All eyes will be on brother-sister duo Billie Eilish and Finneas as they vie for the Best Song of the Year award at the 96th Academy Awards. Their track "What Was I Made For?" from the film "Barbie" won Best Song of the Year at the 2024 Grammy Awards. We're not talking about Best Song Written for Visual Media (though it won that, too). We mean Best Song of the Year out of all songs from 2023, which is no small feat. In the past 24 years, only two original songs written for film have managed to win a Grammy outside of the visual media field: Lady GaGa and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow" from "A Star is Born" won the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance in 2019; and Eminem's "Lose Yourself" from "8 Mile" won Grammys for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Solo Performance in 2004. While all that is impressive, none of it is as overarching or prestigious as the Best Song of the Year award Eilish and Finneas just took home. "What Was I Made For?" should be a shoo-in for Best Original Song at the Oscars, as the pool of competitors is much smaller than for Best Song of the Year at the Grammys.
While Eilish and Finneas may be the front-runners, they've got plenty of competition. Other nominees include Diane Warren, who is hoping that the 15th time's the charm with "The Fire Inside"; and the Osage Tribe, whose authentic and inspiring performance of "Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)" embodied the strength and resilience of the Osage Nation.
Scroll through to learn more about all five of the nominees, and listen to each.
'Barbie' (Warner Bros.) — 'What Was I Made For?' by Billie Eilish and Finneas
Singing softly in a tone at once melancholy and hopeful, Billie Eilish made the song to fit "Barbie" director Greta Gerwig's assignment: It's a song about a Barbie doll coming to life and having an existential crisis. But as she wrote the track and the lyrics poured out of her, Eilish quickly realized she was also writing about herself. The song could be interpreted as an examination of how pop stars are "created" for the profit of record labels. Zoom out, and it's a quiet cry into the universe: a pleading for a sense of purpose and identity that anyone can relate to.
'Barbie' (Warner Bros.) — 'I'm Just Ken' by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt
"I'm Just Ken" is the yang to the yin of "What Am I Made For." While the soft and feminine "What Am I Made For?" asks for direction and identity, "I'm Just Ken" is a boisterous and arrogant ego flex for a man-doll who knows exactly what he is: a perfect 10. Now why can't Barbie see it, too? The hilarious song was indeed more of a punch line than the heart-rending moment "What Was I Made For?" accompanied, but it was an absolute blast. Gosling's song and dance number brought all the Kens together for a bombastic climax, where they met on the beach for a "Saving Private Ryan" reenactment with plastic arrows, tennis rackets and lacrosse sticks before breaking into a dance battle that had all of us feeling the "Ken-ergy."
'Flamin' Hot' (Hulu/Searchlight Pictures) — 'The Fire Inside' by Diane Warren
Diane Warren penned this inspiring track set to a Latin dance beat and performed by Becky G for the film "Flamin' Hot." Its message about pursuing your lofty goals against all odds helped propel the Eva Longoria-directed film, which chronicles the true story of Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia), the Frito-Lays janitor who channeled his Mexican American roots to invent Flamin' Hot Cheetos and turn the snack industry on its head. This is the 15th time Warren has been up for the Best Original Song Oscar. Despite winning an Academy Honorary Award, Grammy, Emmy, two Golden Globes and a Billboard Music Award for Songwriter of the Year, Warren has yet to bring home the Oscar. The 15th try might just be the charm.
'Killers of the Flower Moon' (Apple Original Films/Paramount Pictures) — 'Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)' by the Osage Tribe
"Killers of the Flower Moon" follows the true story of Mollie Burkhart, a woman in the Osage Nation who tries to save her family from a series of murders brought on by oil and greed. When director Martin Scorcese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone attended an Osage Nation ritual, they were captivated by the energy and movement of their dance (via Tulsa World). So the Osage Tribe got to work composing a song that would capture that same energy for the ending of the film. The result was an uplifting and authentic track that embodied the proud spirit and steadfast resilience of the Osage Nation — a fitting end to a masterpiece of a film expected to win all kinds of awards at the Oscars.
'American Symphony' (Netflix) — 'It Never Went Away' by Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson
In this moving and deeply personal documentary film, musician Jon Batiste sets out to write a symphony — then his life partner, author-artist Suleika Jaouad, learns that her cancer has come back. The powerful ballad details a love that endures any hardship life may throw at it and rises above the most trying of struggles.
"We've been in each other's lives since 12 and 14 years old. And every time I see her, I feel that love that has never went away," Batiste told The Los Angeles Times. "And this human condition and this truth of the duality of things has never went away."
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