Oscar Flashback: Best Original Songs of the early 1990s, including ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘A Whole New World’

This article marks Part 20 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 1990 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)” from “Dick Tracy”
“Promise Me You’ll Remember” from “The Godfather Part III”
“Somewhere in My Memory” from “Home Alone”
“I’m Checkin’ Out” from “Postcards from the Edge”
“Blaze of Glory” from “Young Guns II”

Won: “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)” from “Dick Tracy”

Should’ve won: “Somewhere in My Memory” from “Home Alone”

Stephen Sondheim is unimpeachably among the all-time great composers of the stage, if not the greatest of them all. His contributions to Warren Beatty’s “Dick Tracy,” unfortunately, are not nearly as riveting as his compositions for the legendary likes of “Company,” “Follies” and “Gypsy.”

Sondheim’s tunes, including “Sooner or Later,” are rather undistinguished and fleeting in comparison to the bulk of the Sondheim songbook. It’s not a bad soundtrack by any stretch but hardly an Oscar-caliber one either.

What makes the Sondheim victory all the more difficult to swallow is at least two, arguably even three of his song’s competitors in 1990 Best Original Song are superior.

First off, the slightly rotten apple of the bunch here is “Promise Me You’ll Remember,” a Harry Connick, Jr.-performed tune which, much like “The Godfather Part III” itself, is nicely orchestrated but overlong and curiously lifeless.

Bon Jovi‘s “Blaze of Glory” from “Young Guns II” is a tough-to-resist guilty pleasure rock record, about as satisfying as the Sondheim tune.

Ultimately, this one is a close call between the remaining two contenders, “Somewhere in My Memory” from “Home Alone” and “I’m Checkin’ Out” from “Postcards from the Edge.”

The former, composed by Oscar winners John Williams and Leslie Bricusse, is arguably one of the best Christmas tunes of the past half-century or so. The latter, composed by the legendary Shel Silverstein, is most memorable for its delightfully buoyant performance by Meryl Streep.

Because another performer may not sell “I’m Checkin’ Out” in the same splendid fashion Streep does, the edge goes to “Somewhere in My Memory.”

The 1991 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Be Our Guest” from “Beauty and the Beast”
“Belle” from “Beauty and the Beast”
“Beauty and the Beast” from “Beauty and the Beast”
“When You’re Alone” from “Hook”
“(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” from “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”

Won: “Beauty and the Beast” from “Beauty and the Beast”

Should’ve won: “Belle” from “Beauty and the Beast”

The brilliant and timeless “Beauty and the Beast” dominated Best Original Song at the 1991 Oscars, with three tunes composed by the duo of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, and deservedly so. It also marked the first animated film to garner a nomination in Best Picture, keeping the likes of “Boyz ‘n the Hood” and “Thelma & Louise” on the sidelines.

In terms of ranking the trio of tunes, it’s awfully hard to knock voters’ selection of the title song – it’s a splendid, supremely romantic song, performed heavenly by Angela Lansbury. Also fabulous is “Be Our Guest,” a splashy ensemble number that’s right about on-par with “Under the Sea” in sheer energy and enthusiasm. Even better is “Belle,” the picture’s delightful opening number, which rings of Ashman-Menken’s “Skid Row (Downtown)” from “Little Shop of Horrors” (1986) and other great, ensemble-driven opening tunes from Broadway.

Of course, there were also other nominees in 1991 Best Original Song, one decent and one not so memorable.

The more agreeable of the remaining two contenders is Bryan Adams‘ smash hit “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,” from the ho-hum Kevin Costner vehicle “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” For better or worse, the record, which spent most of the summer of 1991 atop the Billboard Hot 100, is the epitome of early 1990s adult contemporary, competently performed and produced but more than a tad schmaltzy and overbaked. It is, however, more satisfying than “When You’re Alone,” a dreary “Hook” number from John Williams and Leslie Bricusse, who struck lightning the prior year on “Home Alone” (1990) but completely missed the bullseye this time around.

