Last year, I took the time to watch, listen, and understand the complexities of each song in the Best Original Song shortlist for the Academy Awards. I’m back again this year to do the same. This year’s shortlist doesn’t have many standouts, and frankly, many teeter the lines of surprisingly standard, but there are a few standouts that have made me hit repeat instantly. Within the shortlist, we have a vast array of alternative artists, pop stars, songwriters, and more, like Drake, David Byrne, GIVĒON Lady Gaga, LCD Soundsytem, Jazmine Sullivan, Mitski, Rihanna, and The Weeknd I’m here to talk about which five were definitive standouts and who I’d nominate if I were part of the nomination committee. Some may not make it through, and that’s okay; my list is here to give perspective beyond the standard of nominating pop stars so viewers go up. In doing so, I’ll be describing what makes these songs great.
New Body Rhumba – LCD Soundsystem
It may be unconventional amongst the list, primarily due to length, but the LCD Soundsystem track brings forth some of the top-tier quality of their strengths. It’s immediately hypnotic, getting you lost in its 80s aesthetic, where it incorporates the slight DIY aspects of punk except with a better studio mixing. More of an embodiment of the era, it doesn’t feel displaced with its better quality recordings and lack of angsty energy. It stands out above the rest, centering itself in a zone outside the film White Noise. It’s a song buoying its stylistic aesthetic and allowing it to come off as consistent but loose. One of the better-end credit songs, LCD Soundsystem opens the door for listeners to get lost in this luscious groove that takes the listener to the 80s Noah Baumbach built-in White Noise.
Lift Me Up – Rihanna
Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” shifts the tone while retaining a sense of reflection akin to “All The Stars,” the Best Original Song nomination for Black Panther. It’s a broken-down and mostly acoustic ballad that brings depth with its backing vocals. It’s presence is tenfold as it gets used to add depth toward themes in the film, and as a nod to Chadwick Boseman, who’s performance as Black Panther lifted up a generation to feel like that could matter. Rihanna, and her co-writers Tems and Ryan Coogler, use simplicity to let the message’s value have retention from its listener, allowing them to understand the duality, especially if they have seen the film.
Stand Up – Jazmine Sullivan
Sweet and traditional, “Stand Up” keys into Jazmine Sullivan’s luscious range in vocal octaves and delivers a song reminiscent of early 00s ballads that livened up the strings in the production. It’s a hopeful balance that imbues the spirit of Mamie Till and her journey to fight the injustice of the judicial system amidst the fight for civil and equal rights. It uses this perspective to add depth to its themes of self-reliance and pushing through the naysayers, and furthering the pursuit to making a difference. Containing a definitively balance between the different genres influencing aspects of the production, there are viscerally grand moment of triumph from Jazmine Sullivan’s vocals during the verses. Sullivan brings an emotionally poignant performance that retunes the typical notions of the self-empowering ballad. Though the construct steers within that direction, more grooves boast more motion and tears instead of just tears.
This Is A Life (Feat. Mitski & David Byrne) – Son Lux
Moody electronica and pop, Son Lox’s “This Is A Life” is a subtle rhythmic ballad that allows the vocals to drive the potency of the production. Son Lux produces these atmospherically symphonic synths, blending smoothly as Mitski and David Byrne eloquently bounce off each in the verses or dueting on the choruses. It drives home this humbling sense of hope through the rough patches one goes through, reflected by the familial chaos in Everything Everywhere All At Once. It’s hypnotic and quiet. It brings these intricate layers that some stuff won’t hit you instantly, instead hearing the simple ambient static nuances to IDM (intelligent dance music). As it leaves you in a trance, one can’t help but become enamored with the subtle presence it had all 2022.
Naatu Naatu – RRR
I may know little about Bollywood and the music that shines from film to film. What I do know, “Naatu Naatu” is one hell of a fantastic musical journey. It hit me, like the first time I heard “Jai Ho,” from Slumdog Millionaire, an enriching experience. One of the few in-film performances amongst the nominees, RRR’s “Naatu Naatu” come with an energizing dancing sequence and captivating melodies. As well, amongst the nominees, the song is more creatively astute and takes chances by playing with speed and tempo, further delivering a dynamic experience that hits just as much after watching the performance from the film.