CHRIS: A round of APPLAUSE for my volley co-host, Baby Clyde. Now, let’s Tell It Like A Pundit – what is going on with the Original Song race? On the surface, it seems like “Naatu Naatu” has this category in the bag after winning this prize at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards. RRR’s grand dance number is one of the most memorable scenes of the year and would make for a worthy winner. However, one can’t forget that it is against some heavy hitters, such as Rihanna and Lady Gaga, both for films that made over a billion dollars at the box office. Are we underestimating them?
And do you have any favourites that weren’t nominated?…
BABY CLYDE: When the very knowledgeable Eurocheese and I discussed this category last year we both agreed that “Naatu Naatu”, along with Gaga and Rihanna’s entries were the ones to beat. Since then, I think that the song from RRR has clearly pulled away from the pack. It’s the catchiest song by far and from a much loved film that was somewhat disappointing on nomination morning. I was pretty confident it was getting in for Best Picture. Fingers crossed voters won’t let us down here, but with the huge success of Top Gun: Maverick and off the back of Rihanna’s Super Bowl comeback I can definitely see some Academy members being swayed.
And then there’s Diane Warren to once again remind us there is no accounting for taste when it comes to Oscar voting. I assume she has your support???
CHRIS: Far from a Diane Warren supporter. As fun as her nominations are for joke fodder, there’s very little to reward. Tell it Like a Woman hasn’t even been properly released yet, so how is it qualifying for an Oscar? It would be so much more infuriating if it weren’t so expected. The Honorary Oscar should’ve quenched Oscar’s thirst for Diane Warren, but her reign as perennial nominee continues. We should already pencil her in for this category next year for her original song for 80 for Brady.
Many people subscribe to the methodology that one should swap out “Best” for “Most” when predicting any Oscar category. While it’s hard to measure what is the “Most Original Song,” “Naatu Naatu” certainly fits the bill. Most Oscar surprises happen when a nominee is incredibly differentiated from the competition (think Marisa Tomei in the 1992 Best Supporting Actress race). “Naatu Naatu” is a grand, high energy dance number that is performed as a centerpiece to the film RRR. All four other movies play over the end credits to some degree (though a couple of them are woven into the final narrative beats of their films). These are some reasons that “Naatu Naatu” can separate itself from the pack and win over bigger names.
If there were a spoiler, I would put my money on “Lift Me Up” by Rihanna from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. As you mentioned, her halftime performance definitely added some fuel to her campaign, even if some people were mixed on it. Fans have been waiting for Rihanna to release new music for 6 years, and an award here could help coax out a new album. Finally, the song plays better in context within the film than it does as a pop song on the radio. While Black Panther: Wakanda Forever didn’t play as well with the Academy as the first film, it still received quite a bit of support. Fans of the film will likely fondly remember this song at the end of the film and that could sway some votes.
Do you think Rihanna has an edge over Gaga, or vice versa? Is it possible the pop divas cancel each other out? Might we be underestimating “This Is a Life?”
BABY CLYDE: Good Grief. Why did they tap Warren to write that 80 for Brady song when Dolly Parton was right there? At least its inevitable nomination will mean a performance from multiple iconic ladies.
I think you’re right about “Naatu Naatu” standing out from the crowd. The fact that it’s not an end credit song absolutely helps. I say it every year, but I firmly believe that no song should be eligible if its only function is to play over the credits. I also think you’re correct in saying that RiRi is the likeliest upset although I find the song a disappointment. I was hoping for an Afrobeat banger for her comeback single. I’m far more partial to Lady Gaga’s entry, a yearning slice of 80’s tinged power pop that perfectly fits its vehicle. As always Stefani understood the assignment and a win would be a great throwback to the original Top Gun’s victory in this category for 1986.
As for “This Is A Life”, I was shocked when it got in over far more deserving contenders. It’s a proper dirge. Imagine turning down the opportunity to have Backstreet Boys perform the Billie Eilish boyband bop “Nobody Like You” from Turning Red. Sometimes I doubt the Academy even wants to produce an entertaining show. Any other missed opportunities?
CHRIS: I will never turn down a Backstreet Boys performance at the Oscars (as a companion piece to when N*Sync performed on the Oscar stage), even if I didn’t LOVE “Nobody Like You” the way so many did. Was it fun? Yes. Did it capture the specific early millennium boyband moment? Yes. Would I have nominated it? Not quite. If I had to pick songs that didn’t make it to the shortlist, I would cite many options from Marry Me, the second time JLo has upstaged a SuperBowl. The title song is great, but I also love “On My Way” as a climactic love song that plays well in the film. Also, I’m still listening to “Church” on my workout playlist. Speaking of workout playlists and pop hits, I wouldn’t be mad if OneRepublic’s “I Ain’t Worried” made it in alongside “Hold My Hand,” if only to have a shirtless touch football game break out on the Oscar stage. We have our fair share of end credits songs nominated, but I would swap any of them out for Jazmin Sullivan’s powerful song “Stand Up” that closes the film Till, snubbed in an even graver way in Best Actress.
I’ll stick up for “This Is A Life,” while also acknowledging it’s solidly my fourth place in this lineup. It thematically extends off the powerful ending, allowing the viewer space to reflect on Evelyn’s decision and all of the frenetic extravagance of Everything Everywhere All At Once. The music is beautifully downbeat and meditative. How that translates to a performance at the Oscars… I’m skeptical. If we had to nominate a “dirge,” part of me would’ve loved “Til You’re Home” to make it in from A Man Called Otto if only to see Rita Wilson on the Oscar stage.
As it stands, my predictions and personal picks line up:
“Naatu Naatu” – RRR
“Lift Me Up” – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“Hold My Hand” – Top Gun: Maverick
“This Is A Life” – Everything Everywhere All At Once
“Applause” – Tell It Like A Woman
What are your predicted rankings and personal rankings, Baby Clyde?
BABY CLYDE: For me, the greatness of “Nobody Like You” is not that it’s fun but that the song writers have delivered EXACTLY what was called for in the moment. It does indeed perfectly capture that specific early millennium boyband sound for a cartoon early millennium boyband. Like Gaga they understood the brief. It’s not something I would seek out to listen to myself but that’s not what this award should be for. Too often this goes to what is deemed the Best Song not the best song for the film which is why I’m so in favour of “Naatu Naatu” winning. It’s integral to what is happening on screen which certainly can’t be said for the other songs.
I’m in total agreement about “I Ain’t Worried”. It would have made a much better nominee than the majority listed here and as I mentioned in my previous volley “Love Is Not Love \” from Bros should have sailed into the final line-up. But we have what we have and your predictions make perfect sense.