Normally, I’m the writer for whom every day is Throwback Thursday, but with the 87th Academy Awards just a few days away, I’ve decided to take a look at this year’s crop of nominees for Best Original Song. I haven’t seen the movies that were nominated for Best Picture this year, but I do have access to a computer, and with that, I can go on YouTube to hear this year’s Best Original Song contenders. I’ll review all five of them, predict which one will win, and then choose who I would have win if I picked the winner, that, of course, being a reference to Siskel and Ebert’s annual Oscar show.
The first nominee is “Everything Is Awesome”, written by Shawn Patterson for “The Lego Movie”. I only saw the last 15 minutes of the movie. That was the live-action segment that may have ruined the film’s chances at a Best Animated Feature nomination, although “Wall-E” had live-action segments and that was nominated. I’m not reviewing the movie, though…I’m reviewing the song.
I know that in this movie’s universe, “Everything Is Awesome” is used as a propaganda song by Lord Business. A listen to the lyrics reveals as such: “Everything is awesome, everything is cool when you’re part of them…Side by side, I’m like you, you’re like me when we’re living in harmony”. A nice twist on songs glorifying an ideal or a person, but I think that what TV Tropes would dub as Misaimed Fandom has impacted how this song in viewed in the movie’s context. Some people listening to this take the song at face value, while others know that the conformity preached in the song is what Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt) and the other protaganists are fighting against. Like many great songs, it works on two levels, but marketing may make it sound like one.
The second nominee is “Glory”, written by John Legend and Common for the movie “Selma”. A stirring half-ballad, half-rap song, the lyrics invoke the steps that Martin Luther King Jr. took to right racial wrongs in America, the progress we’ve made since his death, and the distance we still have to go to put an end to racism for once and for all.
Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of a time when a man could be judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. That makes me wonder: Will Oscar voters choose “Glory” for the man it celebrates or for the words of the song? I think the words of the song might get “Glory” a win…The song touches on the racial tensions of the past few years, and lyrics that reflect a movie’s themes often win the gold. The example that comes immediately to mind is Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets Of Philadelphia” from “Philadelphia”, which got into the mind of Tom Hanks’ Andrew Beckett. Likewise, I can easily imagine Martin Luther King Jr. having thoughts similar to the lyrics of “Glory” if he hadn’t been murdered.
On a lighter note, the third nominee is “Grateful”, written by Diane Warren for the movie “Beyond The Lights”.
This is Ms. Warren’s 7th nomination, and it’s another case where I wonder if merit will win her the award or if the win would be the result of a sympathy vote. It took Martin Scorcese three decades to get his first Oscar, and Diane Warren is only three years away from the 30th anniversary of her first nomination, which was for “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” from “Mannequin”. I’m not saying that Scorcese’s win was a sympathy vote, but many people felt he should’ve gotten at least three Best Director Oscars before “The Departed” (the most popular three choices being “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas”. I hope that if Ms. Warren wins, it’s because they liked her song.
Moving on to the fourth nomination, we have “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, written by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond for the documentary “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”.
Campbell is currently dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, and “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” is a dark-humored song about dealing with the disease. Campbell’s condition precludes him from performing, so Tim McGraw will be covering the song for him. I’ve listened to the song, and in a way, it’s like a country version of Eric Idle’s “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” from “Monty Python’s Life Of Brian”. In the song, you can tell that Campbell is staring down the spectre of death, but he’s doing so with a song and a smile, as if saying to death, “Pistols at ten paces”. I think that it’s possible that Julianne Moore’s nomination for “Still Alice”, where she plays a woman in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, may bring this song heightened awareness. I can easily imagine someone making a music video on YouTube combining “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” and “Still Alice”.
The last nominated song is “Lost Stars”, written by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois for the movie “Begin Again”.
This is my favorite of the nominated songs. I haven’t seen “Begin Again”, but I do like the music of Mr. Alexander and Ms. Brisebois. They collaborated in the late 90s as New Radicals, whose album “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too” is one of the only 90s albums I can stand to listen to all the way through. They’ve continued to do great work. I particularly like Brisebois’ song “Unwritten”, which was made popular by Natasha Bedingfield. To see Gregg and Danielle accept an Oscar would be very cool.
Those are your five nominated songs, and now:
The song I think Academy voters will choose as Best Original Song: “Glory” from “Selma”, music and lyrics by John Legend and Common. It’s already won most of the other movie awards, so I think it has Best Original Song sewn up.
The song I would choose if I had the deciding vote: While I did like both “Grateful” and “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, the picture I chose to head this article gave away my choice. I have to give my vote to “Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”, music and lyrics by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois.
Of the songs that were nominated, this is the one that spoke to me the most emotionally. It’s a very touching song, and this is probably the first time I would cast my lot with a project from the Weinstein Company.
Will “Glory” get the glory? Will “Lost Stars” be found the winner? The only way to find out is by watching the Oscars this Sunday. I’ll be tuning in…Will you?