This year, a who’s who of Grammy-nominated artists and household names lead the original song Oscar race. But it’s still early days so anything can happen. Original song reigning queen H.E.R. has “Automatic Woman,” from “Bruised,” while “Right Where I Belong” by Brian Wilson and Jim James that plays in the doc “Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road” could gain traction with voters. Lead actress contender Jennifer Hudson teamed with Carole King for “Here I Am (Singing My Way Home),” a potential contender from “Respect.”
But let’s look at the front-runners. Will Billie Eilish’s title song from “No Time to Die” win over, or will Lin-Manuel Miranda finally achieve EGOT status?
“Be Alive” from “King Richard”
Beyoncé’s contribution to the original song race has been strong, but her ace has been served with “Be Alive,” which plays over the end credits of “King Richard.” The track, a soaring ballad that fits like a glove on the movie, also serves as a standalone single.
“Call Me Cruella” from “Cruella”
Nicholas Britell didn’t just score the music to Disney’s “Cruella,” he paired up with Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine for this theatrical number. Welch’s moody vocals against a rock guitar tie with the Disney villain’s origin story — it’s a haunting number that turns up to 100 when the chorus hits. Disney will need to get this track back on the music branch’s radar given the film came out in May.
“Dos Orugitas” from “Encanto”
While Lin-Manuel Miranda penned eight original songs for Disney’s “Encanto” the standout is the ballad “Dos Oruguitas.” Sung in Spanish during the film, an English version plays during the end credits. Miranda came on board early to deliver the songs of “Encanto,” which are all filled with authentic Colombian instruments and sounds. Miranda already has an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony Award — all that’s missing is the Oscar. “Down to Joy” from “Belfast” Belfast native Kenneth Branagh called on another hometown artist, Van Morrison, to write the music for his semi-autobiographical black-and-white film. Will voters dismiss Morrison’s recent anti-lockdown album and controversial stand on masks during the height of the pandemic? Maybe. He’s an icon and this film is already beloved. Morrison has two Grammy Awards, this would mark his first Oscar nomination.
“Guns Go Bang” from “The Harder They Fall”
Jay-Z and Kid Cudi come to the screen with six-shooters blazing on “Guns Go Bang.” A roaring tune, the song sees the two dueling against a defiant hip-hop beat with Cudi bringing that Western genre hook. Observers are anticipating a battle royale between Beyoncé and husband Jay-Z for a slot this Oscar season.
“Just Look Up” from “Don’t Look Up”
Cudi has another shot at an Oscar with fellow cast member Ariana Grande in which they landed buzz for this collab, written with Cudi, and the prolific Britell and Taura Stinson. The pop princess’ star on screen seems to be rising as she’s been cast in Jon M. Chu’s “Wicked” feature adaptation.
“No Time to Die” from “No Time to Die”
Can this haunting James Bond song maintain its winning streak? Released in February 2020, the number has already won a Grammy for song written for visual media. An Oscar could be next up. Singer-songwriter Eilish pays tribute to Monty Norman’s seminal 1962 James Bond theme while putting her stamp on the track with haunting vocals and a soaring melody.
“Your Song Saved My Life” from “Sing 2”
Bono doesn’t just appear in “Sing 2,” he dropped a song to go along with it. “Your Song Saved My Life” is U2’s first release since 2019 and it’s been worth the wait. This isn’t the first time the band has contributed to this category, but it would be a first win and third nomination if it runs the race.