The Best Original Song nominees at this year's Oscars ceremony was a major topic of conversation leading into the awards. Initially, it appeared the plan was that the song. "The Place Where Lost Things Go" from Mary Poppins Returns wouldn't even be performed at the ceremony. In the end, it was decided the song would be performed, but not by Emily Blunt, who played the title role in the film. Instead Bette Midler stepped in and performed the song, and if I'm being honest. it just didn't live up to the original. Give the performance a listen for yourself.
Don't get me wrong. Bette Midler is amazing. She's an incredible performer capable of great things. We've seen her tear arenas down with her singing, but this time the deck was simply stacked against her. The performance is fine, it's good even, but Emily Blunt's performance of the song in Mary Poppins Returns was simply on another level. In the movie, it was an incredibly emotional moment. That emotion was simply missing here.
Bette Midler performed the song exactly as you'd expect her to, like she was performing in concert. She's got an incredibly powerful voice and that was on display on the Oscar stage. The problem is that "The Place Where Lost Things Go" is a lullaby. It's a song to be sung softly, and quietly. It's being sung to heartbroken children. It's an emotional moment. Give the song a listen as it was heard in the film.
It's not entirely clear why Bette Midler was brought in to pinch hit as the singer for "The Place Where Lost Things Go." Whether Emily Blunt was asked to perform the song and turned it down, or was never actually asked, has not been reported. It wouldn't be the first time the Academy skipped over the performer from the nominated song for a bigger star. It also wouldn't be the first time that said performer declined to perform the song. The song was not performed in its entirety, and maybe Blunt, and a number of other singers from the Oscar nominated songs, decided not to waste their time if they wren't going to be respected with the time to sing the entire song.
I'm assuming that since the show has no host this year, the feeling that the broadcast needed as many big stars as possible was probably driving most of the decisions. Emily Blunt is a big star as an actress, though apparently not big enough to warrant a Best Actress nomination for herself (seriously, what the hell?) and while Mary Poppins Returns certainly isn't her first musical performance, it seems it was decided that Emily Blunt singing the song that brought tears to the audience in the theater wouldn't be enough to increase the Oscar telecast's struggling ratings. Perhaps they're right. Hopefully the ratings were helped because the song was missing something.