There’s no suspense with “Shallow” making the Best Original Song shortlist on December 17. The Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper duet from “A Star Is Born” has been passionately embraced like no ballad since “Frozen’s” “Let It Go.” In fact, it looks unbeatable for the Oscar.
However, when it comes to rounding out the other nine contenders, there are plenty of memorable possibilities, including “All the Stars” (“Black Panther”), “I’ll Fight” (“RBG”), “Gravity” (“Free Solo”), “Requiem For A Private War” (“A Private War”), and “The Place Where Lost Things Go” and “Trip A Little Light Fantastic” (“Mary Poppins Returns”).
Plus, there’s “Revelation” (“Boy Erased”), “Here Comes the Change” (“On the Basis of Sex”), “Girl in the Movies” (“Dumplin'”), “We Won’t Move” (“The Hate U Give”), and even “A Place Called Slaughter Race” (“Ralph Breaks the Internet”).
But the biggest story about “Shallow” is how it evolved from a song about drowning and transcendence into the powerful anthem about love and filling the void personally and professionally. “Gaga was writing from the standpoint of Ally as an end credit song, because in the original script Bradley’s character drowns,” said co-writer Mark Ronson.
“But somehow Bradley decided that they were going to work it into the script as a duet. It’s a really good song that the movie turned into a really great song, and that’s the best you can hope for.”
It’s also a complicated song, first appearing during the sublime parking lot encounter between Jackson and Ally when she sings the first verse, and then escalating into a duet that he’s polished when he drags her onstage at his concert. Ronson liked the unconventional structure of three verses interspersed with the chorus. “It’s like a dialog between them,” he added. “It’s unpredictable and builds to something exciting.”
Meanwhile, as an end credit song, “All the Stars” (performed by Kendrick Lamar and SZA) perfectly sums up the love and unity of “Black Panther.” “The beauty was that Ryan [Coogler] trusted us and gave us creative control,” said Sounwave, Lamar’s frequent collaborator as the drum beat specialist. “All he did was come by and play us the scenes that needed musical sonics, and he just trusted our ear.
“Then Kendrick created these trans, hypnotic chords that I couldn’t get out of my head,” added the writer/producer. “And we built on it and built on it and it eventually turned into three different beats before it became what it was…very simple. I could tell that [‘Black Panther’] was going to be a historic moment.”
As song writer Diane Warren chases her 10th nomination with “I’ll Fight” (performed by Jennifer Hudson), she continues her focus on battling injustice (including “Stand Up For Something” from “Marshall” and “Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground”).
“What’s so cool about this song is you can have it be about whatever you want, but within the context of this movie, it’s about Ruth Bader Ginsberg fighting for our rights,” Warren said. “You hear this song and you can think about your parents or your kids or your friends or people that need help in the world. But Ruth speaks so powerfully with a soft voice.”
Initially, country star Tim McGraw shied away from “Gravity” because he was too busy touring and recording and he couldn’t care less about mountain climbing. But when he sat down with his family to watch the inspirational National Geographic doc “Free Solo” about Alex Honnold scaling the world’s most famous mountain in Yosemite, he was hooked.
“We wanted it to be about journey and the connections in life with people and
yourself,” McGraw said, “and the accomplishments you can have when believing in yourself and pushing yourself forward.”
Eurythmics legend Annie Lennox was also hesitant at first about writing “Requiem For A Private War” because it seemed daunting. She had once met the late war correspondent Marie Colvin (played in the movie by Rosamund Pike), and celebrated her work with an honorary award as part of her female empowerment organization, The Circle NGO.
“I started dabbling with it and something came and it resonated with me,” said Lennox (Oscar winner for” Into the West” from “Lord of the Rings “). She not only created a slow building requiem but also strained the limits of her voice. “What I like is that it enhances the atmosphere and never intrudes on the story. I wanted to honor her memory.”
With “Mary Poppins Returns,”score and song composer/co-lyricist Marc Shaiman and co-lyricist Scott Wittman returned to the Depression-era books of P.L. Travers. “They were episodic adventures and more like Eastern philosophy,” Shaiman said. “‘The Place Where Lost Things Go’ was taken from the one of the stories where Mary takes the kids to the dark side of the moon and her uncle is the man on the moon. That’s where he gathers all the things that you’ve lost. It’s a gentle way of Mary talking to the kids about the loss of their mother.”
With “Trip A Little Light Fantastic,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Jack tells the kids to look for the light when they’re lost. “[It] was fun because we got to play with Cockney rhyming slang,” added Wittman. “It’s a very big, athletic number that dances.”
Lists are alphabetical:
“All the Stars” (“Black Panther”)
“I’ll Fight” (“RBG”)
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” (“Mary Poppins Returns”)
“Requiem For A Private War” (“A Private War”)
“Shallow” (“A Star Is Born”)
“Girl in the Movies” (“Dumplin'”)
“Gravity” (“Free Solo”)
“Here Comes the Change” (“On the Basis of Sex”)
“Trip A Little Light Fantastic” (“Mary Poppins Returns”)
“We Won’t Move” (“The Hate U Give”)
“Ashes” (Deadpool 2″)
“The Big Unknown” (“Widows”)
“I Am the Grinch” (“The Grinch”)
“A Place Called Slaughter Race” (“Ralph Breaks the Internet”)
“Revelation” (“Boy Erased”)
“Treasure” (Beautiful Boy”)
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” (“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”)
“Wrapped Up” (“Vox Lux”)