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Elton John, Mary J. Blige Challenge the Muppets in Oscar Song Race

A handful of big names will be competing for the Best Song Oscar, but watch out for those little felt figures

The competition in the Oscars' Best Original Song category could come down to Elton John vs. Mary J. Blige, or Jonsi vs. Chris Cornell, or Zooey Deschanel vs. Glenn Close, or Elvis Costello vs. will.i.am.

Or it could just be Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy flattening everybody in their way.

The Academy announced the 39 qualifying songs in this year's race Monday, with a handful of big names in the running — but one Golden Globes nominee, Madonna, conspicuously missing.

The Muppets"Masterpiece," a Madonna song from "W.E." that received a Globe nomination last week, did not qualify for Oscar contention because of its placement a minute-and-a-half deep in the final credits. AMPAS rules require an end-credits song to be "the first music cue" in those credits to qualify.

And while it's extremely unlikely that Oscar voters will go the path of the Golden Globes to recruit an almost-exclusively star-heavy slate, the opportunities exist to do just that, even without Madonna.

The animated films in contention, for example, contain songs by Elton John ("Love Builds a Garden" and the Lady Gaga duet "Hello Hello" from "Gnomeo & Juliet"), Zooey Deschanel ("So Long" from "Winnie the Pooh"), Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am ("Hot Wings" from "Rio") and Brazilian legend Sergio Mendes ("Real in Rio" from the same film).  

Other contenders include eight-time Oscar winner (and 19-time nominee) Alan Menken, who wrote the mock USO-style song "Star Spangled Man" from "Captain America."

A couple of alternative-rock icons, Soundgarden's Chris Cornell and Sigur Ros' Jonsi, are represented with songs from "Machine Gun Preacher" and "We Bought a Zoo," respectively. And Elvis Costello, who won an Oscar nomination for "Cold Mountain," is back in contention with "Sparkling Day" from "One Day."

Three films tied for the most submissions, with three songs each: "The Muppets," "Rio" and the little-known Indian film "DAM999."

Given the voting system in place in the category, in which members of the Music Branch must score the songs after watching clips of the scenes in which they appear, the three submitted songs from "The Muppets" must be considered formidable competitors.

Two, "Life's a Happy Song" and "Man or Muppet," are by Bret McKenzie, one half of the comedy-music duo Flight of the Conchords; those songs and Kermit's plaintive lament "Pictures in my Head" are all used in sequences that ought to play well to voters.

Members of the branch can view and score the three-minute clips on DVDs that will be sent to voters, or at special Academy screenings. To be eligible for nomination, songs must receive an average score of at least 8.25 on a scale of six to 10.

The list of qualifying songs:

"The World I Knew" from "African Cats"
"Lay Your Head Down" from "Albert Nobbs"
"Star Spangled Man" from "Captain America: The First Avenger"
"Collision of Worlds" from "Cars 2"
"Dakkanaga Dugu Dugu" from "DAM999"
"DAM999 Theme Song" from "DAM999"
"Mujhe Chod Ke" from "DAM999"
"Rainbird" from "Dirty Girl"
"Keep On Walking" from "The First Grader"
"Where the River Goes" from "Footloose"
"Hello Hello" from "Gnomeo & Juliet"
"Love Builds a Garden" from "Gnomeo & Juliet"
"Bridge of Light" from "Happy Feet Two"
"The Mighty Sven" from "Happy Feet Two"
"Never Be Daunted" from "happythankyoumoreplease"
"Hell and Back" from "Hell and Back Again"
"The Living Proof" from "The Help"
"Coeur Volant" from "Hugo"
"It's How We Play" from "I Don't Know How She Does It"
"When the Heart Dies" from "In the Land of Blood and Honey"
"Ja Nao Estar" from "José and Pilar"
"The Keeper" from "Machine Gun Preacher"
"Life's a Happy Song" from "The Muppets"
"Man or Muppet" from "The Muppets"
"Pictures in My Head" from "The Muppets"
"Summer Song" from "The Music Never Stopped"
"Imaginary Friends" from "Olive"
"Sparkling Day" from "One Day"
"Taking You with Me" from "Our Idiot Brother"
"The Greatest Song I Ever Heard" from "POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold"
"Hot Wings" from "Rio"
"Let Me Take You to Rio" from "Rio"
"Real in Rio" from "Rio"
"Shelter" from "Take Shelter"
"Gathering Stories" from "We Bought a Zoo"
"Pop" from "White Irish Drinkers"
"Think You Can Wait" from "Win Win"
"The Backson Song" from "Winnie the Pooh"
"So Long" from "Winnie the Pooh"