Oscars 2023: What Does a Best Original Song Nomination Mean for a Song’s Popularity?
by Maura Johnston, a Third Bridge Creative contributor
Traditionally, the Academy Awards have been one of the biggest platforms for music thanks to its massive ratings and the spotlight the show has given to its Best Original Song category, which honors five songs written expressly for movies released during the nomination period. The past few years of the Oscars have brought much change, largely in the logistics of the show and size of the audience, but there are still lessons viewers can learn from the winners and losers. Here, we’ll look at the pre-nomination and post-ceremony Chartmetric scores for the last four years of Best Original Song nominees, and we’ll try to figure out what, if anything, could boost the scores of this year’s crop, which include selections performed by heavy hitters like Rihanna and Lady Gaga.
91st Academy Awards
Nominations announced: Jan. 22, 2019 / Show: Feb. 24, 2019
A Star Is Born: "Shallow" (winner)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings"
Black Panther: "All the Stars"
Mary Poppins Returns: "The Place Where Lost Things Go"
RBG: "I'll Fight"
“Shallow,” the Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper duet from the 2018 remake of A Star Is Born, had one of the most acclaimed Academy Awards performances of recent years, with Cooper and Gaga showcasing the chemistry that made the movie such a success on the Dolby Theatre’s stage. The song peaked at No. 5 on the Hot 100 weeks after its initial release, but the buzz from the Oscars performance was so strong it reached No. 1 following the show. Chartmetric scores also bear this momentum out; the song’s score began outpacing its original performance after the nominations were announced and eventually peaked at 879 on April 2.
“All the Stars,” the Kendrick Lamar and SZA duet from Marvel’s beloved Black Panther, was the only nominee not performed on the 2019 telecast; its Chartmetric score peaked at 1,525 shortly after its release in early January 2018, then fell into the low three digits before rebounding to as high as 373 in the period between the nomination announcement and the broadcast. The other three songs had Chartmetric scores under 20 and did not receive substantial boosts from being nominated—something that was reflected by the Academy’s initial plans to not include performances of them on the telecast.
92nd Academy Awards
Nominations announced: January 13, 2020 / Show: February 9, 2020
Rocketman: "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again” (winner)
Breakthrough: "I'm Standing with You”
Frozen II: "Into the Unknown”
Harriet: "Stand Up”
Toy Story 4: "I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away"
The Elton John and Bernie Taupin-penned “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from the John biopic Rocketman, was released as a single in May 2019, and it gained some traction on adult-contemporary radio in the U.S., peaking at No. 12 in October. John’s performance at the Academy Awards, and the song’s win, helped its Chartmetric score tick up to as high as 30 in the weeks following the broadcast; it had peaked at 115 upon its release.
The other pop hit from that year, the Idina Menzel/AURORA duet “Into The Unknown” from the Disney blockbuster Frozen II, peaked at No. 46 on the Hot 100 in December of 2019, and its Chartmetric score went as high as 909 on New Year’s Eve. Its Chartmetric score peaked at 693 on March 26, although that might have been due to its popularity among families during in the early days of the pandemic as much as it was the Oscars.
The other three nominees—the Diane Warren-written "I'm Standing With You," the Cynthia Erivo ballad "Stand Up," and Randy Newman's supportive "I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away"—experienced modest score shifts after the show.
93rd Academy Awards
Nominations announced: March 15, 2021 / Show: April 25, 2021
Judas and the Black Messiah: "Fight for You” (winner)
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga: "Husavik (My Hometown)”
The Life Ahead: "Io sì (Seen)”
One Night in Miami...: "Speak Now”
The Trial of the Chicago 7: "Hear My Voice"
“Fight For You,” the soulful throwback from Judas and the Black Messiah, was the surprise winner at the 93rd Academy Awards, continuing a strong awards-season showing for the R&B singer-songwriter H.E.R. The song didn’t receive much of a post-Oscars boost, with its Chartmetric song peaking at 81 on May 6 after ranging between 50 and 60 for most of the period between nomination announcements and the show. One reason for that less dramatic jump might be a shift in the show's priorities that year, which led to the Best Song performances being moved to the preshow. The ratings for that collection of video packages, red-carpet moments, and musical performances were much lower than those of the main broadcast, which itself experienced a 58% drop from the previous year’s numbers.
The decline in ratings, along with the Best Original Song category being moved to a less-viewed timeslot, resulted in boosts that barely moved the needle. “Husavik (My Hometown),” the Will Ferrell-led track from the Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, didn’t match its post-release high Chartmetric score of 297 (which it reached on July 1, 2020), with its average early-2021 score being in the 50-60 range and its highest post-Oscars score being 94 on May 6.
