Best Of 2016: Original Song and Original Score

I’m starting my Best Of 2016 lists officially today. With the Oscar nominations coming up next week, I have a lot of ground to cover in a short period of time. Today, I’m highlighting my five favorite Original Scores and my five favorite original songs of the year.

5) Hell Or High Water- Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
How do you write a score to a modern western? You rewrite the rules, and throw out any preconceived notions about what a ‘western’ score is. Hell Or High Water is one of a few films this year that had an incredibly complimentary score, that helped build the tension in just the right places.

4) Passengers- Thomas Newman
Say what you want about the film, but I thought the music composed for this film was great. It was one of the things I noticed during the film, and when I left, I thought to myself that I would love to just sit down and listen to that score in the background.

3) The Secret Life Of Pets- Alexandre Desplat and Hans Zimmer
Normally this spot would go to a Disney movie, but really it was Illuminaton’s Pets that had an unusual, quirky score that I felt perfectly highlighted the film and felt unexpected and very welcome. Of course, Desplat and Zimmer are fantastic, and I’m sure that had a lot to do with it.

2) Moana- Mark Mancina, Lin Manuel-Miranda, and Opetaia Fo’i
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without a Disney opus. Just like all the Disney movies that came before it, Moana is great. I loved the island sounds, and even the music between the actual songs was good. But what is my favorite score of the year?

1) La La Land- Justin Hurwitz
Here, I loved the score even more than the songs. I thought the score balanced itself between paying homage, and also blazing a new trail. It showed that Hurwitz knew both where he had come from, and where the genre needs to go. It’s a brilliant score, possibly one of the best of all time. It’s the kind of soundtrack that will be played over and over for years to come.


5) The Great Beyond (Sausage Party)
This musical sequence might be one of the two best scenes in the film. It’s easy to throw away the song as being silly, or just fluff, but think about what it signifies. The film itself gives personification to food, and this film basically is a song about their deliverance. They believe they’re going to a greater place (heaven), but the harsh reality is that they will never get there.

4) To Find You (Sing Street)
There were a lot of great songs in Sing Street, just like there were in Moana and La La Land. However, this was my favorite of all the songs, and I don’t believe it’s eligible for an Oscar. I’m not sure if that means it’s not wholly original, or written specifically for the film, but I’m going out on a limb here because I loved the song, and I believe it to be somewhat original at least.

3) We Know The Way (Moana)
The first of two Moana songs on my list. I have “away away, we sail across the sea” stuck in my head on a daily basis. It’s the catchiest song on here, with a great chorus. Lin Manuel Miranda definitely is to thank for that.

2) Audition (La La Land)
I actually liked this more than City Of Stars. It’s such a quiet moment for Emma Stone in the movie, but it’s really her best scene. She does a great job with this song, and it is my pick for the best song from La La Land.

1) How Far I’ll Go (Moana)/I Am Moana (Moana)
It’s not really a tie, because I Am Moana is kind of a reprise of How Far I’ll Go. But it’s also the reason this is on top, because I love the original title already, but the emotional impact is carried into the reprise. It solves the problem I had with Frozen, in that there was a lot of setup, but no really good reprises. Miranda realizes the opportunity for the reprise to really hit home, and that’s what sends this song over the top. It becomes a song that can be used in multiple places in the film, and each time it seems to put more weight in the story and into the lead character. I can’t say that about any other song this year, which is why it is my favorite original song of 2016.

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