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Before the Gold: Best Original Song

This month we’re taking a look at this year’s Oscar nominees and digging into their past work to find hidden gems that you may have overlooked, or specific credits that may have influenced their Oscar-nominated work this year.

This year’s Best Original Song nominees range from two first-time movie song composers to one of the best of all time, four first-time nominees up against a song-writing legend who is still seeking her first Oscar after being nominated eleven times before. Multiple Grammys abound in this group, but who will be the one to take home their first Oscar? 

H.E.R.

Nominated for: “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah (shared with Dernst Emile II and Tiara Thomas)

Previous nominations: none

Hidden gem: “I Can’t Breathe” 

NPR recently dubbed the artist H.E.R. a “soul baby with a social conscience,” which can be clearly heard and felt in her Grammy Award-winning Song of the Year, “I Can’t Breathe,” which was borne out of the fight for justice in America in the wake of too many black men and women being killed by police. Judas and the Black Messiah director Shaka King had to have known she was the right one to pen the original song for his powerful and haunting portrait of betrayed and slain Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, as H.E.R.’s voice is clearly one that is both moving, soulful and passionate. The bridge between H.E.R.’s sultry and soul-infused manifesto to ‘60s injustice and her 2020 Black Lives Matter anthem is clearly present, reminding us just how little has changed and how much more yet is to be done.

Listen to “I Can’t Breathe” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-1Bf_XWaPE

Daniel Pemberton (our interview with him is here)

Nominated for: “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7 (shared with Celeste Waite)

Previous nominations: none

Hidden gem: “Gold” from Gold

Sung by Iggy Pop and produced by Danger Mouse, the Pemberton-penned song “Gold,” from the 2016 Stephen Gaghan film Gold, starring Matthew McConaughey, is a growling and hypnotic song that deserves much more attention than the disappointing film that inspired it. “Gold” was nominated for Best Song at the Golden Globes, losing to “City of Stars” from La La Land, signaling Pemberton, who has composed the scores for dozens of films, including Steve Jobs, Ocean’s 8, Birds of Prey and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, also had a knack for writing songs, something The Trial of the Chicago 7 director Aaron Sorkin obviously encouraged. 

Listen to “Gold” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpI9Cckh1tc

Savan Kotecha (our interview with him is here)

Nominated for: “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (shared with Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson)

Previous nominations: none

Hidden gem: “Love Me Like You Do” from Fifty Shades of Grey

It’s not surprising that producer Will Ferrell turned to Kotecha to serve as the executive music producer and main songwriter for his film based on the real-life pop song competition, as Kotecha has penned songs for some of the biggest pop stars in the world, including Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, The Weeknd, and Demi Lovato. But it is “Love Me Like You Do,” the song Kotecha wrote for the film Fifty Shades of Grey, sung by Ellie Goulding, that proved that Kotecha knew how to provide a great pop song with a cinematic flair. Nominated for both a Golden Globe and a Grammy in 2015, “Love Me Like You Do” showed that Kotecha had the chops to churn out several quality songs that would work not just in the movie, but as real pop songs. 

Listen to “Love Me Like You Do” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJtDXIazrMo

Diane Warren

Nominated for: “Io Si (Seen)” from The Life Ahead (shared with Laura Pausini)

Previous nominations: 11 (0 wins)

Hidden gem: “Blue Eyes Blue” from Runaway Bride

There are so many gems to choose from, including any of legendary songwriter Warren’s eleven previous Best Original Song nominations, including “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” from Armageddon, “How Do I Live” from Con Air or “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” from Mannequin, but don’t sleep on Eric Clapton’s rendition of “Blue Eyes Blue” from Runaway Bride. A sweet song featuring Clapton singing along to an acoustic guitar, it’s Warren at her simplest, pop perfection best.

Listen to “Blue Eyes Blue” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNOR36mPtbk

Leslie Odom, Jr.

Nominated for: “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami… (shared with Sam Ashworth)

Previous nominations: none

Hidden gem: “Go Crazy”

Double-nominee Leslie Odom, Jr. can seemingly do anything, as proven by his nominations this year both for Original Song and Supporting Actor—both for One Night in Miami…. As if that wasn’t enough for 2020, he also co-starred in the film version of Hamilton, the blockbuster Broadway production of which he was an original cast member. Although “Speak Now” is Odom’s first song ever written for a film, in 2019 this talented hyphenate released his first full album of original songs, titled “Mr,” further proving there is nothing he can’t do. “Go Crazy” is a track from that album that pops, reminding us how stupefyingly talented Odom really is.

Listen to “Go Crazy” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx09tU-fxGM

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