There are five nominees for Best Original Song at this year’s Oscars. Press Play runs through them with Noah Gittell, a freelance film critic, and lecturer at the Smithsonian.
He notes that the Academy has no rules for what types of songs get nominated here — they could play over end credits, be from musicals, or sung by characters in films that aren’t musicals.
“Hold My Hand” (from “Top Gun: Maverick”) by Lady Gaga
Gittell: “Not only did she win this category in 2019 for “Shallow,” she was also nominated for Best Actress that year. And let's not forget that she, along with Liza Minnelli, announced Best Picture last year, which is a spot that's really reserved for Hollywood royalty. So the Academy loves her and the song is good. It's a serious contender.”
“Lift Me Up” (from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) by Rihanna
This is Rihanna’s first Oscars nomination. She's supposed to perform “Lift Me Up” at the ceremony.
“I'm not normally a fan of nominating songs that simply play over the end credits. I really prefer when they're integrated into the film in some way. But I thought it worked perfectly in the movie, which ends with a big climactic battle, obviously, and then this very quiet, emotional denouement. And the song … really captures the feeling of that moment and of the film, which is very mournful, but also empowering. And the song is not flashy in any way. It's not going to make for a really dynamic performance necessarily, but it captures the spirit of the film, and that's a very hard thing to do.”
“This Is a Life” (from “Everything Everywhere All at Once”) by Son Lux, David Byrne, Mitski
“It totally captures the spirit of ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ in the lyrics, talking about the various lives that could have been led. … You have these dual … competing vocals that overlap a bit, and that reflects the overlapping narratives of the movie. And it's just pretty. It's a beautiful ambiance song with two singers who have distinct voices that go together very well.”
“Applause” (from “Tell It like a Woman”) - written by Diane Warren, sung by Sofia Carson
“I don't think this is a particularly good song. It's a film nobody's ever heard of or seen. [Warren has] never won before. … The funny thing about it is that they gave her an Honorary Oscar in 2022. And a lot of folks thought … the academy recognized work that she has done even though she's never won, and maybe a signal to the Academy membership that they should stop nominating her for these songs that nobody's ever heard, in movies they've never heard of. And yet, the Warren brand is so strong that she was nominated again for such a song.”
“Naatu Naatu” (from “RRR”) by Rahul Sipligunj, Kaala Bhairava and M.M. Keeravani
“This is actually the first song to be nominated in this category from an Indian production. … It's a big popcorn movie, it's a lot of fun. … If people have skepticism that they're going to like it, when you get to this number, which is about 45 minutes into the movie, you're going to be in. Because it is just an irresistible musical number, a huge dance sequence at a party or a wedding.”