Oscar Flashback: Best Original Songs of the early 2010s, including ‘Skyfall,’ ‘Let It Go’

This article marks Part 25 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 2010 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Coming Home” from “Country Strong”
“If I Rise” from “127 Hours”
“I See the Light” from “Tangled”
“We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3”

Won: “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3”

Should’ve won: “If I Rise” from “127 Hours”

Best Original Song in 2010 marked one of the most deadly-dull line-ups to ever grace the category, a sleepy, entirely unremarkable batch of four songs that is exceedingly difficult to select a favorite among.

Voters, faced with this anemic foursome, opted to go with Oscar mainstay Randy Newman, awarding him a second Best Original Song prize, this time for “We Belong Together.” About on-par with “If I Didn’t Have You” (his first winner) when it comes to negligible lack of imagination, it is handily the weakest tune Newman composed for the “Toy Story” series.

The thing is, Newman’s competition wasn’t all that superior. In fact, “Coming Home,” performed by Gwyneth Paltrow, is even less appealing than the “Toy Story 3” tune, a cookie-cutter country ballad. “I See the Light” is another merely agreeable Alan Menken composition that makes you long for the days of Howard Ashman – it’s pretty but there’s no magic there.

Ultimately, the most satisfying is “If I Rise,” a reasonably interesting A.R. Rahman piece that’s more stirring than his Oscar winning “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) work and gets a nice boost from Dido‘s affecting vocal work.

The real eyebrow-raiser of 2010 Best Original Song is voters for once ignored Diane Warren, despite her having won the Golden Globe this year for “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” a dynamite, perfectly fitting ballad for Cher in “Burlesque.” It’s a tune vastly more entertaining than the quartet ultimately nominated.

The 2011 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Man or Muppet,” The Muppets”
“Real in Rio,” Rio”

Won: “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets”

Should’ve won: “Real in Rio” from “Rio”

In Best Original Song at the 1979 Oscars, “The Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppet Movie” was among the nominees. Composed by the legendary Paul Williams, “The Rainbow Connection” was a sweet heart-tugger, performed just heavenly by Kermit the Frog (AKA Jim Henson).

“The Rainbow Connection” had so many great qualities, nearly all of which are missing in “Man or Muppet,” one of composer Bret McKenzie‘s four original tunes from 2011’s otherwise amusing “The Muppets. “The song is charmingly performed by Jason Segal and Peter Linz (featuring Jim Parsons and Bill Barretta) and McKenzie’s attempt to deliver a send-up of Elton John adult contemporary is fun, but the tune just doesn’t catch fire, really isn’t all that funny and lacks the heart that’s so often found in the best Muppet songs.

In a supreme eyebrow-raiser, voters nominated just one other song in 2011 and that one isn’t so extraordinary either, though it is a tad better than “Man of Muppet”. “Real in Rio” may not be especially catchy or even very memorable but it does at least have a ton of energy and enthusiasm behind it, with solid instrumentals by the brilliant Sergio Mendes.

There actually were great original songs to be nominated in 2011 – most notably, Mary J. Blige‘s “The Living Proof” from Best Picture nominee “The Help” and Sinead O’Connor‘s “Lay Your Head Down” from the Glenn Close Oscar vehicle “Albert Nobbs.” Alas, neither would make the cut.

The 2012 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice”
“Suddenly” from “Les Miserables”
“Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi”
“Skyfall” from “Skyfall”
“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from “Ted”

Won and should’ve won: “Skyfall” from “Skyfall”

Prior to the 2012 Oscar ceremony, the James Bond film franchise had never received much in the way of affection from voters.

“Nobody Does It Better” (perhaps the all-time greatest Bond song) from “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) was one of three Bond pictures to show up in Best Original Song, the other two being the eponymous themes to “Live and Let Die” (1973) and “For Your Eyes Only” (1981). None of this trio emerged triumphant.

