Since its introduction in 1934, the Oscar for Best Original Song has recognized music by iconic artists from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Eminem. Though songs by major names including Bob Dylan, Adele, and Stevie Wonder have all received the honor, the distinction — which is technically awarded to the songwriters — isn’t just about recognizing music’s biggest names for crossing over to the silver screen: The winning songs often play memorable roles in their respective movies, like Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World” or Titanic‘s “My Heart Will Go On.”
With a slate including two previous winners and one of the young century’s defining songwriters, the 2018 race promises to be a thrilling one. Read on for more about this year’s nominees for Best Original Song, and then see the complete list of nominations announced Tuesday morning.
“Stand Up For Something”
Performers: Andra Day feat. Common
Writers: Music by Diane Warren; lyrics by Lonnie R. Lynn and Diane Warren
If the “Stand Up For Something” nomination rings some bells, that’s understandable: Common won Best Original Song in 2014 for “Glory,” his collaboration with John Legend that was featured in Selma, which also explored the civil rights struggles of the mid-20th century. It’s also the ninth nomination in the category for songwriting great Diane Warren, whose songs for films including Armageddon (“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith), Music of My Heart (the titular track by Gloria Estefan and *NSYNC), Pearl Harbor (“There You’ll Be” by Faith Hill), and The Hunting Ground (“Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga) previously scored nods. Andra Day’s forceful vocal performance could give Warren the winning boost that the other artists were unable to provide.
Performers: Natalia Lafourcade, Miguel, Benjamin Bratt, Gael García Bernal, Anthony Gonzalez, Ana Ofelia Murguía
Writers: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez won Best Original Song in 2014 for Frozen‘s “Let It Go, which, with a peak at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, stands as one of the most successful in recent movie memory. Considering their track record, “Remember Me” — the song that appears in multiple iterations throughout Pixar’s magical Coco — naturally seems a frontrunner in this year’s race. It already took home the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Song (in a field containing four of five of this year’s Oscar nominees) and one use of the song secured a spot among EW’s “10 unforgettable movies scenes of 2017.”
“Mystery of Love”
Performer: Sufjan Stevens
Writer: Sufjan Stevens
Film: Call Me By Your Name
“I wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t a Luca Guadagnino film,” singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens told EW in December of his contributions to the acclaimed Call Me By Your Name. “I really trusted him and had such great respect for his work.” One of three Stevens tunes used in the film — the others being “Visions of Gideon” and a remixed version of “Futile Devices,” from his 2010 album Age of Adz — the understated, largely acoustic “Mystery of Love” achieves the magnetic tranquility that defines much of the songwriter’s best work. And the song provides a perfect musical backdrop for Call Me By Your Name‘s moving story of first love.
Performer: Mary J. Blige
Writers: Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq, and Taura Stinson
The beloved R&B singer achieved an Oscar first Tuesday when she became the first person to be nominated for Best Original Song and Best Supporting Actress in the same year. Acting came first for Blige — she didn’t write and record “Mighty River” until after seeing a version of Mudbound at Sundance — but penning the tune for the harrowing story about the Jim Crow South was a seminal experience for her. “It’s really good and therapeutic to write a song like this for this movie, because when you watch the movie, all you see is the lyrics in the song,” she told EW in December. “It was a very humbling moment to write a song like this with Raphael Saadiq, who I absolutely love, who I’ve been a fan of all my life.”
“This Is Me”
Performer: Keala Settle
Writers: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Film: The Greatest Showman
Though “This Is Me,” the standout cut from P.T. Barnum musical biopic The Greatest Showman, sports less star power than its fellow nominees, it could be the favorite to win. It bested both “Mighty River” and “Remember Me” in the equivalent category at the Golden Globes earlier this month, and over the last three years, the songs to win the Golden Globe subsequently won the Oscar. And with its forward-thinking production and impressive performance by Tony-nominated actress Keala Settle, the song could pick up the mantle claimed by last year’s victor La La Land.