As with last year’s Best Original Song nominees, the Academy’s 79-song list of potential nods was not a very good indicator of what would actually make the cut. Although names like Lorde, Lana Del Rey and Coldplay popped out as possible winners, voters opted for a diverse mix of pop and classic songwriting verve this year.
Accordingly, the tunes that are up for Academy Awards this year span feel-good Lego party ragers, tender, acoustic love ballads and moving tributes to history. And the performers are just as wide-ranging, with comedians rapping, country legends offering up their final tunes and Adam Levine putting a new spin on Adam Levine. The winner will be announced during the Oscars ceremony, which will air on February 22nd at 7 p.m. EST on ABC (see the rest of the nominations here), but until then, listen to the nominations for Best Original Song below.
When Tegan and Sara recorded the Lego Movie anthem, one of the recording technicians told singer Tegan Quin that it sounded like she was screaming. “I am!” she said, which explains why she was all the more surprised to hear her voice over the giddy synth explosion that is the song over the end credits. But there’s just something about the sheer joy in her voice, as well as the other singers, that made the song one of the catchiest movie tunes this year. Written by songwriter Shawn Patterson and-co-produced by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh, the overwhelming ebullience of the whole thing (not to overlook the bonkers rap by the Lonely Island) seems to prove that indeed “everything is cool when you’re part of a team.”
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Common and John Legend’s soulful Selma song recalls some of the most important moments of the Civil Rights movement from Rosa Parks to the protest marches that followed the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last year. When the pair won Best Original Song for a motion picture at the Golden Globes earlier this year, Common spoke to the transformative power of working on a movie like Selma, which chronicles the march Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. “The first day I stepped on the set of Selma, I began to feel like this was bigger than a movie,” Common said. After comparing himself to the “black woman who was denied the right to vote” and “the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand but instead was given a bullet,” he explained that “Selma has awakened my humanity.” The song dramatically shows that humanity, as Legend sings, “The war isn’t over, victory isn’t won/but we’ll fight on to the finish.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise from the Oscar nomination announcement was this Rita Ora track, a soundtrack song that was on hardly anybody’s radar leading into Thursday morning. However, given the song’s provenance, an Oscar nod should’ve been a shoo-in: Songwriter Diane Warren, who has been nominated six times in the Best Original Song category – including Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” LeAnn Rimes’s “How Do I Live” and Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” – also penned “Grateful,” the featured song from the soundtrack of a film most people probably didn’t even know was released until it popped up in the Best Original Song category. Warren has never won the Oscar in her previous six nominations, so it’s doubtful seventh time is a charm.
Glen Campbell’s devastating ballad – the last song the country music legend will ever release – was easily the sentimental pick leading into Academy Award nominations. The song, like I’ll Be Me, details Campbell’s longtime struggle with Alzheimer’s. “You’re the last person I will love/You’re the last face I will recall/And best of all/I’m not gonna miss you,” Campbell sings on the truly poignant song. Sadly, Campbell’s disease has progressed to the point where he’s been admitted into a special care facility, meaning it’s very unlikely he would attend the Academy Awards.
No Best Original Song is more critical to the film it derives from than “Lost Stars”: This track, co-written by the New Radicals’ Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois, Nick Lashley and Nick Southwood, is crucial to Begin Again’s plot, as the song’s success within the film is what propels much of the action. “Begin Again” should also bring some star power to the Oscar stage if Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and Keira Knightley are recruited to perform it, as they did in Begin Again. More recently, Levine and The Voice’s Matt McAndrew performed their rendition of “Lost Stars.” “I loved working with John Carney on Begin Again, and the music that Gregg and Danielle created is amazing,” Levine told Rolling Stone.