Oscars: Who Will Prevail in the Competitive Best Original Song Race? (Analysis)

There is an unusually cut-throat competition this year between four nominated songs: "Happy," "Let It Go," "The Moon Song" and "Ordinary Love."
AP Images(4)

With less than a week to go before the 86th Academy Awards ceremony and less than 24 hours before the final round of Oscar voting closes, several categories still appear to be too close to call. One of them is the best original song contest, which I first dissected just a couple of weeks ago. Here is a look at what each of the four nominees have working in and against their favor. I have listed the contenders in the order in which I believe they are likely to finish in voting.

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1) "Let It Go" from Frozen

For It: The movie is a phenomenon (nearing the $1 billion mark worldwide) and the song -- especially the version belted out by Broadway sensation Idina Menzel -- is the standout single on a soundtrack that has been at or near the top of the Billboard 200 for weeks. Moreover, its writers, husband and wife Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, while not as famous as the other nominees', have as much cred as anyone: Robert will become only the 12th member of the EGOT club if the song wins. Plus songs from animated movies have always done well in this category -- no fewer than 10 have won, spanning Pinocchio through Toy Story 3.
Against It: One could not call this a particularly cool or edgy sort of pick -- it's sort of what one has come to expect from animated Disney musicals.

2) "Ordinary Love" from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
For It: You don't have to push most people too hard to listen to a song by U2, which is probably still the biggest band in the world, and the fact that this song is not a huge departure from its past work actually plays to the campaign's advantage. So, too, does the band's genuine enthusiasm for the film (they were very close with Nelson Mandela), willingness to promote the song (everywhere from the Oscar Nominees Luncheon to the first episode of Jimmy Fallon's new Tonight Show to the L.A.-Italia Film Festival) and the fact that Harvey Weinstein's well-oiled Oscar machine is behind it (and not shy about reminding people that this is the sole category in which voters can honor this film -- and its recently departed subject).
Against It: The last time the band won a Golden Globe (11 years ago for "The Hands That Built America" from Gangs of New York), its hopes were still dashed by the Academy, which has never been as impressed by star power.

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3) "Happy" from Despicable Me 2
For It: Pharrell Williams has been omnipresent, of late -- not just on the radio or YouTube (with a 24-hour music video), but also at the Grammys, Oscar Nominees Luncheon and NBA All-Star Game -- generally with his trademark hat and often with this tremendously catchy and upbeat tune. He is about as cool and "in" right now as anyone, and this song is now the highest-charting Oscar nominee from this category since Eminem's "Lose Yourself" -- which won.
Against It: Pharrell's name is not on the ballot alongside "Happy" -- Despicable Me 2 is, and that film doesn't engender a fraction of the enthusiasm that, say, Frozen does (not least because it's a sequel).

4) "The Moon Song" from Her
Odds: 20/1
For It: As demonstrated by its best picture nomination, the Academy liked the film in which this song is featured more than the films in which its competitors are featured -- some passionately so -- which means that it will pick up some coattails from voters who want to support it wherever they can. Moreover, Karen O (the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman)) and Spike Jonze are big names -- particularly among the indie-minded hipster set -- and their song is organically incorporated into their film as much as any of the nominees are.
Against It: Both nominees are press shy and have done only minimal campaigning on behalf of their song, which also is so low-key that it doesn't generate the sort of airplay or enthusiasm that its competitors' do.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg