Warner Bros is keeping their cards close to their vests right now in terms of what songs from Barbie they’ll officially submit for the Oscars and they have some real choices to make.
While WB has five original songs from Barbie to choose from there are really only three that have a fighting chance, and only three can even be submitted. Let’s give some background as to how we got here.
Per Academy rules for submitting: “No more than three (3) songs from any one film may be submitted for Original Song, regardless of writer(s).” Once voting for the shortlist comes around the list is revealed, another rule is triggered: “No more than two songs from any one film by the exact same writers may be shortlisted. If more than two songs from a film by the exact same writers are in contention, the two songs with the most votes will advance to the shortlist. However, no more than two songs from any one film, regardless of writers, may be nominated for the Original Song award.”
Back in 2006 and 2007, two films earned three nominations in this category (Dreamgirls and Enchanted, respectively) and the music branch once again changed their rules and voting structure in June of 2008 to keep that from happening again. From 1946 to 2011, each member of the Music Branch of the Academy was asked to vote using a points system of 10, 9.5, 9, 8.5, 8, 7.5, 7, 6.5 or 6 points. Only those songs that received an average score of 8.25 or more were eligible for nomination. If no song qualified, there would be no nominees. And if only one song achieved that score, it and the song receiving the next highest score would be the two nominees. This system usually resulted in five nominations each year, except for 2010 when four were nominated, 1988, 2005, and 2008, when only three were nominated; and 2011 when only two were nominated.
As of 2019, the Academy’s rules stipulate that “an original song consists of words and music, both of which are original and written specifically for the motion picture. There must be a clearly audible, intelligible, substantive rendition (not necessarily visually presented) of both lyric and melody, used in the body of the motion picture or as the first music cue in the end credits.”
The Original Song Oscar is presented only to the songwriters, lyricists and/or musician who have composed and/or written the song specifically for a feature film. The performers of a song are not credited with the Academy Award unless they contributed either to music, lyrics, or both in their own right. For example, two songs sung by Madonna in feature films have won Oscars – “Sooner or Later” from 1990’s Dick Tracy and “You Must Love Me” from 1996’s Evita, and performed then on the show – but as she did not have a hand in writing them, she was not awarded.
So in looking at how all of that figures into Barbie, at the front is “What Was I Made For,” from Billie Eilish and Finneas and sung by Eilish at both one of the film’s most pivotal and emotional moments and also over the end credits. Eilish and Finneas are already Oscar winners in this category for the Bond song “No Time to Die” from 2021 film of the same name. At 22-years-old by the time of nominations and the Academy Awards, she would be the youngest person ever to win two Oscars if she triumphs here in March. The showstopping central number “I’m Just Ken” by Mark Johnson and Andrew Wyatt and sung by Ryan Gosling gave the film its most talked about moment. Then there’s the top 10 hit, “Dance the Night” by Caroline Ailin, Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt and sung by Dua Lipa. The catchiest and most mainstream of the songs, it peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this summer. Conversely, the Eilish song topped out at #14 and Gosling’s number popped in at #87 and then right back out. They also have “Pink” and “Speed Drive.” Warner Bros has yet to reveal exactly which songs they will push for consideration.
That presents a bit of a dilemma similar to the one Walt Disney faced a few years ago with Encanto. While the studio had been the benefactor of a single film dominating the category before (the aforementioned Enchanted, but also 1991’s Beauty and the Beast and 1994’s The Lion King, the latter two won here), the Mouse House backed away from heavy submissions and opted for the film’s main ballad “Dos Oruguitas,” which was nominated but did not win, over the massive mainstream hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” a much more playful and populist song that actually hit the #1 spot on the Billboard chart.
