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Does ‘Barbie’ Have the Best Original Song Oscar Boxed In?

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Barbie is likely to be well represented when the Academy Award shortlists are revealed Dec. 21. At least two (and maybe even three) songs from the box-office juggernaut could be in contention for best original song (though only two from a film can be nominated, according to a 2008 rule change).

Diane Warren and Alan Menken are each looking to score their 15th best original song nominations, a benchmark that only five songwriters have reached. If John Williams and the late Robbie Robertson are nominated for best original score, each could make history.

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SONGS

“I’m Just Ken”
Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt
Barbie, Warner Bros.

Ronson and Wyatt won in this category five years ago for co-writing “Shallow” from A Star Is Born. “I’m Just Ken,” sung by Ryan Gosling, provided one of the funniest sequences in Barbie. Ronson and Wyatt could have a second Barbie song on the shortlist — the bubbly “Dance the Night,” which they co-wrote with Dua Lipa and Caroline Ailin.

“What Was I Made For?”
Billie Eilish, FINNEAS
Barbie, Warner Bros.

The siblings won in this category two years ago for their title song to the James Bond film No Time To Die. They’re likely to be nominated for this tender ballad, which Barbie director Greta Gerwig has described as her movie’s “heart” song. Barbie is vying to become the first film with two best original song nominees since La La Land seven years ago.

“Keep It Movin’”
Halle Bailey, Denisia Andrews, Brittany Coney, Morten Ristorp
The Color Purple, Warner Bros.

Bailey (as young Nettie) and Phylicia Pearl Mpasi (as young Celie) sing this song onscreen in this new iteration of The Color Purple. “Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister),” from the original 1985 film, was nominated in this category. Quincy Jones, who co-wrote that song with Rod Temperton and Lionel Richie, served as a producer of both films.

“Out Alpha the Alpha”
Marius de Vries, Josh Sharp, Aaron Jackson, Karl Saint Lucy
Dicks: The Musical, A24

Megan Thee Stallion sings this ribald song onscreen in Dicks: The Musical, which is based on an off-Broadway show with an even more risqué title, F–king Identical Twins. The rap star is also in the cast, along with another famous Megan (Mullally), as well as Bowen Yang and Nathan Lane. Megan Thee Stallion took part in an all-star performance of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” on the Oscar telecast two years ago.

“The Fire Inside”
Diane Warren
Flamin’ Hot, Hulu/Searchlight Pictures

Warren has been nominated in this category the last six years in a row. If she makes it again this year, she’ll have the longest consecutive streak of best original song nods since Sammy Cahn was nominated eight years running (1954-61). The indefatigable Warren has a second song in play, “Gonna Be You” from 80 for Brady.

“High Life”
Gary Clark, John Carney
Flora and Son, Apple

In addition to co-writing this song, Carney wrote and directed the film. Two of Carney’s previous films, Once and Begin Again, yielded best original song nominees (and a winner in the case of Once). Clark, a Scottish musician-songwriter, was the frontman of 1980s pop band Danny Wilson. Eve Hewson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Orén Kinlan and Jack Reynor sing “High Life” onscreen in Flora and Son.

“Can’t Catch Me Now”
Dan Nigro, Olivia Rodrigo
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Lionsgate

The Hunger Games franchise has yet to receive an Oscar nod in any category, but the red-hot Rodrigo is at the point in her career that the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is likely to pay notice. She and Nigro have received two Grammy nods for song of the year, for “drivers license” and “Vampire.” Will the moody and atmospheric “Can’t Catch Me Now” find favor here?

“For the First Time”
Alan Menken, Lin-Manuel Miranda
The Little Mermaid, Disney

Menken is an EGOT winner, and Miranda will be one as soon as he wins an Oscar. Menken won his first of four Oscars in this category for “Under the Sea” from the original 1989 iteration of The Little Mermaid. Halle Bailey sings “For the First Time” onscreen in the film. Two other Menken-Miranda songs from the film, “Wild Uncharted Waters” and “The Scuttlebutt,” are also in play.

