To wit, here is my breakdown of the songs nominated for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture for 2023.
(SPOILER ALERT – this is some weak sauce.)
Ranking the Golden Globe nominated songs for 2023
No. 6 - “Peaches” from The Super Mario Bros. Movie
This is a gimmick song. It is high camp, and by Jack Black standards, it isn’t even good high camp. He has done so much better. He growls his off-key love note to the title princess over a fern bar piano. It is an incongruous meshing that you wouldn’t think could work. And it doesn’t. The only saving grace is that the entire thing is over in less than 90 seconds.
No. 5 - “Addicted to Romance” from She Came to Me
Sorry – I expect more from Bruce Springsteen. His Oscar-winning song “Streets of Philadelphia” is one of the greatest movie songs of the last fifty years. This one from a small movie that few saw, is just kind of mediocre. It’s one more tender piano ballad that starts off OK and just stays there. The addition of Patti Scialfa’s voice in the second verse doesn’t add much in the way of color. Plus, Bruce sounds like an 80-year-old grandpa here – and for the record, he is only a 74-year-old grandpa.
No. 4 - ”Dance the Night” from Barbie
One of three Barbie songs. This is very standard-issue Dua Lipa/Mark Ronson stuff. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s nothing especially interesting about it either. The swirling strings and quadruple-echoed choruses actually get a little annoying after a while.
No. 3 - “What I was Made For” from Barbie
This is actually a very well-written song. If I were giving a Song of the Year award, this might win. But its execution highlights the most confounding excesses of Billie Eilish and Finneas. It begins with Eilish’s breathy vocals over a tender piano. And then it gets breathier and more ethereal. It never gains actual power as the vocals get swallowed up by soap-bubble production. It’s too bad because the song is an excellent composition and fits the movie better than any other song this year.
No. 2 - “I’m Just Ken” from Barbie
Ryan Gosling is a passable singer, but he does know how to sell a message. This song, which is far less ambitious than Barbie’s ode to self-doubt mentioned above, at least builds and has a genuine sense of drama about it. It starts off with the same tinkling piano that opens so many ballads these days, but it has somewhere to go. This is one of the highlights of the movie.
No. 1 - “Road to Freedom” from Rustin
Lenny Kravitz delivers a stirring anthem in this movie about Bayard Rustin. It may not rival the best of this particular sub-genre, but it is a very good entry. The presence of Trombone Shorty gives the number some extra spice, and the arrival of the chorus in the final minute – though predictable – is undeniably stirring. This may not be a great song, but it is very good. And that’s good enough to win this year.
The movie with the most memorable music this year was Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City. Now I have to admit, I am not a Wes Anderson fan, and I thought Asteroid City was basically a pretentious mess. But it did have great music. Most of it – like the fabulous “Last Train to San Fernando” – is not original to the movie. But Anderson did co-write the original “Dear Alien (Who Art in Heaven)” and though gimmicky, it is a far better song than Jack Black’s “Peaches.”
And personally, my choice for best movie song – which combines being a pretty good song, and fitting the movie both perfectly and productively, is “Camp Isn’t Home” from the sweet, low-rent Chorus Line comedy Theater Camp. But no one asked me.