Oscar Flashback: Best Original Songs of the early 2000s, including ‘Lose Yourself,’ ‘Into the West’

This article marks Part 23 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 2000 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“A Love Before Time” from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”
“I’ve Seen It All” from “Dancer in the Dark”
“My Funny Friend and Me” from “The Emperor’s New Groove”
“A Fool in Love” from “Meet the Parents”
“Things Have Changed” from “Wonder Boys”

Won: “Things Have Changed” from “Wonder Boys”

Should’ve won: “I’ve Seen It All” from “Dancer in the Dark”

The dawn of a new millennium could have marked a remarkable turn of the page for the Oscars in Best Original Song, away from the ho-hum adult contemporary that so often dominated the category over the past three decades, and toward modern artists like Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child and Janet Jackson, who, with “Try Again” (from “Romeo Must Die); “Independent Women Part 1” (from “Charlie’s Angels”); and “Doesn’t Really Matter” (from “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps”) performed terrific tunes eligible for consideration in 2000.

Instead, voters opted to give Randy Newman a 14th Oscar nomination, for his two-minute song from “Meet the Parents.”

Indeed, with the exception of a single bold nominee, 2000 Best Original Song was not unlike many recent line-ups of the category, a middling, mostly vanilla bag of tracks awfully difficult to get hyped about.

Voters’ selection, “Things Have Changed,” isn’t a terrible winner but it does ring somewhat of the victory for “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” That is, it marked what could potentially be the sole occasion to honor an unimpeachable music legend at the Oscars. In 1984, it was Stevie Wonder. This time around, Bob Dylan was the victorious one and, much like Wonder’s Oscar winning tune was no “Superstition” or “My Cherie Amour,” Dylan’s track is hardly among the best from his discography. “Things Have Changed” may be listenable but nothing about it much stands out.

Likewise, “A Love Before Time” is a pleasant piece, nicely performed by Coco Lee but hardly among the most memorable parts of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” At least it’s mildly enjoyable, which is more than can be said for “My Funny Friend and Me,” a sleepy Sting-performed track that seems entirely ill-suited for Disney’s hilarious and manic “The Emperor’s New Groove.” The Newman track is among his worst Oscar nominations.

The only nominee in 2000 Best Original Song worth praise is Bjork‘s sweeping “I’ve Seen It All.” It’s a superb piece, co-written by filmmaker Lars von Trier, with a vocal assist by the great Thom Yorke of Radiohead.

Bjork surely didn’t have a prayer against a juggernaut like Dylan but her presence at least interjected some energy into an otherwise-dud of a category.

The 2001 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Until…” from “Kate & Leopold”
“May It Be” from “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”
“If I Didn’t Have You” from “Monsters, Inc. ”
“There You’ll Be” from “Pearl Harbor”
“Vanilla Sky” from “Vanilla Sky”

Won: “If I Didn’t Have You” from “Monsters, Inc. ”

Should’ve won: “There You’ll Be” from “Pearl Harbor”

Heading into Oscar night in March 2002, composer Randy Newman was sitting on an eye-popping 0-for-14 record in wins vs. nominations. He was up for two Oscars this time around, in Best Original Song and Best Original Score, for “Monsters, Inc.” Newman hadn’t fared well in that year’s precursors – he didn’t even garner a Golden Globe nomination and Sting, whose “Until…” won the Globe, was perceived in some circles to be nearly as due for an Oscar as Newman. Throwing the category for a bit of a loop was that “Come What May” from “Moulin Rouge!” was deemed ineligible for consideration, having initially been intended for Baz Luhrmann‘s “Romeo & Juliet” (1996) soundtrack.

While Newman lost in Best Original Score, to Howard Shore‘s work on “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” the Oscar mainstay did at last go home with a statue, triumphing in Best Original Song for “If I Didn’t Have You.”

Did he deserve it? “If I Didn’t Have You” would be an entirely unremarkable tune, if not for the delightful vocals of John Goodman and Billy Crystal. Lyrically and instrumentally, it has the sound of something Newman could have hastily put together in five minutes time.

The thing is, the rest of 2001 Best Original Song isn’t a whole lot to write home about either.

The Sting nomination, for instance, is even more lackluster than Newman’s offering here, devoid of anything to grab on to. It’s even weaker than his “Moonlight,” which garnered a nomination a few years earlier for the remake of “Sabrina” (1995), and that wasn’t anything too hot. Enya‘s “May It Be” is a wholly appropriate fit for its film but doesn’t really succeed outside the context of the film.

The remaining two nominees are more noteworthy. Paul McCartney‘s “Vanilla Sky” is certainly among the most notable pieces he’s done in the past two decades, nicely produced and a good fit for the film, even if the picture isn’t a very good one. Even better is Diane Warren’s “There You’ll Be,” a lovely tune sporting a heavenly vocal performance by Faith Hill.

