A pop queen, a voice of a new generation, an EGOT contender, a 13-time nominee still searching for a win, and a rather curmudgeonly classic rocker comprise one of the most intriguing Oscar categories at the 94th Academy Awards — Best Original Song.
There’s isn’t a dim star in the bunch this year, starting with Beyoncé, who shared her first Oscar nod with Dixson for “Be Alive” from King Richard. Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas also earned their first Oscar nominations for their James Bond theme “No Time To Die,” while Lin-Manuel Miranda could finalize his arguably inevitable EGOT if wins he for “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto.
Rounding out the category is Diane Warren, who was once again nominated in the category she has still yet to win for “Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days. And arguably the most unexpected nominee was Van Morrison, who, in between releasing a double album and complaining about Covid-19 safety measures, released “Down to Joy” for Belfast.
With such a stacked category, it’s hard to pick a front-runner, though it’s arguably a three-way race between Beyoncé, Eilish, and Miranda. (“No Time to Die” won Best Original Song at this year’s Golden Globes, but it’s hard to say how much of an awards season bellwether the untelevised and scandal-plagued show is in 2022.) But with three superstars potentially splitting the vote, a dark horse like Morrison is always possible. Or maybe, just maybe, it’ll finally be Diane Warren’s year.
Check out all five Best Original Song nominees below. The 94th Academy Awards will take place place on March 27 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Beyonce and Dixson – “Be Alive”
“Be Alive” is vintage Beyoncé — a full-throated, empowering anthem that perfectly complements the story of how Richard Williams coached and raised his daughters, Venus and Serena Williams, to be tennis champions. Last October, Will Smith, who plays Richard in the film, told Entertainment Weekly that Beyoncé was inspired to write the song after an early screening of King Richard. “The marriage of a movie and a song is a kind of magic that’s unmatched in entertainment,” Smith said. “I was so happy when Beyoncé called.”
“Be Alive” marks Beyoncé’s first Oscar nomination. Back in 2020, she was short-listed in the Best Original Song category for “Spirit” off the Lion King soundtrack she spearheaded, but the song ultimately did not make the final cut.
Billie Eilish and Finneas – “No Time to Die”
“No Time to Die” has probably had one of the strangest, most prolonged journeys to the Oscars ever. The song was released long ago in the heady pre-pandemic lockdown days of February 2020, when Daniel Craig’s final James Bond flick was set to arrive that spring. Because of the song’s early release, it essentially hung around in limbo for a year and a half as No Time to Die was repeatedly delayed until finally hitting theaters last September. While the Oscars and Golden Globes held off on nominating Eilish and Finneas’ brooding theme until the movie actually came out, the Grammy Awards were unable to contain their excitement for it: “No Time to Die” picked up the trophy for Best Song Written for Visual Media at the 63rd Grammys, which were held in March 2021, six months before the movie was actually out.
Lin-Manuel Miranda – “Dos Oruguitas”
When Lin-Manuel Miranda went from Broadway darling to international superstar with Hamilton, it seemed only a matter of time until the multi-talented songwriter and performer would earn his EGOT (winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). He’d already won Grammys and Tonys for his breakout musical In the Heights, and he won his first Emmy for an opening number he coincidentally penned for the 67th Tony Awards broadcast. But so far, the final letter in the acronym has eluded Miranda. He picked up his first Oscar nomination in 2016 for his Moana track “How Far I’ll Go,” and “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto is just his second (the song is performed by the Colombian singer, Sebastián Yatra).
“Dos Oruguitas” is notably the first song Miranda wrote entirely in Spanish, and as he told Rolling Stone, “[A]ll those words are just so much prettier in Spanish. ‘Dos oruguitas’ is so much more beautiful than ‘two caterpillars,’ [which would] become like a Muppets song. It becomes, like, Kermit on a log singing ‘Two Caterpillars.’ I’m bilingual, but I’m pretty English-dominant. My brain runs in English mode. And what was interesting was, in writing this song, I started dreaming in Spanish again, which I had not done since I was a kid.”
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Van Morrison – “Down to Joy”
Over the past two years, the majority of attention Van Morrison has received hasn’t necessarily been for the most flattering reasons. The storied singer-songwriter has spent the pandemic railing against lockdown measures and putting his frustration into songs like “Stand Up and Deliver,” featuring fellow Covid-complainer Eric Clapton. It’s maybe no surprise that his bluster has overshadowed his involvement in Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, where his music provides the soundtrack for a coming-of-age saga set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland (Morrison, of course, was born and raised in Belfast himself). While the movie largely features Morrison classics like “Warm Love,” “Bright Side of the Road,” and “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile),” he did contribute one new track, the Oscar-nominated “Down to Joy,” which appears to be loosely based on an unreleased demo from the early Seventies, “Coming Down to Joy.” In a further testament to Morrison’s quiet involvement in the film, it doesn’t appear that “Down to Joy” ever got an official release. The newly minted Oscar nominee isn’t on Spotify or Apple Music, and it only appears on YouTube via an unofficial upload.
Diane Warren – “Somehow You Do”
What else is there to say about Diane Warren and her Oscar quest? This is the celebrated singer-songwriter’s 13th nomination; she’s been nominated in the Best Original song category seven of the past eight years (only missing out in 2017), and somehow she still hasn’t won the coveted prize. Warren penned her latest stab at Academy Awards glory, “Somehow You Do,” for Rodrigo Garcia’s family drama Four Good Days, and reunited with Reba McEntire, who performs the song (Warren wrote McEntires late-Nineties/early-2000s singles, “What If” and “I”ll Be”).
As Warren told ScreenRant, “Somehow You Do” was inspired as much by the Four Good Days as it was by the pandemic: “So many people are feeling lost and hopeless,” she said. “There’s that line in there, ‘Life has punched a hole in your soul,’ and a lot of people felt like it punched a hole in their soul. And yet ultimately, you’re gonna get through it. It was really a song of hope for the movie, but it also felt like a song of hope for real life.”