This is an exceedingly rare year in that the Best Song category actually reflects nominees who are not flavor-of-the-week or its song nomination being meant to be the consolation Oscar for a film who has been grossly snubbed by the Academy. This year the nominees in this category are all worthy of the win and this category couldn’t be more diverse in musicality.
“Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey is sexy and has a club-feel that is all too perfect for the steamy romance film. This was the supposed song frontrunner before nominations occurred and before it lost the Golden Globe to Sam Smith. When contrasting it with the other nominations, this makes sense. “Earned It” is a phenomenal song, but it doesn’t have (what I like to call) the “anthem feel” to it. What the Oscars typically go for in this category are songs that convey a message and could function as an anthem (Last year’s Selma is a great example of this).
The other four nominees have that feel, but in different ways. “Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction is a simple song, yet it stays with you. Its theme and lyrics are haunting and remind its listeners of the threat of animal extinction due to causes brought about by the human race. “Simple Song #3” from Youth is an astounding achievement of music with its opera sound. The vocal range mixed with the orchestra composition makes this song the very definition of beautiful. In a perfect world “Simple Song #3” would be the Best Song winner in this category for having the ability to remind listeners that opera is still relevant in contemporary society and also having the capacity to astound us all. It is the most extraordinary piece of song writing in this category and it deserves more recognition.
The focus in this category battle is between Lady Gaga and Sam Smith, and honestly, that’s not a problem at all. If “Simple Song #3” lost to either of these two (or any of the nominees, really), it would be losing to a worthy adversary. Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground is an astonishing anthem that brings about awareness, but also breaks your heart with its lyrics and message. Lady Gaga yet again proves that she is more than a villainous vampire on American Horror Story or a gay icon with her fast-beat club music. Lady Gaga is a capable songwriter and singer who has the ability to stun and remind us all of the injustices that occur to others. “Til It Happens to You” is more than an anthem, it’s also a ‘wake up call’ and a warning that injustices, such as university campus rape, shouldn’t ever be tolerated. This is arguably Lady Gaga’s best work in her career, thus far.
However, on paper, this category’s Oscar is Sam Smith’s to lose. After winning the Golden Globe for “Writing’s On The Wall” for Spectre, he has the momentum to win the ultimate award. Yet winning the Golden Globe doesn’t guarantee him a win at all. In fact, “Writing’s On The Wall,” since its release, has been met with a love-hate response from music fans and Bond movie audiences, either citing it as ‘one of the best Bond songs ever written’ or describing it as ‘wimpy’ and ‘weak.’ Sam Smith has argued that his stance with his Bond song was to write something that would be timeless and truly identify with the Bond franchise as a whole. I personally think he achieved that with “Writing’s On The Wall.” The song is sexy and its longing reflects those who are fascinated and memorized by James Bond himself. It can be argued that the song isn’t an epic as most Bond songs typically are, but once one takes away the label of “Bond Song” from “Writing’s On The Wall,” one cannot deny it is exquisite songwriting. This asks the Oscar-winning question: Will voters be able to look past “Writing’s On the Wall” as a Bond Song and listen to it for exactly what it is and represents? We will find out on Oscar night.
“Earned It” – Fifty Shades of Gray
“Til It Happens to You” – The Hunting Ground
“Manta Ray” – Racing Extinction
“Writing’s On The Wall” – Spectre
“Simple Song #3” – Youth
Will Win: “Til It Happens to You” – The Hunting Ground
Could Win: “Writing’s On The Wall” – Spectre
Should Win: “Simple Song #3” – Youth