Best Original Song has long been the Oscar category that people have argued is least essential to the art of filmmaking. The abundance of end credits songs the Academy tends to nominate only adds to this argument. Four of this year’s five nominees are end credits songs themselves: “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah, “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7, “Io Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead, and “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami. The lone song that is integral to the plot of its film is “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. While the Netflix comedy is the least Oscar-friendly of the bunch, the song’s importance in the context of the film could give it an edge in a category without an obvious frontrunner.
“Husavik” goes into the Oscars without winning any of the televised precursors, though it did receive a nomination from Critics Choice and Hollywood Music and Media Awards and win at the Society of Composers and Lyricists Awards. The song is performed in full at the film’s emotional climax, with Will Ferrell’s Lars and Rachel McAdams’s Sigrit (sung for the film by Molly Sandén) paying tribute to their hometown at the Eurovision finale. The question is whether Academy members will even watch Eurovision Song Contest with its one nomination and appreciate how it contributes to the film.
Meanwhile, Diane Warren is hoping to finally win her Oscar with her 12th career nomination. The overdue songwriter first earned a nomination here in 1987 and has had a few close calls but never got the chance to hold a little gold man of her own. Now, she goes into Oscar night with a Golden Globe under her belt for co-writing “Io Sì” with Laura Pausini. The emotional power ballad, the first nominated song performed entirely in Italian, also stands as the only representation for The Life Ahead at the Oscars. Like with Eurovision Song Contest, this could present challenges, though it proved to not be a problem just last year when “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” won despite being Rocketman’s only nomination.
“Speak Now” has become one of the most predicted winners among awards prognosticators, thanks in part to the involvement of Leslie Odom Jr. Odom is also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in One Night in Miami, making him the fourth consecutive nominee to earn recognition for acting and songwriting in the same year. The song features Odom using his Tony-winning pipes to plea for speaking out in the face of injustice, which could resonate after the Black Lives Matter reckoning of 2020. While “Speak Now” won the Critics Choice Award, it suffered a setback with the Oscars when One Night in Miami failed to land an expected Best Picture nomination, which could have made it a slam dunk to win.
What may also hurt “Speak Now” is the presence of two somewhat similarly anthemic songs in the category — “Fight for You” and “Hear My Voice.” The latter song in particular shares many of the same themes of “Speak Now,” with vocalist Celeste urging others to join in making a better world. “Fight for You” is at least sonically different, with a ‘70s-inspired groove that gives the song a forward momentum, but still covers similar ground about fighting for what’s right. While neither song has won a precursor award thus far, both have the benefit of coming from Best Picture nominees, so assuming voters don’t immediately eject their screeners once the end credits hit, they have a better chance of being experienced in the film itself.
So which song has the edge? There is no clear frontrunner, unlike most years, making this a rare instance of Best Original Song being completely up in the air heading into Oscar night. While conventional wisdom would suggest either “Io Sì” or “Speak Now” have the edge — and you should probably predict one of them for your Oscar pool — I’m going out on a limb with “Husavik.” While Eurovision Song Contest may be the least seen of the nominees in this category, one could argue that it is the only one with a passionate fanbase behind it. The real-life Icelandic town of Husavik campaigned to get the song a nomination and if enough Academy members feel similarly passionate about it, it could very well be the push needed to have awards pundits kicking themselves on Oscar night, realizing it was always there, they just didn’t see it.
My predictions for Best Original Song:
- “Husavik” – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
- “Io Sì (Seen)” – The Life Ahead
- “Speak Now” – One Night in Miami
- “Fight for You” – Judas and the Black Messiah
- “Hear My Voice” – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Photo: John Wilson/NETFLIX