Instead of settling on the old standbys of Williams and Bricusse, voters should have certainly recognized the incredible Eric Clapton, whose heartbreaking, Grammy winning “Tears in Heaven” was featured on the “Rush” soundtrack.

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The 1992 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“A Whole New World” from “Aladdin”
“Friend Like Me” from “Aladdin”
“I Have Nothing” from “The Bodyguard”
“Run to You” from “The Bodyguard”
“Beautiful Maria of My Soul” from “The Mambo Kings”

Won: “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin”

Should’ve won: “I Have Nothing” from “The Bodyguard”

In 1977 and 1984, respectively, voters egregiously ignored “Saturday Night Fever” and “Purple Rain” – then, the two best-selling movie soundtracks of all-time – in Best Original Song.

By 1992, with the smashing success of “The Bodyguard” (which would go on to top “Purple Rain” as the all-time best-seller and even win Album of the Year at the Grammys), it appeared voters had learned their lesson in the backlash of giving the cold shoulder to such monumentally popular, not only with general audiences but critics too, successes. Voters not only recognized the big Billboard hit “I Have Nothing” but also a second, somewhat lesser song to boot, “Run to You,” both performed to perfection by Whitney Houston. (Dolly Parton‘s “I Will Always Love You” was ineligible.)

Besides “Run to You,” which is a respectable but clear fifth-place finisher, 1992 Best Original Song is a bit tough to gauge in terms of picking a winner.

The two “Aladdin” tracks, while enjoyable, aren’t quite on par with the recognized tunes from “The Little Mermaid” (1989) and “Beauty and the Beast” (1991). The vocal performances – from Brad Kane and Lea Salonga on “A Whole New World” and the incomparable Robin Williams on “Friend Like Me” – are terrific but neither song (composed by Alan Menken, with Tim Rice on the former and the late Howard Ashman on the latter) quite captures the magic of tunes like “Under the Sea,” “Belle” or “Be Our Guest.”

Likewise, “Beautiful Maria of My Soul” is beautifully performed by Antonio Banderas in “The Mambo Kings,” but despite the vocal and some nice orchestrations, it’s missing that special something that turns a rather ordinary tune into something truly extraordinary.

Ultimately, the best is “I Have Nothing.” It’s a prime example of the sort of R&B-pop that dominated much of the adult contemporary airwaves in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Houston’s vocal turn is dynamite and the production is agreeably glossy.

Overlooked in 1992? Two strong original songs from “A League of Their Own” – Madonna‘s “This Used to Be My Playground” and Carole King‘s “Now and Forever.”

The 1993 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“The Day I Fall in Love” from “Beethoven’s 2nd”
“Philadelphia” from “Philadelphia”
“Streets of Philadelphia” from “Philadelphia”
“Again” from “Poetic Justice”
“A Wink and a Smile” from “Sleepless in Seattle”

Won: “Streets of Philadelphia” from “Philadelphia”

Should’ve won: “Philadelphia” from “Philadelphia”

For two reasons, and really just those two reasons alone, 1993 is remarkable year in Best Original Song at the Oscars, a line-up that includes two of the very best tracks to ever grace the category – “Philadelphia” and “Streets of Philadelphia,” both from the Jonathan Demme film, which marked the first mainstream, big-budget picture to address HIV/AIDS.

Among the extraordinary parts of “Philadelphia” is the film’s soundtrack, which not only featured the nominated Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young songs but also tunes from the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sade and the Indigo Girls.

One can hardly knock Springsteen’s victory for “Streets of Philadelphia,” a song both one of the artist’s greatest efforts to date and one of the all-time best winners in this category. Everything here, in terms of music, lyrics and vocal, works splendidly, perfectly fitting for the film, and it was a deserving honoree at the following year’s Grammys, where it picked up Song of the Year and a trio of other assorted prizes.

With that said, Young’s “Philadelphia” is among the most exceptional tunes to ever been recognized in this category.

The Young track, which plays over the home movies of Tom Hanks’ Andrew Beckett during the picture’s conclusion, is among the most haunting pieces of music ever composed. Young’s lyrics and performance, especially in the context of the film, are absolutely extraordinary.