“Find a Way”
Linda Perry
Nyad, Netflix

This would be the first Oscar nod for Perry, a two-time Grammy nominee for song of the year. Annette Bening and Jodie Foster star in the film, which tells the story of Diana Nyad who, at age 64, undertook a 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida. Perry named her song after the title of Nyad’s book, on which the movie is based.

“Road to Freedom”
Lenny Kravitz
Rustin, Netflix

Kravitz, a four-time Grammy winner for best male rock vocal performance, could score his first Oscar nod for this song from a biopic about Bayard Rustin, a lesser-known but crucial figure in the civil rights struggle. The film’s director, George C. Wolfe, helmed the 2020 movie Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which received five Oscar nods.

“Addicted to Romance”
Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen
She Came to Me, Vertical Entertainment

Springsteen won an Oscar in 1994 for “Streets of Philadelphia” and was nominated again two years later for “Dead Man Walkin’.” This would be his first nomination with a collaborator — his wife, Scialfa. The original score was composed by The National’s Bryce Dessner. Peter Dinklage and Marisa Tomei star in the film.

“Am I Dreaming”
A$AP Rocky, Metro Boomin, Michael Dean, Peter Lee Johnson, Roisee, Scriptplugg
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Sony Pictures

Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse won an Oscar for best animated feature film five years ago, though its biggest hit, “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee, missed out on a best original song nod. Metro Boomin curated the soundtrack to this film, which reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200 in June. A$AP Rocky’s partner, Rihanna, was nominated in this category last year.

“Peaches”
Jack Black, Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic, Eric Osmond, John Spiker
The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Illumination/Nintendo/Universal

This was the year’s second-­biggest hit at the box office, behind Barbie. In addition to co-writing and performing the song, Black was in the animated film’s voice cast as Bowser. This would be the first Oscar nomination for Black, who won a Grammy for best metal performance nine years ago for a track he recorded with Tenacious D for a Ronnie James Dio tribute album.

“Better Place”
Amy Allen, Shellback, Justin Timberlake
Trolls Band Together, DreamWorks Animation

Animated characters portraying *NSYNC perform this song onscreen in the movie. Timberlake was nominated in this category seven years ago for co-writing “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” for the first Trolls film. He and the other members of *NSYNC are in the voice cast, along with Anna Kendrick, Kid Cudi, Troye Sivan, Camila Cabello and Anderson .Paak, among others.

“This Wish”
Julia Michaels, Benjamin Rice, JP Saxe
Wish, Disney

Michaels and Saxe received a Grammy nod for song of the year three years ago for their collaboration “If the World Was Ending.” It was Michaels’ second nod in that category; her first was for co-writing her breakthrough hit, “Issues.” Ariana DeBose, an Oscar winner for the West Side Story remake, sings “This Wish.” She’s also in the voice cast, along with Chris Pine and Victor Garber.

SCORES

American Fiction (Orion Pictures/Amazon MGM)
Laura Karpman

Karpman could be headed for her first Oscar nod for her score to this satirical film that was written and directed by Cord Jefferson (in his feature directorial debut). The film stars Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, Issa Rae and Sterling K. Brown. Karpman won a Primetime Emmy three years ago for scoring The Discovery Channel’s Why We Hate.

Barbie (Warner Bros.)
Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt

Ronson and Wyatt, who executive-produced the hit soundtrack album — and were involved in writing and producing several of its tracks — could be headed for their first nod in this category. Wyatt has co-written songs for several Ronson albums. In 2012, the two musicians collaborated on a ballet score for The Royal Ballet of London.

Elemental (Pixar)
Thomas Newman

If Newman is nominated, this would be his 15th nod in the category, a total so far achieved by only eight composers in Oscar history. Unlike them, though, he has yet to win. Newman is the youngest son of the late Alfred Newman, who amassed 41 nominations in this category, winning a record nine times.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (Disney)
John Williams

This would be Williams’ record-extending 49th nod in a scoring category and his fourth for a film in the Indiana Jones franchise. In total, it would be Williams’ 54th Oscar nomination (the other five are for best original song), which would pull him closer to Walt Disney’s all-time record of 59 for an individual.

