We Belong Together

Oscar Medley Geekery

Ah, I love the taste of jargon on a rainy Sunday night - as promised (and only because I promised, because I'm ready to move on to another subject), my analysis of my Oscar medley:

The overall structure of my medley is AABA (my favorite!), with parts of "Coming Home" and "I See the Light" making up each A section.  Was it masochism that made me choose my two least favorite songs for the A section?  Not really - it was just convenient to use the first half of the verse of "Coming Home", which sets up the chord on which the chorus of "I See the Light" begins (the IV, what a useful little chord the subdominant is).  The choice was arbitrary, really.  I had unlimited options, and I was just fooling around, and finally had to go with something because I ran out of time.

I pinpointed out what bugs me so much about "I See the Light": I hate the melody.  Too much sol-fa-mi in the verse, too much la-ti-do in the chorus.  Insipid melody, paired with cloying Disney lyrics (maybe I'm descending into a crotchety, feline-fancying spinsterhood, but I've never liked sentimental lyrics).  Bleh.  All very subjective, of course.  Sometimes my commie-pinko self really likes a simple structure that anyone can grasp; other times I want to retch.  Obviously, this was the latter.

More objective observation: listen to the chorus (about 0:50).  The first three phrases start with the same three notes and the word "and".  Three times in a row, really?   At least they have the decency to reharmonize each phrase.  I will give kudos to them for resolving the III7 to the minor vi chord on "sky is blue" (blue = sad, remember?), and from the iii to the major IV on "...world has somehow shifted".  Yay!  Shifting to love!  Major chord, shaft of light.

Making lemonade: the offending phrase occurs three times.  So does the A section.   So I used each harmonization/melodic variation once. 

I used the chorus of "We Belong Together" as the bridge of my medley, and that is how I discovered that a chorus does not a bridge make.  A chorus is a destination.  A bridge is just supposed to be... a bridge.  It's like driving on an actual bridge - even if you're enjoying the view, you always have in the back of your mind that you're heading somewhere else - New Jersey, for example, or the final A section.  So my bridge didn't quite work, at least not as a bridge.  Oh well.  Side note - I think this is the same reason the cheater bridge from "Coming Home" doesn't work for me - it's also chorus material. 

I would like to have done "We Belong Together" a little more justice in playing it.  I sort of did a stride version that - had I executed it a little better - I might have liked.  I liked that song.  Glad it won. 

The final A smacks of desperation (mine): I stole the turnaround chord progression from my "bridge", and borrowed a block of boomchuck cheese from musical theater for the "Coming Home" half of the A section, so I could give the poor, tired ballad a little variation in the harmony and feel.  Tritone sub, railroad tracks into the "I See the Light" bit, then the tag -

- oh yeah - which brings me to "If I Rise".  I liked the song's main riff, and the production, but the vocal melody didn't lend itself to being used in a solo piano medley.  I only used the instrumental riff that begins the song.  This was my second favorite of the four songs, so I tried to make up for using so little of it by using it at the beginning of the medley and to seal it up at the end.

And the Oscar goes to...

..."We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3, words and music by Randy Newman.

Yay!  The up-tempo won!  I have to confess I was rooting for this one to win.   

I play for a singing competition that is basically drunk-live American Idol, and one week the contestants had to sing a song that had won the Academy Award.  

It. Was. The. Longest. Night. Of. My. Life. 

That is how I learned that ballads are often favored for Oscar songs.  I guess there's something cinematic about a deeply-moving ballad? 

Anyway, I like Randy Newman's quirky voice, and I like the bass riff and the horn arrangment, and I'm more than thrilled that there's one more up-tempo to choose from in the realm of Oscar-winning songs.