Music of Stars: My Rankings of Oscar-Nominated Songs

It’s that time of year again! The magic of movies shines bright over Los Angeles as creatives prepare for the biggest awards night of the year.  This past year has brought along many extraordinary films such as La La Land, Moonlight, Trolls, Jim: The James Foley Story, and Fences. 

For me, I have always been blown away by a movie’s score.  How a film and music dance together in a visual and audio experience makes the movie speak louder than a movie that is barely scored with random bands put into the film.  However, a song written for a film can make the film speak just as loud, or louder than the score, adding more feeling to a particular scene. My favorite has always been somewhere_over_the_rainbow.gif
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, performed by Judy Garland for The Wizard of Oz.  Her singing about a better tomorrow and beauty in a world where she feels sad and unable to be herself.

For this year’s nominees for best song, it really comes down to what song brought the movie to it’s core.  Some of the nominees hit the scene of the film’s mood and feel to it’s core, and a few songs filled the scenes with sound to fill up a moment in space.

Here is my ranking of the nominees of 2017’s best song for a film-from my least favorite, to my absolute favorite

5. “Can’t Stop The Feeling” -Justin Timberlake, Trolls (2016)

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Justin.  One of my favorite members from ‘NSYNC, to one of my favorite solo pop male artists, Justin Timberlake can make you get up and dance, dance, dance, dance! However, the film Trolls, depicting the famous toy created in 1959, did not catch my attention as my favorite animated film this year, nor did the song placement.  It was a cute movie, albeit a movie that really doesn’t need songs to create a huge feeling for a specific scene, yet this song felt generic, and did not give me the mood to feel nor imagine how I would be in the world full of Trolls telling their story


4.  “How Far I’ll Go”-Performed by Alessia Cara, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Moana (2016)

Lin-Manuel Miranda is a musical genius. I have said it. I have admired his writing from his first musical In the Heights,  to a little musical that I still cannot get tickets to,  HamiltonHis music is transpiring, creative, familiar, yet distinctive. Miranda has proven to be a story-teller in his own music.  The only reason I rank this song so low, is Alessia Cara’s performance.  She is a gifted vocalist, but the one thing that is so distracting is her voice is severely auto-tuned. For a Disney film, I imagine always clear voices, that are whimsical and trained.  Alessia sounds trained, but unfortunately might have gotten the wrong makeover with production.


3. “City of Stars” Performed by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, La La Land (2016)

A movie musical.  Tap dancing, singing, conflict of characters that at first hate each other then fall in love.  The Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds influenced film brings back the Golden Age of Hollywood, and gives it that modern twist that is relatable to us millennials, even us millennials who are trying to make it so much in film and music. This song, so simplistic, yet meaningful, plays lightly and in variants throughout the film, and it’s big moment is when Seb plays it for Mia, and they sing and play the song together.  This is so monumental to a musical film-the lovers are brought together by a song, that is telling the story of their own path.  Great execute!


2.”The Empty Chair” performed by Sting & J. Ralph, Jim: The James Foley Story (2016)

Although I have yet to see this film, I listen to this song and think about the life of photojournalist James “Jim” Foley.  Jim Foley was kidnapped in 2012 by ISIS, and two years later beheaded as a result of the American airstrikes in Iraq.  Having two cousins stationed in Afghanistan, the fear of their lives at stake hits home, and listening to this song, I can feel that emptiness of losing a loved one in war. A ghost is always in the home, and with Jim Foley’s sad, yet powerful story, This song performed by Sting and J.Ralph perfectly paints the picture of a loved one physically missing from dinners, holidays, any event, but always spiritually there.


1. “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” Performed by Emma Stone, La La Land (2016)

Emma Stone has stated before that her voice is her “Achilles Heels”, and knows that performing  this song was all about emotion.  A veteran of broadway for playing Sally Bowles in 2014’s revival of Cabaret, Ms. Stone has a rough, yet rustic voice that is not entirely trained, but does have plenty of emotion in every song she sings.

This particular song made the film’s climax. *Spoilers* Mia, who decides to give up acting after her one-woman show was unsuccessful, is forced into an audition that Seb makes her go to by a casting director who, despite Mia’s ideology of her show’s failure, saw it as an opportunity to try out a new actress.  As Mia auditions, she frees from her insecurities, telling a story of her Aunt who believed in dreamers, believed in art and artists, and how Mia admired her late aunt’s love for life.  As Mia sings, she breaks down, and shows real feelings for the audition, a first for her, which starts her career.

This performance makes me feel for Mia, but also makes me feel for myself as an artist. You need to give support and love for what you do. We are fools in a life of logic, and we just need to jump into the cold water, and make art, make a mess, and be fools. Our hearts tell so many stories, and logic and structure should never hold it back.


To all the dreamers, the fools that make art, make your sound heard, and congrats to all the nominees for this year’s Oscars!

Tune in on Sunday, February 26th at 8pm to see the results of best song for a film. 



3 thoughts on “Music of Stars: My Rankings of Oscar-Nominated Songs

  1. Really loving this write-up. Though I was a big fan of the Moana song, I have to admit that La La Land overall was amazing.

    Have you ever thought about sharing your work on other sites before?

    Liked by 1 person

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