Oscar Breakdown: Best Original Song

A hip hop artist with a hat, a frontwoman and an eccentric writer-director, a wife and her husband who could soon join the EGOT club and one of the world's most popular rock bands: these are the folks behind this year's four surviving nominees.
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Prior to the 86th Oscars on March 2, THR's awards analyst Scott Feinberg will present an eight-part series of posts breaking down the key facts and figures pertaining to each of the "big eight" Oscar categories. (For his predictions, see the weekly "Feinberg Forecast" post.) This post focuses on the best original song Oscar race.

And the four nominees (a fifth was disqualified) -- all of which will be performed on the Oscars telecast -- are...

The infectiously upbeat ditty "Happy" from the Minion-festooned Despicable Me 2 -- the music and lyrics of which were written by Pharrell Williams, who also performs the song -- is now the highest-charting nominee for this award since Eminem's "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile more than a decade ago. The song has been promoted to voters in a wide variety of ways -- a YouTube music video for the song goes on for 24 hours, a Hans Zimmer-hosted Universal luncheon for Williams in November and a performance by Williams at a Universal party that same month). And the man with the big hat has never been more buzzed about than he is now, in the aftermath of the great Grammys success enjoyed by him and his "Get Lucky" collaborators Daft Punk.

Then there's the single that every young girl in America would support, among many others: "Let It Go" from Disney's mega-hit Frozen, the music and lyrics of which were written by the husband-and-wife team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez -- Robert will become the youngest member of the elite EGOT club if it wins -- and which is belted out in the film twice, once by pop star Demi Lovato and then even more memorably by Broadway superstar Idina Menzel. Songs from animated films have a long history of doing well in this category. This film's full soundtrack topped the Billboard 200 for multiple weeks and still places near the top of the chart weeks later. And when Menzel performed this song at a recent Disney-organized cabaret concert, it closed the night and was the only one which received a standing ovation.

Of course, one can't forget the mellow love song "The Moon Song" from Her, the music of which was written by Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O, the lyrics of which were conceived by O and by the film's writer/director Spike Jonze and which is is performed in the eccentric film by Scarlett Johansson. (Fun fact: this is the second consecutive year in which Johansson sang a song in a film that went on to receive a nom in this category; last year it was for "Before My Time" from Chasing Ice.) In the last week, O performed at THR's Nominees Night and released a new version of the song -- a duet with Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig.                                                                                                   

Finally, there is "Ordinary Love," a real rock song that plays over the credits of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Its music was written by the full band U2 and its lyrics were penned by its frontman Bono -- who sings the song in the film over the film's end credits -- in tribute to the South African leader with whom the band members were close prior to his recent death. Moreover, Bono and the boys have been as accessible as ever during the awards season, hanging at The Weinstein Co.'s after-party following their Golden Globes win, attending the Oscar Nominees Luncheon and participating in an Academy Q&A. With Harvey Weinstein behind their sails, anything is possible.

The smart money is on "Let It Go" -- but "Happy" and "Ordinary Love" should not be counted out.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg