It may only be June, but we have already been treated to some great contenders for this year’s Best Original Song Oscar race. From instant pop hits to great comedic tunes, there is a variety to offer and a strong chance that at least one or two of the songs mentioned below will be nominated at the upcoming Academy Awards. While there are bound to be some heavy hitters releasing later on in the year, including potential new material for the musical adaptation of “The Color Purple” and the inevitable 15th Oscar nomination for Diane Warren, here is a look at some of the songs that could contend in this year’s race.
Dance the Night – “Barbie”
With over 27 million views on YouTube in eleven days, it is safe to say that Dua Lipa’s ‘Dance the Night’ is going to be a big hit. Anything that comes from the marketing of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” is proving to be a viral sensation and will continue to do so until the film’s release on July 21st. Regarding the song itself, ‘Dance the Night’ is instantly catchy and memorable and is an excellent reflection of the fun and bright aesthetic that “Barbie” is going for. Having Dua Lipa be front and center for this single is a smart strategy as she is featured in the film and is one of the hottest musicians currently in the music industry. ‘Dance the Night’ could have easily fit onto Dua Lipa’s second album, the Grammy-nominated Future Nostalgia. Additionally, the critical success of the album could help ‘Dance the Night’ secure an Oscar nomination. While there is no confirmation on how the song is used in “Barbie,” the fact that Dua Lipa is in the film could mean that she has a full musical moment on screen, which would certainly help it stand out when it comes to Oscar voting at the end of the year. Even if ‘Dance the Night’ fails to succeed at the Oscars, “Barbie” may have numerous options for a Best Original Song nomination, including one performed by Ryan Gosling, titled ‘I’m Just Ken.’ Now, who wouldn’t want to see that performed live at the Oscars next year?
Peaches – “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”
One song that has already seen chart success this year is ‘Peaches’ from “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” However, it would not be surprising if ‘Peaches’ fails to secure an Oscar nomination due to it being a comedic song, with Ariana Grande’s ‘Just Look Up’ from “Don’t Look Up” proving recently that the Academy struggles to connect with this tone of original music. Moreover, it is hard to deny the financial success of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” and this would be a way to recognize the film’s success if the Academy doesn’t nominate it for Best Animated Feature, given its lower critical reception. ‘Peaches’ debuted at number 83 on the Billboard Hot 100, receiving 5.8 million US streams in its first week alone. Jack Black, who voices Bowser in the film and sings ‘Peaches,’ went as far as dressing up as the famous Nintendo villain for the song’s music video. Plus, it would be easy to see him commit to an extensive campaign if Illumination Animation and Nintendo Studios decided to submit the song for a potential nomination.
Love Again – “Love Again”
I will stand by the fact that Celine Dion deserved an Oscar nomination in 2020 for her song ‘Ashes’ in “Deadpool 2,” but maybe she can score one here with the title track from “Love Again.” While the film will not get any significant awards recognition outside of the song, the fact that Celine herself is a character in the film and her music plays a big part in the narrative helps shine a light on the song. It technically is a closing credit song, but the film does show Celine singing it and the cast and crew dancing along, adding a visual element that elevates it beyond a standard credit song. ‘Love Again’ is also the only true ballad on this list, which, paired with a legend like Dion, might be the sort of song the Academy will want to support in contrast to the more comedic songs. With everything recently in the news about Dion’s health, this nomination would be a lovely way to recognize her talent and honor her legacy.
For The First Time – “The Little Mermaid”
For the first time in forever, I finally understand…oh, that’s the wrong Disney song. Lin-Manuel Miranda nearly completed his EGOT last year, but can he do it this year? There are a couple of original songs that could compete from “The Little Mermaid.” Honestly, a live performance of ‘The Scuttlebutt’ by Awkwafina and Daveed Diggs on the Oscar stage would be incredible. However, the stand out of the original songs has to be “For the First Time,” Ariel’s song when she makes her way onto the land as a human. It is hard to believe that Ariel only has one song in the original 1989 film, yet it also makes sense to use Halle Bailey’s gorgeous voice as much as possible. With a great debut at the box office for the live-action remake, “The Little Mermaid” may have some staying power, and the big names tied to the project will make it one that has to be considered for Best Original Song this year.
Joan, Still – “Theater Camp”
“Theater Camp” may not be officially released in the United States until July 14th, but Sundance attendees were treated to one of the best original songs of the year so far with the film’s finale, ‘Joan, Still.’ It makes a lot of sense that a film dedicated to theatre nerds and students would feature a fun and over-the-top musical performance. But what elevates the song is how it is integrated into the narrative and the heartfelt emotions tied to the film’s ending. At the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, a live performance of “Joan, Still” showed that the marketing and production team already knew how special the song was. With good word of mouth and, hopefully, a decent box office return when the film officially releases this summer, I hope that momentum can build a serious campaign around this song to earn an Oscar nomination.
Which of these songs do you think will earn a nomination at this year’s Academy Awards? What films are you expecting to feature potential contenders later this year? Are there any other songs released so far that I have missed? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.