Even with a reduced release schedule, there’s no shortage of original songs worth considering for this year’s Oscars. Here’s a playlist of 10 of the best. Note: This is not a ranking, but a play order — it hangs together well as a sequence. Try it out on our YouTube channel.
1. “Carried Me With You” — Brandi Carlile (from “Onward”)
The four-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter kick-starts the playlist with this driving road song that responds directly to the plot of the Pixar animated film.
2. “Make You Mine This Season” — Tegan and Sara (from “Happiest Season”)
Funny to think they were once known for such angsty indie pop as “You Wouldn’t Like Me” and “Walking With a Ghost,” but the Quin sisters have always had a candy-sweet streak to them. After all, they sang the Oscar-nominated “Everything Is Awesome.” Here, they have neatly wrapped a holiday-romance pop confection. And if you’re curious, the song also works as a pretty, stripped-down acoustic ballad.
3. “Rocket to the Moon” — Cathy Ang (from “Over the Moon”)
The “I Want” song from Netflix’s animated musical “Over the Moon,” composed by Christopher Curtis (“Chaplin: The Musical”), Marjorie Duffield (“In a Lake of Fire”) and Helen Park (“KPOP”).
4. “Hear My Voice” — Celeste (from “The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
An R&B ballad right at home in the film’s 1968 Chicago setting.
5. “(If Only You Could) Save Me” — Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross featuring Adryon de León (from “Mank”)
Disguised in a period-perfect big-band setting with a range-testing vocal by De León that simply nails the style, it’s a return to the artful self-loathing that longtime Nine Inch Nails fans know and love. It even echoes a rueful line of dialogue by the film’s protagonist, but you have to be listening closely while watching the film to catch it in the song.
6. “Never Break” — John Legend (from “Giving Voice”)
Another stirring anthem from the Oscar winner; its main obstacle to a nomination is how few voters will have seen the documentary for which it was written.
7. “Speak Now” — Leslie Odom Jr. (from “One Night in Miami”)
Gorgeous, topical and gently urgent, if any song on the list is a favorite for a nomination, it’s this one. As a co-writer of the song, Tony winner Odom could be a double Oscar nominee: His performance in the film is also generating strong awards buzz.
8. “Free” — Charlie Puth (from “The One and Only Ivan”)
You were wondering where the heck Diane Warren was on this list. Well, here she is! The 11-time nominee has three songs eligible this year and, frankly, any could get a nod. This one features a warm vocal from pop star Puth.
9. “Uh-Oh (Visualizer)” — Cyn (from “Promising Young Woman”)
There were some kick-ass rock songs in movies this year — Haim turned it up to 11 for “Feel the Thunder” (no, that was not Joan Jett summoned by ancient rite, but these L.A. favorite sisters rocking up “The Croods: A New Age”) and “Sound of Metal” stars Olivia Cooke and Riz Ahmed turned in a hair-curling performance of the corrosive “Purify” in that film’s remarkable opening sequence. But “Uh-Oh” gets the nod here: Its ‘80s neon bite couldn’t be more perfect for its ferocious feature. It rocks unapologetically, and with a vengeance.
10. “Only the Young” — Taylor Swift (from “Miss Americana”)
Swift has graduated from sugar-pop queen to significant cultural figure, and this unabashedly political-while-still-catchy earworm underscores that rise. She’s boldly using her platform to say what she means; the academy has to like that. Besides, she’d be quite an addition to the ceremony.
But there’s more: An extra-special bonus track!
11. “Ultraluminary” — Phillipa Soo (from “Over the Moon”)
The “Hamilton” star stakes a convincing claim to extraterrestrial diva status with this club-igniter. Why is it a bonus track? Because it’s not getting the studio launch; that trajectory belongs to the movie’s more traditional Oscar-bait “Rocket to the Moon.”
”Husavik — My Home Town” — Fire Saga (Will Ferrell, Molly Sanden) (from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”): The film is a send-up, but the climactic song is a straight power ballad of the type the academy has honored many times.
”I’ll Be Singing” — Sinéad O’Connor (from “Wild Mountain Thyme”): A lilting ballad from the Irish firebrand. Tough to resist “When you come to my window, laddie / I’ll be singing.” It’s lovely, but is she too controversial still for the academy?
”Just Sing” — Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake and cast (from “Trolls World Tour”): Another swing at a positivity anthem but without the Pavlov’s Boogie dance hook of the previous film’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”
”Loyal Brave True” — Christina Aguilera (from “Mulan”): Has the makings of a contender. Though one wonders why this power ballad with Chinese-themed music for a film about a Chinese legend isn’t sung by, say, Soo.
”Wear Your Crown” — Ariana DeBose, Nicole Kidman, Jo Ellen Pellman, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington (from “The Prom”): Can the academy resist luring this collection of talent to get up and sing at the ceremony?