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Song

The analysis

The song race can often be unpredictable, and this year is no exception. While early favorite Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart’s “Old Habits Die Hard” from “Alfie” won the Golden Globe and BFCA trophies, the Academy passed it over and took a more global outlook that sees a record two foreign-lingo tunes in the hunt.

The Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love” from “Shrek 2” is the highest-charting hit of the nominees, climbing to No. 39 on Billboard’s Top 100. That it also hit No. 3 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 is noteworthy, reflecting the Academy’s mature tastes. Being the sole song in the mix from a well-known rock band also could give the song a boost, as it will have the greatest name (and sound) recognition among rock-loving members of the Academy.

That “Learn to Be Lonely” from “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera” got a nom is no real surprise, since Lloyd Webber grabbed the award for 1997’s “Evita” (for “You Must Love Me”). The musical’s popularity could add to appeal of the song, which was created for the film version precisely to compete in this category. If it wins, the move will be hailed for its brilliance, though it’s at least as likely that the move could backfire and Academy voters will reject it as too cynical to reward with the top prize.

Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard’s “Believe” from “The Polar Express” is another family-friendly ballad, exactly the kind of song that Oscar loves. Songs from animated pics have won in eight of the last 15 races, which could give this tune as well as “Accidentally in Love” a slight edge.

Uruguayan pop songwriter Jorge Drexler’s “Al otro lado del rio” from “The Motorcycle Diaries” marks the first time Oscar has nommed a Spanish-language song. No tune from a foreign-language film has won this category, but Drexler’s Acad-friendly ballad could ride the wave of goodwill towards the largely overlooked “Motorcycle Diaries” and nab the award.

“Look to Your Path” from “The Chorus” marks the second year in a row that a song in French has been nominated; “Belleville Rendez-vous” from “The Triplets of Belleville” was last year’s entry. This song stands out as it’s neither a ballad nor a pop song, and the uniqueness of its format could work in its favor.

Accidentally in Love

Shrek 2

Music by Adam Duritz, Charles Gillingham, Jim Bogios, David Immergluck, Matthew Malley and David Bryson; lyrics by Adam Duritz and Daniel Vickrey

Current kudos: Golden Globes (nom), Grammy (nom), BFCA (nom)

Oscar pedigree: None

Why it’ll win: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences loves easy-listening rock songs like this and it was the most commercially successful of the nominees.

Why it won’t: While this song has the edge, Oscar could decide to make history and give it to one of the foreign-lingo nominees.

Al Otro Lado del Rio

The Motorcycle Diaries

Music and lyrics by Jorge Drexler

Current kudos: None

Oscar pedigree: None

Why it’ll win: Acad voters will want to recognize “The Motorcycle Diaries” since it’s only nommed in one other category.

Why it won’t: A song from a foreign-lingo pic has never won before, though this is the first year two have been nommed at the same time.

Believe

The Polar Express

Music and lyrics by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri

Current kudos: BFCA (nom), Golden Globe (nom)

Oscar pedigree: None

Why it’ll win: Oscar voters love ballads, and since “The Polar Express” was not nominated for animated film, voters might grant a consolation prize with the song award.

Why it won’t: Lukewarm critical reception of “Polar Express” could bias voters.

Learn to be Lonely

The Phantom of the Opera

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Charles Hart

Current kudos: Golden Globe (nom)

Oscar pedigree: Webber, “Evita” (win), “Jesus Christ Superstar” (nom)

Why it’ll win: Lloyd Webber has already pulled this off once before with “Evita,” adding a new song for the film version of a musical.

Why it won’t: As a song tacked on to a score packed with popular favorites, it may be overlooked by voters familiar with “Phantom’s” other hits.

Look to Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)

The Chorus (Les Choristes)

Music by Bruno Coulais, lyrics by Christophe Barratier

Current kudos: None

Oscar pedigree: None

Why it’ll win: Song’s format is unique, which makes it stand out among this year’s contenders.

Why it won’t: Foreign-lingo status and the film’s low profile make it a long shot.

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