Another year, five more tracks entering the pantheon of great (and not so great) Oscar-nominated original songs. For this year’s telecast, pop powerhouses Beyoncé and Billie Eilish will take on singer-songwriter Van Morrison, Tony Lin legend-Manuel Miranda and 13-time nominee/zero-time winner Diane Warren.
Listening to these five songs left me contemplating this odd little Oscar category, which has historically strayed from the expected path of highlighting tracks that play in the credits or those supporting films that have otherwise been completely excluded from the race. This year’s Glenn Close vehicle four good dayssoft porn often mocked Fifty shades of Grey, and the obscure glacier documentary chasing the ice are all Oscar-nominated films thanks to this category.
But for every “Before My Time”, we also got a “My Heart Will Go On” or a “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, an undeniably catchy track that stands the test of time and reminds us why this category always matters. And, for all the chaos and turmoil of the category over the years, it’s also given Oscar aficionados an abundance of fascinating facts to reign over their friends at Trivia Night. (Like the fact that nominees used to have no need to be “original” at all, or that this category used to have as many as 14 nominees and as few as two, before finally coming to a term of five .)
To gauge the quality of Best Original Song nominees (and because I love dupe races), I decided to rank every Best Original Song nominee since the year 2000 and settle for a ranking blameless of the 101 nominees. My general criteria for judging each song were quality, cultural stamina, and use in film (so songs that only played in the credits were generally not favored).
To quote a snubbed track from this year’s category, “So can we get started? It’s time to get started!”