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Oscars 2021: Hear the Nominees for Best Original Song

Mere hours after the conclusion of the Grammys, the organizers of the Academy Awards have announced five more songs worthy of a golden statuette.

The nominees for Best Original Song are a fun mix of highbrow and lowbrow tunes, spanning H.E.R.’s soulful anthem from Judas and the Black Messiah to Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams’ melodramatically hilarious track from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. Songwriter Diane Warren, who has yet to win an Oscar, earns her 12th nomination this year for her contribution to the Italian film, The Life Ahead; she won a Golden Globe for the tune last month.

The Academy’s nominating committee whittled its selections down from a shortlist that included other tracks by Mary J. Blige, John Legend, and Sacha Baron Cohen (for his Borat ditty “Wuhan Flu”); the most surprising snub is Christina Aguilera’s “Loyal Brave True” from Mulan since Disney films have traditionally dominated the category going back to “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

To see which song wins, tune in to the Oscars on ABC at 8 p.m. ET on April 25th. Until then, here are the five nominees for Best Original Song.

“Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah
Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyrics by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas

An FBI informant, Bill O’Neal (actor LaKeith Stanfield), joins the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in the late Sixties and gets close to its leader, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), in Judas and the Black Messiah. As the two grow closer, O’Neal begins to feel trapped between the two worlds. H.E.R.’s song from the film, “Fight for You,” fuses the hallmarks of Stax-era Isaac Hayes (orchestral string flourishes, wah-wah guitar, jangling triangle) with her own mellifluous R&B vocals as she sings about freedom. “Long as I’m standing, we could never lose,” she sings, “I’ma always, always fight for you.” The song’s nomination comes on the heels of H.E.R.’s two Grammy wins last night.

“Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7
Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyrics by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite

In 1968, a riot broke out outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Authorities there arrested eight men, including Abbie Hoffman and the Black Panthers’ Bobby Seale, and charged them with conspiracy. Filmmaker Aaron Sorkin’s movie The Trial of the Chicago 7 dramatizes the bizarre legal proceedings that followed (including an explanation of why it’s “the Chicago 7” when eight men were charged). The movie’s soulful “Hear My Voice” features Beatles-esque music and a lush string arrangement and was performed by one of the song’s cowriters, Celeste. “These words are of fire, of hope and desire,” she sings, drawing on themes from the movie, “and I’ll let them free.”

“Húsavik – My Hometown” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Music and Lyrics by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus, and Rickard Göransson

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga was Will Ferrell’s tribute to all the glorious schmaltz and theatricality of the annual music competition that captivates a continent every year. In the film, winning Eurovision is the only thing that matters to Lars Erickssong (Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Rachel McAdams), two Icelanders who have been vying for a spot in the contest their whole lives. Since it’s a Will Ferrell comedy, there are explosions, elves, and misunderstandings galore — as well as cameos by some of Eurovision’s most memorable contestants — as they ready their song, “Húsavik – My Hometown,” for the big night.

“Io Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Sé)
Music by Diane Warren; Lyrics by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini

In The Life Ahead, a Holocaust survivor, Madame Rosa (Sophia Loren), who is also a former sex worker, makes a living looking after the children of other sex workers in a city on Italy’s east coast. When a 12-year-old boy (Ibrahima Gueye) robs her, she decides to take care of him, too, and she attempts to be a role model for him. Singer Laura Pausini, a superstar in Italy whose last seven albums have all reached Number One on that country’s charts, collaborated with songwriter Diane Warren on the film’s “Io Sì (Seen).” “When you learn to survive and accept the impossible, [and] no one believes you, I will,” she sings in Italian over a gentle backdrop of acoustic guitar and synthesizer, all the while promising, “I’m here.” In the English version of the song, she sings, “I want you to know that you’re seen.”

“Speak Now” from One Night in Miami …
Music and Lyrics by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth

Filmmaker Regina King’s One Night in Miami … dramatizes a fictional meeting between Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, and football player Jim Brown in 1964, when Jim Crow laws forced them all into the same motel together, despite their fame. The four men spend the night discussing civil rights and their individual responsibilities as black leaders. In the movie, Leslie Odom, Jr. portrays Sam Cooke, and he co-wrote the movie’s song, “Speak Now,” with Sam Ashworth, who co-wrote a few songs on Odom’s Mr. album. But the singer doesn’t try to sound like Cooke on the tune, which is a somber cry for people to lift their voices set to acoustic guitar, church organ, and a slow-beating tambourine. “Listen, listen, to the message of hope and the whispers of ghosts, listen, listen,” he sings, echoing the tone of the movie.

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