“Speak Now,” the Leslie Odom, Jr. cut from the Regina King-directed One Night In Miami… had the most significant post-Oscars bump of the remaining songs, with its score reaching 35 on April 27—slightly off its Feb. 17 high of 39.
94th Academy Awards
Nominations announced: February 8, 2022 / Show: March 27, 2022
No Time to Die: “No Time to Die” (winner)
Belfast: "Down to Joy”
Encanto: "Dos Oruguitas”
Four Good Days: "Somehow You Do”
King Richard: "Be Alive”
No Time to Die, the James Bond movie with the Billie Eilish song of the same name as its theme, had its release date postponed by nearly two years: It was originally scheduled to come out in November 2019, and eventually hit theaters in September 2021. So while Eilish’s song was originally released in February 2020, it wasn’t considered until nearly two years later when nominations for the 94th Academy Awards were announced. While the Best Original Song performances returned to the main Oscars telecast in 2022, “No Time to Die” did not experience any gains in the wake of the show (It dropped from 499 on March 20, a week before the telecast, to 422 on April 3, a week after), and its score was nowhere near the peak of 1,809 that it reached in March 2020.
“Dos Oruguitas” wasn’t the Disney musical smash Encanto’s most successful song—that would be “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which made history when it hit No. 1 on the Hot 100—but it gained momentum in the wake of its Academy Award nomination being announced. Its Chartmetric score peaked at 508 on March 9 and stayed steady in the 475-510 range through the awards show broadcast.
Beyoncé’s “Be Alive,” featured in the Serena and Venus Williams family biopic King Richard, was her first non-remix single since the 2020 Lion King tie-in track “Black Parade,” and its Chartmetric score peaked at 226 shortly after its release in November 2021; that score dipped as low as 38 in February before recovering to the 90s-100s range around the time of the Academy Awards broadcast. “Somehow You Do,” the Reba McEntire-sung, Diane Warren-written ballad from the Glenn Close/Mila Kunis addiction drama Four Good Days, had a low profile until its nomination, with its Chartmetric score dipping as low as 5 in late 2021 and reaching its peak of 48 in March and again in April.
*“Down to Joy,” from Belfast, was not performed at the show because Van Morrison was unable to appear; additionally, the song’s Chartmetric numbers are unavailable since it was never officially released to streaming services, although there is a fan upload of it (as well as the 1970s Morrison demo some claim it’s based on) available on YouTube.
95th Academy Awards
Nominations announced: January 24, 2023 / Show: March 12, 2023
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: "Lift Me Up"
Everything Everywhere All at Once: "This Is a Life"
RRR: "Naatu Naatu”
Tell It Like a Woman: "Applause"
Top Gun: Maverick: "Hold My Hand”
“Lift Me Up,” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, represented Rihanna’s return to music after a years-long absence and debuted at No. 2 on the Hot 100; its Chartmetric score reflected its massive popularity, peaking at 3,299 on November 28 of this year. While Rihanna didn’t perform it during her Super Bowl set last month, interest in the elegiac ballad has remained strong, with its Chartmetric score hovering in the 1,900-2,000 range. The only other song on this year’s nomination slate to achieve that song’s commercial success in the U.S. was “Hold My Hand,” Lady Gaga’s contribution to the Top Gun: Maverick soundtrack, which reached No. 49 on the Hot 100 and which reached its peak Chartmetric score of 1,993 on July 1.
The other three nominated songs, “Naatu Naatu,” “Applause,” and “This Is a Life,” have Chartmetric scores that have stayed in the two-digit ranges since their respective release dates. But the example of “Shallow” might be instructive here—while it was already popular when Oscar time rolled around, its performance got even more viewers into the song; at least two of these three performances have a high chance of turning into on-stage spectacles, and Lady Gaga being unconfirmed for the show as of press time potentially gives them even more room to shine. (The possibility of frequent nominee Diane Warren winning her first competitive Oscar gives “Applause,” which she wrote, a curiosity edge.)
“This Is a Life,” from Everything Everywhere All At Once, is a collaboration between the electronic composer Son Lux, the singer-songwriter Mitski, and the auteur David Byrne, whose ability to stage compelling performances was recently showcased on Broadway in the dazzling American Utopia. Similarly, RRR, which featured “Naatu Naatu,” was hailed for its eye-popping visuals and jaw-dropping action scenes. If the Academy allows the people behind RRR to bring that magic to the Dolby Theatre’s stage, it could have as seismic an effect on the pop landscape as it already has had on the movies.
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