OSCARS: Best Original Song Race Handicap

Deadline.com
OSCARS: Hammond’s Down-To-The-Wire Predictions For 2013 Winners & Losers
.

View gallery

OSCARS: Hammond’s Down-To-The-Wire Predictions For 2013 Winners & Losers

Anthony D’Alessandro is Managing Editor of AwardsLine.

This year’s crop of contenders—a doc tune, a musical melody, a jazz ditty, and an Indian lullaby—are similar to the genres that the category has recognized in recent years. Pop-radio songs, which arguably have been sparse over the last 10 years with the exception of the Beyoncé-performed Dreamgirls song “Listen” and Eminem’s Oscar winner “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile, marked their return this year with Adele’s James Bond ballad “Skyfall”. A glance at this year’s best song nominees:

“Before My Time” | Chasing Ice

Music and lyrics by J. Ralph

Where it’s heard in the film: End credits

Backstory: Looking to bring emotion to glacial meltdown, J. Ralph, who scored the Oscar-winning docs The Cove and Man on Wire, enlisted the breathy vocals of Scarlett Johansson and the touching high notes of violinist Joshua Bell. “As the song plays over the final sequence of the film”, Ralph says, “I wanted to create a transportive, hypnotic experience where the audience could absorb all they had seen, as if Scarlett is singing to each person individually. The song explores the dialogue between mankind and nature and the perception of time. In the end, no one is bigger than Mother Nature”.

Odds: Given the Academy’s penchant for songs that earnestly jibe with a film’s sensibility, don’t count out “Before My Time” just because it’s tagged to the end of a documentary. Just six years ago, the Academy gave an Oscar to Melissa Etheridge’s call-to-action environmental song “I Need to Wake Up” from An Inconvenient Truth.

RELATED: OSCARS: 75 Songs Eligible For Original Song Category

“Everybody Needs a Best Friend” | Ted

Music by Walter Murphy; lyrics by Seth MacFarlane

Where it’s heard in the film: Opening credits

Backstory: “I had always wanted to have a song upfront in a showy way (in Ted) and have lamented the recent trend of putting credits at the end of the movie”, MacFarlane says. “It seems like a little old-fashioned showmanship gets lost when that happens. Walter Murphy remains one of the few composers I know who can write a catchy melody and keep it new”.

Odds: The chances of this song winning aren’t impossible. If anything, since 2000 voters have lauded adorable jazzy songs like Randy Newman’s Pixar two-fister “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 and “If I Didn’t Have You” from Monsters, Inc. It’s reminiscent of a Rat Pack standard, a genre MacFarlane knows best, having crooned such tunes on Family Guy and his big-band album Music Is Better Than Words.

RELATED: Oscar Hits The Road For Nationwide Tour

“Pi’s Lullaby” | Life of Pi

Music by Mychael Danna; lyrics by Bombay Jayashri

Where it’s heard in the film: Opening credits

Backstory: “Ang Lee’s thought was to have the film start in this children’s paradise, in a zoo—the place where Pi sprang from. It’s beautiful, literally enclosed with these marvelous animals and a mother’s love. And the best way to get this across was with a lullaby. Jayashri’s an established south Indian classical singer, and if I was an Indian boy, I would like my mother to have her voice”, Danna says.

Odds: Very good given the Academy’s embrace of world-music tunes such as “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire and “Al Otro Lado del Rio” from The Motorcycle Diaries, but Fox knows the types of niche tunes that sound sweet to voters’ ears: between 2007-09, the studio’s indie arm Fox Searchlight swept this category each year with songs from Once, Slumdog, and Crazy Heart.

“Skyfall” | Skyfall

Music and lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

Where it’s heard in the film: Opening credits

Backstory: Adele and her “Rolling in the Deep” song scribe Epworth spent months tweaking “Skyfall” in order to hit its dynamic gravity. Rather than go with a romantic tone like other 007 ballads, the duo opted to reflect the film’s death and rebirth narrative in their song. And that homage to Monty Norman’s famous four-note Bond theme? Clearly intentional.

Odds: Even though this is the first Bond song nomination in 31 years (the last being Bill Conti and Mick Leeson’s “For Your Eyes Only”), 007 ballads are typically bridesmaids, and the Academy has been deaf to Top 40 tunes. However, Adele’s bluesy alto and the song’s hypnotic melody are sublime.

“Suddenly” | Les Misérables

Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Where it’s heard in the film: Jean Valjean rescues Fantine’s daughter Cosette from the Thenardiers.

Backstory: Director Tom Hooper requested the song from the musical’s original lyricist and composers after reading the passage in Victor Hugo’s novel. “We called the song ‘Suddenly’ because Valjean suddenly discovers the world is not all bad, it’s not about revenge and hatred”, explains Boublil.

Odds: A number of original tunes from Broadway big-screen adaptations have been recognized over the last decade, i.e. 2006 when three Dreamgirls songs made the category. However, the last one to win was 16 years ago: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “You Must Love Me” from Evita. Nonetheless, it’s always better to have the original songwriters on the case, which is what team Les Mis did correctly.

Get more from Deadline.com: Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Newsletter

View Comments