Walt Disney might have learned its lesson as this year as they have submitted three songs from the new The Little Mermaid: “The Scuttlebutt,’ “For the First Time,” and “Wild Uncharted Waters,” all by 8-time Oscar winner Alan Menken and two-time Oscar nominee Lin Manuel-Miranda. In several previous Disney outings where they’ve gotten two songs nominated it’s a mix of the main ballad and the ‘funny’ one, a scenario that would also fit for Barbie. But, it’s worth noting that since that 2008 change only twice has a film gotten two songs in: 2009’s The Princess and the Frog (neither song won) and 2016’s La La Land where “City of Stars” took home the Oscar. That makes something like two Barbie songs and two songs from The Little Mermaid both getting in a very risky, if not impossible, bet. It’s happened twice before, two films getting two songs in: 1983’s Flashdance and Yentl, and 1992’s Aladdin and The Bodyguard. In those respective years, “Flashdance…What a Feeling” won for Flashdance and “A Whole New World” from Aladdin won.
The Oscar shortlists will be revealed on December 21, 2023. Oscar nominations will be announced on January 23, 2024 and the 96th Academy Awards will be held on March 10.
Here are my 2024 Oscar predictions for the 15-title shortlist in Original Song for October 2023.
- “What Was I Made For” by Billie Eilish and Finneas from Barbie (Warner Bros)
- “I’m Just Ken” by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt from Barbie (Warner Bros)
- “Road to Freedom” by Lenny Kravitz from Rustin (Netflix)
- “For the First Time” by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda from The Little Mermaid (Walt Disney Pictures)
- “Gonna Be You” by Diane Warren from 80 for Brady (Paramount Pictures)
- “Peaches” by Jack Black, Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic, Eric Osmond, and John Spiker from The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal Pictures/Illumination)
- “Better Place” by Justin Timberlake from Trolls Band Together (DreamWorks Animation)
- “This Wish” by Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice from Wish (Walt Disney Pictures)
- “TBA” from The Color Purple (Warner Bros)
- “Lullaby / Beyond” – Vive La Musique” by Nicholas Britell from Carmen (Sony Pictures Classics)
- “All Love is Love” by Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp from Dicks: The Musical (A24)
- “Steal the Show” by Lauv, Michael Matosic and Thomas Newman from Elemental” (Pixar)
- “The Scuttlebutt” by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda from The Little Mermaid (Walt Disney Pictures)
- “High Life” by John Carney and Gary Clark from Flora and Son (Apple Original Films)
- “Quiet Eyes” by Zach Dawes and Sharon Von Etten from Past Lives (A24)
Next up: “Dance the Night” by Caroline Ailin, Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt from Barbie (Warner Bros), “Wild Uncharted Waters” by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda from The Little Mermaid (Walt Disney Pictures), “Wounded Heart” by Ondara from Silver Dollar Road (Amazon MGM Studios), “Am I Dreaming” by Leland Wayne, Rakim Mayers, Michael Dean, Peter Lee Johnson, Landon Wayne from Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony Pictures)
Other contenders/TBAs: “Pink” by Andrew Wyatt, Eric Burton Frederic, Mark Ronson, Melissa Jefferson from Barbie (Warner Bros), “Speed Drive” by Charlotte Aitchison, David James Parker, Easyfun, Ewart Everton Brown, Fabian Peter Torsson, Joakim Frans Åhlund, Klas Frans Åhlund, Michael Chapman, Nicholas Chinn, Patrik Knut Arve, Sylvia Robinson, Troy Rami from Barbie (Warner Bros), “Out-Alpha the Alpha” by Megan Thee Stallion from Dicks: The Musical (A24), “Camp Isn’t Home” by Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman, Ben Platt and Mark Sonnenblick from Theater Camp (Searchlight Pictures), “TBA” from Wish (Walt Disney Pictures), “Let’s Get Married” from Trolls Band Together (DreamWorks Animation), “Perfect” from Trolls Band Together (DreamWorks Animation), “TBA” from Wonka” (Warner Bros)
Eligible or no? “The Fire Inside” by Diane Warren from Flamin’ Hot (Hulu/Searchlight Pictures)