Home Uncategorized Early Oscar Predictions: Best Song and Score Contenders

Early Oscar Predictions: Best Song and Score Contenders

Below, Billboard reveals its early predictions on the songs and scores that could be competing for an Oscar at the April 25 ceremony.

Leslie Odom Jr. could be headed for two Academy Award nominations (best original song and best supporting actor) for his work in One Night in Miami, to go with the Tony and Grammy he won for Hamilton: An American Musical. Meanwhile, Diane Warren could land her 12th best original song nod. Those are just two of the storylines that are building during the approach of the 93rd annual Oscar nominations that will be announced March 15. The awards will be presented April 25.

These are 25 top contenders for best original song based on the songwriters’ Oscar history, the buzz generated by their projects, early-indicator awards and nominations the films have received and, of course, the tunes themselves. (Songs are listed alphabetically by film title.)

“Turntables”
Janelle “Django Jane” Monáe, Nathaniel Irvin III, George “George 2.0” A. Peters II
All In: The Fight for Democracy (Amazon Studios)

Monáe is an eight-time Grammy nominee, though she has yet to win. Irvin was Grammy-nominated for co-producing Monáe’s Dirty Computer, an album of the year finalist two years ago. Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés directed the documentary.

“See What You’ve Done”
Mary J. Blige, Nova Wav, DJ Camper
Belly of the Beast (Independent Lens)

Blige was nominated in this category three years ago for co-writing “Mighty River” from Mudbound. She’s vying to become the second Black female songwriter, following Siedah Garrett, to receive two career nods in this category. DJ Camper won a Grammy two years ago for his work on H.E.R.’s self-titled album.

“Wuhan Flu”
Sacha Baron Cohen, Erran Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon Studios)

Sacha Baron Cohen and Hines shared a 2006 best adapted screenplay Oscar nod for Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Erran Baron Cohen is Sacha’s older brother. This is the 10th film Erran has worked on since he broke in with Borat.

“Great Unknown”
X Ambassadors
The Call of the Wild (20th Century Studios)

The rock trio consists of Adam Levin and brothers Sam Harris and Casey Harris. X Ambassadors were featured on “Sucker for Pain,” the rock/rap fusion hit from the 2016 Suicide Squad soundtrack.

“Husavik”
Savan Kotecha, Rickard Göransson, Fat Max Gsus
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (Netflix)

The three composers are Grammy-nominated this year for best compilation soundtrack for visual media for their work on this spoof of the beloved annual song competition. Kotecha received Grammy and Golden Globe nominations five years ago for co-writing “Love Me Like You Do” from Fifty Shades of Grey.

“Never Break”
John Legend, Nasri Atweh, Benjamin Hudson McIldowie, Greg Wells
Giving Voice (Netflix)

Legend won an Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy six years ago for co-writing “Glory” from Selma. Wells won a 2018 Grammy for best compilation soundtrack for visual media for The Greatest Showman. Atweh is Grammy-nominated this year for co-writing “Slow Down,” a hit for Skip Marley and H.E.R.

“Square Root of Possible”
Philip Lawrence, Michael Diskint, Davy Nathan
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix)

Lawrence has won seven Grammys, including song of the year and best R&B song for co-writing Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like.” Lawrence and Nathan co-produced this track with long-time film music pro Harvey Mason Jr., who is also the chair and interim president/CEO of the Recording Academy.

“Fight for You”
H.E.R., Dernst Emile II, Tiara Thomas
Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros.)

These three writers are Grammy-nominated this year for co-writing H.E.R.’s socially charged “I Can’t Breathe.” H.E.R. was also nominated for song of the year at the 2019 Grammys for co-writing “Hard Place.” LaKeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya star in the film.

“Io Sì (Seen)”
Diane Warren, Laura Pausini, Niccolò Agliardi
The Life Ahead (Netflix)

Warren, an 11-time nominee, wrote the music and original English lyrics; Pausini and Agliardi wrote the Italian lyrics heard in the film. “Io Sì (Seen)” and another best song possibility, “Rain Song” from Minari, are each vying to become the first track in a language other than English to be nominated since “Loin de Paname” from the 2009 film Paris 36.

