Which of this year's five nominees deserves the Academy Award? Decide for yourself with this comprehensive listening guide
Today, the Academy played a trump card in its never-ending quest to get more people to watch the Academy Awards, announcing that Adele would deliver a live performance of her Oscar-nominated song "Skyfall" at the Feb. 24 ceremony. That will mark Adele's first live performance since the Grammy Awards in April 2012, and the first time she's publicly performed "Skyfall" ever. But will the buzz surrounding her performance help the James Bond franchise score its first-ever Oscar in this category? The 85th annual Academy Awards feature an unusually strong crop of nominees in the Best Original Song category — and though "Skyfall" may be the favorite, the race is far from over. Have a listen:
1. "Before My Time," from Chasing Ice
Music and Lyrics by J. Ralph
Performed by Scarlett Johansson and Joshua Bell
Points for: "Before My Time" is a beautiful, mournful ballad in the vein of past winners like "I Need to Wake Up" from 2006's global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth. And the star power that Scar-Jo's solid alto performance brings to the table doesn't hurt, either.
Points against: Did you see Chasing Ice? Neither did anyone else.
2. "Everybody Needs a Best Friend," from Ted
Music by Walter Murphy; Lyrics by Seth MacFarlane
Performed by Norah Jones
Points for: The past two winners in the category are "Man or a Muppet" from The Muppets and "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3, setting a strong precedent for goofy, jaunty songs like "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" to make a legitimate showing. And Academy voters might like the idea of a surprise award for their host, Seth MacFarlane.
Points against: Best Original Song isn't the stuffiest category at the Academy Awards — don't forget, Three 6 Mafia's "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" won in 2006 — but a song from a hard-R comedy about a profane teddy bear may be too out there for serious consideration.
3. "Pi's Lullaby," from Life of Pi
Music by Mycheal Danna; Lyrics by Bombay Jayashri
Performed by Bombay Jayashri
Points for: The Academy prides itself on multiculturalism, and the gentle "Pi's Lullaby" more than fits the bill. And the movie is one of only two films nominated for Best Original Song and Best Picture.
Points against: Only three non-English songs have won Best Original Song song since the category was instituted in 1934. Slumdog Millionaire's "Jai Ho" won in 2007, but its success was abetted by its inclusion in a memorable dance sequence at the end of the film, and Pi's Lullaby plays a much subtler role during the introduction to Life of Pi.
4. "Skyfall," from Skyfall
Music and Lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
Performed by Adele Adkins
Points for: Adele is one of the hottest performers in the world, and "Skyfall" has been almost universally hailed as the best Bond theme in decades. "Skyfall" also won the Golden Globe for Original Song earlier this month, giving it the clearest path to victory.
Points against: The Academy has typically shunned the James Bond franchise, with just two wins in its 50-year history, and despite nominations for "Live and Let Die," "Nobody Does It Better," and "The Spy Who Loved Me," a James Bond theme has never won Best Original Song.
5. "Suddenly," from Les Miserables
Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg; Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil
Performed by Hugh Jackman
Points for: It's actually from a musical.
Points against: Musicals have fared surprisingly poorly in the Best Original Song category. In recent years, songs from Phantom of the Opera, Dreamgirls, Nine, and Country Strong have earned nominations but failed, and "Suddenly" — the only song in Les Miserables that didn't originate in the stage musical — is pretty forgettable compared to the film's more famous songs.
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