Come 2012, more than three decades since the last 007 appearance in Best Original Song, voters were at last ready to embrace a Bond theme for victory, though, to be fair, “Skyfall” may not have triumphed (or even been nominated) without the beloved juggernaut of a performer that is Adele.

“Skyfall” isn’t quite one of the strongest Bond themes but it is nicely orchestrated, of course gorgeously performed and has the good fortune of headlining one of the best non-Sean Connery films in the franchise. It is also a lot more entertaining than its Best Original Song company in 2012, an otherwise pretty forgettable foursome of tunes that didn’t even much resonate at their time of release.

There are basically three tiers in quality in this category – “Skyfall,” then the “Life of Pi” and “Ted” tracks and then way behind them, the “Chasing Ice” and “Les Miserables” tunes.

Mychael Danna‘s music to “Life of Pi” is truly sumptuous stuff, a whole-heartedly worthy winner in Best Original Score. “Pi’s Lullaby” pairs Danna’s composition with lyrics by Bombay Jayashri and, while the track is certainly affecting, Jayashri’s contribution doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table – the tune doesn’t soar any higher than anything else on the soundtrack.

“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” is amiable-enough, composed by Seth MacFarlane and Walter Murphy and performed by Norah Jones, but the tune lacks MacFarlane’s trademark raunchy bite. For being included in such a raw, side-splitting film, this is pretty light, generic stuff.

“Suddenly” is yet another stage-to-screen adaptation original song that pales completely in comparison to the original stage music, while “Before My Time” is a lifeless sleeping pill.

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The 2013 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
“Let It Go” from “Frozen”
“The Moon Song” from “Her”
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”

Won and should’ve won: “Let It Go” from “Frozen”

Right on the heels of nominations morning, the 2013 Oscars got off to a bit of an eyebrow-raising start.

Among the five nominated tunes was a real oddball by the name of “Alone Yet Not Alone,” from an eponymous Christian film that never expanded beyond 103 theaters nationally. Performed by Evangelical author Joni Eareckson Tada, the song was co-written by Bruce Broughton, a former governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Upon discovering Broughton had used that status to lobby the track to a nomination, newly elected AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the song’s recognition would be rescinded, resulting in a four-nominee Best Original Song category.

This development marked the first time in Oscar history that a nomination was revoked on ethical grounds.

For what it’s worth, “Alone Yet Not Alone” is a bit of a snooze and it’s a real shame a terrific song like “Please Mr. Kennedy” from “Inside Llewyn Davis” was overlooked in favor of a track that would merely serve as a temporary nominee.

As for the four surviving 2013 Best Original Song nominees, Pharrell Williams‘ “Happy” might well edge-out “My Heart Will Go On” as the most oversaturated record to ever grace the category – the difference being, the Celine Dion song was actually good. Also middling is Karen O and Spike Jonze‘s fleeting “The Moon Song,” though at least it’s a perfectly appropriate fit for “Her.” It just doesn’t pack the same punch as say, their “Where the Wild Things Are” (2009) work.

More interesting is U2’s moving “Ordinary Love,” which, alongside Idris Elba‘s commanding performance, was one of the few great parts of the otherwise underwhelming “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.”

Ultimately, voters got this one right – “Let It Go” may have been more than a tad overplayed as well but there’s no denying the exhilarating power of Idina Menzel‘s vocal performance or the soaring music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, which come awfully close to rivaling the near-untouchable work of Disney juggernauts Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.

The 2014 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”
“Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights”
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”
“Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”
“Glory” from “Selma”

Won: “Glory” from “Selma”

Should’ve won: “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”

At last, a year without a clunker of a nominee!

2014 Best Original Song is actually a pretty remarkable affair, a year in which R&B A-listers John Legend and Common scored “Selma” its sole Oscar victory; Diane Warren garnered her seventh nomination in the category for “Beyond the Lights”; country legend Glen Campbell earned a nomination for his swan song; “All in the Family” alumna and child star Danielle Brisebois nabbed a nomination for composing a tune for “Begin Again”; and, well, the fifth nominee was “The Lego Movie,” which is just awesome.

