The Oscar shortlist of 15 original song contenders — vying to be in that final five on Jan. 24 — features familiar names and fan favorites.
Music superstars Rihanna and Taylor Swift made their freshman debut in the category, as did Selena Gomez. They joined Diane Warren, who despite being given an honorary Oscar, has yet to win a competitive Oscar, Lady Gaga, whose “Hold My Hand” made the cut and “Naatu Naatu” from hit Indian feature “RRR.”
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Will past winners dominate the final five? Or will this be a song showdown by Grammy award winners and nominees? “RRR,” a film and song that has turned into a phenomenon is almost guaranteed to nab a spot when nominations are announced. Don’t be surprised if this wins come Oscar night. Sold out screenings and the jovial vibe of “Naatu Nattu” could be just what voters root for that put this on the path to glory.
Here’s your guide to the shortlist contenders:
Writers: Drake, Giveon Evans, Jahaan Akil Sweet and Daniel Pemberton
The song is a ballad that reminisces on a past relationship and Grammy-nominated artist Giveon Evans, decorated writer Daniel Pemberton and superstar Drake.
This would be Evans’ and Drake’s first Oscar nomination, and Pemberton’s second. His last was for Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
“Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength)”
Film: “Avatar: The Way of Water” Writer: The Weeknd
“I thought I could protect you from paying for my sins/ You give me strength/ I would do either way/ Nothing’s lost/ No more pain, just you,” sings the Weeknd as the film’s credits kick in, putting an explanation point on the film’s grand vision with an equally grand ballad.
The Weeknd was last nominated for original song in 2016 for “Earned It” from “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“Lift Me Up”
Film: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Writers: Tems, Ludwig Göransson, Rihanna and Ryan Coogler
After a six-year wait, Rihanna returned to the scene with a new song, “Lift Me Up.” The tune plays towards the end of “Wakanda Forever” and is a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, the “Black Panther” star who died from colon cancer in 2020. Rihanna’s lyrics, “Lift me up/ Hold me down/ Keep me close/ Safe and sound,” tug at the listener’s heartstrings in this soaring ballad.
This would be a first-time nomination for Rihanna and vocalist Tems. Göransson won an Academy Award for score in 2019 for “Black Panther” and Coogler earned a picture nomination as one of the producers of “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
“This Is a Life”
Film: “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Writers: David Byrne, Son Lux and Mitski
Percussion and electronic textures form the core of “This Is a Life.” Haunting and melancholic vocals bring this song together in a way that contrasts the hectic action of the multiverse-hopping vehicle starring Michelle Yeoh.
Byrne won the original score Oscar in 1988 for “The Last Emperor.” This would be a first nomination for Son Lux and Mitski. Son Lux are also shortlisted for original score as well.
Film: “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”
Writer: Alexandre Desplat, Roeban Katz and Guillermo del Toro
Sung by Gregory Mann, “Ciao Papa” is a look at Pinocchio’s innocence as he bids farewell to his father. Composer Alexandre Desplat says the song plays during a “very sad and utterly melancholic moment.”
Desplat and del Toro are no strangers to Oscar nominations and wins, but this would be a first for both in the original song category.
“Til You’re Home”
Film: “A Man Called Otto” Writer: Rita Wilson and David Hodges
Rita Wilson and David Hodge’s “Til You’re Home” is the perfect end song, driven by strings and piano. The track is a beautiful showcase for beautiful harmonies. The lyrics “There’s no color in this world without you” are tender and as touching as the film.
This would be a first time nom for Wilson. Yatra sang the Oscar- nominated “Dos Oruguitas” from the “Encanto” soundtrack.
Writers: Kala Bhairava, M. M. Keeravani, Rahul Sipligunj
Only four non-English songs have ever won in the original song category — could “Naatu Naatu” from the wildly popular “RRR” become the fifth?
“My Mind & Me”
Film: “Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me”
Writers: Amy Allen, Jonathan Bellion, Selena Gomez, Jordan K Johnson, Stefan Johnson, Michael Pollack
Selena Gomez is one step closer to being an Oscar-nominated songwriter after “My Mind and Me” made the song shortlist. The song’s lyrics, “If somebody sees me like this, then they won’t feel alone now,” tap into feeling empathy for anyone struggling with mental health.
Writers: Khiyon Hursey, Sukari Jones, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Mark Sonnenblick
Pasek and Paul still need an Emmy to achieve EGOT status. For now, they’re delivering a highly spirited musical theater-esque tune sung by Ryan Reynolds in the comedic twist on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Film: “Tell It like a Woman” Writer: Diane Warren
Don’t be surprised if Diane Warren snags a 14th Oscar nomination. Sofia Carson’s vocals embody the message of Warren’s tune, an anthem to the strong women of the world.
Writers: Jazmine Sullivan and D’Mile
“Stand Up” is a big and moving tune that honors Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie, and is an affirmation to mothers.
D’Mile won an Oscar alongside H.E.R for “Fight for You,” and this would be Sullivan’s first nomination.
“Hold My Hand”
Film: “Top Gun: Maverick” Writers: Lady Gaga and Bloodpop The chords to Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” are the beating heart of the “Top Gun” sequel, sporting a rocking guitar solo and soaring vocal. Gaga belts out the ‘80s inspired rock anthem, and look for her to earn a third Oscar nomination in songwriting. Gaga won an original song Oscar for“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born.”
“Dust & Ash”
Film: “The Voice of Dust and Ash” Writers: J. Ralph
Norah Jones teams up with J. Ralph for the second documentary song contender, a portrait of the Iranian artist Maestro Mohammad Reza Shajarian. The standout
moment is Shajarian’s solo performance as the song crescendos. This would be Ralph’s fourth Oscar nomination in the original
Film: “Where the Crawdads Sing” Writer: Taylor Swift
Megastar Taylor Swift could land her first Oscar nomination for “Carolina.” As Swift sings about pine cones and clouds, she keeps the essence of the film while singing about loneliness and disappearing. It’s a beautiful song with a lullaby feeling to it.
“New Body Rhumba”
Film: “White Noise” Writer: LCD Soundsystem
LCD Soundsystem released their first track since 2018 and dropped it in Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise.” The dance-punk song features wiry synths and guitar loops while the lyrics poke fun at the modern world.
The Grammy-award winners would be landing their first Oscar nomination.
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