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Soundtracking: 2017's Original Song Nominees

by Chris Feil

Chris here, with your weekly dose of movie music. If this year's list of Oscar nominated songs doesn't help relieve the widely stated concerns for the category, I'm not sure what will. Not only do you have a batch of memorable tunes you would have actually heard, but they also fulfill the branch's aim of being narratively resonant as well. Throw in some popular artists and rousing emotion and it might actually make for a less disposable part of the ceremony this year...

Isn't it a bit surprising (some might say relieving) to not see an unexpected documentary contender among the finalists? While the branch is recently averse to end credits tracks, we get two this year with Mudbound and Marshall. But the category also sees notable previous winners and one long overdue nominee:

"Mighty River" from Mudbound
Music and Lyrics by Mary J. Blige, Rapaael Saadiq, and Taura Stinson

The first of the lineup's end credits songs puts caps Mudbound's study of the racial divide with an ear towards healing. If the sentiment is less complicated than the film's layered and complex examination, the song's clarity through idealism does help guide the audience with what to do with all of the pain the film provides. The biggest congrats here goes to Blige on her double nomination, a first for actor and songwriter in the same year for one film. One wonders if carryover goodwill could help "Mighty River"'s chances.

"Mystery of Love" from Call Me By Your Name
Music and Lyrics by Sufjan Stevens

The only nominee that has been covered here on Soundtracking, and one of the biggest question marks for the category before the announcement. The songwriting branch likes their rock artists to be more mainstream household names, but there are some alternative artists that have broken through: Karen O., Björk, Aimee Mann, Elliott Smith. "Mystery..." occurs in the film during the love story's romantic peak, but I'd still argue it's Sufjan's closer "Visions of Gideon" that remains more potent and thematically synced. Is Sufjan happy to be here or does he benefit from being this category's only Best Picture player?

"Remember Me" from Coco
Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

It is strange that this was the only eligible track of Coco's many delightful songs but its power can't be denied. The way the song's meaning evolves over each time it pops back into the narrative shows the Lopezes precise emotional insight into the film's story, but also cements their place in the Disney songwriter pantheon. It's everything the category claims to want in their nominees and everything that makes the audience leave the theatre humming its melody. And should be landing the husband-wife duo their second Oscar after their Frozen win a few years ago.

"Stand Up for Something" from Marshall
Music by Diane Warren, Lyrics by Lonnie R. Lynn and Diane Warren

Another closing credits number, this time from previous winner Common (billed as Lynn) and perennial loser Diane Warren. This is the latter's ninth nomination, but will her untrophied status be made enough of a story to push the song to a win? A safer guarantee is firework vocals from powerhouse Andra Day on the ceremony, and hers is the best vocal among this lineup. We may have forgotten Marshall but I'd bank on her delivering one of the night's memorable moments. Especially against the less convincing bombast of:

"This is Me" from The Greatest Showman
Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Last year's La La Land winners Pasek and Paul are on an unstoppable trophy tour, after winning the Tony for Dear Evan Hansen and likely triumphing here as well. But last year "City of Stars" was an understated and simple bit of introspection, particularly compared to the cataclysmic sound of this apocalyptic self-love anthem. The song holds a gun of self-empowerment to your head and by god you are going to feel better about yourself. Rewarding an original (and financially successful) musical will be easy for voters, however.

Should/Could Win: "Remember Me"
Will Win: "This is Me"

The Best Musical Moments of 2017 | All Soundtracking installments can be found here!

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Reader Comments (18)

"Greatest Showman" is awful. It's hard to believe that the same songwriters wrote "Dear Evan Hansen." I'm hoping it's "Mystery of Love" but I'd be fine with "Remember Me."

January 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Maybe Mystery of Love will become the Falling Slowly of this year. One can hope.
Visions of Gideon is better used in the film’s defining moment though.

I wonder who will the Oscars call to perform Remember Me and This is Me.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see Gael Garcia Bernal take the stage?
I think they will pick Kesha over Keala Settle for the latter.

January 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJija

Mystery of Love not only should win; Visions of Gideon should have been nominated, too.

As I don't think Stevens will win over Remember Me, I would personally hire Michael Stulhbarg to hammer the song to all the voters on their noses on live broadcast. That would be a "Daddy Lesson" nobody would ever forget that night.

And, perhaps, the Amphibian Man dancing around the song's crooning for good measure.
Like, why in hell you DON'T REMEMBER ME, arseholes?

January 23, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterchofer

Rooting for "Mystery Of Love", although I still can't believe "Evermore" was snubbed.