As for the rest of 1993 Original Song, it’s pretty slim pickings, though Janet Jackson‘s “Again,” from her motion picture debut in John Singleton‘s “Poetic Justice,” is a fine, plenty listenable piece of R&B-pop. The remaining two contenders, “The Day I Fall in Love” (a duet for James Ingram and Dolly Parton) and “A Wink and a Smile” (one of Harry Connick Jr.’s many wannabe-standards from this time) more or less fade into the background.

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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. “Streets of Philadelphia” from “Philadelphia” (1993)
5. “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956)
6. “Mona Lisa” from “Captain, Carey, U.S.A.” (1950)
7. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from “Neptune’s Daughter” (1949)
8. “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing” (1987)
9. “The Windmills of Your Mind” from “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968)
10. “The Way We Were” from “The Way We Were” (1973)
11. “Let the River Run” from “Working Girl” (1988)
12. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969)
13. “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” (1989)
14. “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’)” from “High Noon” (1952)
15. “Beauty and the Beast” from “Beauty and the Beast” (1991)
16. “I’m Easy” from “Nashville” (1975)
17. “You’ll Never Know” from “Hello, Frisco, Hello” (1943)
18. “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” from “The Harvey Girls” (1946)
19. “Fame” from “Fame” (1980)
20. “Theme from ‘Shaft’” from “Shaft” (1971)
21. “Secret Love” from “Calamity Jane” (1953)
22. “White Christmas” from “Holiday Inn” (1942)
23. “Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961)
24. “Take My Breath Away” from “Top Gun” (1986)
25. “When You Wish Upon a Star” from “Pinocchio” (1940)
26. “Thanks for the Memory” from “The Big Broadcast of 1938” (1938)
27. “Lullaby of Broadway” from “Gold Diggers of 1935” (1935)
28. “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” from “Song of the South” (1947)
29. “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin” (1992)
30. “Flashdance…What a Feeling” from “Flashdance” (1983)
31. “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” from “Arthur” (1981)
32. “Last Dance” from “Thank God It’s Friday” (1978)
33. “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)” from “Dick Tracy” (1990)
34. “Days of Wine and Roses” from “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962)
35. “For All We Know” from “Lovers and Other Strangers” (1970)
36. “All the Way” from “The Joker Is Wild” (1957)
37. “It Might As Well Be Spring” from “State Fair” (1945)
38. “The Last Time I Saw Paris” from “Lady Be Good” (1941)
39. “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” from “Here Comes the Groom” (1951)
40. “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” from “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” (1955)
41. “It Goes Like It Goes” from “Norma Rae” (1979)
42. “Born Free” from “Born Free” (1966)
43. “Never on Sunday” from “Never on Sunday” (1960)
44. “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from “The Woman in Red” (1984)
45. “Up Where We Belong” from “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982)
46. “Three Coins in the Fountain” from “Three Coins in the Fountain” (1954)
47. “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from “Mary Poppins” (1964)
48. “Call Me Irresponsible” from “Papa’s Delicate Condition” (1963)
49. “Evergreen (Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’)” from “A Star Is Born” (1976)
50. “Swinging on a Star” from “Going My Way” (1944)
51. “You Light Up My Life” from “You Light Up My Life” (1977)
52. “Gigi” from “Gigi” (1958)
53. “Sweet Leilani” from “Waikiki Wedding” (1937)
54. “The Continental” from “The Gay Divorcee” (1934)
55. “Buttons and Bows” from “The Paleface” (1948)
56. “Talk to the Animals” from “Doctor Dolittle” (1967)
57. “The Shadow of Your Smile” from “The Sandpiper” (1965)
58. “Say You, Say Me” from “White Nights” (1985)
59. “The Morning After” from “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972)
60. “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’

SEE ‘Footloose,’ ‘Ghostbusters’ no match for Stevie Wonder in Best Original Song

SEE Best Original Songs of the mid-to-late 1980s, including ‘Take My Breath Away,’ ‘Let the River Run’

SEE With ‘The Little Mermaid,’ Disney begins its domination in Best Original Song

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