” from “Three Coins in the Fountain” (1954)
39. “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from “Mary Poppins” (1964)
40. “Call Me Irresponsible” from “Papa’s Delicate Condition” (1963)
41. “Evergreen (Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’)” from “A Star Is Born” (1976)
42. “Swinging on a Star” from “Going My Way” (1944)
43. “You Light Up My Life” from “You Light Up My Life” (1977)
44. “Gigi” from “Gigi” (1958)
45. “Sweet Leilani” from “Waikiki Wedding” (1937)
46. “The Continental” from “The Gay Divorcee” (1934)
47. “Buttons and Bows” from “The Paleface” (1948)
48. “Talk to the Animals” from “Doctor Dolittle” (1967)
49. “The Shadow of Your Smile” from “The Sandpiper” (1965)
50. “The Morning After” from “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972)
51. “We May Never Love Like This Again” from “The Towering Inferno” (1974)

SEE Best Original Songs of the 1930s, including ‘Over the Rainbow,’ ‘The Way You Look Tonight’

SEE ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ is first Disney winner in Best Original Song

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1940s, including ‘White Christmas’ and ‘You’ll Never Know’

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 1940s, including ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’ and ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1950s, including ‘Mona Lisa,’ ‘High Noon’

SEE Judy Garland classic from ‘A Star is Born’ loses Best Original Song to Frank Sinatra standard

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 1950s, including ‘All the Way,’ ‘High Hopes’

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1960s, including ‘Moon River,’ ‘Days of Wine and Roses’

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 1960s, including ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1970s, including ‘Theme from ‘Shaft,’ ‘The Morning After’

SEE ‘Live and Let Die’ no match for ‘The Way We Were’ in Best Original Song

SEE Best Original Songs of the mid-1970s, including ‘I’m Easy,’ ‘Evergreen’

SEE ‘New York, New York,’ ‘Saturday Night Fever’ snubbed in Best Original Song

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 1970s, including ‘Last Dance,’ ‘It Goes Like It Goes’

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1980s, including ‘Fame,’ ‘Flashdance…What a Feeling’

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