The Killer (Netflix)
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

This would be the fourth nod in this category for Reznor and Ross following The Social Network, Mank and Soul (a collaboration with Jon Batiste). David Fincher, who directed The Social Network and Mank, also directed The Killer. Reznor and Ross won for both The Social Network and Soul. Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton star in The Killer.

Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple)
Robbie Robertson

This was the 12th and last Martin Scorsese film that Robertson worked on. Robertson, who died in June at age 80, would become the first composer to be nominated in this category posthumously since Bernard Herrmann was cited in 1976 for both Obsession and Taxi Driver. Two other Scorsese regulars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, star in the film.

Nyad (Netflix)
Alexandre Desplat

This would be Desplat’s 12th nomination in this category, all since 2006. That’s more than anyone else has accumulated in that period. The French composer has won twice, for The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Shape of Water. This would be Desplat’s first nod in the 2020s, following three in the 2000s and eight in the 2010s.

Oppenheimer (Universal Pictures)
Ludwig Göransson

The Swedish composer won in this category five years ago for scoring Black Panther. He was nominated for an Oscar last year for co-writing a song for the sequel. Oppenheimer was the year’s fifth-biggest box-office hit, a strong showing for a three-hour adult drama. The Christopher Nolan film was based on the book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Clockwise: Elemental, Killers of the Flower Moon, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Oppenheimer.

Origin (Neon)
Kris Bowers

Origin is the fifth feature film directed by Ava DuVernay. Her 2014 historical drama, Selma, yielded the Oscar-winning song “Glory” by Common and John Legend. Bowers was nominated for documentary (short subject) three years ago for co-directing A Concerto Is a Conversation, which centered on his conversations with his jazz pianist grandfather. This would be his first nod in a scoring category.

Past Lives (A24)
Christopher Bear & Daniel Rossen

Past Lives was written and directed by Celine Song in her feature directorial debut. The film, which stars Greta Lee, Teo Yoo and John Magaro, follows the relationship between two childhood friends over 24 years. Bear and Rossen are members of veteran indie rock band Grizzly Bear, which has landed two top 10 albums on the Billboard 200.

Rustin (Netflix)
Branford Marsalis

This would be the first Oscar nomination for jazz saxophonist Marsalis, who is a three-time Grammy winner. Marsalis received a Primetime Emmy nod two years ago for outstanding music composition for a documentary series or special for Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre, which aired on the HISTORY Channel.

Saltburn (Amazon/MGM)
Anthony Willis

This would be the Australian composer’s first Oscar nod after building a reputation with his scores for How To Train Your Dragon: Homecoming (2019), Promising Young Woman (2020) and M3GAN (2022). Saltburn is the second film to be written, directed and co-produced by Emerald Fennell following Promising Young Woman. Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi and Rosamund Pike star in the psychological thriller.

Society of the Snow (Netflix)
Michael Giacchino

This would be Giacchino’s third nomination in this category following Ratatouille (2007) and Up (2009). He won for the latter. Society of the Snow is a 2023 survival thriller about a 1972 flight disaster in Argentina’s Andes Mountains. The cast comprises Uruguayan and Argentine actors, most of whom are newcomers to the craft. The film is scheduled to be released in theaters on Dec. 15.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony Pictures)
Daniel Pemberton

The English composer has yet to be nominated in this category. His only Oscar nod is for co-writing “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7, a best original song nominee three years ago. This film is a sequel to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which Pemberton also scored.

The Zone of Interest (A24)
Mica Levi

The English composer was nominated in this category seven years ago for Jackie. The Zone of Interest, based on a Martin Amis novel, revolves around Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife and their plans to build a dream life next to the concentration camp. The film, which was written and directed by Jonathan Glazer, is set to be released in the United States on Dec. 15.

Additional reporting by Melinda Newman.

This story will appear in the Nov. 18, 2023, issue of Billboard.

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