Soundtrack Scene: 2014 Original Song (So Far…)

Edit (July 4, 2014): I just discovered that Charli XCX’s “Boom Clap” wasn’t written for use in The Fault in Our Stars. In fact, she’s been sitting on that song for a little while, apparently – she even shopped it to Hilary Duff at one point.

It’s good to be back – though it might be a little while before I’m fully back in the swing of writing regularly. But the story at hand: the original song race is apparently beginning early, what with Deadline Hollywood’s piece about “Lost Stars” – performed by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, who also makes his film debut here – from the Weinstein Co.-distributed Begin Again already getting an awards push.

To some extent, this rush to hit the campaign trail shouldn’t surprise us since we’re coming off one of the biggest years in the recent history of the original song race – last year marked the first time since 1999 that (at least) two nominees hit the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 and the first time since 1997 that (at least) two nominees hit the top five of the Hot 100. These two nominees, of course, are “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 and winner “Let It Go” from Frozen, which hit No. 1 and No. 5 on the Hot 100, respectively.

This is hardly a comprehensive look at the original song race since it’s only the beginning of July, and I’d be foolish to predict this category based on a song’s (likely or established) chart success – regardless of its quality (and likely victories throughout the awards season), I doubt the sight-unseen front-runner Stephen Sondheim wrote for Into the Woods will cross over to airplay on your local pop station. But it’s worth looking at the contenders so far and, more importantly, wondering if last year marked a change in the category that would, for better and for worse, return it to the chart smashes of ‘80s and ‘90s.

Only time will tell, but like last year, we can already see that some big names in music are lending their names to the film soundtracks of 2014. Like Levine, Selena Gomez stars in and performs some songs for a music drama, William H. Macy’s Rudderless. Rap icon Jay Z will contribute new music to and exec produce the upcoming film adaptation of Annie. Eminem, who won this category in 2002 for 8 Mile’s chart-topping “Lose Yourself,” teamed up with Sia to perform a song for Denzel Washington-led actioner The Equalizer. Also, I’ve read that Britney Spears apparently recorded “All the Way” for the upcoming comedy Search Party, so, assuming that it exists, it might take up some space on the eventual shortlist if nothing else.

Some artists have already had hits with their cinematic contributions. Tegan and Sara, for instance, took their recording of The Lego Movie’s infectious “Everything is AWESOME!!!” to No. 57 on the Hot 100 earlier this year. Charli XCX – who provided vocals on Icona Pop’s “I Love It” and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” – recently hit No. 29 on the chart with “Boom Clap,” her upbeat contribution to The Fault in Our Stars (though its strong digital sales and increasing airplay should help it to reach a higher peak in the coming weeks). But as the edit at the top of this post points out, the song is not original to The Fault in Our Stars, so don’t expect to see it on the eligibility list.

But the popular Fault soundtrack bears more Oscar-friendly tunes in somber ballads like Birdy’s “Not About Angels” and Ed Sheeran’s “All of the Stars.” Even so, the music branch ignored other YA properties like the Twilight (I know, I know, but those soundtracks are great) and Hunger Games franchises despite massive popularity – the latter even snagged consecutive Globe nods for The Civil Wars and Taylor Swift’s “Safe and Sound” and Coldplay’s “Atlas,” respectively. (Speaking of Coldplay, the group is one of the many acts on the soundtrack to Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here.) That’s hardly a good sign for Fault. Ditto The Giver, with OneRepublic tune “Ordinary Human”; The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, which we expect to have at least one eligible song; and Divergent, whose original songs don’t fit in the music branch’s wheelhouse anyway.

But of course, nothing is over until it’s over. Some of these songs might not even make the eligibility list – again, the mere existence of Spears’ Search Party tune is questionable at this point. I hope to post a page listing all of the potential contenders in the near future, but for now, here are the songs looking good for nominations, just because:

Song from Into the Woods (no link because we still need to hear it) – It’s a no-brainer at this point, but will it go the way of “You Must Love Me” from Evita (1996) or “Suddenly” from Les Misérables (2012)?
“Lost Stars” from Begin Again – The Weinstein Co. is already pushing this one
“All of the Stars” and/or “Not About Angels” from The Fault in Our Stars – Fox will likely decide between one of these two ballads to push
“Everything is AWESOME!!!” from The Lego Movie – It’s popular and insanely catchy, but will the music branch appreciate something so poppy?
“Where No One Goes” from How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Sounds like music-branch bait, but Jónsi’s contribution from the first film didn’t get in… how seriously should we take this song?
“It Was the Last Thing on Your Mind” from They Came Together – I just have a hunch that this Norah Jones-performed ditty has a shot

What are your thoughts on the contenders so far?

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