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Music Themed Oscars Fall Flat

One of the most anticipated moments of The 85th Academy Awards was Adele’s highly touted performance of her James Bond movie song “Skyfall.” The big moment arrived, we built to the chorus, and…the music practically drowned her out. Through no fault of her own, Adele turned in a performance that packed less than fifty percent of the punch that it should have.

This was only one of several glaring mishaps at this year’s Oscars. With the entire show carrying a music-at-the-movies theme, the Oscars telecast was lackluster at best and pitiful at worst.

You’re going to read a lot of discussions about the awards themselves, and I’ll leave that to other writers. Since the Oscars were supposedly themed toward music, I put my focus on the telecast itself. That said, while the actual awards presentations were largely what you’d expect, the in-between “entertainment” played like a comedy of errors. For starters, someone had the bright idea of putting the “live” orchestra in a remote location (namely, Capitol Studios) and basically piping the music into the hall. While this move didn’t have the synchronization problems you might expect, it proved to be a nightmare for the sound mixers, as the orchestra repeatedly drowned out anyone who might be attempting to speak (or sing) over the music. (Hence, the unfortunate Adele performance.) On top of that, apparently some wise guy decided to make the theme from “Jaws” the appointed “wrap-up” music when acceptance speeches ran long. While it was probably a very funny idea on paper, the audio mixing problems mentioned above made it just plain distracting.

Then there were the production numbers, most of which were bland and unimaginative. Again, apparently good ideas on paper that didn’t play well. The tribute to 50 years of James Bond was nothing short of disappointing—a poorly arranged video montage followed by a performance of “Goldfinger”—and that was it! Granted, Dame Shirley Bassey’s performance was one of the more redemptive moments of the night, but…really? That’s all you’re going to do to pay tribute to 50 years of Bond? It would have been a perfect opportunity to follow that performance up with Adele’s “Skyfall,” (and most people were probably looking for that), but the producers once again wasted the moment and put her performance far later in the show. This fragmented, hodgepodge approach dominated the entire show.

A little aside here—the one bright spot among the production numbers was the “Les Miserables” medley performed by the cast of the film. Even Russell Crowe’s howling couldn’t dampen it. If the other performances could have at least come close to that level, the Oscars would have been a presentable telecast. But nooo…

[Sigh] And then there was Seth McFarlane.

Okay, so he’s a little bit funny. Sometimes. But overall through the show, McFarlane’s delivery was stunted, awkward, and sometimes just downright offensive. Someone needs to tell this guy that framing a joke or gag in a “we-admit-this-is-tasteless” context does not make it less tasteless. The only thing worse about the telecast than Seth McFarlane’s jokes were the production numbers in which Seth McFarlane participated. (Let’s just say I never want to hear the words “We saw your boobs” sung on television again.) By the end of the show, even McFarlane himself seemed to be aware of the fiasco—but that didn’t stop him from missing key lines of his closing performance with Kristin Chenoweth.

All told, this year’s Oscars telecast played like a great idea that was very poorly executed, and the end result was a highly disappointing show that did NOT do justice to music in the movies at all. (Let’s face it—if you can make Adele look bad, it’s pretty bad.) I sincerely wish they could try this again, this time with someone at the helm who understands music in the movies a little better, and who could pull this off with a bit more continuity, at least. As it stands, in my view, the production team for this telecast (and the host) should be fired.

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About the Author


David Tillman is an independent composer/arranger whose primary work involves writing jingles for commercials for radio and television, with several film and television placements to his credit as well. David has a fascination for all things related to the music business and the music industry in general, an obsession which his wife finds to be mildly unhealthy at times. His personal tastes in music are in electronica and industrial rock, and include The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails (he loves that Trent Reznor is writing soundtracks!). When not in his office or in his man-cave, David enjoys skiing, hiking, the occasional game of golf, and sometimes just lounging by the pool. David lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles, CA.

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