Last year I took a look (and listen) at the eligible original songs. It was a pretty satisfying endeavor with some gems and otherwise interesting tunes in the list of 59. I’ll even occasionally revisit my 2007 Oscar songs Rhapsody playlist.

So I happily decided to try it again in 2008. Yikes. This year’s crop of 49 is a pretty shabby group. And fully 22% come from High School Musical 3: Senior Year alone.

This year we have youtube embedding capability. To keep the post from being dozens of bandwidth-draining clips, I will just embed the ones I think should be experienced while the rest will merely be linked.

The Best

Bruce Springsteen contributes the title song to The Wrestler. It plays as the film fades to black from its highly emotional climax and into the credits. It’s perfect for the moment and a terrific song on its own. A sure nominee and the front-runner for the win.

Slumdog Millionaire‘s pulsating music provides a great backing to a vibrant story. Both of its entries would make a terrific nomination. “O… Saya” adds M.I.A.’s flair.

And “Jai Ho” (A.R. Rahman ft. Sukhvinder Singh, Tanvi Shah & Mahalaxmi Iyer) is the number for the big Bollywood dance at the end. I can imagine some sweet telecast performances for both.

“Down to Earth” (Peter Gabriel) also provides an appropriate end to a film as it moves into the credits. It feels like it has the right musical tone, if that makes sense. Not a bad song on its own either. The credits in WALL-E are damn neat, by the way.

And two fun ones: Adam talked about it earlier, but how terrific would it be to see Jason Segel bust out “Dracula’s Lament” from Forgetting Sarah Marshall on that Oscar stage?

And if not that, how about “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” from Hamlet 2? Funny, catchy tune. And a Jesus performer on the telecast would be awesome.

The Other Noteworthy

Those were all the good songs? Yes. It’s been a tough slog.

I love me some Regina Spektor, so even a middling effort that gets her some attention is fine by me. “The Call” from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a middling effort.

But not as middling as a contribution from another lady I like a lot, Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley fame, the performer behind “Barking at the Moon” from Bolt. She was in The Wizard though, so she’s no stranger to the Oscars. What? The Wizard was terrible? Nevermind.

There’s another song from Bolt that’s a good bit better, not half bad really, from current superstar Miley Cyrus called “I Thought I Lost You” that wouldn’t be a bad nomination. Hopefully John Travolta would sing on stage!

Another Way to Die” got some notoriety as a Bond theme performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys but it’s even worse than Quantum of Solace.

“Gran Torino” scored a Golden Globe nod. Clint Eastwood and Jamie Cullum team up like they did for last year’s Grace is Gone. That title track was terrific. This is not. Oh, and Clint sings. In his character’s voice. He sounds like a muppet. Must be heard to be believed.

The Golden Globes also gave “Once in a Lifetime” from Cadillac Records some love. Maybe if it gets an Oscar nod Beyonce can sing “Single Women” instead.

The Missing

Before I get into the rest of this forgettable list, where is the Pineapple Express title track from Huey Lewis and the News?? It’s not great, but it’s quintessential Huey Lewis, delightfully literal to the film, and full of pot references.

The Rest

There aren’t even any songs bad enough to highlight for being horrible. It’s all just mediocre.

There seems to be a lot of internet love for “Little Person” (Deanna Story) from Synecdoche, New York. Why? Maybe it fits the film particularly well?

By the Boab Tree” (Angela Little) from Australia. Yawn.

Emmylou Harris fits the word “Rodanthe” into “In Rodanthe” an impressive number of times. Oh, the song’s from Nights in Rodanthe.

Did you know Mariah Carey was in a movie? Called Tennessee? No one else did either. She sings! See “Right to Dream

Zooey Deschanel teams up with a band named Von Iva to create a fake band called Munchausen by Proxy for Yes Man and contributed two eligible songs. They’re both heavily electronic. “Yes Man” isn’t hot but at least “Sweet Ballad” chants “whore” over and over again. The latter is at least a little intriguing. Note: the second link leads to video of Zooey singing, for those of you who like that sort of thing (Jared).

Traveling Song” ( from Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. God no.

For a moderately better hip hop song, check out “Waterline” (Sage Francis) from Pride and Glory.

Up to Our Nex” (Robyn Hitchcock): A song from Rachel Getting Married is in here! It’s not a 15 minute samba piece. But it still manages to capture the movie pretty well, or at least part of it.

I usually like African music, but “Djoyigbe” from Pray the Devil Back to Hell (Angelique Kidjo & Blake Leyh) does very little for me. I appreciate that it’s different though.

The title track from Trouble the Water has an interesting back story as it’s performed by the documentary’s subject, a woman (Kim Rivers performing as Black Kold Madina) caught up in Hurricane Katrina. But… no.

Nothing But the Truth is based on the Valerie Plume case. Would you expect it to have a good song? You are probably correct. Coby Jones sings the title song.

The Story” from My Blueberry Nights is like most other Norah Jones songs: a total snoozer.

Did you know Danny Elfman can sing? He does in Wanted in a song called “The Little Things!” It’s not good!

Neither is the utterly unoriginal “Count on Me” (Lucy Schwartz) from The Women. You can make an inference about it from the title and you would be exactly right.

Drive” (Rachel Harrell” comes from the Sundance Best Doc winner Fuel. It’s a film about energy and a song about driving. It’s no “I Need to Wake Up” from An Inconvenient Truth. Kinda bland. It’s interesting there are so many songs from documentaries on this list though.

The Musicals

High School Musical 3: Senior Year submitted all eleven damn original songs. I didn’t feel any particular connection to any and I’m sure as hell not researching who sings each. Thank God new rules prevent no more than two nominees from one film.

The Boys Are Back” “Can I Have This Dance” “High School Musical” “I Want it All” “Just Getting Started” “Just Wanna Be With You” “A Night to Remember” “Now or Never” “Right Here, Right Now” “Scream” “Walk Away

A generation of kids are going to be very disappointed when they finally get to high school.

We finish with Repo!: The Genetic Opera, a rock opera about a dystopian world where organ transplants are repossessed when their recipients cannot pay. My favorite critic Ben Lyons called it the worst movie of the year. From the songs I’ve heard it sounds like a very strange viewing experience to say the least. If “Chase the Morning” is among the best songs in the film it must also be a very painful listening experience. “Chromaggia” is an opera piece mostly in Italian.

Finally, a clip for “Zydrate Anatomy” which probably explains the absurdity of this film.

My Choices

One would have to imagine that this would be a three nomination year given this weak slate. I say go with Bruce, a Slumdog tune, and “Dracula’s Lament” or “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” for some fun. I wouldn’t be too upset with a Jenny Lewis or Regina Spektor appearance either.

The Undiscoverables

I never could find the following:

“Broken and Bent” (Peter Salett) from Role Models

“It Ain’t Right” (Etta James) and “Too Much Juice” (Chaka Khan) from Dark Streets.

“Forever” (Bebel Gilberto) from The Killed Sister Dorothy.

“Di Notte” from The Lodger. It looks like this movie doesn’t come out til February anyway.

“Code of Silence” from Save Me.

“The Code of Life” from My Dream. Apparently a performance film from the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe? And I gather this song is performed by a Uighur girl. Okay.