“(If Only You Could) Save Me”
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
Mank (Netflix)

Reznor and Ross have won an Oscar, Emmy and Grammy for their scores and have also had award success with songs from these projects. They collaborated on “The Way It Used To Be” from Watchmen, which was Emmy-nominated last year for outstanding original music and lyrics.

“Rain Song”
Emile Mosseri
Minari (A24)

The song, which is sung in Korean, and the aforementioned “Io Sì (Seen)” are contending to become the first songs not sung in English to be nominated in 11 years. Yeri Han, who plays one of the leads (Monica Yi), sings on this ballad that plays at the end of the film.

“Only the Young”
Taylor Swift, Joel Little
Miss Americana (Netflix)

Swift has yet to receive an Oscar nomination, but she won a Grammy for co-writing “Safe & Sound” from The Hunger Games and has received three Golden Globe nods. Little won a song of the year Grammy for co-writing Lorde’s “Royals.”

“Loyal Brave True”
Jamie Hartman, Harry Gregson-Williams, Rosi Golan, Billy Crabtree
Mulan (Disney+)

Gregson-Williams received Grammy and Golden Globe nods for best score soundtrack for visual media and best original score, respectively, for The Chronicles of Narnia — The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but this would be his first Oscar nod. He is the older brother of composer Rupert Gregson-Williams.

“How Can I Tell You”
Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty
Nasrin (Virgil Films/Kino Marquee)

Ahrens and Flaherty received two Oscar nods — best original song and best musical or comedy score — for the 1997 film Anastasia. They won a Tony for best original score for Ragtime (1998) and have received three Grammy nominations for best musical theater album.

“Free”
Diane Warren
The One and Only Ivan (Disney+)

Warren was the sole author of this song — her second top contender for the year — and she was the only writer of eight of her 11 Oscar-nominated songs to date. Charlie Puth sings the song in the film about a gorilla named Ivan who befriends an elephant named Ruby.

“Speak Now”
Leslie Odom Jr., Sam Ashworth
One Night in Miami (Amazon Studios)

Odom is vying to become the fourth artist in as many years to receive nominations for songwriting and acting in the same year. He would follow Mary J. Blige, Lady Gaga and Cynthia Erivo. Ashworth received two Grammy nominations last year for his work with H.E.R.

“Carried Me With You”
Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth
Onward (Pixar)

This song is Grammy-nominated this year for best song written for visual media. Carlile and the Hanseroth twins received song of the year Grammy nominations for co-writing Carlile’s “The Joke” (2018) and Tanya Tucker’s comeback hit, “Bring My Flowers Now” (2019).

“Rocket to the Moon”
Christopher Curtis, Marjorie Duffield, Helen Park
Over the Moon (Netflix)

Park, who was born in South Korea, co-wrote the music and lyrics for the 2017 off-Broadway musical KPOP. Cathy Ang and Phillipa Soo star in the animated musical Rocket to the Moon. The film was directed by Glen Keane, who shared an Oscar with the late Kobe Bryant in 2018 for the animated short Dear Basketball.

“Wear Your Crown”
Adam Anders, Peer Astrom, Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin
The Prom (Netflix)

Anders and Astrom received three Grammy nominations for best compilation soundtrack for visual media for Glee: The Music, Volume 1 (2010), Glee: The Music, Volume 4 (2011) and Rock of Ages (2012). Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy directed The Prom.

“Uh Oh”
Cynthia Nabozny, Matias Mora, Mia Minichiello
Promising Young Woman (Focus Features)

Mora and Minichiello previously teamed to write “Our House” for the 2017 film Gnome Alone; they also worked on the 2018 soundtrack to Trolls: The Beat Goes On! Nabozny sings “Uh Oh” on this film’s soundtrack (under her moniker Cyn). Emerald Fennell directed.

“Green”
Abraham Marder
Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios)

Marder wrote this song for the film about a heavy metal drummer whose life is disrupted when he loses his hearing. Marder’s brother, Darius Marder, directed and co-wrote the screenplay. Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke star.

“The Plan”
Jacques Webster II, Ludwig Göransson, Ebony Oshunrinde
Tenet (Warner Bros.)

