Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:
Today, Thomas Stoneham-Judge of Movies for Reel is here to look at the nominees for Best Original Song.
The 92nd Academy Awards Best Original Song Nominees Ranked, With The Snub That Was Deserved And The Snub I Can’t Forgive
Music is a crucial component to the vast majority of filmmaking, and the songs that are written for film are a unique opportunity to tell a piece of that film’s story. Best Original Song is one of my favorite categories to follow at the Oscars because it’s a cross between my interest in film and love of music.
With that said, I have thoughts about the songs that were – and weren’t – chosen as nominees this year for Best Original Song. With some commentary on the most notable snubs, here’s how I’d rank this year’s nominees:
The Snub That Was Deserved – “Spirit” from The Lion King
While the life-like animal characters have a strong chance of winning this one Best Visual Effects, there’s a lot about The Lion King remake that felt lazy or underdeveloped. Unfortunately, Beyonce’s involvement in this production was one of them.
The song is beautifully sung by the pop superstar who I strongly admire. But I don’t think “Spirit” achieves the proper level of epicness like the songs from the original Lion King did. And worse, the song doesn’t work for the movie as it’s shoehorned into the running montage for Simba.
For so many reasons, “Spirit” feels forced and inorganic, which is likely why it was passed up for consideration this time.
#5 – “I’m Standing With You” from Breakthough
Of the actual nominees in the Best Original Song category this year, “I’m Standing With You” is the weak link.
Songwriter Diane Warren finds her work at the Oscars often with songs like “I’ll Fight”, “Stand Up For Something”, and “Grateful” populating the category just over the past few years. But her work is often draped with the talent of incredible singers and high production value in a way that masks how underwhelming the writing can be.
In “I’m Standing With You”, the production value is low key and Chrissy Metz, though a decent singer, doesn’t seem to have a wide vocal range. What’s left is a ho hum faux-gospel song with lyrics and messaging patterned after the worn out trends of contemporary Christian music.
#4 – “Into The Unknown” from Frozen II
The soundtrack for Frozen II had the daunting challenge of following up the first film’s smash hit, Let It Go. Into The Unknown is that follow up song; a power ballad laced with motif riffs and bombastic crescendos.
It’s a well written song that pushes the Frozen II narrative forward. And if Let It Go wasn’t so embedded into pop culture, this one would be my choice for Best Original Song this year.
But outdoing one of the most memorable and catchy songs in film this millenium is a tall order, and Into The Unknown doesn’t hook the chorus like Let It Go did. This song lives in the shadow of its predecessor in a way that made doing its narrative duty for Frozen II seem less impressive than it is.
#3 – “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4
It’s always delightful to hear a new song from Randy Newman in a new Disney/Pixar film, and his Toy Story songs are usually his most iconic from their projects. I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away continues that trend with a bubbly and cheeky track that illustrates the early on relationship between Woody and Forky.
Unfortunately, a lot of how I feel about I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away is based on my feelings towards Toy Story 4, which is somewhere on the lower end of indifferent. I didn’t need a Toy Story 4, and the film we got didn’t have good enough reasoning for upending Toy Story 3’s masterful conclusion. Therefore, my feelings towards the song takes a small hit, but doesn’t change the fact that Randy Newman is so good at being the sound of Toy Story.
#2 – “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman
All of the film Rocketman is a fun and emotional journey. “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” captures more of the fun and energetic part of the project as it brings home the moral of the story for Rocketman.
I’ll admit that I am not necessarily a fan of Elton John, but his influence on music and pop culture is undeniable. It’s fantastic to see his artistry still going strong, and this song is further proof that Elton John continues to earn and deserve his place in the spotlight.
#1 – “Stand Up” from Harriet
Unfortunately at this point, I have not seen the film Harriet yet. But this song is so fresh and dynamic that I can’t help but favor it over the rest. Powerful, but not overdone. Poignant without being preachy. Evoking gospel in a far more authentic way than fellow nominee “I’m Standing With You” does and boasting the best vocal performance of any of the nominees.
This is one of two chances at this year’s Oscars for Cynthia Erivo (singer and songwriter of “Stand Up” and lead actress in Harriet) to join the coveted EGOT Club. While it’s a long shot for her in the Best Actress category, the strong writing, strong vocals, and timely messaging in “Stand Up” could lock it down for Ervio, and it’d be a well deserved honor.
The Snub I Can’t Forgive – “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)” from Wild Rose
I’ve always known Country music as a very American style of music. So it was an absolute delight to experience a film that takes a genre rooted in American culture and demonstrates its prevalence in the lives of people internationally. The song “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)” couldn’t sum that up any better, even the title juxtaposing the Scottish city with a phrase most associated with Kansas.
The song is a culmination of the main character’s climb to where she ends up by the conclusion. It summarizes her realization of her own mistakes and poor choices, but then celebrates where those mistakes and poor choices lead her through an analogy derived from The Wizard of Oz.
With incredible vocals from Jessie Buckley, this song is nothing short of brilliant. And it’s a real shame that this song, and the movie in general, was passed up for award consideration this year.