Ranking the 2014 Oscars’ 7 Musical Performances
Darlene Love steals the show at the 2014 Oscars
Never in contemporary times has there been a year where the Best Song category was so strong — and relevant to younger viewers, even — that the Oscars were actually glad to put the nominated tunes on the telecast. That didn't keep the show's producers from severely abridging most of the songs. But we've come a long way from the Debbie Allen production numbers of olde when the show has music fans actually looking forward to U2, Pharrell Williams, Karen O, P!nk, and Idina Menzel (or, as she's known to John Travolta, Adela Dazeem?).
They all acquitted themselves like winners, though some made a bigger impression on tech-award-wearied viewers than others. We reviewed the performances and ranked them from least to most galvanizing...
7. Karen O's "Moon Song." The song makes for a sweet aside in "Her," as Joaquin Phoenix and his software program get woozily romantic late at night. But it felt a bit wispy for the room in this context, whether we're talking the thousands inside Hollywood's Dolby Theatre or an impatient TV audience of hundreds of millions. Still, it got the most elegant possible rendering as Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs kicked off her shoes and sat alongside Vampire Weekend's guitar-plunking Ezra Koenig for the quietest moment that was not a death montage.
6. P!nk's "Over the Rainbow." If anyone were going to revive the Judy Garland classic, picking one of pop's more golden-throated thrushes of the moment was a smart pick on the Academy's part. And we all breathed a sigh of relief when we caught sight of P!nk's gown and realized there were no wires attached to send her flying into the rafters in homage to the "Wizard of Oz" tornado. That said, though, it wasn't altogether clear why there needed to be a 75th anniversary tribute to "Wizard," in an edition of the show otherwise skimpy on historical tributes. P!nk's reading of the song was strong enough but didn't feel particularly moving without any real raison d'être.
5. Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings." Midler could knock this ballad out of the park in her sleep, and she didn't do it any less justice than ever. But having her sing this funeral-favorite golden oldie after the In Memoriam tribute instead of during the montage kind of made it feel as if, after all that death, Oscar producers also wanted to kill time.