Oscar's Original Song Hopefuls: Who Sounds the Best?

Well, after searching for the better part of the year, I finally found it. Granted, I had to wait until the year was basically over, but I think I stumbled upon the one thing the motion picture industry can be proud it produced in 2010: its original songs.

Usually, the long list of catchy or moody tunes is mediocre. There may be one true standout, a few average numbers and, typically, a lot of forgettable reserves. This year is a little different: the 2010 set of contenders is very strong. Now, not necessarily all of the songs are golden (pun intended), but the majority of the submissions are good songs regardless, and that's pretty rare.

So, of the 41 eligible songs, I managed to track down and listen to 37 of them (I couldn't find either of Black Tulip's submissions, 3 Billion and Counting's "Rise" or Unbeaten's "A Better Life.")

What I've done is listed the remaining eligible songs and rated them according to what I believe to be their likelihood of earning Oscar nominations. As always, I've backed up my decisions with some detailed reasoning.

And now, let's take a look at the songs that are officially in competition for next year's original song trophy. . .

***NOTE: If the videos to the right fail to play due to some error glitch, click on the song title (which will have a hyperlink).***




ALICE IN WONDERLAND, "Alice"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

Yeah, it's not happening. Aside from the fact that the song itself is a little annoying, I just don't see it making much of an impression on the AMPAS crowd. Were this the MTV Awards, the People's Choice Awards or even the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, sure, it might have a shot. But I wouldn't bet on too many Academy members getting into Avril Lavigne.



BURLESQUE, "Bound to You"

  • Oscar Odds: VERY GOOD

In my mind, this has got to be the frontrunner for the win. If not, it should, at the very least, be a formidable runner-up. It's gorgeously put together. The symphonic orchestra perfectly complements Christina Aguilera's strong, resounding voice. I think the song's biggest competition will come from another Burlesque submission, but I'll get into that later. For my part, though, it's the best original song from the year, hands down.



BURLESQUE, "Welcome to Burlesque"

  • Oscar Odds: MODEST

There isn't too much wrong with the song, but it will likely fall victim to the new rules set in place for song hopefuls. Now, one film can only have, at the maximum, two songs nominated, I guess to make up for the embarrassing losses for Enchanted and Dreamgirls, both of which had 3 songs nominated but ended up losing anyway. Unfortunately for this track, "Bound to You" and Burlesque's third entry are in better positions to earn nominations, and as a result, it will likely be overlooked.



BURLESQUE, "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me"

  • Oscar Odds: GOOD

Ballads are good here, particularly when they come from former icons who have been out of the game for a little while. Enter Cher, who proves that she's still got a deadly set of pipes. While it's my opinion that "Bound to You" is the better song (by a mile, truthfully), I think Cher's seniority factor could work in the song's favor, and that might be enough in the end.



THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, "There's A Place for Us"

  • Oscar Odds: FAIR

Sure, it's got a Golden Globe nomination to its credit, but then again, so did The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe back in 2005 with "Wunderkind," and not much became of that. Frankly, the song is a little too average. I don't think it has the legs to break into the top five, and I don't think it should.



COUNTRY STRONG, "Coming Home"

  • Oscar Odds: MODEST

Who knew? Gwyneth Paltrow can apparently sing country music, and relatively well. "Coming Home" has got three things working in its favor. Like the song above, it was recently nominated for a Golden Globe. You've got an actress trying their hand at singing, and succeeding. And country songs typically fair well at the Oscars, as far as nominations are concerned.



COUNTRY STRONG, "Me and Tennessee"

  • Oscar Odds: FAIR

The people in charge of submitting songs for the film made the right decision by offering up "Coming Home" and, more surprisingly, "Me and Tennessee" (in place of the movie's title song, "Country Strong"). "Tennessee" is a fine enough track, but it doesn't stand out as much as "Home," and if any film's going to get double nods here, it's probably going to be Burlesque.



DESPICABLE ME, "Despicable Me"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

I'd be very, very surprised if this ended up with a nomination. It doesn't have much of a punch to it at all. In fact, it's kind of dull. The other Despicable Me offering is at least catchy and fun, although it probably won't secure a nod either. I suppose there have been other relatively dry songs nominated before. I just can't think of any right now.



DESPICABLE ME, "Prettiest Girls"

  • Oscar Odds: FAIR

Again, I wouldn't hold my breath for this one, but it's much easier to like this over "Despicable Me." It may not be a lock with the Academy, but at the end of the day, at least you've got a fun song that will stay in your head for a while.



DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS, "Dear Laughing Doubters"

  • Oscar Odds: FAIR

This guy must have some kind of contract to write original stuff for Steve Carell movies, because I remember he had two songs eligible for Dan in Real Life. Anyway, I'm not that confident the Academy will go for "Dear Laughing Doubters," in part because I don't think too many of them necessarily relished Dinner for Schmucks. Nevertheless, I think it's a pleasant song. It has a hint of The Beatles in the chorus, and that can only help, right? Then again, Paul McCartney was on the shortlist last year, and he didn't make the cut.



