Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and The Weeknd were among the musicians who made the 15-song shortlist but weren’t nominated this year. Instead, the Music Branch saved its usual spot for Diane Warren and made room for an Indian extravaganza before turning to stars Lady Gaga, Rihanna and the team of David Byrne and Mitski. Note to Oscar show producers: You defi- nitely want this lineup on the stage of the Dolby.
“APPLAUSE” from Tell It Like a Woman
Diane Warren‘s sixth consecutive nomination and eighth in nine years came two months after she won the first Honorary Oscar ever given to a songwriter. She got the phone call about that while she was in the studio with singer Sofia Carson recording this song of female empowerment.
“HOLD MY HAND” from Top Gun: Maverick
Remember power ballads from the 1980s like Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” from the original “Top Gun”? Jerry Bruckheimer and Tom Cruise sure remember. And so does Lady Gaga, who does her best to bring the genre back with this purposefully bombastic wailer written with BloodPop.
“LIFT ME UP” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The only person to headline a Super Bowl halftime show and perform a nominated song at the Oscars in the same year was Phil Collins in 2000. Rihanna can be the second with this assertive ballad written with “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler, Tems and Ludwig Goransson.
“NAATU NAATU” from RRR
When “RRR” director S.S. Rajamouli asked M.M. Keeravaani for a song, the composer wrote 20 different ones to provide plenty of options. This collaboration with lyricist Chandrabose turned into the most deliriously infectious musical sequence of 2022. “It’s not just a song, it’s an entire experience,” Keeravaani said.
“THIS IS A LIFE” from Everything Everywhere All at Once
After writing two hours of score with his band Son Lux, Ryan Lott enlisted Japanese-American singer-songwriter Mitski and former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne for an end-credits song. Byrne, Lott said, “had the great insight that it should feel comforting, because we’d just gone on a wild ride.“
The original “Top Gun” won in this category, and Lady Gaga is coming off a win for “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born.” But anybody who’s seen “RRR” knows that “Naatu Naatu” is the craziest, most irresistible musical moment of the year in film. If voters watch the clip, “Naatu Naatu” takes the gold. (Unless Diane Warren shocks everybody.)