On Sunday, March 4, the Academy will hand out its broad-shouldered golden trophy boys to the best and most fervent campaigners in the film industry at the 90th Academy Awards. It’s Oscar time, baby!
Although the Best Picture race is perhaps the most uncertain it’s ever been—the fish fuck movie, Get Out, Lady Bird, and, gulp, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri all have legit shots at winning—at least we know we’ll get performances from the five Best Original Song nominees.
Among them: indie king Sufjan Stevens, hip-hop soul queen (and Best Supporting Actress nominee) Mary J. Blige, Common and Andra Day will perform a song from Marshall, Coco representatives Gael Garcia Bernal, Miguel, and Natalia Lafourcade will do something awesome, and actress Keala Settle will deliver The Greatest Showman in real time. Unlike the Grammys, which went on for way too damn long this January, clocking 20 performances, the Oscars tend to keep things restrained in the music department. This shit’s still gonna go on for hours, but it’ll be fun!
Here’s what you should know about each of the Best Original Song nominees performing at the big show:
Sufjan Stevens: “Mystery of Love”
Anyone who’s cried through the last fifteen or so minutes of Call Me By Your Name might attest that Sufjan’s other song from the movie, “Visions of Gideon,” is more worthy of Academy recognition than “Mystery of Love” (or maybe it’s just me.) Either way, it’s rare to see a big star in the indie world get recognized on this scale, so let’s take what we can get!
Both are spare, plaintive ballads akin to Stevens’ crusher of a 2015 album Carrie & Lowell, so it’s hard to say which route he’ll go for the performance. Whether he keeps it low-key and acoustic, or low-key and acoustic while wearing massive Gucci angel wings, it should be a natural follow-up to kindred spirit Elliott Smith taking the Oscar stage 20 years ago.
Mary J. Blige: “Mighty River”
MJB made insane Oscar history earlier this year when she became the first person nominated for an acting and original song Academy Award in the same year. The deck’s stacked against her winning in either—Allison Janney’s trophy for I, Tonya has basically been engraved for a month, and Original Song probably goes to Coco or The Greatest Showman (down below)—but her contribution to Mudbound still provides the opportunity for a powerhouse vocal performance.
Andra Day and Common: “Stand Up for Something”
There are a shit-ton of deserving filmmakers and actors who’ve never taken home an Oscar statuette, but songwriter Diane Warren has, quietly, had one of the most brutal runs. She’s been nominated for nine Academy Awards since 1988, including this year’s song from Marshall—Andra Day and Common’s “Stand Up for Something.” Common, who has already won an Oscar for Selma’s rousing “Glory,” probably doesn’t need this—but damn, I hope they can win for Warren’s sake.
Miguel, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Natalia Lafourcade: “Remember Me”
I think I’m the only person in the world who hasn’t seen Coco yet and am deeply ashamed and will try my damnedest to sneak it in before the Oscars on Sunday night. My coworkers love it, and I usually trust them, so there’s no good excuse!
With no context beyond knowing that Coco’s kind of a dark kid’s movie, involving the afterlife and knocking down flawed idols—an apt subject, given performer Miguel recently faced a sexual assault allegation—“Remember Me” is a sweet, chipper Disney song about feeling deep affection for those we leave behind in death. Heavy for anyone, really, but you’d hardly know given the song’s generous tone.
Keala Settle” “This Is Me”
I don’t know how the hell it happened, but The Greatest Showman’s soundtrack is one of the year’s bestselling albums and a runaway box office hit. Okay, I have some idea, it’s simple math—take the songwriting team behind La La Land, add loud songs, some woahs and ohs and rank in those lengthy receipts. Keala Settle’s “This Is Me” took home the Golden Globe in this same category, which isn’t necessarily predictive of Oscar gold, but this radio-friendly song about individuality and empowerment is just what the Academy falls for. The performance will likely be a high production affair, bringing some of that glossy movie musical magic to your TVs.