The Academy Awards — Best Original Song: the review by LionWhale Music!
No opening paragraph to skip over, let’s get to the content!
Down to Joy (Van Morrison, from Belfast) — The song definitely sounds joyful, and it’s sung by Northern Irish singer Van Morrison, but that’s the end of its connection with the movie Belfast. It’s actually impressive how not-Irish this song sounds. JENNIFER HUMMLER put it perfectly: “It’s standard but not in a bad way. Like a regular, good cheeseburger.” And like a cheeseburger, “Down to Joy” has a specifically American flavor to it.
Dos Oruguitas (Sebastiàn Yatra, from Encanto) — Musically, this song breaks no new ground. It uses a safe, familiar chord progression and melodic line. However, unlike “Down to Joy”, this song actually contributes something to its film. The texture (i.e., choice of instrumentation) is perfect for the movie scene, and the story of two caterpillars (dos oruguitas) becoming what they were meant to be obviously reflects the emotional connection between Mirabel and her grandmother.
Be Alive (Beyoncé, from King Richard) — This song is a perfect fit for its movie: the chords are simple; the beat is driving, persistent; the vocals are clear and strong. Strength and persistence are basically the whole theme of King Richard, which makes this an ideal song to represent the film. Jennifer Hummler says, “I personally felt hypnotized.”
Somehow You Do (Reba McEntire, from Four Good Days) — To be fair, we haven’t seen Four Good Days at time of writing. Judging it on its own merits… well, this song is a cringeworthy cliché of pop-country music. Let’s be very clear: there is NOTHING wrong with liking this song. But viewed from any angle — melody, harmony, form, texture, lyrics — “Somehow You Do” offers nothing but empty calories. According to Jennifer Hummler, “This is like the chain restaurant version of southern music.” It’s too bad, too. At LionWhale, we happen to love real country music. If only country music-lovers got to hear it sometimes.
No Time to Die (Billie Eilish, from No Time to Die) — For a Bond song, this one is pretty understated. Eilish’s vocals are characteristically soft, relaxed almost to the point of breathiness. The build-up to the musical climax is predictable but subtle enough. The orchestral texture is perfect for achieving that classic “007” sound. “No Time to Die” won’t go down as the greatest Bond song, but it’ll please fans of the franchise (and fans of Billie Eilish).
So, what do you think of this year’s nominees? If you haven’t heard them yet, check out our playlist! — BEST ORIGINAL SONGS!
(And if you’re feeling nostalgic… Best Original Song nominees (Oscars 2021) )