Lana Del Rey must be writing another extravagantly sad song right about now. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the nominees for the 87th Academy Awards, and while there’s more for music fans than in some years, one of the first names floated as a contender — Del Rey’s — is conspicuously absent. And plenty more potentially worth contenders are also off the list (be sure to read our editor-in-chief J. Edward Keyes’s essay, 2014 in Music Film).
Other artists’ loss is still a victory for the many of us who’ve thrilled at hearing more talk about social justice in music given the past year’s events, as Common and John Legend‘s “Glory” is one of the nominees for Best Original Song. Their civil-rights anthem from Selma won a Golden Globe in the equivalent category just this week. Last month, the Roots bandleader Questlove called for more protest songs, and this orchestra- and gospel-charged song is a fine example — and certainly the best the Academy could’ve nominated. (Killer Mike’s chance at an Oscar nod may have to wait a while, though I do wish older, showtunes-loving Academy voters could hear Lauryn Hill’s devastating “Black Rage (Sketch).“)
The other Best Song nominees were a mix: electro-fizzy children’s favorite “Everything Is Awesome,” by the Lonely Island and Tegan and Sara, from The Lego Movie; what-doesn’t-kill-you-makes-you-stronger power ballad “Grateful,” by Rita Ora, from Beyond the Lights; country legend Glen Campbell’s stoic strummer “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, and the pale Parachutes-era Coldplay echo “Lost Stars,” performed by Adam Levine and Keira Knightley and co-written by the New Radicals’ Gregg Alexander, from Begin Again.
Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who won the Golden Globe for Best Original Score with his work on The Theory of Everything, is nominated again in that category. The music community won’t have the possibility of seeing Trent Reznor win another Oscar, though, as he and Atticus Ross missed the cut despite a Golden Globe nod for their Gone Girl score. Previous nominee Alexandre Desplat is up against himself, given the nod for both The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation, while the other nominees in this category are English composer Gary Yershon for Mr. Turner and prolific film scorer Hans Zimmer for Interstellar.
Who was snubbed? Aside from Del Rey, whose songs for Tim Burton’s Big Eyes were generating Oscar rumors way back in November, let’s start with the other Golden Globes nominees the Academy overlooked: Lorde’s “Yellow Flicker Beat,” Patti Smith’s “Mercy Is” and Sia’s “Opportunity.” Surely one or more of those was better than a song where Maroon 5′s frontman sings, “Are we just a speck of dust in the galaxy?” (though at least this suggests the New Radicals’ Alexander may have finally Googled why the sky is blue). I already mentioned Reznor, but there was also nothing from Jonny Greenwood’s Inherent Vice soundtrack, let alone anything from Michael Fassbender’s music-oriented Frank. No doubt others will have their own suggestions.
As the Oscars go, though, I’m thrilled with Common and John Legend, who are more than deserving and have a powerful message. Yes, last year music fans could watch for Best Song nominees U2, Karen O and Pharrell, along with Best Song nominees Will Butler and Owen Pallett (Frozen‘s “Let It Go,” of course, won the Best Song award — remember Adele Dazeem?). But 2014 also included the bizarre Alone Yet Not Alone nomination-yet-not-nomination. In 2013, we pretty much only had Adele, unless you could bring yourself to root for a Norah Jones song despite it being from a film starring Seth MacFarlane. In 2012, there were only two nominees for Best Original song. And as recently as in 2010, the show did away with music performances altogether.
So let Del Rey and other snubbed candidates make art out of their melancholy. When the Oscars air on February 22, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, I’ll be rooting for “Glory.”
Listen to the Best Song nominees below and check out the full list of nominations here.
Common and John Legend, “Glory”
The Lonely Island and Tegan and Sara, “Everything Is Awesome”
Rita Ora, “Grateful”
Glen Campbell, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”
Adam Levine, “Lost Stars”