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‘RRR’ and ‘Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio’ Challenge Lady Gaga and Rihanna for Best Original Song

The shortlist for the 2023 Best Original Song Oscar sees music superstars competing with dazzling musical numbers and perennial nominees.

Pinocchio is in front of a window, looking at the camera



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

Before we begin parsing through what songs from this year’s Best Original Song shortlist will get an Academy Award nomination, let us take a second to mourn the fact that we will not be getting a performance from 4*TOWN singing their “Turning Red” earworm “Nobody Like U” at the 95th Oscars. Although we can probably chalk up the biggest snub of the category this year to songwriter Billie Eilish and her brother/producer Finneas having just won Best Original Song for their Bond theme “No Time to Die.”

There is one recent winner of the category still in play, however: Lady Gaga’s “Top Gun: Maverick” theme song “Hold My Hand” holds a spot on the shortlist, and is likely to get a nomination based on how much it met expectations for just how epic a track written by the “Shallow” songwriter for the biggest blockbuster of the year should be (read: very epic). Similarly, though the song itself is understated, “Lift Me Up,” the end credits song for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” functioned both as a fitting tribute to the franchise’s late star Chadwick Boseman, and as an attention-grabbing pop cultural moment, as it marked megastar Rihanna’s return to music.

Expect the two soundtrack cuts from two of the biggest films of 2022 to duke it out for the Best Original Song Oscar come 2023. That is, if Oscar voters consider pop cultural impact as part of the criteria for what will win the category this time around.

Oftentimes, the Best Original Song nominations are full of tracks from films that have a conceivable shot at a Best Picture nomination because those are the films people are watching, and therefore give a better understanding of the context for how the song functions within the film itself. Two of the strongest entries in terms of importance to the overall film are “Naatu Naatu” from “RRR” and “Ciao Papa” from “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.” Both songs are actually musical numbers within their respective films, and will likely hold more weight with voters who judge the category based on how the work contributes to the cinematic experience, and not just how good the song sounds.

Ultimately, we could group each song on the shortlist into three categories: songs from today’s most popular musicians (add songs written by Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Selena Gomez, and Drake to the list that includes the aforementioned superstar frontrunners), songs that soundtrack important parts of their films (the songs from “Spirited” and “White Noise” also soundtrack memorable scenes), and songs from perennial Best Original Song contenders (D’Mile just won this category two years ago; J. Ralph has had three nominations).

The latter grouping is ruled by Diane Warren, who this year became the first-ever songwriter to win an honorary Oscar. Maybe finally giving her a statue may compel voters to look in a different direction, especially toward Rita Wilson, who has some sway as an Academy governor. Still, the beloved and often-nominated Warren has still never won a competitive Oscar, so the type of consistent campaigning that has secured her 13 Best Original Song nominations — even for films that have otherwise gone unrecognized by the Academy — is not over yet.

Contenders for the shortlist are listed in alphabetical order.

“Naatu Naatu”— Kaala Bhairava, M.M. Keeravani, and Rahul Sipligunj (“RRR”)
“Ciao Papa”— Guillermo del Toro, Alexandre Desplat, and Roeban Katz (“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”)
“Hold My Hand” — Lady Gaga (“Top Gun: Maverick”)
“Lift Me Up”— Rihanna (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”)
“Applause”— Diane Warren (“Tell It Like a Woman”)

“This Is a Life”— David Byrne, Ryan Lott, and Mitski (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
“Stand Up”— Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II and Jazmine Sullivan (“Till”)
“Time” — Giveon Evans, Aubrey “Drake” Graham, Daniel Pemberton, and Jahaan Akil Sweet (“Amsterdam”)
“My Mind and Me”—Selena Gomez (“Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me”)
“Good Afternoon”—Khiyon Hursey, Sukari Jones, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Mark Sonnenblick (“Spirited”)
“New Body Rhumba” — James Murphy (“White Noise”)
“Dust & Ash”— J. Ralph (“The Voice of Dust and Ash”)
“Carolina” — Taylor Swift (“Where the Crawdads Sing”)
“Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength)” — The Weeknd (“Avatar: The Way of Water”)
“Till You’re Home”—Rita Wilson and Sebastián Yatra (“A Man Called Otto”)

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