What Should Win Best Original Song at the 2019 Academy Awards?
The Oscars are coming. It’s too late, there’s nothing we can do about that now, but rather than agonise over who and what should and will win in each of the categories, we asked Curzon’s most discerning music fan to listen to the five tracks nominated for Best Original Song and tell us which ditty should take home the statue.
All The Stars - written for the film Black Panther
Music by Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth and Anthony Tiffith; Lyrics by Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith and Solána Rowe
Performed by The Weeknd, SZA & Kendrick Lamar
I don’t understand this song. It simultaneously does too much and too little.
It begins deliberately low energy and a-melodically, before schizophrenically transitioning into a bombastic chorus, has an irrelevant rap section, then finally becomes a song. Then it just ends.
Despite being packed with three different singers, it doesn’t have a unifying tone or theme. And yet, it kind of works.
It would be a surprise winner but it’s right that it should be included; a reminder that the cultural momentum of the Black Panther film extended far beyond cinema. And yet the momentum is no longer with it, unlike the next song…
Shallow - written for the film A Star is Born
Music and Lyrics by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt
Performed by Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper
This song will win. Even if you don’t know the song, you know the narrative around it. That was the case for me for a while, belatedly realising that this tune I’d heard distantly in shopping centres with a vocal refrain similar to Vampire Weekend’s ‘Ya Hey’ was, in fact, the centrepiece to A Star Is Born.
The bookies favourite by a clear margin, this song has everything: twiddly Ed Sheeran-esque guitar introduction, earnest crooning, a dynamic shift to a tubthumping sing-along chorus. I find it quite entertaining that the build up section doesn’t have any words, just a series of guttural wails from Gaga.
I’ll Fight - written for the film RBG
Music and Lyrics by Diane Warren
Performed by Jennifer Hudson
This song is awful and saccharine and mawkish and awful. I don’t know what else to say.
RBG itself is by all accounts very worthwhile and still available on Curzon Home Cinema.
The Place Where Lost Things Go - written for the film Mary Poppins Returns
Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
Performed by Emily Blunt
Disney songs usually win, but it’s unlikely this competent number will stop the juggernaut that is ‘Shallow’. ‘The Place Where Lost Things Go’ is a well constructed little tune, with Emily Blunt’s channelling of Julie Andrews totally on point, however it does come across as a pale imitation of the original and, as Pulp taught us, “A bad cover version of love is not the real thing.”
A good Disney song embodies the film it’s from, and this song isn’t especially Mary Poppinsy. It’s so boilerplate you feel it could slot into any Disney film. Plus it contains the actual lyric “Maybe now the dish and my best spoon” Who has a best spoon?
When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings - written for the film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Music and Lyrics by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch
Performed by Willie Watson & Tim Blake Nelson
Something of a curio amongst this year’s nominees, there are a few features that set ‘When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings’ apart; it’s in measures of 3, there’s no string section, and it contains an all time great opening lyric in “Let me tell you buddy.”
What song wouldn’t be improved by having that as the opening line?
“Let me tell you buddy, is this the real life, is this just fantasy?”
“Let me tell you buddy, the end is near and so I face the final curtain”
Anyway the song is fine.
So there we have it. Personally I’m not enamoured with any of this year’s offerings. I don’t know about their eligibility for awards, but I would plump for the Sorry to Bother You or Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse soundtracks instead. Now let’s get the ‘Shallow’ coronation over with a move on with our lives.