A breakdown of the tunesmith contenders

“DOWN TO EARTH”

“Wall-E”

Music: Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman

Lyrics: Peter Gabriel

Oscar pedigree: Eight prior noms for Newman, first for Gabriel

Awards to date: World Soundtrack Award; Golden Globe, Broadcast Film Critics and Grammy noms

Placement: End credits

Challenge: “The whole issue of the end credits was, we’re back on Earth and it’s still pretty bleak. Now what? Pixar decided to do a whole montage on how mankind restores itself,” says Newman.

Resonance: “In a way, (the song is) kind of a rallying cry. (The result was) joyfully surprising.”

Advantage: Fun, relevant song from Pixar film; animated-movie songs often win; could benefit from split “Slumdog” vote.

Handicap: “Slumdog” juggernaut could wipe out its chances.

JAI HO

“Slumdog Millionaire”

Music: A.R. Rahman

Lyrics: Gulzar

Oscar pedigree: First nom for both

Awards to date: Broadcast Film Critics nom

Placement: Bollywood-style musical finale in Mumbai train station

Challenge: “Danny shot the song with another temp track. I could see all the moves and I figured out a way to sync it,” says Rahman.

Resonance: “‘Jai Ho’ is like a blessing: ‘Be victorious.’ We felt that it would be the right thing, the right energy. He ended the film, and this was like an encore.”

Advantage: Upbeat, infectious finale is like frosting on the cake of a feel-good movie.

Handicap: Voters may not remember which “Slumdog” number is which, possibly splitting vote.

“O … SAYA”

“Slumdog Millionaire”

Music and lyrics: A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam

Oscar pedigree: First nom for both

Awards to date: None

Placement: Children playing on airport tarmac and subsequent police chase.

Challenge: “We wanted to tell people that this is a film which is completely different from all other Indian films. We want to take you for a ride, in a positive way,” says Rahman.

Resonance: “I heard M.I.A. three years ago; her energy was a surprise to me. So when Danny suggested M.I.A., I was very excited. I thought this was probably the right film to do.”

Advantage: M.I.A. lyric and vocal make this the most contemporary sounding of the three songs, possibly appealing to younger voters.

Handicap: See “Jai Ho”

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