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The 2002 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“I Move On” from “Chicago”
“Lose Yourself” from “8 Mile”
“Burn It Blue” from “Frida”
“The Hands That Built America” from “Gangs of New York”
“Father and Daughter” from “The Wild Thornberrys Movie”

Won and should’ve won: “Lose Yourself” from “8 Mile”

What a moment it was when Barbra Streisand graced the stage to present in Best Original Song in 2002. Surely, one could figure, Streisand was selected to award a fellow superstar of the 1970s like Paul Simon (up for “Father and Daughter”) or the legendary duo of John Kander and Fred Ebb (here for “I Move On”). If not them, it had to be U2, who picked up the Golden Globe for their “The Hands That Built America” from “Gangs of New York.”

Alas, none of that was to be. Streisand herself seemed a bit stunned upon opening the envelope to reveal the victor was none other than the King of Hip-Hop himself, Eminem, for “Lose Yourself.” And what a richly deserving win it was.

At the time, Eminem’s victory was perceived a significant upset. In hindsight, however, pundits probably should not have been so awe-struck.

For one, let’s face it – three of the nominees here didn’t have a prayer.

“Burn It Blue” is quite strong, filled with Elliot Goldenthal‘s sumptuous music from the film, but no way was Goldenthal picking up two Oscars for the film (he triumphed in Best Original Score). Simon’s “Father and Daughter” is another fine selection and there’s no doubt voters would love to honor this rock legend at some point…but for “The Wild Thornberrys Movie”? That just wasn’t going to happen.

The third also-ran, “I Move On,” is one of those original songs composed for a stage-to-screen that is decidedly inferior to everything originally composed for the stage. Catherine Zeta-Jones in particular sounds great on it but the instrumentals are basically a rehash of the musical’s overture and there’s nothing juicy or remarkable about the lyrics.

In terms of the vote, there’s little doubt U2 was runner-up to Eminem. “The Hands That Built America” is a solid piece, albeit not quite top-tier U2, and would’ve been a worthy winner in many years. The thing is, voters weren’t terribly fond of “Gangs of New York,” beyond showering it in nominations. If Martin Scorsese and Daniel Day-Lewis couldn’t triumph, it’s hard to see how U2 could have prevailed.

“Lose Yourself” is not only among the all-time greatest hip-hop/rap records and best songs of the decade but also one of the most accessible tunes in its genre – you didn’t have to own an Eminem album, or even consider yourself a fan of the artist’s or rap, to appreciate it. Then, of course, there are the voters, who had never before even nominated a song of the genre. Eminem shattered that glass ceiling, paving the way for other non-Randy Newman artists to also garner recognition in the category.

The 2003 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Scarlet Tide” from “Cold Mountain”
“You Will Be My Ain True Love” from “Cold Mountain”
“Into the West” from “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
“A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” from “A Mighty Wind”
“Belleville Rendez-vous” from “The Triplets of Belleville”

Won: “Into the West” from “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”

Should’ve won: “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” from “A Mighty Wind”

The nomination in Best Original Song for “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow,” performed by Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara and composed by Michael McKean and Annette O’Toole, was the most pleasant of surprises in 2003. The sight of Levy and O’Hara, two of the funniest people on earth, performing at the Oscars was truly the most heavenly of sights, one of the real highlights of that ceremony.

That said, there was no doubt what would actually triumph in Best Original Song that evening – Annie Lennox would ride her film’s wave to victory with “Into the West,” a tune nicely performed and certainly appropriate for the picture but not something that really resonates outside the context of the film. It’s also hardly as interesting as most of Lennox’s solo work and efforts as part of Eurythmics.

The two nominees from “Cold Mountain,” both performed with great nuance by Alison Krauss, are also a bit tough to get excited about. “You Will Be My Ain True Love,” written by Sting, has a little more oomph and passion than Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett‘s “Scarlet Tide,” which is a pretty lethargic record beyond Krauss’ fine vocal. Better than the songs from the two epics is the endearing “Belleville Rendez-vous,” from that year’s fantastic “The Triplets of Belleville.”

Snubs this year? Even though “Mona Lisa Smile” is a bit of a dud, Elton John‘s “The Heart of Every Girl” from the film is a true delight.

The 2004 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Look to Your Path” from “The Chorus”
“Al otro lado del río” from “The Motorcycle Diaries”
“Learn to Be Lonely” from “The Phantom of the Opera”
“Believe” from “The Polar Express”
“Accidentally in Love” from “Shrek 2”

Won and should’ve won: “Al otro lado del río” from “The Motorcycle Diaries”

In 1960, “Never on Sunday” became the first foreign language film to score victory in the category of Best Original Song. Up until 2004, however, no Spanish-language song had triumphed here.

There were a few nominees prior to the win for “Al otro lado del río” – for instance, “Rio de Janeiro” from “Brazil” (1944) and ‘”Beautiful Maria of My Soul” from “The Mambo Kings” (1992) – but no victories. Jorge Drexler at last shattered that glass ceiling in 2004, even if the Oscars trampled on his historic moment a bit by egregiously not allowing Drexler to perform his own song at the Oscar ceremony. Instead, invited were the more A-list likes of Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana. Drexler’s acceptance speech, in which he sang a few lines, could not have been more pitch-perfect.

