At this year’s Oscars, several films are strong contenders to garner double nominations in Best Original Song. “La La Land,” “Moana,” “Sing,” “Sing Street” and “ ” all have two or more tunes eligible for consideration in the category. Indeed, “La La Land” sports half a dozen original tracks that could contend. However, only two can make the cut on account of the 2008 rule capping the number of nominations. That move reversed the decision in 1980 to allow an unrestricted number of songs from the same film to compete in the category. (For 45 years, from the introduction of the category in 1934 until 1979, the academy had only recognized a single song per picture.)
Since 1980, 14 movies have reaped two nominations for Best Original Song and a pair of pictures earned three apiece. Of these 16 films, which contended in 14 years, nine won the category. That bodes well for one of this year’s movies packed full of music.
The first of 16 films to reap more than one Best Original Song bid was “Fame,” which did so in the first year of the rule change. It contended for both its exhilarating, ensemble-performed title track and “Out Here on My Own,” a solo number for leading lady Irene Cara. Both tunes were composed by Michael Gore, with lyrics by Dean Pitchford on “Fame” and Lesley Gore on “Out Here on My Own.” Gore and Pitchford were triumphant on Oscar night.
Three years later marked the first occasion in which two films received multiple nods in the category. “Flashdance” (1983) was recognized for its smash hit pop tunes “Flashdance…What a Feeling” and “Maniac,” both of which hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The former was composed by Giorgio Moroder, Irene Cara and Keith Forsey, while Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky garnered nominations for the latter. Also up that year were two tunes from Barbra Streisand‘s directorial debut “Yentl” (1983), which was nominated for Streisand-performed ballads “Papa, Can You Hear Me” and “The Way He Makes Me Feel,” both composed by Oscar-winners Michel Legrand and Alan & Marilyn Bergman. Moroder, Cara and Forsey prevailed at the Oscars.
1984 and 1985 found a pair of dance films – “Footloose” and “White Nights,” respectively – netting two bids apiece in Best Original Song. “Footloose” garnered a nomination for its title track, composed by Dean Pitchford of “Fame” and Grammy-winner Kenny Loggins, as well as a nomination for “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” penned by Pitchford and Tom Snow. The two tunes, both of which topped the Billboard Hot 100, fell short to Stevie Wonder, picking up the trophy for his “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from “The Woman in Red.” The following year, “White Nights” scored a nomination for composer Stephen Bishop‘s “Separate Lives” and the Oscar win for Grammy-winner Lionel Richie‘s ballad “Say You, Say Me,” which marked Richie’s fifth – and, to date, final – Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit as a solo artist.
Between 1989 and 1994, half a dozen films mustered multiple bids in Best Original Song, four of which were Disney animated productions.
The first, “The Little Mermaid” (1989), was recognized for “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl,” both composed by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. The duo prevailed for “Under the Sea” and, two years later, triumphed for the title track from “Beauty and the Beast” (1991). For that picture, Ashman and Menken were also nominated for the splashy ensemble numbers “Belle” and “Be Our Guest.” That marked the first occasion in which a film earned three nominations in Best Original Song.
In 1992, for only the second time in Oscar history, two films landed dueling nominations in the category. For Disney’s “Aladdin,” Menken and Ashman (who had passed away in 1991 from AIDS-related complications) were nominated for the Robin Williams-performed “Friend Like Me.” Menken and lyricist Tim Rice were cited for the film’s duet “A Whole New World.” “The Bodyguard,” which is the best-selling film soundtrack of all-time, received two nominations as well, for the Whitney Houston-performed ballads “I Have Nothing” and “Run to You,” composed by David Foster & Linda Thompson and Jud J. Friedman & Allan Dennis Rich, respectively. Menken and Rice were triumphant on Oscar night.
The rest of the 1990s saw two more pictures net multiple bids in Best Original Song. “Philadelphia” (1993) garnered a nomination for Grammy-winner Neil Young‘s title track and the win for Bruce Springsteen‘s “Streets of Philadelphia,” which went on to win Song of the Year at the 1994 Grammy Awards.
The following year, Disney’s “The Lion King” became the second picture to receive three Best Original Song nominations: “Circle of Life,” “Hakuna Matata” and the winning “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” all penned by Tim Rice and Grammy-winner Elton John.
The 2000s found a mix of live action and animated features garnering several nominations in the category.
“Cold Mountain” (2003), was recognized for both T-Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello‘s “Scarlet Tide” and Sting‘s “You Will Be My Ain True Love.” The two tracks came up short to Annie Lennox‘s “Into the West” from “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”
“Dreamgirls” (2006) became the third picture to garner three Best Original Song nominations for the Beyonce-performed “Listen,” Jennifer Hudson-performed “Love You I Do” and ensemble piece “Patience.” All three tunes were composed by Henry Krieger, with Anne Preven, Siedeh Garrett and Willie Reale providing lyrics on “Listen,” “Love You I Do” and “Patience,” respectively. The songs lost to Melissa Etheridge‘s “I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth.”
2007 would mark the final time a film received three nominations in the category. “Enchanted” was recognized for “Happy Working Song,” “So Close” and “That’s How You Know,” all penned by the duo of Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. The tunes fell short to “Falling Slowly” from “Once” and, the following year, the new rule was implemented allowing no more than two songs to be nominated for a single motion picture.
Since the that rule change, only two films have received two nominations in Best Original Song. “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) scored a nomination for “O…Saya” and the victory for “Jai Ho.” Both were composed by A.R. Rahman, with lyrics by Gulzar on “Jai Ho” and M.I.A. on “O…Saya.”
And in 2009, Disney’s “The Princess in the Frog” received nominations for Randy Newman‘s “Almost There” and “Down in New Orleans.” The Newman tunes came up short to Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett’s “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart.”
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