Frank Ocean wouldn’t have been nominated, anyway. Though the artist behind SPIN’s #1 album of 2012, channel ORANGE, briefly stirred Oscar hopes when he let slip that he’d written a song for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained soundtrack, it’s probably for the best the director decided the graceful, generous ballad “Wiseman” didn’t fit the film. Despite efforts to shake up the Academy Awards’ process for nominating Best Original Song contenders, this year’s list doesn’t have much more for pop music fans than 2012’s dismal two-song batch (which made our year-end Hall of Shame).
There’s one big exception, of course, and — as usual — her name is Adele. The British retro-soul queen scored a nod for her Skyfall theme song, ending a streak of Oscar snubs for James Bond films ever since Sheena Easton’s “For Your Eyes Only” got a nomination more than 30 years ago. It’s a welcome return for pop to the Oscars, which skipped musical performances last year and in 2010.
The rest of the Best Song nominations are less heartening: “Before My Time,” from Chasing Ice; “Everybody Needs a Best Friend,” from Ted; “Pi’s Lullaby,” from Life of Pi; and “Suddenly,” from Les Miserables. The most exciting of that bunch is the Ted song, sung by Norah Jones, whose Little Broken Hearts was one of the best pop albums of 2012. Still, while we’ve previously stood up for some of the musical forays of actress Scarlett Johansson, who sings on the nominated song from Chasing Ice, surely the Academy might’ve found some other full-time musicians to receive the honor. Ditto for Lez Mis belter Hugh Jackman, though Canadian film music composer Mychael Danna’s Pi song at least adds a welcome Indian influence.
By contrast, the Academy’s lengthy “short list” for nominations included plenty of artists revered in pop, rap, and indie music circles. Rick Ross’ Django Unchained song “100 Black Coffins” is one notable snub, as is the Black Keys’ and RZA’s “The Baddest Man Alive,” from The Man With the Iron Fists. Other fine possibilities included Fiona Apple’s This Is 40 heart-stabber “Dull Tool,” and it would’ve been great to see Karen O, Beck, or the Arcade Fire up there on Hollywood’s biggest night. At least we don’t have Owl City to kick around anymore.
We probably should’ve seen this coming when the Golden Globes’ nominees included songs that didn’t even make the Oscar short list. The Oscar is one award that Taylor Swift, who will vie for a Golden Globe against Adele and others for one of her contributions to the Hunger Games soundtrack, won’t be competing for in the next 12 months or so.
Ted‘s “Everybody Needs a Best Friend”
Les Miserables‘ “Suddenly”
Life of Pi‘s “Pi’s Lullaby”
Chasing Ice‘s “Before My Time”