Best Original Song

Last year’s Best Original Song category had a dismal two (TWO!) nominations in a year that gave us such songs as the catchy “Hello Hello” from the piano man himself, Elton John (who has seen no love from the Academy since The Lion King in 1994) from Gnomeo and Juliet, a brand new (and beautifully haunting) song from The National, “Think You Can Wait,” from Win Win, and eleven new songs (any of which could have/should have been a contender) from Sigur Rós front-man Jónsi from We Bought a Zoo.

Luckily this year the Academy decided on a much more respectable number of songs (five of them!) pulled from a variety of film genres including a documentary (Chasing Ice), comedy (Ted), musical (Les Misérables), action (Skyfall), and adventure (Life of Pi) performed by a range of singers, including chart topping artists and even one actress.

An increased number of songs may be getting their moment in the spotlight this year, but only one will be left standing at the end of the big night. Read on as we turn up the volume on each of the nominees along with my prediction of the winner in red

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“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice, Music and Lyrics by J. Ralph; Performed by Scarlett Johanson and Joshua Bell

Why It Was Nominated:

Documentaries can run the risk of getting dismissed as “boring” to mass audiences; especially if the doc explores a subject matter those audiences are not necessarily interested in. But having a famous actor narrate them (Morgan Freeman has practically made a secondary career out of it) can help add a bit more interest to the genre and possibly catch the attention of new eyes. Chasing Ice took this idea one step further and enlisted actress Scarlett Johansson (yup – she’s a singer too!) to sing over the final moments of the film with the beautiful “Before My Time,” which captures the message of Chasing Ice while still leaving you with a sense of hope.

Why It Might Win:

Johanson may not be known for her singing, but upon hearing her it is clear she was not chosen due to name recognition alone. Johanson has a decent voice that is well used here as the raspy counter to the dramatic piano refrains and soaring strings from Joshua Bell. Plus the Academy has a history of awarding songs from moving documentaries, as was the case with Melissa Etheridge’s I Need to Wake Upfrom An Inconvenient Truth, which won Best Original Song back in 2006.

Why It Might Not Win:

Chasing Ice is certainly a moving film that shines a light on important (and ongoing) events in our environment, but it is a little known film and this is a little known song. Most people probably did not know Johansson sang before now and while the song works well enough as the final coda for the film, when it is compared to the other songs in this category, it sounds more like a well-produced demo for Johanson’s solo singing career than a Best Original Song winner.

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“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from Ted, Music by Walter Murphy; Lyrics by Seth MacFarlane; Performed by Nora Jones

Why It Was Nominated:

Ted may not seem like the kind of film you would expect to see recognized by the Academy, but this is not the first time a tune from a slightly crass comedy has been nominated (see: 1999’s Best Original Song nominee “Blame Canada” from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.) When listened to on its own, “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” certainly has a place among the more “prestigious” nominees, especially considering the talented Nora Jones sings it.

Why It Might Win:

“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” is a catchy, jazzy tune that combines its cheeky instrumentation with Jones’ rich vocals. This song may not be reinventing the wheel, but it is nice to have a choice that falls more on the “light” side of things, a trait the Academy has awarded the last two years by giving this win to songs from an animated and a Muppet filled film.

Why It Might Not Win:

While certainly a sweet song, “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” also sounds like it could have been pulled from another film about a boy a his bear best friend (this one a bit more kid friendly), making its more friendly fare a weaker contender when compared with the other, bolder nominees in this category.

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“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi, Music by Mychael Danna; Lyrics by Bombay Jayashri

Why It Was Nominated:

Life of Pi is a stunning visual feat but it was also brought to life through Danna’s beautiful and moving music. “Pi’s Lullaby” is just that, a beautiful and layered song that gently lulls you into a serene sense of calm when listening to it, a perfect entrance into the film itself.

Why It Might Win:

The intricate instrumentation of “Pi’s Lullaby” gives the song depth while Jayashri’s lyrics and performance work to guide listeners into this amazing world. Danna has never won an Oscar before (this year marks his first nominations) and the Academy’s penchant for awarding first time nominees may shift the tide in his favor here.

Why It Might Not Win:

Danna’s score for Life of Pi is also nominated in the Best Original Score category which proves the Academy is certainly an admirer of his work here, but it could also work against him if voters decide to give Danna a win in the Score category and opt to spread the wealth when it comes to Best Original Song.

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“Skyfall” from Skyfall, Music and Lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth; Performed by Adele Adkins

Why It Was Nominated:

“Skyfall” is the definition of a powerhouse song aptly created for a film about a powerhouse of a man. No matter what is thrown at him, James Bond rises to the occasion and no matter what she sings, Adele’s voice is not one you can simply listen to passively. The pairing of this dynamic singer with one of Britain’s most notorious agents seemed like a match made in heaven and when Adele hit that first note, those expectations were proven true.

Why It Might Win:

Because Adele should win all the awards. Kidding. (Sort of.) “Skyfall” certainly harkened back to the original Bond films, but it also brought it crashing into the present day with commanding instrumentation and Adele’s powerful vocals, a voice that seemed born to sing a Bond theme.

Why It Might Not Win:

Adele and Epworth certainly brought their own style and sound to the classic Bond theme, but it is still a theme we have seen (and heard) before and this simple fact may be what keeps “Skyfall” from wining Oscar gold.

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“Suddenly” from Les Misérables, Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil; Performed by Hugh Jackman

Why It Was Nominated:

Les Misérables is known for its dramatic and devastating music, and normally a well-known musical would not qualify for a Best Original Song nomination, but bringing the classic stage play to the big screen prompted Schönberg, Kretzmer, and Boublil to create a new song, “Suddenly,” for the film adaptation. The Academy is certainly an admirer of Jackman’s vocal prowess, having had him host the show back in 2009, and he proves why with a performance that embodies what keeps all the characters of Les Misérables ever moving forward: the power of love.

Why It Might Win:

Schönberg and Boublil took the feat of bringing Les Misérables to the silver screen as an opportunity to take one of the lesser moments in the play and give it a bigger focus in the film, fleshing out Jean Valjean’s (Hugh Jackman) relationship with Cosette. “Suddenly” embodies the stripped down and stark feel of the story, but Jackman succeeds in also filling the song with a true sense of love and hope through his performance.

Why It Might Not Win:

While this is certainly an original song and one that helps to separate the film from the play, it is difficult to not see it as a song created with the hopes of getting a Best Original Song nomination. “Suddenly” is a beautiful composition and one that is impressively performed, but its addition feels unnecessary, especially when surrounded by such songs as “I Dreamed A Dream” and “Bring Him Home.”

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Read more about The Oscars


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