Oscar Song Race: Watch Out, ‘La La Land’ Has Some Fierce Competition

TheWrap Magazine: Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake, Common, Sting, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tori Amos and dozens of others face off in a killer year

A version of this story first appeared in the Nominations Preview issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

Has there ever been a Best Original Song race as crowded, as competitive and as spirited as this year’s? That’s hard to imagine.

Sure, there was 1936, when the nominees included the stone-cold standards “The Way You Look Tonight,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Pennies From Heaven” and “When Did You Leave Heaven.”

Or 1945, when the 14 — count ‘em, 14 — nominees included “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” “It Might as Well Be Spring” and “I Fall in Love Too Easily.”

Or 1984, when all five nominees were No. 1 hits on the Billboard charts: Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” from the movie of the same name, Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” and Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” from “Footloose,” Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters” theme and the winner, Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from “The Woman in Red.”

In shades of ’84, Stevie Wonder is back this year with a song from “Sing,” and Phil Collins’ daughter Lily sings “The Rules Don’t Apply,” Lorraine Feather and Eddie Arkin’s song from the Warren Beatty film that took its name from their song.

And then there’s “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda gunning for the EGOT with two “Moana” songs against a formidable slate that includes Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake, Sting and J. Ralph, Tori Amos, Sia, Iggy Pop, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, four-time Oscar winner and 14-time nominee Alan Menken and the first new movie song in 16 years from Burt Bacharach.

Oh, and there are two terrific full-fledged musicals in the running, “Sing Street” and of course the presumed frontrunner in this and many other categories, “La La Land.”

Last year, you might remember, the Best Original Song category provided one of the Oscar ceremony’s undeniable highlights with Lady Gaga’s impassioned performance of “Til It Happens to You” (and one of its lowlights when that song, and other gems like “Manta Ray,” lost to Sam Smith’s soppy James Bond ditty “Writing’s on the Wall”). This year, who knows what pleasures and pain await as voters sift through a brutal category?

So as that race heats up and we reach the end of a year that has taken away so many great songwriters, TheWrap thought it was worth devoting a special section of our magazine to the sound of music.

We interviewed 15 songwriters responsible for 13 songs from nine different movies, from Justin Timberlake (“Can’t Stop the Feeling” from “Trolls”) to Iggy Pop (“Gold” from “Gold”), from Common (“Letter to the Free” from “13th”) to Tori Amos (“Flicker” from “Audrie & Daisy”). Sting was in there, too, as were Pharrell Williams and Lin-Manuel Miranda and three of the songwriters from “La La Land.”

Over the next few days, TheWrap will roll out extended versions of all our interviews from the special Oscar songs section. Links will be available here when the stories go up:

Pharrell Williams: “Runnin'” and “I See a Victory” from “Hidden Figures”
Tori Amos: “Flicker” from “Audrie & Daisy”
Lin-Manuel Miranda: “How Far I’ll Go” and “We Know the Way” from “Moana”
Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul: “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land”
Justin Timberlake: “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from “Trolls”
Sting and J. Ralph: “The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story”
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross: “A Minute to Breathe” from “Before the Flood”Common: “Letter to the Free” from “13th”
Daniel Pemberton, Danger Mouse and Iggy Pop: “Gold” from “Gold”

Click here to read more from the Nominations Preview issue of TheWrap Oscar magazine.

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