The Oscar nominees for the Best Original Song are a mix new names like R&B singer Mary J. Blige (Mudbound) and the indie-folk singer Sufjan Stevens (Call Me By Your Name) as well as previous winners like Common.
The rapper is up for a second Oscar for “Stand Up for Something,” which appeared in the film Marshall. He’s competing with 2013 winners Kristen Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez, the pair behind Coco‘s “Remember Me,” and 2016 winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who penned “This Is Me,” a Hot 100 hit from the chart-topping soundtrack to The Greatest Showman.
The Oscars ceremony airs on March 4th at 7 p.m. EST on ABC. Listen to the nominations for Best Original Song below.
Mudbound – “Mighty River”
Mary J. Blige earned a nod for her song from Mudbound, the Netflix original about two veterans, one white and one black, who return home to Mississippi after fighting in World War II. Blige wrote “Mighty River with the R&B triple-threat Raphael Saadiq, a hit writer/producer/singer since his days in Tony! Toni! Toné! “It was just a very humbling moment to write a song like this with Raphael Saadiq, who I absolutely love, who I’ve been a fan of all my life,” Blige told EW.
She also acted in the film and was rewarded with a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her efforts. “It’s not a game for me,” she explained to The New York Times. “It’s not, ‘Give Mary J. Blige a role, and because she’s a singer, she can play games with it.’ There’s too many women that have paved the way, like Queen Latifah, and [Taraji P. Henson] … I don’t ever want to insult them by not taking the craft seriously.”
Call Me By Your Name – “The Mystery of Love”
Sufjan Stevens, who wrote and sang “The Mystery of Love,” has had songs in Little Miss Sunshine and This Is Us, but he never penned an original track specifically for a movie or TV show. “I’m always a little suspicious of the role of music in cinema,” he told Deadline. “But Luca [Guadagnino, director of Call Me By Your Name] is an exception, because he’s one of those rare directors who uses music and sound so fiercely and with such mastery that you cannot imagine the films without the music.”
In the end, Stevens wrote a pair of songs for Guadagnino’s film. “When I wrote them I hadn’t seen any footage, so I wasn’t sure how he was going to use them at all,” Stevens remembered. “I just handed them over and had to trust that he would know what to do. And, of course, having seen all his films, and how masterful he is with music, there was no question in my mind he would be responsible about it.”
Coco – “Remember Me”
This song from the Disney/Pixar hit “Coco” – which became the top-grossing film of all time in Mexico in less than three weeks and went on to gross over $655 million worldwide – was penned by Kristen Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez, the same pair behind the Frozen juggernaut “Let It Go” (both a Best Original Song winner and a Top Five hit on the Billboard Hot 100). “Remember Me” appears on the soundtrack in multiple forms, including a solo performance by the actor Benjamin Bratt and as a duet between the Mexican singer Natalia LaFourcade and the R&B singer Miguel.
“I feel very proud and honored to be part of one of the best Pixar movies I’ve ever seen, especially because that movie and that story are about my beautiful country and its wonderful people,” Lafourcade told Rolling Stone. “I love that people all over the world are able to see and know about Dia de los Muertos, one of the most incredible traditions we have.”
Marshall – “Stand Up for Something”
Common was enthralled by “Stand Up for Something” as soon as he heard the demo: “I can remember I was getting my haircut and I was listening to the song, I was like, ‘Wow, this is a powerful song,'” he told Gold Derby. That makes sense. “Stand Up for Something” was written by Diane Warren, who specializes in power ballads – she has written nine Number One hits, including global smashes for mega-stars like Toni Braxton, Brandy and Aerosmith.
Before writing the song, which needed to fit the stirring themes of Marshall – a film about the life of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice – Warren told Common she listened to Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” and Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” back to back. “It’s … not easy to write simple lyrics that resonate and don’t sound preachy and don’t sound like what we’ve heard before,” Common said. It also helps when those lyrics are delivered by Andra Day, a powerhouse vocalist.
Warren is no stranger to Oscar nominations: She’s been up for the award eight times, most recently with Lady Gaga in 2015, but never won. Common won Best Original Song in 2014 for “Glory,” a collaboration with John Legend.
The Greatest Showman – “This Is Me”
The Greatest Showman soundtrack has been an unequivocal hit, spending two weeks at Number One on the Billboard 200, shipping over 100,000 album equivalent units each week it topped the chart, and earning a “Favorite Things” nod from Oprah. In addition, four songs from the album debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart earlier this month, including “This Is Me,” written by two of the men behind the music in La La Land, Benj Pasek and Justin Justin Paul, and performed by Keala Settle, who plays a bearded lady in the movie.
In an interview with Billboard, Pasek explained the origin of “This Is Me,” which climbed to Number 64 on the Hot 100 this week. “It was really inspired by the group of oddities in the film, and what they came to represent and what [director] Michael [Gracey] talked about them representing,” he explained. “People who had lived in the shadows their whole lives and for the first time wanted to feel love and acceptance, and even when P.T. Barnum turns his back on them, they make a statement – not only to him, but to themselves – that they declare to love themselves for the first time.”