EAT PRAY LOVE, "Better Days"

  • Oscar Odds: FAIR

I like Eddie Vedder, whether we're talking Pearl Jam or songs he wrote for Into the Wild. Back in 2007, many thought "Guaranteed" was a shoo-in, but it didn't work out that way. That was a better song for a better overall year. Nevertheless, "Better Days" has a lot of stiff competition, and when it's all said and done, I don't think it's one of the five best songs of the year, and the nominations will likely reflect that.



GOING THE DISTANCE, "If You Run"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

I don't think this has any kind of realistic shot. And that's a shame, because I personally really dig the sound. But like I said with "Alice," I just don't think this kind of thing is in the Academy's wheelhouse. If nothing else, "If You Run" introduces you to the sounds of The Boxer Rebellion, and that's better than nothing.



HOLY ROLLERS, "Darkness Before the Dawn"

  • Oscar Odds: FAIR

This is a pretty pleasant, easy-going tune that I don't believe too many people would hate. But aside from the fact that a lot of worthy songs threaten to keep it out of the running, "Darkness Before the Dawn" is attached to a film that isn't exactly a household name. Seriously, how many people have heard of Holy Rollers?



HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, "Sticks & Stones"

  • Oscar Odds: FAIR

Long before the list of eligible songs was revealed, many online pundits had this among their predicted five (or at least in their reserves). Maybe I'm missing something, but from where I'm standing, this doesn't have much of a shot at all. I think it's way too pop-friendly for the AMPAS.




IDIOTS AND ANGELS, "Le Gris"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

Yeah, I don't think so. It's a little too opera-heavy for an original song category. But at least the video is interesting. . .and. . .strange.





THE ILLUSIONIST, "Chanson Illusionist"

  • Oscar Odds: GOOD

You'll have to click the song hyperlink in order to hear how it sounds (no YouTube videos exist as of yet). Sylvain Chomet is no stranger to the song category: he was nominated for 2003's The Triplets of Belleville with "Belleville Rendez-Vous." Whether it was in French or English, the song was extremely catchy. "Chanson Illusionist" is likewise sure to stick in your head for a few days, even if you have no idea what's being said.



THE KARATE KID, "Never Say Never"

  • Oscar Odds: FAIR

So, do we think the AMPAS has Bieber fever? I'm gonna guess no, but something tells me it wouldn't be wise to write this one off completely. If this makes the cut, it's clear evidence of the Academy trying to reach a broader, younger audience, and it actually could happen. After all, ratings for the Oscars haven't been too great lately. A guaranteed Bieber performance would definitely bring in a lot of tween eyeballs.



LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE, "To The Sky"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

Is it just me, or do these guys sound an awful like Death Cab for Cutie? When it comes to the group's Oscar chances, they're pretty much nonexistent. In fact, when it comes to Legend of the Guardians in general, I don't think we should expect to see the Academy acknowledge it in any way.



LETTERS TO JULIET, "What If"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

Why did the AMPAS music branch even bother announcing that this song was eligible? We all know it won't get nominated. If this earned an Academy Award nod, I might actually pass out.




LIFE DURING WARTIME, "Life During Wartime"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

Whereas a song like "What If" is infused with too much pop to jive with the Academy, "Life During Wartime" is way too mellow. Additionally, the film wasn't too popular with critics. That doesn't always matter, but more often than not, it does.




MADE IN DAGENHAM, "Made in Dagenham"

  • Oscar Odds: FAIR

I’ve only been able to hear bits from the single, so I can’t completely rule it out. But just based on what I’ve been able to capture, it sounds like a pretty average song. I wouldn’t expect a nomination for Made in Dagenham here unless the Academy has a particularly strong appetite for the film, and nothing has happened in the past few months that would suggest that to be true.



MOTHER AND CHILD, "Little One"

  • Oscar Odds: FAIR

This is a nice song, but Mother and Child hasn't exactly been tearing up the festival circuits as of late. It seems destined to be one of those kinds of films that inevitably fades into obscurity, despite having its team of strong supporters. I wouldn't mind if the song got nominated, but I'm not expecting to see it happen either.



THE NEXT THREE DAYS, "Be the One"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

Cool song, but there's absolutely no way it's getting an Oscar nomination. Don't count on seeing Moby perform this at the Kodak theater, but I could easily see it becoming popular at the night club scene.