Eight-time Grammy nominee Travis Scott — aka Jacques Webster II — also performs the song in the film. Göransson won an Oscar and a Grammy two years ago for best original score for Black Panther. He also won a pair of Grammys for Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.”

“Hear My Voice”
Daniel Pemberton, Celeste Waite
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)

While Pemberton is still waiting for his first Oscar nomination, he has received three Golden Globe nods. He was cited for his scores to Steve Jobs and Motherless Brooklyn, and for best original song for the title track to Gold, which he co-wrote with Stephen Gaghan, Danger Mouse and Iggy Pop.

“Just Sing”
Justin Timberlake, Ludwig Göransson, Max Martin, Sarah Aarons
Trolls: World Tour (Universal)

Timberlake and Martin shared a nomination in this category four years ago for “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from the first Trolls. If this song is nominated, Trolls will become the fourth film franchise since 2000 to nab two best original song nods, following The Lord of the Rings, Toy Story and Frozen.

“Tigress & Tweed”
Raphael Saadiq, Andra Day
The United States Vs. Billie Holiday (Hulu)

Saadiq was nominated in this category three years ago for co-writing Mary J. Blige’s “Mighty River” from Mudbound. Day, who stars in the film as Holiday — and is a strong candidate for a best actress nomination — has received two Grammy nominations.

Thomas Newman and Alexandre Desplat, perennial Oscar contenders for best original score, could land their 15th and 12th nominations, respectively, in the category. But newer Oscar arrivals, such as Terence Blanchard and the team of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, are also in the running.

These are 25 top contenders for best original score based on the composers’ Oscar history, the buzz generated by their projects and early-indicator awards and nominations the films have received. (Scores are listed alphabetically by film title.)

Ammonite (Neon)
Dustin O’Halloran, Volker Bertelmann

Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan star in this romantic drama that Francis Lee wrote and directed. O’Halloran and Bertelmann (then working under the name Hauschka) were nominated four years ago for Lion. The composers have a second film in contention, The Old Guard.

Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Terence Blanchard

Blanchard was nominated two years ago for BlacKkKlansman, which, like Da 5 Bloods, was written, directed and produced by Spike Lee. Blanchard has another top contender, One Night in Miami. If either is nominated, he will become just the second Black composer — following Quincy Jones — to receive two or more career nods for scores. (Jones has had three scoring nods.)

Emma. (Focus Features)
Isobel Waller-Bridge, David Schweitzer

Waller-Bridge — the older sister of Fleabag creator/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge — has composed scores for such TV shows as Black Mirror, Vanity Fair and, yes, Fleabag. Schweitzer has composed several long-running TV series in his native England, including Bob the Builder and Digby Dragon.

The Glorias (Roadside Attractions/LD Entertainment)
Elliot Goldenthal

Goldenthal won in this category 18 years ago for Frida, which, like The Glorias, was directed by Julie Taymor. Oscar winners Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander and Timothy Hutton star in this film about feminist icon Gloria Steinem. Goldenthal had two other nominations in the 1990s for Interview With the Vampire and Michael Collins.

Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix)
Hans Zimmer, David Fleming

This is the ninth Ron Howard film that Zimmer, collaborating here with New York-born composer Fleming, has scored. Zimmer, who has amassed 11 Oscar nominations for his scores, won for The Lion King (1994). He has a second strong contender this year with Wonder Woman 1984.

Judah and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros.)
Mark Isham, Craig Harris

Isham was nominated in this category 28 years ago for A River Runs Through It. LaKeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya star in the story of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his betrayal by FBI informant William O’Neal.

The Life Ahead (Netflix)
Gabriel Yared

Yared won in this category 24 years ago for The English Patient. He has had two other nominations, for The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain. Edoardo Ponti directed this film, which stars his mother, screen legend Sophia Loren.

The Little Things (HBO Max/Warner Bros.)
Thomas Newman

This would be Newman’s 15th nomination in this category, which would enable him to pull ahead of Alex North as the composer with the most scoring nods without a win. (Of course, Newman could win on April 25.) The film stars Oscar recipients Denzel Washington, Jared Leto and Rami Malek.

