“Fight For You” from Judas and the Black Messiah took home the Academy Award for best original song during the 2021 Oscars Sunday night.
H.E.R.’s song beat out fellow nominees “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga; “lo Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se); “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami and “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7.
H.E.R. — whose real name is Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson — collaborated with D’Mile and Tiara Thomas for the “Fight for You” anthem. During her acceptance speech, the singer was quick to thank her collaborators: “The song wouldn’t be what it was without them.”
The singer later took a moment to express the power music and film has to “tell the truth.” “Musicians, filmmakers I believe we have an opportunity and responsibility, to me, to tell the truth and to write history the way that it was and how it connects us to today and what we see going on in the world today,” she said.
She added, “Knowledge is power, music is power and as long as I’m standing I’m always going to fight for us, I’m always going to fight for my people and fight for what’s right and I think that’s what music does and that’s what storytelling does.”
Backstage, H.E.R. noted how the win arrived at such a timely moment: “I couldn’t think of better timing to win something like this. This film is educating people. I know more about Black Panthers because of being a part of this film.”
After winning the golden statuette, the singer also reflected on how her being onstage winning can symbolize “a message to all the Black and Filipino girls that you can be up here too.” “I am just happy to represent. I can’t believe I am here so I just hope there is another little girl out there going, ‘I can do that, too. I can be there one day.’ “
Having already secured a Grammy prior to the Oscar, H.E.R. also promised, “There is going to be an EGOT in my future… Hopefully you will see me up here for acting.”
The Oscar win comes amid a wave of pivotal moments for the singer. She performed Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” during the In Memoriam segment at the Emmys, sang “America the Beautiful” at the Super Bowl, and was awarded the song of the year award at the Grammys for her timely tune “I Can’t Breathe.”
In a departure from Oscars tradition, performances of this year’s best original song Oscar nominees aired during the Oscars pre-show, not during the main ceremony itself. The pre-recorded performances were shot on the Dolby Family Terrace of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, while “Husavik” (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga) was streamed from Husavik, Iceland. The performances showcased the talents of non-nominee Molly Sandén; first-time nominees Celeste, H.E.R., Leslie Odom, Jr., Laura Pausini and Daniel Pemberton; and 12-time nominee Diane Warren.
During the performance of “Husavik,” a choir of children joined Sandén as they sang from the bay of the actual town of Húsavík, Iceland. For “lo Sì (Seen),” Warren played the piano as Pausini sang the heartfelt song at the Academy Museum in Los Angeles. Also performing on the rooftop of the Academy Museum was Celeste who started “Hear My Voice” with a single spotlight on her while she sang a cappella before Pemberton and a band joined. Odom, Jr. took the stage alone to perform “Speak Now.” Then for “Fight For You,” H.E.R. performed the drums alongside the band. During the performance, a video of Fred Hampton speaking was shown onscreen.
The 93rd Oscars were held at the Union Station Los Angeles and the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and televised live on ABC. There was no host. The event was produced by Steven Soderbergh, Jesse Collins and Stacey Sher.