Although the buzz of the Oscars may not pique the interest of all, there is one category that appeals to music lovers and award-season fanatics alike. The award for Best Original Song narrows down hundreds of contenders to only the final five, and the winner will be revealed tonight.
Historically, no more than two songs from the same film may be nominated for the award, and no more than five songs from any one film may be submitted for consideration.
This year, however, the latter rule has been altered: only three songs from a film may be submitted. Even though multiple submissions have always been allowed, studios typically only submit one song for fear of splitting the vote between multiple songs and risking a win for their film.
The criteria for Best Original Song submission consists of three major rules: First, the song must have original music and lyrics written specifically for the film. Second, there must be collaboration and communication between the filmmaker(s) and songwriter(s) about the purpose and intent of the song. Thirdly, the song — containing both lyrics and melody — must either be clearly heard in the film or be the first song played as the credits roll.
To narrow down the application pool into the five nominees contending for the statuette, The Academy holds multiple rounds of voting. Members must view clips from the films containing the original songs and vote on their favorites. This preferential voting is used to reduce the initial submissions to fifteen, and again in a second round to select the final five.
The five 2023 Best Original Song nominees ranked in order of their likelihood of winning are:
- Rahul Sipligunj, Kaala Bhairava & M.M. Keeravani, “Naatu Naatu” (“RRR”)
- Rihanna, “Lift Me Up” (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”)
- Son Lux Featuring Mitski & David Byrne, “This Is a Life” (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
- Lady Gaga, “Hold My Hand” (“Top Gun: Maverick”)
- Sofia Carson, “Applause” (“Tell It like a Woman”)
“Naatu Naatu” is the favorite frontrunner of many online predictions. The drum-heavy dance-pop song accompanies a dramatic dance sequence featuring the two main characters of the movie.
While the film “RRR” was not submitted for consideration in the Best International Feature Films category, “Naatu Naatu” is the first Indian original song to be nominated for an Academy Award. It won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, and an Oscar win would make history.
Rihanna’s long-awaited return came with the slow, soulful “Lift Me Up.” Dedicated to the late “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman, the R&B song is the first single Rihanna has released following her six-year hiatus from music. “Lift Me Up” is the second strongest contender behind “Naatu Naatu” in various predicted lists across the internet.
Featuring the unlikely collaboration between David Byrne and Mitski, “This Is A Life” by Son Lux is the moody, alternative duet that plays over the end credits of “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Though it sits in third place on many prediction lists, “This Is A Life” is the dark horse contender that has a chance to pull through and win.
An award for “Hold My Hand” would secure Lady Gaga her second Oscar win for Best Original Song. The vocally powered rock ballad is played twice in “Top Gun: Maverick,” allowing the film to feature the same song as diegetic and non-diegetic film music.
Diegetic music, or source music, is music that has a source in the film, while non-diegetic, or underscoring, is music from an unseen source. “Hold My Hand” first plays over a jukebox in a bar, and later as the pilots celebrate in the final scene.
“Applause” is performed by pop singer Sofia Carson and was written by Diane Warren, earning the singer-songwriter her 14th Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
Along with celebration for its many nominees, the Oscar season inevitably drums up passionate debate over artists and actors that audiences believe have been snubbed. Among the most well-known artists are:
- Taylor Swift, “Carolina” (“Where the Crawdads Sing”)
- Selena Gomez, “My Mind & Me” (“My Mind & Me”)
- the Weeknd, “Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength)” (“Avatar: The Way of Water”)
- LCD Soundsystem, “new body rhumba” (“White Noise”)
- Jazmine Sullivan, “Stand Up” (“Till”)
- Gregory Mann, “Ciao Papa” (Guillermo del Torro’s “Pinocchio”)
Doja Cat’s original song “Vegas,” written for “ELVIS,” was also notably excluded from any lists of nominees. The Academy deemed “Vegas” ineligible for nomination, claiming that the sampling of “Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton was too heavy for the song to be original.
Considering “Hound Dog’s” long history of royalty lawsuits, authorial disputes and copyright infringement, as well as the lyrical content of “Vegas,” some might consider this snub ironic and counterintuitive to the message of the song.
The Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 12. It has been announced that Rihanna will perform “Lift Me Up,” and Sofia Carson and Diane Warren will perform “Applause.” David Byrne and Son Lux will be joined by “Everything Everywhere All at Once” nominee Stephanie Hsu to perform “This Is A Life.”