I’m late to the party as usual, but can I nominate “Jailhouse Rock” for another distinction besides having the greatest first two seconds?
What impresses me about the “Jailhouse Rock” number in the context of a movie musical, the performance on a prison set, is how it captures a master metaphor of rock music, adolescent yet universal: that music beguiles the time while we’re in captivity, that life’s sweet opportunity is surrounded by life’s cruel constraint. So what’s great about music with really loud snare hits is that it’s knocking with bravado on a prison door that won’t open for us; what’s great about a stomping four-beat is that it’s making the most of a confined space in lockdown; what’s great about a vocal tenaciously wailing on the blue third note is that it’s a free roar that knows it’s stuck.
Alex Romero’s choreography is apt. Though the jailbirds have been let out of their cells, everyone hops and twists within a cell-like tight space; there’s no dreamy balletic gliding or soaring, except in Elvis’s foray over the pitiful exercise equipment.
Shifty Henry said to Bugs “For Heaven’s sake
No one’s lookin’, now’s our chance to make a break”
Bugsy turned to Shifty and he said, “Nix nix
I wanna stick around awhile and get my kicks”
You see, even if we could escape our prison (the social pressure, the economic pressure, the death sentence) we wouldn’t want to! The rhythm of our prison bash is so groovy that it sways the guards’ billy clubs.
Some might prefer a more optimistic view of music’s role in our existence–that it triumphantly proves that the rope of life can be twisted at any time toward joy and enrichment rather than toward fear and frustration. I’m fine with that, even as an interpretation of “Jailhouse Rock.” Let’s think that way too.
 Come to think of it, isn’t this how the musicians and audience are stuck in their places in a normal show? Such a popular model of imprisonment-as-happy! Watch Prince’s exuberant club number “Baby, You’re A Star” with this idea in mind.
 A few more nominations:
FUNNIEST: “Dentist!,” Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
BEST PERSONATED: “Sweet Transvestite,” The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
MOST POSITIVE ENERGY: “Baby, I’m A Star,” Purple Rain (1984)
MOST POIGNANT: “Summer Love,” Grease (1978)
MOST INSPIRING: “Let The Sunshine In,” Hair (1969)
MOST UNEXPECTED: “You Were The Beat Of My Heart,” The Lure (2015)
A WEIRD 1957 COUNTERPOINT TO “JAILHOUSE ROCK”: “The Ritz Roll And Rock,” Fred Astaire in Silk Stockings (1957)