Oscars 2016 Category Breakdown: Best Original Song

Every year before the Oscars I break down each of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with the category, how it typically goes, voting-wise, historically and also as a precursor to my picks article, allowing me to get most of the heavy lifting out of the way beforehand.

What I do is go over each category’s history, give you all the previous winners and nominees, then list the current year’s nominees. And then I’ll go over how each of the guilds (if there is a corresponding guild) have voted, how that corresponds to the Oscars (some guilds mean a lot to how a category will play out. Others mean nothing). It’s basically everything you need to know in order to make an informed decision when you make your picks on Oscar night. And then I also rank the nominees at the end in terms of where I see them in terms of their likelihood to win. So you know what the general favorites are.

Today is Best Original Song. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

2003 “Into the West,” The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King “Scarlet Tide,” Cold Mountain

“You Will Be My Ain True Love,” Cold Mountain

“A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow,” A Mighty Wind

“Belleville Rendez-Vous,” The Triplets of Belleville

2004 “Al otro lado del rio,” The Motorcycle Diaries “Vois sur ton chermin (Look to Your Path),”The Chorus

“Learn to Be Lonely,” The Phantom of the Opera

“Believe,” The Polar Express

“Accidentally in Love,” Shrek 2

2005 “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp,” Hustle & Flow “In the Deep,” Crash

“Travelin’ Thru,” Transamerica

2006 “I Need to Wake Up,” An Inconvenient Truth “Our Town,” Cars

“Listen,” Dreamgirls

“Love You I Do,” Dreamgirls

“Patience,” Dreamgirls

2007 “Falling Slowly,” Once “Happy Working Song,” Enchanted

“So Close,” Enchanted

“That’s How You Know,” Enchanted

Raise It Up,” August Rush

2008 “Jai Ho,” Slumdog Millionaire “O…Saya,” Slumdog Millionaire

“Down to Earth,” Wall-E

2009 “The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart “Almost There,” The Princess and the Frog

“Down in New Orleans,” The Princess and the Frog

“Loin de Paname,” Paris 36

“Take It All,” Nine

2010 “We Belong Together,” Toy Story 3 “I See the Light,” Tangled

“Coming Home,” Country Strong

“If I Rise,” 127 Hours

2011 “Man or Muppet,” The Muppets “Real in Rio,” Rio
2012 “Skyfall,” from Skyfall “Before My Time,” from Chasing Ice“Everybody Needs a Best Friend,” from Ted
2013 “Let It Go,” from Frozen “Happy,” from Despicable Me 2

“The Moon Song,”from Her

“Ordinary Love,” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

2014 “Glory,” from Selma “Lost Stars,” from Begin Again

“Grateful,” from Beyond the Lights

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” from Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me

“Everything Is Awesome,” from The Lego Movie

2015 “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre


“Earned It,” from Fifty Shades of Grey

“Manta Ray,” from Racing Extinction

“Simple Song #3,” from Youth

“Till It Happens to You,” from The Hunting Ground

There’s no guild, no anything really, for this category. It’s pretty much just common sense. You can usually narrow it down to one or two choices every year. It’s not that hard.

Best Original Song

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” from La La Land

“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls

“City of Stars,” from La La Land

“The Empty Chair,” from Jim: The James Foley Story

“How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana

I’m not overly upset with how this turned out. I mean, sure, I’d loved to have seen “Drive It Like You Stole It” get on here for Sing Street, but barring that, most of the other four I’d have put on here or am okay with. So I’m cool.


5. “The Empty Chair” — J. Ralph gets nominated, and J. Ralph is the fifth choice in the category. This happened twice before, and we know how this goes. The song no one’s heard of never wins. And I don’t think there’s anyone who legitimately thinks this has a shot at winning even a little bit.

4. “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” — Timberlake pimped this song real hard to get to this point. The way they pimped “Happy.” I don’t think this has enough juice to really pull off a win. You’ve gotta outmaneuver the most nominated film of all time, which is going to win at least six Oscars, and also Disney. Tall order. I can maybe make a case for this as third choice, but I’m almost certain the voting body at large doesn’t know or care that this is Timberlake. This song did not cross over the way “Happy” did, and the nomination is the reward for this.

3. “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” — Maybe something happens where this wins, but it’s the lesser of the two songs from the film. Lesser meaning — it’s not the signature song. Were they gonna vote for “Friend Like Me” or “A Whole New World”? This would be a fine winner, and I guess it could happen, but I’m thinking this isn’t the song people will vote for. I’d also only have really been worried about a vote split for this film had a third song been nominated. Here, I think we’re safe assuming one takes it over the other.

2. “How Far I’ll Go” — Disney princess song. These usually straight up win. And it’s got Lin-Manuel Miranda on it. This could win. Only problem? The visibility isn’t there. Moana was a huge hit, but it’s basically the secondary Disney film of 2016. I don’t know if there’s enough of this out there to get it all the way across the finish line as the winner. Obviously it’s not the favorite, but I also wouldn’t rule this one out until the very end.

1. “City of Stars” — La La Land is going to win for Original Song. I mean, don’t we all see that? It’s going to win until it doesn’t. Now, I can’t for sure guarantee which song it’ll be, but I’m pretty sure the duet between the main characters and the song that’s been positioned as “the” song from the film is the one that’ll probably take it. So as such, that makes it the odds-on favorite to win. I can’t really see the film losing, and since this is the song from the film that’s most likely to win, that makes it the favorite. Pretty easy, actually.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow is Best Sound Mixing.


One response

  1. If only one song from Lala Land were nominated I would say it is a sure win. But with two, I wonder if that will split the votes enough that Moana takes it. Especially since the Moana song is repeated in the movie so often, it is very difficult to escape.

    February 11, 2017 at 4:05 am

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