Mike’s Favorite Original Songs of the Decade (90-81)
This was probably the list I was most excited to create when I came up with the idea of all these ‘Decade’ lists. It’s the most immediately gratifying. The songs are all right there to listen to and appreciate.
One of my favorite things to do each year (before they tried to take it away from us with that shortlist bullshit) was go through the list of all the eligible songs for Best Original Song at the Oscars and then figure out which ones I liked best. So I already had a giant pool of songs to work from, and then all I had to do was go in and look for any others that may have not been submitted or eligible, etc. And after that it was just making a playlist and figuring out what order they were going in. Which, I’ve gotta tell you, if you’ve never tried it… do it. It’s great. This is now a playlist on my phone that I listen to occasionally because it’s just great songs from movies.
Anyway, this is a list of my 200 favorite original songs from the decade in film. I was pleased that I could get to 200 here because there actually were that many (and more) that I liked enough to deem worthy of one of these lists. We’re gonna post it in chunks of ten, the way we’ve posted all the other lists. Only this one has been slowly been rolled out over the past couple of months, one each day. So really this is just cleaning all that up and putting it all in one place.
So here are my favorite original songs from the films of 2010-2019:
90. “We Belong Together,” from Toy Story 3
This song is joy personified. How can you not smile when you hear the beginning of this song? And also, consider this — this song appears right at the end credits of this movie. Right after we saw the toys basically accept death and almost go into the fire, and then, after that was over, willingly leave Andy, who they spent almost two decades with and say goodbye to that chapter of their lives. So by this point, we’re all weeping. But they bring you right back around with this joyous celebration of this franchise, with all the great extra scenes and outtakes and things that are just wonderful. And of course they really hit the home run later in the credits by paying off Buzz’s ‘Spanish mode’ with the Gipsy Kings doing ‘Hay un amigo en mi’, which… I don’t know if there are that many better payoffs this entire decade than that one.
89. “Lost Stars,” from Begin Again
The forgotten John Carney film. Which is funny, because it’s not like Sing Street and Once are that much out there that people are gonna have widely known both of those. But for people who do know those films, they don’t really know this one. And that’s because this is his one big ‘Hollywood’ film. It’s got Keira and Mark Ruffalo and the Weinstein Company produced it (which I suspect is why no one ever saw it). While Once is very much this little indie musical, and Sing Street is more just about the kids making the band, this is very much a ‘plot’ movie. Mark Ruffalo is a down-on-his-luck music executive who finds Keira, a singer-songwriter, and decides he’s gonna help her become a success. Sort of the ‘this is my last shot’ kind of thing. Jerry Maguire… you’ve seen this movie before. But the one thing the movie does do very right (and it is quite a solid movie in its own right) is this song, which is just gorgeous. Adam Levine performs the ‘credits’ version, but the one that appears within the film is sung by Keira, and is the one that I much prefer. Because it just feels much more authentic and less… studio. It’s a really lovely song that was nominated for an Oscar, though very much overlooked by all the other nominees that year.
Also, fun fact: the guy who co-wrote this song is the same guy who wrote one of the essential songs of my childhood, The New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give.” So now you know that on top of having this wonderful song in your life.
88. “Come Alive,” from The Greatest Showman
This is our first Greatest Showman song, isn’t it? Good. That should illustrate just how good all the songs in this movie are. It’s funny… the movie came out and had the stink of disaster about it, and then it made a bunch of money and people actually kinda liked it. I think that ultimately they messed up with it, because what they should have done was make it a stage show first. Which I know is hard to do and if it failed, that’s arguably worse than a failed movie. But, if you have a successful show, that allows you to build your musical out further and not have to do what they did here, which is cut the film within an inch of its life. No original film musical should only be 100 minutes long. Not one with the scope of this film. So the film feels really rushed and in a lot of ways is very forgettable. But the one thing that does stick out, especially when you listen to them on their own, are the songs. This is going to be a stage show at some point, and it’s because all the songs really hold up and are perfectly designed for the stage.