With that said, “Glory” is one of the lesser efforts of this quintet, despite the unimpeachable talents of its composers. Legend’s vocal is, as always, very nice but the record veers a tad on the bombastic side and lacks the nuance that made “Selma” such a powerful experience. This was, of course, voters’ one opportunity to give the picture a consolation prize (unless it could somehow upset in Best Picture), so it was hardly a stunner when “Glory” triumphed.

The best of the five nominees is Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” an immensely poignant song. This in fact marked the country superstar’s second appearance in Best Original Song, after having performed the title track to “True Grit” (1969). While that tune was fine but fleeting, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” leaves an enormous impact.

The remaining three nominees each have a little something to write home about.

“Lost Stars” is about on-par with most Adam Levine efforts, which is to say it’s an agreeable piece of pop-rock. Likewise, “Grateful” has a rather generic sound – this isn’t one of Warren’s stronger efforts – though it’s lifted a bit by Rita Ora‘s strong vocal work. And “Everything Is Awesome” is a pitch-perfect fit for its film but isn’t nearly as fun to just listen to, sans the film’s extraordinary visuals.

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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. “Let It Go” from “Frozen” (2013)
34. “Flashdance…What a Feeling” from “Flashdance” (1983)
35. “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” from “Arthur” (1981)
36. “I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006)
37. “Last Dance” from “Thank God It’s Friday” (1978)
38. “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas” (1995)
39. “Falling Slowly” from “Once” (2007)
40. “You Must Love Me” from “Evita” (1996)
41. “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)” from “Dick Tracy” (1990)
42. “Days of Wine and Roses” from “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962)
43. “For All We Know” from “Lovers and Other Strangers” (1970)
44. “All the Way” from “The Joker Is Wild” (1957)
45. “It Might As Well Be Spring” from “State Fair” (1945)
46. “The Last Time I Saw Paris” from “Lady Be Good” (1941)
47. “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” from “Here Comes the Groom” (1951)
48. “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” from “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” (1955)
49. “Skyfall” from “Skyfall” (2012)
50. “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart” (2009)
51. “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from “Hustle & Flow” (2005)
52. “It Goes Like It Goes” from “Norma Rae” (1979)
53. “Born Free” from “Born Free” (1966)
54. “Never on Sunday” from “Never on Sunday” (1960)
55. “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from “The Woman in Red” (1984)
56. “Up Where We Belong” from “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982)
57. “Three Coins in the Fountain” from “Three Coins in the Fountain” (1954)
58. “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from “Mary Poppins” (1964)
59. “Call Me Irresponsible” from “Papa’s Delicate Condition” (1963)
60. “Evergreen (Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’)” from “A Star Is Born” (1976)
61. “Al otro lado del río” from “The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004)
62. “Things Have Changed” from “Wonder Boys” (2000)
63. “Swinging on a Star” from “Going My Way” (1944)
64. “Into the West” from “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003)
65. “Glory” from “Selma” (2014)
66. “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” (2011)
67. “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3” (2010)
68. “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008)
69. “If I Didn’t Have You” from “Monsters Inc.” (2001)
70. “You’ll Be in My Heart” from “Tarzan” (1999)
71. “You Light Up My Life” from “You Light Up My Life” (1977)
72. “Gigi” from “Gigi” (1958)
73. “Sweet Leilani” from “Waikiki Wedding” (1937)
74. “The Continental” from “The Gay Divorcee” (1934)
75. “Buttons and Bows” from “The Paleface” (1948)
76. “Talk to the Animals” from “Doctor Dolittle” (1967)
77. “The Shadow of Your Smile” from “The Sandpiper” (1965)
78. “When You Believe” from “The Prince of Egypt” (1998)
79. “Say You, Say Me” from “White Nights” (1985)
80. “The Morning After” from “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972)
81. “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’

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

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 2000s, including ‘Falling Slowly,’ ‘Jai Ho’

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