Not only was Drexter’s win a groundbreaking victory but also a deserving one, though not exactly because “Al otro lado del río” is an extraordinary piece of music. It’s a fine, nicely performed and produced tune but nothing terribly remarkable. It only really stands out on account of the jaw-dropping weakness of the rest of the line-up.

It’s hard to select a runner-up in a batch this anemic but perhaps it would be another song from a foreign language film (this time from France), “Look to Your Path.” “The Chorus” is a marvelous picture, deservedly nominated this year for Best Foreign Language Film, but beyond some pleasant harmonies, there’s not much here to get excited about when it comes to the song.

At least “Look to Your Path” isn’t cringe-inducing, like “Learn to Be Lonely,” from Joel Schumacher‘s trainwreck film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s “The Phantom of the Opera,” or “Accidentally in Love,” Counting Crows‘ loud bubble gum pop abomination from “Shrek 2.”

The final nominee falls somewhere between the top two and bottom two – Alan Silvestri‘s “Believe,” performed by Josh Groban, who was an especially hot commodity around this time. The production is decent and Groban’s vocal work is reliably strong but the lyrics are like having a gallon of molasses poured into one’s ears.

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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. “Lose Yourself” from “8 Mile” (2002)
6. “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956)
7. “Mona Lisa” from “Captain, Carey, U.S.A.” (1950)
8. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from “Neptune’s Daughter” (1949)
9. “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing” (1987)
10. “The Windmills of Your Mind” from “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968)
11. “The Way We Were” from “The Way We Were” (1973)
12. “Let the River Run” from “Working Girl” (1988)
13. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969)
14. “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” (1989)
15. “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’)” from “High Noon” (1952)
16. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from “The Lion King” (1994)
17. “Beauty and the Beast” from “Beauty and the Beast” (1991)
18. “I’m Easy” from “Nashville” (1975)
19. “You’ll Never Know” from “Hello, Frisco, Hello” (1943)
20. “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” from “The Harvey Girls” (1946)
21. “Fame” from “Fame” (1980)
22. “Theme from ‘Shaft’” from “Shaft” (1971)
23. “Secret Love” from “Calamity Jane” (1953)
24. “White Christmas” from “Holiday Inn” (1942)
25. “Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961)
26. “Take My Breath Away” from “Top Gun” (1986)
27. “When You Wish Upon a Star” from “Pinocchio” (1940)
28. “Thanks for the Memory” from “The Big Broadcast of 1938” (1938)
29. “Lullaby of Broadway” from “Gold Diggers of 1935” (1935)
30. “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” from “Song of the South” (1947)
31. “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin” (1992)
32. “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic” (1997)
33. “Flashdance…What a Feeling” from “Flashdance” (1983)
34. “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” from “Arthur” (1981)
35. “Last Dance” from “Thank God It’s Friday” (1978)
36. “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas” (1995)
37. “You Must Love Me” from “Evita” (1996)
38. “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)” from “Dick Tracy” (1990)
39. “Days of Wine and Roses” from “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962)
40. “For All We Know” from “Lovers and Other Strangers” (1970)
41. “All the Way” from “The Joker Is Wild” (1957)
42. “It Might As Well Be Spring” from “State Fair” (1945)
43. “The Last Time I Saw Paris” from “Lady Be Good” (1941)
44. “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” from “Here Comes the Groom” (1951)
45. “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” from “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” (1955)
46. “It Goes Like It Goes” from “Norma Rae” (1979)
47. “Born Free” from “Born Free” (1966)
48. “Never on Sunday” from “Never on Sunday” (1960)
49. “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from “The Woman in Red” (1984)
50. “Up Where We Belong” from “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982)
51. “Three Coins in the Fountain” from “Three Coins in the Fountain” (1954)
52. “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from “Mary Poppins” (1964)
53. “Call Me Irresponsible” from “Papa’s Delicate Condition” (1963)
54. “Evergreen (Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’)” from “A Star Is Born” (1976)
55. “Al otro lado del río” from “The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004)
56. “Things Have Changed” from “Wonder Boys” (2000)
57. “Swinging on a Star” from “Going My Way” (1944)
58. “Into the West” from “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003)
59. “If I Didn’t Have You” from “Monsters Inc.” (2001)
60. “You’ll Be in My Heart” from “Tarzan” (1999)
61. “You Light Up My Life” from “You Light Up My Life” (1977)
62. “Gigi” from “Gigi” (1958)
63. “Sweet Leilani” from “Waikiki Wedding” (1937)
64. “The Continental” from “The Gay Divorcee” (1934)
65. “Buttons and Bows” from “The Paleface” (1948)
66. “Talk to the Animals” from “Doctor Dolittle” (1967)
67. “The Shadow of Your Smile” from “The Sandpiper” (1965)
68. “When You Believe” from “The Prince of Egypt” (1998)
69. “Say You, Say Me” from “White Nights” (1985)
70. “The Morning After” from “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972)
71. “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

SEEBest Original Songs of the early 1990s, including ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘A Whole New World’

SEE ‘The Lion King’ roars in Best Original Song

SEE Best Original Songs of the mid-to-late 1990s, including ‘Colors of the Wind,’ ‘My Heart Will Go On’

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