January 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Oh Chris, I was in such agreement with all you were saying, and then you totally lost me when you started talking about "This Is Me". Keala Settle's moment is certainly the greatest cinematic sequence of the year for me. Besides that, it's also a fantastic song. If anyone but her performs it at the Oscars I'll be upset. Pasek/Paul and Michael Gracey have gone out of their way to praise her performance.

Don't get me wrong, "Remember Me" is also a fantastic song and would be a worthy winner. As you point out, it's proof of the Lopez clan's talent that the song adopts such rich narrative resonance each time it's performed in the film. And I wouldn't begrudge Oscars for MJB or Diane Warren, both of whom should've won by now. (Not crazy about the Sufjan tracks, to be honest.) But yeah, when it comes to "Greatest Showman" I'm in the love-it camp.

January 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGuestguestguest

I loved Evermore from Beauty and the Beast. Shocking it’s not here

January 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterME

'This is Me' is currently #13 on the UK singles chart, #10 in Australia and #58 with a bullet in the US. The Greatest Showman soundtrack is #1 in all 3 countries. So it's the only song with broad popular appeal (not essential to win, but it helps).

The film is steadily moving from a modest box-office hit to a popular phenomenon. By the time of the Oscars, 'This is Me' is likely to be unbeatable.

January 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

"the cataclysmic sound of this apocalyptic self-love anthem"

Oh, that is delectable snark.

January 23, 2018 | Registered CommenterTim Brayton

I'm a big Sufjan Stevens fan and am so happy he was nominated. "Mystery of Love" is gorgeous. I know that "Visions of Gideon" is better showcased in the film, but I do think that "Mystery of Love" is the better song.

January 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJJM

I wonder if "Visions of Gideon" would've been a nominee with a more straightforward name.

Anyways, we could've had a better lineup of songs, but we certainly could've ended up with WAY worse so I'm good.

Underestimate "This Is Me" at your peril.

January 23, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

"Mystery of Love" has been stuck in my head for a few weeks now, so hopefully that will happen to a few members, too.

2 years ago, the Overdue factor was Diane Warren's story, and she (and Lady Gaga) still lost to Sam Smith. Maybe it will work this time with a previous winner.

January 24, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Co-signed on the 'Evermore from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was snubbed' sentiment. Ropey film, stunning song. Really captured all of the Beast's turmoil <3

I want 'Remember Me' to win, but I fear it may be too brief/slight for the Academy, who prefer their pomp in songs!

January 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

I would love to see Diana Warren win, I can't believe she has no Oscars after all her iconic movie songs (should've been nominated and won with You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me #justiceforBurlesque) but I hardly think this could happen.

It's between This Is Me and Remember Me at this point, and I hope they get Natalia Lafourcade to sing with Miguel on the day and that song wins.

January 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterV.

ALL the song nominees are excellent this year. Lets hope Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya and Keala Settle perform " This is me' at the oscars. It'd be as great as when the Les Miserables cast sang a few years ago.

January 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

I have to say, when you look at the lyrics by themselves, This Is Me is some sub-Sia level corn. But the way it's used in the film, and with Keala Settle's roof-rattling performance, it freaking WORKS. I had a tear in my eye.

As much as I love Sufjan's contributions to Call Me By Your Name, I'm kind of pulling for Remember Me, which adapts beautifully to many different settings because of its deceptive simplicity.

Stand Up For Something could very easily spoil, though.

January 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

I'm not saying "This Is Me" is a masterful song by any stretch of the imagination, but it very well may win because of Keala Settle's performance of the song. She's one of the best musical theater actors working right now because she can take a really shitty song and make it seem spectacular. I mean, she's a Tony-nominee for slaying the least tuneful song in Hands on a Hardbody (pick out the melody of "I Feel the Joy" from memory, I dare you), a show filled with songs that are excellent character studies but totally unmemorable.

Honestly, if critics warmed to The Greatest Showman the way they did to La La Land (and I'm not saying they should have), Settle could have been looking at some supporting actress prizes this season for how well she delivers the best song in the film.

Should "This Is Me" win? Not if this is actually a songwriting award. But is it at this point? Pretty consistently not. It's safer to award the animated musical a songwriting award, which is why I think "Remember Me" will win here, but not a guarantee ("How Far I'll Go" lost to "City of Stars," remember). Momentum plays a part, too, and the industry really loves Pasek and Paul right now.

January 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

"Mystery of Love" can be the only winner, dammit! It's all kinds of glorious Elliott Smith realness on display (RIP). None of that "I love myself!" pablum from "This Is Me"! Maybe just winning will be held against them? Wishful thinking on my part?

January 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRian

Love it or hate The Greatest Showman (I merely just liked it - I can't deny it, it made me smile more than once), This is Me is a showstopper. I don't think it will win, but I hope it does. If anything, Keala Settle will bring the house down on Oscar night.

January 24, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterfilmboymichael

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