The 95th Academy Awards Race: Best Original Song

| March 2, 2023

The Nominees are . . . 
• “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever; music by Ryan Coogler, Ludwig Göransson, Rihanna & Tems and lyrics by Ryan Coogler & Tems
• “This is a Life” from Everything Everywhere All At Once; music by David Byrne, Ryan Lott & Mitski and lyrics by Byrne & Lott
• “Naatu Naatu” from RRR, music by M. M. Keeravani and lyrics by Chandrabose
• “Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman, music and lyrics by Diane Warren
• “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick, music and lyrics by BloodPop & Lady Gaga

The general criteria for a song nominated for Best Original Song is at least should be that it, first, have some organic connection to the film and, second, that is not sound like every song released in the last three years.  That, it should be stated, is at least my criteria – the music branch of the Academy doesn’t see it that way.

That would explain why it is difficult to differentiate three of this year’s nominees for Best Original Song:  Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” from Wakanda Forever, Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick, and Sofia Carson’s  “Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman.  All are orchestral love ballads that, to the untrained ear (like mine) all sound the same. 

Their nominations shoved out two songs from Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, “Everything is New to Me” and “Chiao, Papa.”  Also Taylor Swift’s “Carolina” from Where the Crawdads Sing and The Weeknd’s “Nothing is Lost” from Avatar: The Way of Water, and Heitor Pereira’s bouncy “Fearless Hero” from Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.  All five are better than anything nominated this year.

That leaves just two films in the running that I think have a better than average chance of winning.  First is “This is a Life” from Everything Everywhere All At Once, with music by previous winner David Byrne (The Last Emperor) and Ryan Lott from the band Son Lux which is nominated for Best Original Score.  Second is the robust “Naatu Naatu” from the breakout Tollywood action hit RRR , which has a chance to win if anyone has seen that breathtaking dance sequence that accompanies it (see below).  The film did not recieve a nomination as Best International Feature, and I think this will be catnip to those voters wishing to reward it.

The Winner: “Naatu Naatu” from RRR
The Dark Horse: “This is a Life” from Everything Everywhere All At Once

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.