Oscars 2023: Best Original Song Predictions

We keep updating these predictions through the awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks. Final voting is March 2 through 7, 2023.  The 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.

See our previous thoughts on what to expect at the 95th Academy Awards here.

The State of the Race

Even in the Best Original Song category, the Oscars put a focus on film first, so while music superstars like Taylor Swift, Drake, and Selena Gomez were in contention this year – and therefore could have been a ratings draw for the telecast – they did not ultimately receive nominations. One problem? Their songs all hailed from films that, as a whole, are simply not on much voters’ radar.

But two other superstars did scratch that itch: Rihanna and Lady Gaga, who both co-wrote original songs for films that were box office hits with Best Picture aspirations. Their work became much harder for the filmmaking community to ignore.

Both have great stories behind them too, with Rihanna making her grand return to music via a song that nobly honors the late “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman. Meanwhile Gaga, already a Best Original Song winner for her “A Star Is Born” track “Shallow,” was given the formidable task of penning a worthy follow-up to the Oscar-winning “Top Gun” theme “Take My Breath Away,” for the sequel “Top Gun: Maverick.” Though the latter became the more successful film, Rihanna’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” closer is the more successful song, giving the reemerging singer a slight edge in the awards race.

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However, the narrative that has begun to eclipse both popstars is “Naatu Naatu.” Tollywood phenomenon “RRR” has had an unprecedented global impact that nearly resulted in a Best Picture nod. Part of what drew American cinephiles to the film in the first place was the epic musical number soundtracked by the aforementioned song. Hopes are high that film stars Ram Charan and N.T. Rama Rao, Jr. will recreate it on the Oscars stage.

Best Original Song is the only category “RRR” received a nomination in, in part because it was not chosen as India’s Best International Feature Film submission. It’s likely the film will win in this category, in part to acknowledge the ground it broke at the American box office last year.

If there is a dark horse in the race though, it is “This Is a Life” from Best Picture frontrunner “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Among the three songwriters nominated, David Byrne is already an Oscar winner for his work on “The Last Emperor,” and Ryan Lott of Son Lux made the cut for Best Original Score as well, so they certainly already have the attention of voters.

Of course, so does Diane Warren, one of this year’s honorary Oscar recipients, who received her 14th nomination in this category. The difference with her is that the film her song “Applause” comes from, “Tell It Like a Woman,” is probably the least seen film across the board in terms of what movies were nominated for Oscars this year.

Nominees are listed below in order of likelihood they will win.

“Naatu Naatu”— Kaala Bhairava, M.M. Keeravani, and Rahul Sipligunj (“RRR”)
“Lift Me Up”— Rihanna (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”)
“Hold My Hand” — Lady Gaga (“Top Gun: Maverick”)
“This Is a Life”— David Byrne, Ryan Lott, and Mitski (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
“Applause”— Diane Warren (“Tell It Like a Woman”)