Since Billie Eilish‘s theme song for the latest James Bond film “No Time to Die” hit the charts two years ago, the pop star and her brother Finneas O’Connell have remained Oscar frontrunners for composing the track. It makes sense since the pair cleaned house at the Grammy Awards for Eilish’s debut album (which O’Connell produced). She’s the “it girl” right now and both Adele and Sam Smith took home Oscars for their own Bond franchise efforts, “Skyfall” and “Writing’s on the Wall,” respectively. But Eilish following in their footsteps with a Best Song statuette isn’t the slam dunk some people think it is.
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Although Eilish’s Bond theme has the same haunting style as both Adele’s and Smith’s, it’s not a sweeping ballad. It’s a much more subtle vocal from a much more understated singer. Historically, we know the Oscar has gone to songs with powerhouse vocals or a strong message intertwined with one of the year’s most acclaimed films. I’m not sure “No Time to Die” is either.
Adele’s “Skyfall” was a tour de force that allowed it to overtake competition from two Best Picture nominees (“Suddenly” from “Les Miserables” and “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi”). Smith’s track from “Spectre” faced lesser-watched competition from documentaries “The Hunting Ground” and “Racing Extinction,” as well as less acclaimed films “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Youth.” Furthermore, is it possible academy voters might just be tired of giving Oscars to Bond themes?
Nipping at Eilish’s heels is “Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto.” Lin-Manuel Miranda penned the heartfelt tune that could give the Emmy, Grammy and Tony winner the “O” he needs to complete his EGOT. Although the lyrics are in Spanish within the film itself, the English-language version is played over the end credits for any voters who miss the meaning. You can’t dismiss a Disney song that pulls at your heartstrings from a Best Animated Feature frontrunner. Think of “Remember Me” from “Coco,” “Let it Go” from “Frozen” and “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3,” just to name a few from recent memory. “Dos Oruguitas” has been steadily rising up our odds and currently holds the number two slot behind “No Time to Die.” Six of our Experts currently believe Miranda will spoil Eilish’s party.
Next in our odds is Beyonce with her empowering song “Be Alive” from “King Richard.” Queen B was notably snubbed for her song “Spirit” from “The Lion King” a couple of years ago, but she has enough clout to warrant a name-check from any voters who simply want to see the most acclaimed musical artist of a generation take the Oscar stage. “Be Alive,” co-written by Dixson, is also featured in a film expected to be among the Best Picture nominees, which “No Time to Die” is not. Three experts believe “”Be Alive” will bring Beyonce her first Oscar.
The competition for Eilish doesn’t get any weaker. “Just Look Up” was written by Nicholas Brittell, Scott Mescudi, Taura Stinson and another pop diva, Ariana Grande. Grande’s vocals soar on the song that is actually performed within the film “Don’t Look Up” rather than just appearing over the end credits. Speaking of the movie, the Netflix production was the streaming service’s second most-watched film of all time and, like “King Richard,” is expected to contend in several above-the-line categories at the Oscars. That could sway the votes in Grande and co.’s direction.
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Name recognition runs deep in this field, which makes things even more cloudy. One song I believe is being highly overlooked is “Here I Am Singing My Way Home” from “Respect.” This tribute to Aretha Franklin was penned by music icon Carole King alongside Jamie Hartman and the film’s star Jennifer Hudson. The song is a vocal showcase for Hudson with elements of fiery gospel and soul. Another glanced-over contender is “Guns Go Bang” from “The Harder They Fall.” It stands out from the competition as the only hip-hop track on this roster and was written by Jeymes Samuel, Kid Cudi and Jay-Z.
The star-studded shortlist continues with “Down to Joy” from Best Picture frontrunner “Belfast.” It was written by rock and roll legend and Belfast-born singer Van Morrison. “Beyond the Shore” by Heder, Nicholai Baxter, Matt Dahan and Marius de Vries is featured in another Best Picture contender, “CODA,” and is performed by the film’s star, Emilia Jones.
The shortlist also includes 12-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren with her song “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days,” two-time Oscar nominee U2 with “Your Song Saved My Life” from “Sing 2” and last year’s Oscar champ, H.E.R., with “Automatic Woman” from “Bruised.” Rounding out the list of 15 songs are “So May We Start” from “Annette,” “The Anonymous Ones” from “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Right Where I Belong” from “Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road” and “Dream Girl” from “Cinderella.”
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