Something magical happens when a musician is asked to write a song for a movie. The jumping off point of the film acts as a perfect catalyst for what ends in lasting hits, sometimes even eclipsing the film itself.
A song can only be nominated for the ‘Best Song’ category at the Oscars if it was written specifically for the film. Past winners, such as “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You” have been played so much out of the context from the films they were written for that it can be a struggle to remember their exact origin story.
That’s what makes the category so interesting, and why we’re taking a closer look at this year’s nominees, the next set of could-be timeless classics.
(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again (Rocketman) Elton John & Bernie Taupin, performed by Elton John and Taron Egerton
When they inevitably perform this one on the night of the show, Taron Egerton and Elton John may very well bring down the house. There’s few more decorated musicians in the biz than Elton, and combined with Egerton’s sensational vocal performance they’ve gifted us with a jam-packed feel good tune that’s already won big at the Golden Globes. Even if this one manages to miss out on the ultimate prize, we’ll be hearing those raspy piano-backed vocals on the radio for years to come.
Into the Unknown (Frozen II) Kristian Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez, performed by Idina Menzel
The husband-wife duo, Kristian Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, catapulted themselves to the international stage with their first ‘Best Song’ Oscar in 2013 for ‘Let it Go’ (Frozen) and followed that up with a second win in 2017 for ‘Remember Me’ (Coco). There’s an argument to be made that ‘Into the Unknown’ might be the most impressive of all three. While maybe not an instant hit with the kids like ‘Let it Go’, the song has a maturity that begins chilling and timid but grows to a point of uncontainable energy, utilizing the vast range of Idina Menzel’s powerful voice.
I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away (Toy Story 4) Randy Newman
It’s a bit of a tradition for Randy Newman and the Toy Story team to get nominated for the category, and with this little diddy, the man himself goes four-for-four. It’s a repetitive yet cheery piano tune that manages to invoke a glimmer of what the original film and soundtrack captured all those years ago. While nowhere near the level of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” Newman proves his ever-enduring superpower to at the very least put a smile on your face.
Stand Up (Harriet) Joshuah Brian Campbell & Cynthia Erivo, performed by Cynthia Erivo
This song boasts the heaviest weight of all five nominees, telling the story of slavery in America in such a way that truly shines through the music. Cynthia Erivo officially arrives, playing the lead role of Harriet Tubman and is staggering in this five-minute-long gospel-inspired ascent to the heavens. It’s less of a song and more of a movement in the direction of brighter and better times. I’m Standing With You (Breakthrough) Dianne Warren
If there’s one thing that Dianne Warren knows how to do, it’s get Academy Award nominations. Eleven nods deep, Warren’s still searching for that ever elusive win. “I’m Standing With You” is performed by actress Chrissy Metz, who also plays the lead in the Christian-drama, Breakthrough, about a boy who tragically plunges into an iced over lake. It’s the weakest of this year’s five entries but the simplistic ballad still pulls a few heart strings here and there.