The Oscar Shortlist: The 15 Best Original Songs Still in the Hunt
By Abb Jones
So this year’s crop of potential Best Original Song Oscar nominees may be one of the least exciting in recent memory – but hey, IF there is an Oscar ceremony in a few months (thanks COVID!) and IF the nominees actually get to perform their songs (thanks for last year, Soderbergh!) we could have some big names belting out these tunes.
Here is our ranking of those most likely to be nominated for Best Original Song from the recently narrowed down shortlist of 15, when the five nominees are announced on February 8, 2022. The Oscars will be awarded Sunday, March 27th at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and broadcast on ABC in the United States and to more than 200 countries worldwide.
The Likely Nominees
No Time to Die – No Time to Die
Billie Eilish and big brother Finneas O’Connell’s theme song for Daniel Craig’s final James Bond film is all but assured of being nominated, and very likely will win the Oscar. It has been nearly a decade since Adele’s “Skyfall” became the first Bond theme to win an Oscar, followed in 2015 with Sam Smith’s “Writing on the Wall” for Spectre. The time feels right for another bombastic, Shirley Bassey-worthy Bond ballad sung by a current pop superstar.
Beyond the Shore – CODA
Just like the heartwarming AppleTV+ movie CODA, about a hearing teenager working up the courage to finally leave the home of her deaf family, Emilia Jones’ end credits tune is also a surprise dark horse – sweet, simple and totally believable. In a just world, this beautiful coffee shop ballad would be the clear Oscar winner, but even scoring a nomination and a chance for Emilia to perform it on Oscar night would be absolutely wonderful.
Just Look Up – Don’t Look Up
If there is ANY justice in this world, Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi’s hysterical pop tune from Netflix’s end of the world satire Don’t Look Up will get nominated, just so the global audience can hear Grande utter the hilarious lyrics, “Get your head out of your ass, Listen to the Goddamn qualified scientists” and “Just look up! Turn off that shit Fox News.” Preach, Ariana!
Be Alive – King Richard
Just because it is Beyoncé and just because those songs lower on this list are so mediocre, odds are high that this tune from the Williams family tennis biopic King Richard will get nominated but frankly, the song itself isn’t memorable enough to be a serious threat to win the Oscar.
Dos Orugitas – Encanto
Disney/Pixar movies like this year’s Encanto typically are a lock in this category, which means even Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pleasantly bland Spanish language end-credits tune, sung by Colombian singer Sebastian Yatra, could slip into a nomination (but almost no chance for a win).
The Middle of the Pack
The Anonymous Ones – Dear Evan Hansen
In Dear Evan Hansen, Amandla Stenberg’s popular cheerleader character ultimately reveals her own struggles with depression to Ben Platt’s titular character, belting out a heartfelt tune about those who seem to “have it all” yet face their personal struggles in silence. Given all the unfair, negative criticism of this heartfelt, well done film, this likely lone shot for an Oscar nomination also will likely fall short, which is a real shame. Stenberg really belts it out in the bridge of the song.
Guns Go Bang – The Harder They Fall
Kid Cudi and Jay-Z give this tune from this Black Western lots of zing, auto-tune and sounds of bullet ricochets. It’s a firm second tier contender that could net a surprise nomination if Academy voters are jonesing to see both members of the Knowles-Carter household perform on Oscar night. And if Kid Cudi’s previously mentioned duet with Ariana Grande also gets nominated he could end up doing double duty Oscar night.
Somehow You Do – Four Good Days
Reba McIntyre’s star power could net songwriting juggernaut Diane Warren a whopping 13th Oscar nomination for her paint-by-the-numbers mall ballad that is just as bland as the dishwater dull drug addiction drama starring Glenn Close and Mila Kunis. With all those nominations and ZERO wins, Warren is now the Susan Lucci of the Oscar songwriters division.
Automatic Woman – Bruised
On the heels of her win last year for Judas and the Black Messiah‘s “Fight for You,” H.E.R. is back, with Van Hunt and Starrah, in this rappy, staccato tune from the Halle Berry boxing drama Bruised. But while catchy, the song lacks the heft of last year’s Oscar winner.
Here I Am – Respect
Some might say it was a risky move to add a Jennifer Hudson original song to the crowd-pleasing Aretha Franklin musical biopic Respect, but here we are, with a gospel tune penned by none other than Carole King. It’s adequate for the shortlist but hardly memorable enough to warrant a nomination.
The “Not a Chances”
Down to Joy – Belfast
The only place you will hear Van Morrison’s tune that kicks off Kenneth Branagh’s ode to his troubled childhood in Belfast is in the movie itself. It isn’t available on YouTube or anywhere else, which means it also will likely not end up at the Oscars.
Dream Girl – Cinderella
Even with booming vocals from Idina Menzel, this attitude heavy but shockingly abrupt tune is the best thing from one of our 10 Worst Films of 2021, making it a hard no.
Right Where I Belong – Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road
Just the fact that legendary Beach Boys band member Brian Wilson agreed to write an original song for this documentary about his life is pretty cool in itself. The shortlist, however, will be the end of this road.
So May We Start – Annette
This tune from Ron and Russell Mael may be the perfect ode to the Adam Driver/Marion Cotillard film about a sociopathic comedian who kills his wife and grooms their child into a musical superstar. But its all a bit too strange, even for The Academy.
Your Song Saved My Life – Sing 2
U2’s decision to stage a comeback with a song in a Disney animated musical sequel is an odd one, for sure. Making the shortlist is a shocking achievement. It’s that bad.
So there you have it – the Best Original Song shortlist. Which of these is your pick to win the Oscar? Chime in below in the comments!
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