Oscars 2021: Best Song breakdown and predictions
This year, the Oscar nominations were announced mere hours after the conclusion of the Grammys and the music nominees this year for Best Original Song are a mix of high-powered ballads and some soulful tunes. H.E.R.’s powerful and anthemic number from Judas and the Black Messiah is a clear frontrunner and definitely an audience favourite. Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams’ melodramatically hilarious track from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, on the other hand, shocked many when it received a nomination, and could just be an underdog in the fight.
Out of the 12 songwriters who are vying for best original song this year, 11 are first-time Academy Award nominees. Each nominated song will be performed at Sunday's Oscars: Into the Spotlight pre-show special. H.E.R., Celeste, Sam Odom Jr., Laura Pausini and Diane Warren will all take to the roof of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, while the song “Husavik,” from Eurovision Song Contest will be performed by Molly Sandén from the coastal town of Húsavík, Iceland. Here's an easy breakdown of this year's best original song nominees.
Fight For You — Judas and the Black Messiah
Music: H.E.R., Dernst Emile II
Less than 12 hours after her Grammy win for song of the year, singer-songwriter H.E.R. received her Academy award nod and learnt about her nomination via a screenshot. She wrote Fight for You for the film Judas and the Black Messiah, with D’Mile and Tiara Thomas. The song has influences of Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone and Sly and the Family Stone, and is reminiscent of the rebel sounds of the '60s.
Husavik — Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (Netflix)
Music/lyric: Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus, Rickard Göransson
No one saw an Oscar nod coming for the Netflix comedy starring Will Ferell and Rachel McAdams, that received mixed reviews. But this number, designed like a typical Eurovision power ballads is a frontrunner this year. The minds behind the number, Gsus and Göransson were both born in Sweden while Kotecha (who also collaborates with Ariana Grande) has lived there for 15 years.
"I wrote it with the meaning that the people of Husavik are so gentle that the whales can live there [without being killed]. But how it is perceived is like the whales are gentle people," Gsus said in an interview.
Hear My Voice — The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
Music: Daniel Pemberton
In Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, Waite’s soulful Hear My Voice made for a befitting closing number in the period drama. Pemberton has revealed that the song was written in the spirit of protest, and though it resonates mostly with the film’s anti-war stance, it is also relevant to the global situation today.
"I wrote the song in my bedroom during lockdown, so it was surreal to know that it led to something much more tangible. Though I was born in America, I haven’t been able to go back for fear of being stuck during COVID-19, so I’m glad that my music was able to travel to the states without me being there in person," Pemberton said.
Io Sì (Seen) — The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se) (Netflix)
Music: Diane Warren
American songwriter and producer Diane Warren is one of nine songwriters in Oscar history to have garnered 12 nominations in the music category. For Italian artiste Laura Pausini, this is the very first Academy Award nod.
"I knew the power of this song and this profound and important message linked to family values and integration. My daughter and I saw the film and discussed its meaning, even though she is only 8 years old. In the video clip of “Io Sì,” [director] Edoardo Ponti left the images of me crying because I was really moved, and this is the reflection of my sincere emotion," Pausini revealed.
Speak Now — One Night in Miami... (Amazon)
Music/lyric: Leslie Odom Jr., Sam Ashworth
Odom already has a Tony and a Grammy for Hamilton, and Ashworth, who has collaborated with Odom in the past, has also been nominated for a Grammy, in 2019 for H.E.R.’s I Used To Know Her and Hard Place.
Regina King's One Night in Miami is a fictionalised account of a 1964 meeting of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke at the Hampton House, celebrating Ali's surprise title win over Sonny Liston.
Note: The Oscars aren't going the usual virtual route, but the show will take place at two locations, with guests attending at Union Station in L.A. and some live events filmed from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood where the show has been traditionally held