127 HOURS, "If I Rise"

  • Oscar Odds: GOOD

It’s got a Critics Choice nomination to its credit, and the last time A.R. Rahman had eligible songs in the running, both got nominated (and he won for one). But the failure to secure a Globe nomination highlights the song’s vulnerability. Personally, I don’t think it’s one of the five standouts, but I also realize that its chances are good, particularly if the Academy embraces the film (and they're definitely expected to).



THE PERFECT GAME, "When You See Forever"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

Don't see it happening. There are plenty of better songs that qualify, and this is kind of sappy. Plus, I thought the film came out last year (?), if not earlier.






PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME, "I Remain"

  • Oscar Odds: FAIR

Any time Alanis Morissette has a song out, it'd be wise to take her seriously. There's no denying that the lady can sing. Her only problem is that she has a history of taking part in songs that are attached to mediocre movies (City of Angels, Dogma). Prince of Persia is no different.




PURE COUNTRY 2: THE GIFT, "Dream Big"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

Eh, the song's okay. Like "When You See Forever," it's kind of corny, though not as much. The major issue here is this: who's heard of this film? Apparently, it was pretty successful with its target audience. Just the same, this is the first time I've ever heard of it.




RAMONA AND BEEZUS, "How I Love You"

  • Oscar Odds: FAIR

I was expecting a repeat of Letters to Juliet here (i.e. very pop-heavy). Surprisingly, this is quite pleasant, and easy on the ears. I'm not banking on the song entering the top five, but then again, the Academy will include a wild card every once in a while. Truthfully, I think we'll see that happen this year, just not with "How I Love You."



SHREK FOREVER AFTER, "Darling I Do"

  • Oscar Odds: MODEST

Between this and Mother and Child, Lucy Schwartz has got two songs out that have decent shots at garnering Academy Award nominations. I think this is the better of the two. Remember, Shrek 2 got nominated in 2004 for "Accidentally in Love," a song I think is far less impressive than "Darling I Do." Really like the music video.



SIX DAYS IN PARADISE, "Noka Oi"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

The song isn't too great. Hardly anyone has heard of the movie. Translation? No chance.







TAMARA DREWE, "This is a Low"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

You'll have to click the hyperlink to hear the song. Don't count on a rock-n-roll piece like this to connect with the majority of the AMPAS music branch members, assuming it connects with any of them. If Tamara Drewe manages to sneak in anywhere, it will likely be for its original screenplay, not its original song.



TANGLED, "I See the Light"

  • Oscar Odds: VERY GOOD

A Disney song with master songwriter Alan Menken behind it? Yeah, that’s basically all you need to know you’re in. Not sure why Disney decided to only submit one song, though. “Mother Knows Best” was pretty catchy, too. Still, this should have no problem making the final five.




TOY STORY 3, "We Belong Together"

  • Oscar Odds: VERY GOOD

When does Randy Newman ever disappoint? Whenever he's got a film out that comes with a snazzy original song, you can usually rely on him to offer up something that makes you feel good about something. Plus, look at the Toy Story franchise when it relates to songs: "You've Got A Friend in Me" made the cut for the original (1995), and "When She Loved Me" was nominated for the sequel (1999). So it seems like a nod for the song was guaranteed from the get-go. The real question is this: can it win?



THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE, "Eclipse (All Yours)"

  • Oscar Odds: POOR

Like Tamara Drewe's submission, this is a little too rock-n-roll. The Twilight Saga had a better offering last year with "Possibility." This year, a nomination is pretty much out of the question.





TYLER PERRY'S WHY DID I GET MARRIED TOO?, "Nothing"

  • Oscar Odds: MODEST

If Janet's song were nominated, it wouldn't be the first time one of her tracks was embraced by the Academy (Poetic Justice's "Again" earned a nod for 1993). Is it just me, or does she sound more like her brother than herself in the video?




WAITING FOR 'SUPERMAN,' "Shine"

  • Oscar Odds: GOOD

Before "Bound to You," I had this song pegged as the one to beat. It still may be in prime position. After all, the last time an original song was attached to a politically-charged Davis Guggenheim documentary, it ended up winning. But the Globe omission hurts, and if it doesn't win the Critics Choice award, it may be in trouble.




WRETCHES & JABBERERS, "The Reasons Why"

  • Oscar Odds: MODEST

Last but not least comes an easy-going folk song from a documentary I've never heard of. Ordinarily, I'd write the song off for that very reason, but "The Reasons Why" doesn't wash away that quickly. Additionally, given the Academy's tendencies lately to nominate wild cards in this category (2009's "Loin de Paname," 2008's "O. . .Saya," 2007's "Raise It Up"), I think the song could very well score a nomination as a sort inspired, left-field choice.



So, given all that, here are the five songs I think will be nominated on January 25:

  • Burlesque, "Bound to You"
  • Burlesque, "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me"
  • Tangled, "I See the Light"
  • Toy Story 3, "We Belong Together"
  • Wretches & Jabberers, "The Reasons Why"

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