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‘Lift Me Up’ Rises to Frontrunner Status in Best Original Song Race

Only Rihanna's return to music could've shaken up the Best Original Song Oscar race so much.

Rihanna Lift Me Up

Rihanna in the “Lift Me Up” music video.

Courtesy of Rihanna

This article contains IndieWire’s past Best Original Song predictions for the 2023 Oscars. We regularly update our predictions throughout awards season, and republish previous versions (like this one) for readers to track changes in how the Oscar race has changed. For the latest update on the frontrunners for the 95th Academy Awards, see our 2023 Oscars predictions hub.

We will update these predictions throughout awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks. Nominations voting is from January 12 to January 17, 2023, with official Oscar nominations announced on January 24, 2023. The final voting is March 2 through 7, 2023.  And finally, 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 initial thoughts on what to expect at the 95th Academy Awards here.

The State of the Race

Only something as massive as Rihanna’s long-awaited return to music could avoid standing in the shadow of Lady Gaga’s anthemic “Top Gun: Maverick” theme “Hold My Hand.” Written for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” by Tems, the film’s composer Ludwig Göransson, writer-director Ryan Coogler, and Rihanna herself, “Lift Me Up” has been accurately described as a lullaby, but still has that sweeping resonance that will keep it top of mind as Academy members vote for Best Original Song. It already has a Hollywood Music in Media Award under its belt, so that is a nice start.

Same goes for Diane Warren’s newest competitive Oscar bid “Applause,” which won the same award in the Song – Independent Film category. Even though the 13-time Best Original Song nominee was finally given an honorary statue at this year’s Governors Awards, her new track with Sofia Carson, written for the anthology film “Tell It Like a Woman,” should still keep her streak going.

Although the Hollywood Music in Media Awards don’t have the same weight as many guild awards, they are helpful in figuring out the lay of the land for the Best Original Song race. Other winners there included “Ciao Papa” from “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” which feels primed to make it all the way to nominations given how well-liked del Toro and his musical collaborator Alexandre Desplat are by the Academy (both men have won two Oscars), “Ready as I’ll Never Be” by Brandi Carlile and Tanya Tucker (from Sony Pictures Classics documentary (“The Return of Tanya Tucker – Featuring Brandi Carlile”), and “Love is Not Love” from “Bros,” co-written and performed in the film by star Billy Eichner. The latter two have a harder run toward making it to the shortlist, but are helped by their importance to their respective films.

That said, the Best Original Song shortlist has gotten very starry as of late, and this year has no shortage of hitmakers in contention for writing and/or performing music made for films. Finneas and Billie Eilish, who just got an Oscar this year for their Bond theme, could go back-to-back winning for the boyband earworm “Nobody Like U” from Best Animated Feature contender “Turning Red.” Also, Taylor Swift wrote and performed a song for “Where the Crawdads Sing” titled “Carolina,” Drake co-wrote a song for “Amsterdam” titled “Time,” Selena Gomez wrote and performed the title track from her Apple TV+ documentary “My Mind and Me,” and Harry Styles wrote and performed the haunting tune “With You All the Time” from “Don’t Worry Darling.” But the knock against most of those songs is that they’re from films not exactly on the Academy’s radar.

White Noise. (L to R) Adam Driver as Jack, Greta Gerwig as Babette, and Don Cheadle as Murray in White Noise. Cr. Wilson Webb/Netflix © 2022

“White Noise”

WILSON WEBB / NETFLIX ©2022

Look out for more seasoned music vets to make it onto the shortlist instead, like Oscar winner Trent Reznor, giving a rare vocal performance on “Bones and All” soundtrack cut “(You Made It Feel Like) Home,” and David Byrne, who collaborated with indie favorites Son Lux and Mitski on the song “This Is a Life,” written for Best Picture contender “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Though LCD Soundsystem has never reached the commercial heights of some of the aforementioned popstars, the Academy is likely to at least sample the new Noah Baumbach film “White Noise,” which really gives the band’s song “New Body Rhumba” a big showcase at the end.