To get into the song in specific… it’s the big ‘circus’ song. The one that montages (every song montages over something in this movie) over the circus becoming a success. It’s a very fun song. Not my favorite, but it’s really good, and you can just imagine this being done on the stage with all sorts of moving props and trapezes and circus stuff flying about. It would be amazing.
87. “Break Away,” from Anna and the Apocalypse
This is the first song in the film, the one that introduces all the characters. It sets up all the emotional arcs that are gonna happen over the course of the film… you know, when the zombies and shit aren’t happening. It’s a great ensemble song that really showcases the talents of the cast. It’s a terrific song.
86. “Let Go,” from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
I love this song. We’re getting to the top of the songs from this film. This is definitely one of my favorites from this soundtrack. It’s got that really smooth beat and Beau Young Prince has a great flow over the whole thing.
85. “The Other Side,” from The Greatest Showman
This is a fantastic idea for a song — Jackman (as Barnum) is trying to get financial backing for his show, so he’s appealing to Zac Efron, a man born into wealth who doesn’t like upper crust society. So he’s telling him, “Come on, piss off your parents, buy into the circus. They’ll hate it.” So the whole thing becomes a give and a take, where Jackman’s trying to convince him, while Efron is basically negotiating his end. And then of course, the song becomes a literal negotiation by the end, which is also pretty terrific. It’s the perfect song in a way, because it furthers the plot and is just a good song. This is the stuff musicals are made of.
84. “No Dames!” from Hail, Caesar!
This scene is a masterpiece. It’s perfect. It’s meant to be a Gene Kelly-type musical number from the 50s, and you just get it immediately. Plus, the song is just amazing… the perfect song for a homoerotic movie about sailors. “No Dames”? Perfect. Because they’re lamenting that there aren’t gonna be any women out on the sea, but also… you get it. The sexual innuendo is just brilliant. It’s the perfect parody song. It’s perfect for the ‘mermaids got no gams’ line alone. But then you have the dancing breakdown in the middle, which is also quite wonderful. This is the kind of song where you need the context of the movie to really understand why it’s so high on the list. But this sequence is just — it may be the best sequence in the entire film.
83. “Diggin’ My Grave,” from A Star Is Born
Yeah, there we go. Our first (but definitely not last) Star Is Born song that involves Bradley Cooper, or at least is part of the portion of the film that involves Gaga performing with Bradley Cooper. Which are the greatest parts of the soundtrack. This one in particular is one of the more underrated ones, which stands to reason. Something has to get less notice than all the others when they’re all so good. But this one in particular tends to get forgotten amidst everything else. And it’s great. It’s got that simple guitar opening and just the two of them singing for the first minute until the rest of the band comes in. And then there’s a great guitar solo in it… it’s just a great rock song.
82. “Get Back Up Again,” from Trolls
That’s right kids, Trolls is on the list. And not for the song you think is gonna be there. This song… it stuck out to me as I was watching the movie. It’s really charming. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that Anna Kendrick is singing it. And the rest has to do with the fact that the guys who wrote this song also did the La La Land and Greatest Showman songs. So they know their way around a great and catchy tune. The chorus is just so good. It’s hard not to like this one.
81. “Who Can You Trust,” from Spy
THEY MADE A JAMES BOND SONG.
You don’t make a James Bond song unless you know what you’re doing. It’s not done often (Sonia Jones in Life of Brian, Weird Al in Spy Hard), but when it is, people come correct. This one… holy shit. This is when I knew this movie was actually gonna be really good, as opposed to the usual Melissa McCarthy fare. This song could be a James Bond song, it’s that good. It’s almost too good for this movie, which is what makes it so perfect. This is one of those songs you might have dismissed since it came out, but listen to it again — holy shit, right? That’s a legitimately great vocal performance and just a fantastic all-around song. And it’s five minutes. Which is incredible. They knew they had a great one here so they let it play all the way out. Good for them.
I’ll also point out, this point in the list is where you’re gonna start to see songs where you go, “Yeah, wow, that’s great. How come that’s not higher?” And trust me. When you start to see what’s gonna come after all these songs… you’ll realize why.
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