Thursday, September 23

Oscars: The musty songs nominated for the Oscar, punished outside the ceremony | Oscar Awards 2021

Of the songs that accompany serious and Oscar-winning moviess One thing is expected: that they reinforce the solemnity of the film and the importance of its message with a melody and lyrics without great personality, but so forceful that it adds an additional Oscar nomination to the project. Of the songs that are candidates for the Oscars, something else is expected: that they enliven a long gala weighed down by the succession of thanksgiving speeches. Singers as famous as possible are needed, compositions as popular as possible, applause is needed. This contradiction, between a generic song that occupies a generic place, and the need to move the public with something, a star, a memory, whatever, has been more evident than ever in 2021, the year in which the pandemic has relegated the emission of the candidate songs to the outskirts of the gala: the red carpet.


After a year without animated musicals (or otherwise) or James Bond movies that provide a catchy theme; a year where the remaining songs were hardly played during the movie; a year in which almost all the titles have been seen at home on platforms and therefore without those 40 seconds of music that accompanies the end credits and that one hears in the background while leaving the movie theater; After all this, the Academy decided to broadcast the songs in recorded performances. They would air before its inception and without stars like Lady Gaga, Barbra Streisand or Madonna, who swept previous galas, but with Leslie Odom Jr for Broadway fans (he won the Tony for Hamilton) and Laura Pausini for the Europeans. For the average American, nothing. There were four generic pop songs (those from movies as little musical as The Chicago Seven Trial, One Night in Miami, Judas and the Black Messiah Y The life ahead) and a rarity, the applauded comic pastiche of Eurovision Song Contest: the story of Fire Saga. The outlook was arid and the decision not to perform them at the ceremony, an underhanded confirmation that the thing had no better arrangement.

The resulting musty, atonal succession of interchangeable, non-sparkling songs played in sober prerecorded performances at the Dolby Theater was a stark reminder of so many things that worked before and are no longer. Although it was not without meaning. The first thing you want in these big television events, especially after a year like the past, is to find yourself, feel that the ceremony speaks to you and verbalizes part of what you experienced, in the cinema or, in this case, outside of the. In that sense, the banned number was a sensible decision. There are five songs: one about being seen, two about being heard, a pseudoparody and an unexpected hymn. Culture in 2021.

Leslie Odom Jr., during his performance for the Oscars 2021 at the Dolby Theater.
Leslie Odom Jr., during his performance for the Oscars 2021 at the Dolby Theater.ABC

Leslie Odom Jr., a great voice dedicated to music for all audiences and the popular American songbook, had to defend the favorite song of the year, Speak Now, from One night in Miami, for which he was also nominated for best supporting actor. In the version of the film, he plays to sound like the singer he plays, Sam Cooke: here he abandoned acting, he showed off what he could in a video where he was seen in the dark and bathed in smoke, and screamed and whispered and smiled as who knows himself a star in the making.

HER (Grammy for Song of the Year 2020 for I Can’t Breathe) interpreted Fight for You, from Judas and the black messiah, a black style song from the seventies, like the accompanying movie, about fighting for someone or something. The lyrics do not make it clear, it is a song whose political message is also a love story.

Celeste, during her performance for the Oscars 2021, at the Dolby Theater.
Celeste, during her performance for the Oscars 2021, at the Dolby Theater.ABC

The excellent British singer Celeste had to deal with the worst part: the song Hear My Voice, written by her together with Daniel Pemberton (crafty composer of soundtracks) for The Chicago 7 trial, an elegiac theme about the importance of everyone having their own voice. Voucher. Celeste has hers and she’s terrific, bordering on Billie Holiday at times, which just barely makes up for the fact that many, perhaps most, were discovering at the time that The Chicago 7 trial had an original song.

The only theme heard during the movie, and not in the credits, was Husavik, from Eurovision Song Contest: the story of Fire Saga, one of those comic compositions that parody a genre (the epic and categorical ballad that is usually heard in Eurovision) while participating in it. The song has irony and heart. It is also sung by two characters who are aspiring successful musicians, as in A star is born, Eight miles O Once: an Oscars classic. In this movie they are Rachel McAdams and Will Ferrell, and bringing them would have been a grateful touch of stardom, two familiar faces at last, but here it was a Swede named Molly Sandén who sang. It was an act of justice (Sandén doubles McAdams in almost the entire tape) that unfortunately stole all the irony from the interpretation. What was a round song, something, finally, rare among so many regulations, was reduced to an impressive ballad and, fortunately for the competition, to use. The generic video reinforced the message. The risk of giving the song personality was deactivated.

Molly Sandén, in her performance for the Oscars 2021, at the Dolby Theater.
Molly Sandén, in her performance for the Oscars 2021, at the Dolby Theater.ABC

The one with the best story was, by far, Io Yes, from The life ahead. Its authors are two very close women: Diane Warren, an Oscar candidate for best song 12 times, some of them for classics such as I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing from Armaggedon, without ever having won one; and Laura Pausini, whose excitement about performing at the Oscars has been a recurring theme on her social media in recent months. The song is not perfect, so full of common places in the chords and in the lyrics (“If you love me, here I am / Nobody sees you, but I do”). It is truly the song anyone would write after being nominated 12 times for their best work without winning once. But Pausini’s performance, recorded in a Los Angeles sunset, with Warren at the piano, was a high point and the opportunity to see something not seen in other videos: someone for whom that occasion represented something very important.

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