And speaking of musical numbers, as we get to the end of the year, thinking about what everyone is likely to stream with their families, there is high chance Oscar voters catch wind of some of the actual movie musicals released this year, which either have big campaigns or big behind the scenes talent behind them. For example, the song “Naatu Naatu” is maybe the best shot dark horse Oscar contender “RRR” has at a nomination. The film has done good business, hosted some of the most fun award season screenings, and has already been a hit on Netflix. “Spirited,” the new Apple TV+ Christmas musical starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds, is also building a lot of momentum, and is soundtracked by music from Oscar winners Pasek and Paul (they also worked on “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” this year, but “Spirited” seems to be their priority). “Do a Little Good” is the biggest contender from that one. And do not count out “Still Holding My Hand,” the original song from “Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical,” which is currently a box office hit in the UK—notable given the Academy’s ever-growing presence in Europe—and is coming to Netflix during the holiday season.

Lastly, there is little left still to screen, but expect a strong last minute showing from “Avatar: The Way of Water” soundtrack, and “A Man Called Otto” song “Till You’re Home,” a duet between Academy governor Rita Wilson and Sebastián Yatra, the singer who performed the Oscar-nominated “Encanto” tearjerker “Dos Orugitas.”

Contenders for the shortlist are listed in alphabetical order.

Frontrunners:
“Naatu Naatu”— Kaala Bhairava, M.M. Keeravani, and Rahul Sipligunj (“RRR”)
“This Is a Life”— David Byrne, Ryan Lott, and Mitski (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
“Ready as I’ll Never Be”—Brandi Carlile and Tanya Tucker (“The Return of Tanya Tucker – Featuring Brandi Carlile”)
“Ciao Papa”— Guillermo del Toro, Alexandre Desplat, and Roeban Katz (“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”)
“Love is Not Love” — Billy Eichner & Marc Shaiman (“Bros”)
“Nobody Like U” — Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell (“Turning Red”)
“Stand Up”— Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II and Jazmine Sullivan (“Till”)
“Hold My Hand” — Lady Gaga (“Top Gun: Maverick”)
“My Mind and Me”—Selena Gomez (“Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me”)
“Still Holding My Hand”—Tim Minchin (“Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical”)
“New Body Rhumba” — James Murphy (“White Noise”)
“Do a Little Good”—Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“Spirited”)
“(You Made It Feel Like) Home” — Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (“Bones and All”)
“Lift Me Up”— Rihanna (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”)
“Applause”— Diane Warren (“Tell It Like a Woman”)

Contenders:
“Paper Airplanes”—Ruth B. (“A Jazzman’s Blues”)
“At the Automat” — Mel Brooks (“The Automat”)
“Sing a Brand New Song”—Common and Charles Fox (“Killing Me Softly With His Songs”)
“We Are Art” — Annalaura di Luggo & Paky Di Maio (“We Are Art: Through the Eyes of Annalaura”)
“Vegas”— Doja Cat (“Elvis”)
“Hot Girl”— George Daniel and Charli XCX (“Bodies Bodies Bodies”)
“Lift Your Wings”—Mychael Danna, Jeff Danna, Frank Danna, Nora Twomey, and Meg LeFauve (“My Father’s Dragon”)
“A Tree of Life”—Kate Diaz and Idina Menzel (“A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting”)
“Time” — Giveon Evans, Aubrey “Drake” Graham, Daniel Pemberton, and Jahaan Akil Sweet (“Amsterdam”)
“The Songcord”—Simon Franglen (“Avatar: The Way of Water”)
“Brasília Bella”— Luis Guerra, Dan Mirvish, and Caro Pierotto (“18 1/2”)
“Good Afternoon”—Khiyon Hursey, Sukari ones, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Mark Sonnenblick (“Spirited”)
“Not Alone”— Joe Jonas (“Devotion”)
“Keep Rising”— Angélique Kidjo and Jessy Wilson (“The Woman King”)
“On My Way (Marry Me)” — Jennifer Lopez (“Marry Me”)
“Carried Away”— Shawn Mendes (“Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile”)
“I Ain’t Worried” — OneRepublic (“Top Gun: Maverick”)
“A Sky Like I’ve Never Seen”—Robin Pecknold (“Wildcat”)
“Dust & Ash”— J. Ralph (“The Voice of Dust and Ash”)
“Turn Up The Sunshine”— Diana Ross and Tame Impala (“Minions: The Rise of Gru”)
“The Hands”—serpentwithfeet (“The Inspection”)
“With You All the Time”—Harry Styles (“Don’t Worry Darling”)
“Carolina” — Taylor Swift (“Where the Crawdads Sing”)
“Till You’re Home”—Rita Wilson and Sebastián Yatra (“A Man Called Otto”)

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