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Five for Friday: Best Original Songs

This Sunday's Golden Globes unofficially launch the 2017 award season. In the weeks and months ahead, we'll welcome the Grammy Awards and the Academy Awards. Though the nominations for the latter arrive later this month, this year's Golden Globes have a decidedly pop feel. Stevie Wonder and Justin Timberlake count themselves among the nominees. Wonder, in fact, already has a Golden Globe to his name, a trophy he snared in the mid-80s for "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from the film The Woman in Red. This year, his collaboration with Ryan Tedder, "Faith," from the animated film Sing, will compete against works from Moana, Trolls, La La Land, and Gold. For this week's Five for Friday, we look at some of the most memorable Best Original Songs – past and present – recognized by the Globes.

Justin Timberlake, "Can't Stop the Feeling!"
Arguably the biggest pop hit of 2016, Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling!" anchors a surprisingly weird soundtrack to the animated film Trolls. The slinky and slick electro-pop number crackles with finger snaps and a light-stepping disco groove, its synths zooming and soaring with a rainbow-ready brightness. The song teams Timberlake with producer extraordinaire Max Martin – the Swedish pop wiz who has worked with everyone from Britney Spears to Taylor Swift – and represents a slight departure for the former teen pop star, whose recent works possess a vintage soul feel. "Can't Stop the Feeling!" is more of a magic carpet ride, a song full of sparkles so bright, it seems to foster a sense of weightlessness.

Berlin, "Take My Breath Away"
Top Gun was released in 1986, and it's doubtful a year has gone by since without this Golden Globe-winning slow-dance scorcher having been heard at a prom or a wedding in the United States. The calming, patient vocals of Terri Nunn feel dream-like in nature, caressing the melody rather than leading it. But that's not the only secret weapon. Electronic music great Giorgio Moroder, who recently shot back into fame for his work with Daft Punk, composed the music. If Nunn's vocals put you in a quixotic trance, Moroder's arrangement takes the song into more otherworldly territory. A rubber-band-like bass, strangely unhurried, provides the melodic hook, and synths crest and fall like waves on a waterbed.

Isaac Hayes, "Theme from Shaft"
This funk R&B staple reached the top of the charts, won an Academy Award, but came up short at the Golden Globes, losing to Johnny Mercer and Marvin Hamlisch's "Life is What You Make It" from Kotch. No disrespect to the latter, a grand orchestral number, but Hayes' "Theme from Shaft" remains one of the coolest, sexiest, and mischievous movie tunes around. The trumpet says this song is refined, while the hip-shaking wah-wah guitar effects imply something more lecherous. Like a vintage velvet suit, in the right setting, this song never goes out of style. Credit the deep, late-night vocals of Hayes, who gets caught in a playful give-and-take with back-up singers that cut him off just when he's about to get R-rated.

Dolly Parton, "9 to 5"
Another Golden Globe runner-up, this one losing out to the glorious disco-shouter "Fame," "9 to 5" illustrates the sturdy, everlasting, and spirited appeal of the country-bluegrass legend. With a tick-tock rhythm and urgent, brawny piano, "9 to 5" sparks with a get-up-and-go energy as well as a frustrated-with-it-all attitude. The shove-it-to-the-boss tone appeals to anyone who's ever had to make a paycheck stretch, and Parton, in exactly three minutes, captures all the frustrations – as well as the workplace camaraderie – of having to punch in on a daily basis (see the brassy lyrics paired the call-and-response harmonies). The pop ditty also manages another feat: It expands the boundaries of country music in that its funky bass and swinging horns work equally well on Broadway as they do at the local bar.

Bob Dylan, "Things Have Changed"
A latter-day standout from 2016's Nobel Laureate, this smoky, dusty tune from Wonder Boys took both the Golden Globe and Academy Award. Musically, the tone is that of a borderline road song – weary, worn, and aged, with a brushed, shuffling beat and a cold, rootsy guitar. "Don't get up gentlemen, I'm only passing through," Dylan casually sings, driving home the narrator's transitory nature. Thematically, Dylan is at his most cynically sharp, scenically flashing from a devilish opening scene of a lover on his lap to soon ticking off regrets and life lessons to eventually not having a care in the world. This is the sort of song someone of only a certain stature could write: It looks death in the eyes, reminisces about an early romance, and gradually comes to grips with one's own mortality. "I used to care," Dylan sings, "but things have changed."

January 6, 2017

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