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Adele's hopes for best song Oscar shouldn't 'Skyfall'

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At least Seth MacFarlane knows the score. The host of this Sunday's Oscars is also nominated for one -- for best original song, "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" (music by Walter Murphy, lyrics by MacFarlane) from the comedy "Ted" --but he has not prepared an acceptance speech.

"You know, I know we're going to lose to Adele," he said.

True dat, to use an expression as old as Adele's rule of the music charts.

Adele's honors continue rolling in, deep. The best-selling artist of 2011, when he acclaimed "21" album was released, as well as 2012, earlier this week she won the best single award for "Skyfall" at the Brit Awards.

Her Oscars competition is thin. Seth knows, we all know it. Adele's a sure thing. Right?

Maybe.

The last time a Bond theme was nominated for original song was Sheena Easton's performance of "For Your Eyes Only" in 1981. Since then, the Academy sometimes has done strange things in this category ("It's Hard Out There for a Pimp," ahem), and Bond movies have a bit of a bias in Hollywood (to wit, "Skyfall's" lack of other major nominations).

Adele's recording of the "Skyfall" theme is classy and smoldering -- everything a Bond theme should be. If the original song Oscar were for performance, Adele should clear another spot in her trophy annex.

But the Oscar is presented to the best song, and even though the big-name performers help sell a tune Academy voters are supposed to be choosing the best composition. In that light, "Skyfall" isn't necessarily a bullseye.

Bond themes are their own category. Most of them sound like every other one -- that's kind of the point. "Skyfall" was remarkable largely because of that fact. It's sultry, slow-burn sound hearkens back to the more classic Bond-theme era, before the franchise tried to electrify things in the last several years with some real misfires such as Madonna's dark, electronic "Die Another Day" (2002) and Chris Cornell's ghastly, shrieking "You Know My Name" from "Casino Royale" (2006).

"Skyfall" is a triumphant Bond theme, but outside that niche it's not the most gripping melody, dramatic song structure or engaging lyric.

Fortunately, it doesn't exactly have a lot of competition.

Here are the nominees for the original song Oscar this year:

"Before My Time" from "Chasing Ice"
Scarlett Johnason, performer; J. Ralph, music and lyrics

Actually, this is my favorite as far as composition -- and, to surprising degree, performance -- goes. A smart lyric neatly applied to its place at the end of this environmental documentary ("Just a taste of things to come..."), melancholy in all the right places, spacious like an ice cavern -- it's a haunting, well-crafted beauty that should be the only compositional competition here. Definitely downloadable.

"Everybody Needs a Best Friend" from "Ted"
Norah Jones, performer; Walter Murphy, music; Seth MacFarlane, lyrics

A winking big-band glide from a comedy. No chance, even with the beloved Jones.

"Pi's Lullaby" from "Life of Pi"
Bombay Jayashri, performer; Mychael Danna, music; Bombay Jayashri, lyrics

A pleasant, wispy Tamil melody that hardly holds together as a complete song.

"Skyfall" from "Skyfall"
Adele, performer; Adele and Paul Epworth, music and lyrics

You read about the Billboard charts now including YouTube views? This is nearly up to 45 million.

"Suddenly" from "Les Misérables"
Hugh Jackman, performer; Claude-Michel Schönberg, music;Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil, lyrics

The snooze-button co-hosting duties of Jackman and Anne Hathaway are too fresh in Oscar voters' minds. And "Les Miz" has gotten enough attention for one lifetime.


Comparisons of Adele's "Skyfall" to Dame Shirley Bassey -- the voice behind themes to "Goldfinger," "Diamonds Are Forever" and "Moonraker" -- have been thick and warranted. Thus, Bassey is scheduled to perform during Sunday's ceremony, no doubt adding her usual panache to a planned 007 tribute during the show. This will be Bassey's Oscars debut, amazingly.

The best Bassey revival, for my money, occurred in 1997 when electronica duo Propellerheads (who themselves had previously worked on a James Bond tribute album) landed the legendary singer for a this groovy single, "History Repeating":


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Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on February 22, 2013 6:00 AM.

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