The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the shortlists in 10 categories for the 94th Academy Awards Ceremony, and fifteen songs have been nominated in the Original Song category. Let’s take a look:
Sparks, Adam Driver & Marion Cotillard Featuring Simon Hedberg – “So May We Start”: Nominated for the Leos Carax’s movie, “Annette.” A perfect combination for this odd fairy tale turned into a musical, the song has the grandiosity of an opera opening before Sparks’ music becomes a full character in the film.
Van Morrison – “Down to Joy”: I haven’t seen the movie for which it was nominated, “Belfast,” but apparently Van Morrison’s music is prominently featured in it, with nine songs in the soundtrack. The song is not on Spotify but it could be a new recording of the reworked and never-released song “Coming Down to Joy,” although I thought a song had to be original to be nominated. In any case, Van Morrison and his recent anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination campaigns cannot be in the Academy’s good papers.
Brian Wilson & Jim James – “Right Where I Belong”: A collaboration that actually works for this new documentary, “Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road.” It sounds like a California beach song as Jim James’ falsetto harmonies are echoing old Beach Boys tunes while Brian Wilson’s vocals bring us back to 2021’s reality. The documentary tells the story of Brian Wilson’s legendary career with the help of plenty of interviews with rock royalties.
H.E.R. – “Automatic Woman”: Off the soundtrack of the Halle Berry’s directorial debut, “Bruised,” the song is largely inspired by the new hip hop/ R&B soundscapes, although this one is layered up with horns and strings. It barely sounds like something written by H.E.R. and it’s clearly addressed to a specific audience.
Cinderella Original Motion Picture Cast & Idina Menzel – “Dream Girl”: I doubt I picked the nominated song as the version below is a Nile Rodgers’s remix which makes it much more bearable. The song unexpectedly rocks like an ‘80s soundtrack (think “Flash Dance”), but did we need another Cinderella movie?
Emilia Jones – “Beyond the Shore”: A quiet acoustic guitar and a pretty voice for a heartfelt song as there is always one of them among the nominees. Singer Emilia Jones also stars in “Coda,” the coming-of-age movie for which it was nominated.
Amandla Stenberg – “The Anonymous Ones”: A stripped-down, wordy confessional tune with a cathartic development so it’s not a surprise that the song is part of the musical adaptation, “Dear Evan Hansen.”
Ariana Grande & Kid Cudi – “Just Look Up”: The type of syrupy piano ballads Ariana Grande is famous for, barely interrupted by Kid Cudi’s hip hop verse. It’s certainly bad enough – in the classic sense of the term – to be nominated for an Academy Award and be part of the soundtrack to the Netflix film “Don’t Look Up.”
Sebastián Yatra – “Dos Oruguitas”: Nominated for the Disney animated feature “Encanto,” this is actually a charming song in Spanish.
Reba McEntire – “Somehow You Do”: A sad Reba McEntire classic with emotional vocals and slide guitar but also plenty of resilience and of course some hopeful and uplifting development: a truly classic country song. This is part of the soundtrack for “Four Good Days” starring Glenn Close and Mila Kunis.
Kid Cudi & Jay-Z – “Guns Go Bang”: This makes Kid Cudi’s second nomination. The beginning sounds like the soundtrack for a spaghetti western, so needless to say it’s very cinematic. The song comes from Netflix’s “The Harder They Fall,” featuring Idris Elba, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield, Jonathan Majors, with a soundtrack co-produced by Jay-Z.
Beyoncé – “Be Alive”: No Jay-Z without Beyonce, whose song appears on the soundtrack of “King Richard.” It’s a ferocious anthem just like the Queen B knows to deliver some.
Billie Eilish – “No Time to Die”: Even if you haven’t seen the new James Bond movie, “No Time to Die,” you have probably heard the song because it’s Billie Eilish. She is not Shirley Bassey but this works nevertheless.
Jennifer Hudson – “Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)”: The only original song of the Aretha Franklin biopic, “Respect,” in which the singer-actress portrays the late queen of soul. Written by Hudson with Jamie Hartman and Carole King, the song is alright: although Hudson is more than capable to hit the right notes, it unsurprisingly lacks Franklin’s genius.
U2 – “Your Song Saved My Life”: Didn’t someone call it the worst U2 song ever? I would agree, and that’s all I will say about this dull number which was nominated for the animated film “Sing 2,” starring Bono as a reclusive lion rock star.
I would vote for Sparks but Billie or H.E.R. will probably win.
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