There is no real Best Picture/Original Song correlation historically but, like Original Score, there is a Golden Globe connection. The last time the Oscar winner for Original Song wasn’t nominated at the Globes first was “Man or Muppet” from 2011’s The Muppets. Granted, that was from that wild year when there were only two nominees (under the branch’s old point-based system) but it also happened the year prior when “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 won the Oscar without a Globe nomination first.
From the moment India didn’t select RRR as their International Feature Film Oscar submission, the push kicked in for the film’s centerpiece song and dance number “Naatu Naatu” to take home the Oscar and here we are, with the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe in hand and frontrunner status in place.
From there we have the battle of the pop stars with Grammy winner Rihanna on her first Oscar nomination and for her top 5 Billboard hit since 2016. Oh, and she just played the Super Bowl. Now, I know that some think that her Super Bowl appearance somehow elevated her chances but no, it didn’t. The Halftime Show is 13 minutes of greatest hits and there wasn’t even room for her nominated song, the sleepy ballad “Lift Me Up,” from Black Panther Wakanda Forever. It didn’t hurt her for visibility of course but correlation is not causation.
Gaga, a Grammy and Oscar winner in this category (for “Shallow” from 2018’s A Star Is Born), also comes in with a ballad but it’s a soaring number that plays perfectly within Top Gun: Maverick and its context. The song was a surprising chart flop, peaking at #49 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“This Is a Life,” from Everything Everywhere All At Once was another one of the film’s welcome surprise nominations, a first for Ryan Lott and Mitski and the second for David Byrne, who won Original Score for 1987’s The Last Emperor (shared with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su).
Diane Warren, bless her heart, landed her 14th nomination in this category with “Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman and proved her strength within this branch to be nominated even after receiving her Honorary Oscar, the first person primarily known as a songwriter to do so. But, as we’ve seen 13 times before, while the branch may love to nominate her, the overall voting membership hasn’t been on her side and won’t be this year either.
The last four years voters have gone with recording superstars (Lady Gaga, Elton John, H.E.R., Billie Eilish) which could provide an upset for RRR by way of Rihanna or Gaga but it feels like momentum is in place for “Naatu Naatu” and who can’t wait to see that performance on the show?
Here are my final 2023 Oscar winner predictions for Original Song.
|1. “Naatu Naatu” from RRR – CCA, GG
Music by M.M. Keeravaani; Lyric by Chandrabose
|2. “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – CCA, GG, HMMA, SCL
Music by Tems, Rihanna, Ryan Coogler and Ludwig Göransson; Lyric by Tems and Ryan Coogler
|3. “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick – CCA, GG, HMMA, SCL
Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga and BloodPop
|4. “This Is a Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once – HMMA
Music by David Byrne, Ryan Lott & Mitski; Lyric by David Byrne and Ryan Lott
|5. “Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman – HMMA, SCL
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren