Academy Awards: When New Songs Happen to Established Musicals

Mike Wood | February 13, 2013 5:30 am

It’s Oscar season, and we know that means everyone and their mother is paying more mind to the movies and those attention-whore actors nominated for big awards than the music. Everyone except us, that is — because we can’t stop thinking about the music! Yes, we’re as tired as anybody of short-shorn Anne Hathaway’s endless media crusade for Oscar gold, but the ubiquitous pixie did lead us to ponder more important questions like: When big-screen adaptations of established musicals (like Les Miserables) get new music written specifically for the silver screen, is the new song any good? Is it necessary? Would the film be better served with this addition or without it? (Yes, we ask the important questions. Told you.)

Well, five such songs that were not a part of the source material’s original stage production are our focus today. Each tune was concocted solely for their big screen adaptations. All these were also nominated for a Best Original Song Academy Award (so at least somebody thinks they’re good). But we wonder (and ask and answer!): is this song really good enough to be included, let alone good enough to garner a nomination?

“Suddenly” from the film adaptation of Les Misérables, 2012

Stealing the spotlight away from Anne’s Best Supporting Actress campaign — only for a moment, promise! — we need to call your attention to this short, simple and sweet song tucked into the beloved musical to lend some sentiment to Jean Valjean’s love for a young Cosette. Original players are in place here (music by Claude-Michel Schönberg with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil), and the song fits. No doubt about it. But here’s the rub: it’s just not needed. More than 60 million people have seen the stage show in all its many incarnations worldwide, and nobody ever needed “Suddenly” then to understand the story. So we don’t need it now. We’re not cold-hearted; we get the sentiment behind it. But the less Hugh Jackman sings, the better.

Should The Song Have Been Included: No.

2012 Oscar Winner: Find out February 24th.

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