Oscar Analysis 2014: Breaking Down The Best Original Song Race

By Gabe Toro 2014-01-30 08:31:02discussion comments
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Pharrell Williams is still new to movie music: he participated in the first Despicable Me and will contribute to this summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. But even though Happy from Despicable Me 2 is easily the bounciest and most joyful track among the nominees, Williams is definitely a guy who the voting branch will feel has to pay his dues. Despite the groundbreaking win for Theme From Shaft 40 years ago, this category remains hostile to R&B, and Williams’ relationship with the genre might actually hurt once the song is isolated from its family-friendly context.

But man, listen to that song. It immediately puts the listener in a great mood, doesn’t it? An up number from a hit animated movie (with a whole lotta handclaps!) would normally be a frontrunner in this category. Happy unfortunately suffers because, ultimately, it has very little bearing on the film, which is very much not a musical. Many children’s animated films are expected to feature characters that carry a tune, so the fact that none of them in Despicable Me 2 actually sing the song probably hurts its chances.

There’s a little extra juice to the odds for The Moon Song given that it emerges from Her, the sole Best Picture representative in this category. It’s a simple song with a lovely melody that emphasizes the emotional bond growing between Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore and Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha, and while you hear it in the film, it also earns a lovely reprieve during the credits thanks to Karen O. Music is a big part of the emotional architecture of Her, and savvy voters will likely know that singling out The Moon Song, as lovely as it is, somewhat minimizes the rest of the film’s sonic soundscape. Simply put, the song isn’t entirely indicative of the film’s spirit or its sound, and combined with the limited musicality of the tune (which will turn off some of the more hardcore voting musicians), it’s easy to predict this won’t be the evening’s big winner.
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