Mike’s Favorite Original Songs of the Decade (40-31)
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:
40. “The Greatest Show,” from The Greatest Showman
It’s a really great way to start a show. It’s got the repetitive chants, and then builds to that great chorus. What I love about all the songs in this movie is that you want to be negative about them and find a way to downgrade them, and even just looking at the title, you wanna go, “Should that really be here?” And then you start listening to it, and you can’t. Because the songs are just fantastic. I tried to put this lower, find songs that would go above it and ultimately in this spot. Couldn’t do it. It’s a great song.
39. “Life’s a Happy Song,” from The Muppets
It’s hard not to smile when this one comes on. This was the song of this movie. The whole musical number around it — they knew. It’s just a joyous celebration of how great it is to be alive. And who can’t get behind that?
38. “The Riddle of the Model,” from Sing Street
How can you not love this song? That whole video they throw together in the alleyway. It’s perfect. What’s great about it is that, apart from the joke being that it’s just kids in an alleyway with costumes, having no idea how to make a music video… the song is actually kinda good. The whole sequence is just wonderful. Plus the notion that the only reason the song exists is because he has a crush on a girl and invites her to be in the music video for his band, so he creates the band and writes the song just to be around her. It’s wonderful.
37. “You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way,” from Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
This song is so good. I remember when I saw this movie — and the movie was just fine — and the end credits rolled. And because of where I was and what the situation was, I had to sit through the entirety of the credits. And this song came on. And I thought, “Oh wow, this is better than that entire movie was.” Because it’s a terrific song. It’s a beautiful reflection of the relationship in the film, just powerfully sung by Elvis Costello.
36. “Maybe It’s Time,” from A Star Is Born
Sure, it’s on the nose and reflects the narrative of the film and the arc of his character. But you know what? That doesn’t make it any worse of a song. It’s a really well-written song and really well-sung by Bradley Cooper. This is a perfect song — it covers character and provides a nice moment in the film as he performs for the performers at the drag club while he waits for Gaga to change. And it allows her to see him perform up close and personal, and see how much soul he puts into his music, which really is what provides their connection more than anything else.
35. “The Moon Song,” from Her
How beautiful is this song? It’s so great that you almost forget that it’s a song performed by a man and his operating system girlfriend. The simplicity of it is what’s so great. It sounds like something you’d just pull together while sitting in bed with your significant other, just messing around. Plus that siren at the beginning makes it seem like it was actually composed while sitting in an apartment at night while life goes on outside. It’s perfect for the song, which is meant to be a sort of bubble that the blissfully happy couple exist in.
34. “Love Is an Open Door,” from Frozen
This is a perfect Disney song. The ‘falling in love with the prince’ song. It’s lively, it’s catchy, it’s just the right amount of funny while also having some great harmonizing and really cuts out a lot of unnecessary dialogue stuff. And really, that’s the genius of a great Disney song — they boil down plots and character arcs into about three minutes of song. In this song’s case, two minutes. It’s interesting how a lot of the early songs in this movie are really short. There’s really only about two songs in the movie that last longer than three minutes. The songs really do a lot in a little amount of time, and are really well-written alongside that.
33. “Glory,” from Selma
You know what’s great about this song? You know it’s great immediately. All it takes are two words from John Legend and one piano chord. And you get it. You feel the power in the song and all that it represents. And then Common just destroys the verses. You feel the drive in this song, moving forward to that chorus. This is what film music is all about.
32. “Over the Love,” from The Great Gatsby
This is the best song in Gatsby. It’s not even close for me. It’s just beautifully written and orchestrated and sung. You really feel the longing for the characters to one another. It’s more Daisy, of course, but still, it’s there. Everything that’s unsaid between the two of them is all in this song. Florence just has the absolute perfect voice for this. Her voice absolutely soars in this. When I think of this movie and the music in it, this is the song I go to. It’s such a powerful entity.
31. “Black Eyes,” from A Star Is Born
What I love about this song isn’t just the song itself, but also how it functions in the film. This is how the film opens. Bradley Cooper walks in stage — we don’t even see his face during most of this, if not all of it — he walks out, picks up a guitar and just starts rocking. And the song, mixed with how he’s shot the whole time, just perfectly introduces his character. He’d already refused the ear plugs, which become a central part of the character throughout the film, but also you just get the sense that this guy only exists while on stage and otherwise doesn’t like himself when he’s not there, making music. He pours all his anger and rage and everything inside him into this song, and into his performance on stage. And that, to me, is such a powerful moment to start the film with. Plus, the song fucking rocks. It’s hard to have a song be as perfect for its film and in its film as this one is.
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