Mank (Netflix)
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

This is the fourth film directed by David Fincher that Reznor and Ross have scored, following The Social Network (for which they won in this category 10 years ago), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
Branford Marsalis

This film, starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman, is based on August Wilson’s play, which received three Tony nominations in 1985. Marsalis has won three Grammys, in both pop and jazz instrumental categories.

The Midnight Sky (Netflix)
Alexandre Desplat

This would be Desplat’s 12th nomination in the past 15 years — more than any other composer in this time frame. He won for The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Shape of Water. George Clooney directed and stars in this film.

Minari (A24)
Emile Mosseri

Lee Isaac Chung directed this film about a Korean family that moves to Arkansas to work on a farm in the 1980s. Mosseri’s previous scoring credits include The Last Black Man in San Francisco and seven episodes of TV’s Homecoming. He has a second contender in this category with Kajillionaire.

Mulan (Disney+)
Harry Gregson-Williams

Gregson-Williams’ dozens of previous scores include all four installments in the Shrek franchise. “Loyal Brave True,” which he co-wrote for this film, is vying for a best original song nod. The original Mulan, from 1998, received an Oscar nomination for best original musical or comedy score.

News of the World (Universal)
James Newton Howard

Howard has amassed six nominations for his scores since 1991, but has yet to win. He has also landed two nods for best original song. Paul Greengrass directed this film, which stars Tom Hanks as a Civil War veteran.

One Night in Miami (Amazon Studios)
Terence Blanchard

Oscar winner Regina King directed this film, a fictional account of a night in 1964 when four icons of the era — Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke — gathered to discuss their roles in the civil rights movement and the cultural upheaval of the ’60s.

Onward (Pixar)
Mychael Danna, Jeff Danna

Mychael Danna won in this category eight years ago for Life of Pi. This is the 12th feature film he has scored with his brother Jeff Danna. The others include Lake View Terrace and a reboot of The Addams Family.

Over the Moon (Netflix)
Steven Price

Price won in this category seven years ago for Gravity, which was only his third film score. Glen Keane directed Over the Moon, which features original songs composed by Christopher Curtis, Marjorie Duffield and Helen Park.

Pieces of a Woman (Netflix)
Howard Shore

Shore is a two-time winner in this category for films in the Lord of the Rings franchise. He was also nominated for scoring Hugo (2011). Kornél Mundruczó directed this film, which stars Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf and Ellen Burstyn.

Shirley (Neon)
Tamar-kali

Tamar-kali, a rock singer-songwriter and composer, has three other films in contention: The Assistant (Bleeker Street), John Lewis: Good Trouble (Magnolia Pictures) and Palmer (Apple TV+).

Soul (Pixar)
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross (composers); Jon Batiste (jazz compositions, arrangements)

Reznor and Ross have another strong candidate in contention, Mank (Netflix). Pixar/Disney is submitting both the Reznor/Ross team and Batiste, and will let the music branch subcommittee decide how to proceed.

Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios)
Abraham Marder, Nicolas Becker

In addition to co-composing the score, Marder co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Darius Marder. Darius directed the film about a heavy metal drummer losing his hearing.

Tenet (Warner Bros.)
Ludwig Göransson

Christopher Nolan directed this film, which stars John David Washington. Göransson got the job because Nolan’s frequent collaborator, Hans Zimmer, was booked to score Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, which is scheduled for release in October.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
Daniel Pemberton

Aaron Sorkin directed this film about the seven people on trial stemming from the turmoil at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Pemberton scored the film, as he did Sorkin’s 2017 directorial debut, Molly’s Game, and his 2015 film (as a screenwriter), Steve Jobs.

The United States Vs. Billie Holiday (Hulu)
Kris Bowers

Bowers scored Green Book, the best picture winner two years ago. He has also scored such TV series as Bridgerton, Dear White People and Black Monday. If both Bowers and Terence Blanchard are nominated, it would be the first time in Oscar history that two Black composers have been nominated in scoring categories in the same year.

Wonder Woman 1984 (HBO Max/Warner Bros.)
Hans Zimmer

Zimmer has been nominated in this category in each of the last four decades, from the 1980s (Rain Man) to the 2010s (Inception, Interstellar and Dunkirk). He has a second strong contender this year with Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix).

Additional reporting by Melinda Newman.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 30, 2021 issue of Billboard.

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