Should Performers Take Home the Oscar for Best Original Song?
This Sunday (Feb. 22), the Oscars will recognize the best in film – from actors and directors to costume design and screenplays. Of course, music also plays an important role in the new films we’ve come to love over the last year, and it’s recognized in two key awards: Best Original Score and Best Original Song. The latter award honors a song written specifically for a film, however, it’s important to note that the award goes to the song’s writers, which is not always the same as the artist or artists who performed and recorded the song.
This year, the nominees for Best Original Song go as follows: “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie, “Glory” from Selma, “Grateful” from Beyond the Lights, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me and “Lost Stars” from Begin Again.
Of those nominees, only one is both the writer and performer behind the song, and that’s Glen Campbell. “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” – which appeared in a documentary about the iconic country singer-songwriter – was co-written by Campbell and Julian Raymond, and as such, both will be up for the award on Sunday night.
The same was true back in 2012 when Adele won the Oscar for Best Original Song for her work on “Skyfall” for the James Bond movie of the same name. Of course, Adele gave the powerful performance of the song, but it was actually the fact that she helped co-write it with producer Epworth that was recognized when she took the Academy Awards stage to accept the award that night.
However, the other musicians we’ve come to associate with this year's Best Original Song nominees won’t receive the same distinction as Campbell and Adele. While many of those artists will likely perform the nominated songs on Sunday, most of them won’t actually be up for the award.
Tegan and Sara’s collaboration with comedy trio the Lonely Island on “Everything Is Awesome” was written by Shawn Patterson. Likewise, though we know John Legend and Common as the men behind the moving “Glory,” its writers, John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn, are actually the ones nominated for the Oscar. Similarly, Rita Ora and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s performances of “Grateful” and “Lost Stars,” respectively, are not recognized in the Best Original Song category. Instead, it’s Diane Warren, who’s up for “Grateful,” and Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois for “Lost Stars.”
That’s not to say that the songwriters behind those songs aren’t absolutely deserving of the recognition they’ve already received in being nominated for Best Original Song -- quite the opposite. However, there’s an argument to be made that the performances of the Best Original Song nominees helped make the songs what they are and earn the nominations in the first place.
Both the music and lyrics of “Everything Is Awesome” made it hilariously perfect for The Lego Movie, but where would it be without Tegan and Sara and the Lonely Island helming the tune? Or maybe, you think Adam Levine’s unfaltering falsetto in “Lost Stars” deserves its own credit. And would “Glory” resonate as much as it does if it weren’t for John Legend and Common’s commanding performance? We don’t think so.
The musicians behind the Best Original Songs help make them what they are and perhaps deserve their own recognition at each year's Academy Awards. The Grammys already recognizes both writers and performers by distinguishing categories between songs and performance. For example, this year’s Best Rock Performance went to Jack White, while Best Rock Song went to Paramore’s Hayley Williams and Taylor York. In that vein, it’s arguable that the Academy Awards should create another separate award for Best Original Song Performance. Then, the musicians we love – including this year’s nominees – would be recognized for the key part they played in making the music that has helped shaped the standout movies from this past year.
You can see who wins Best Original Song, along with the other categories, when the Academy Awards airs this Sunday on ABC at 7PM ET.