Unlike the other nominees for Best Original Song, “Mystery of Love” by singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens has been stirring up fanfare since before the official release of Call Me by Your Name. From ardent Sufjan Stevens fans to those, including myself, who tracked down the song from the movie’s trailer, music enthusiasts eagerly awaited its appearance in the film. In fact, some were calling for a nomination even before the film was released. Though as much as I personally hope that “Mystery of Love” snags a win, the odds don’t seem to be in Stevens’ favor — not only was he short of a nomination in the Golden Globes, he is also an unusual contender pitted against former Oscars winners such as Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
“Mystery of Love” is an ambient, meandering indie song that plucks at the heart strings. The track comes at a point in the film where Elio and Oliver, the lead characters of Call Me By Your Name, head for a trip to Bergamo. As the song plays in the backdrop, the audience is immersed in a montage of natural beauty: wide shots of forests, mountain roads, and a waterfall. Evoking the wonder of nature as parallel to the wonder of love Elio experiences for the first time, the song takes on an otherworldly, ethereal beauty. Its melodic simplicity distills all the “white noise” of Elio’s hometown into nature (and human nature) itself, the essence of things that makes up the mystery of love.
Retaining a similar authentic, stripped-down tone is “Remember Me” from Coco, sung by Miguel and Natalia Lafourcade and composed by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the songwriters of the 2014 Best Original Song winner “Let It Go.” Within the film, “Remember Me” is a song repeatedly played and referenced, as if reifying its own message by entreating the audience to “remember me.” And so, in the final moments of the movie, we all cannot help but wait impatiently (and probably tearfully) for Miguel to realize that what he needs to do is play “Remember Me” to Coco for her to remember her father. More than its skillful integration into the film, “Remember Me” is a strong track in its own right. Lafourcade is an especially welcomed presence: the exquisite, dreamlike quality to her voice complements Miguel’s leisurely yet emotionally charged sound perfectly. In my opinion, a combination of conceptual mastery and musical finesse, “Remember Me” edges out “Mystery of Love” as the favorite to win.
Considering the Oscars’ penchant for the theatrical, however, “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman is a close third and could very well overtake both “Mystery of Love” and “Remember Me” for the award, having already acquired a win at the Golden Globes. Spearheaded by singer Keala Settle and written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriters behind the last winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Song, “City of Stars” from La La Land, “This Is Me” is a rousing, rebellious anthem that comes at a turning point in the movie. As Barnum becomes enamored by upper-class elegance and elitism, he begins to neglect the diverse personalities of his troupe, forbidding them from entering a post-show gathering. Asserting their dignity, the troupe marches into the party and into the streets, facing the aristocrats and the protestors with defiance. A show tune that celebrates the misfits, the different, the outcasts, “This Is Me” gives voice to everyone’s unique identities unapologetically.
“Mighty River” from Mudbound and “Stand Up For Something” from Marshall both appear during the credit scenes of their respective films, and both are fantastic tracks as well. “Mighty River,” co-written by Mary J. Blige and Raphael Saadiq, is an elegiac song that simultaneously mourns the harrowing hate crime committed toward the end of the film and soothes the audience on a comforting note. Like the calm after the storm, “Mighty River” speaks to a river that will hopefully “wash you clean”: just as Pappy’s death provides the viewers some form of relief, the song makes an attempt at closure, at starting anew. Along with the water imagery, Blige’s soulful voice and the track’s backing vocals invoke baptism and gospel music, harkening back to the various church scenes in the film, bringing the movie to both an end and, hopefully, a beginning.
On the other hand, in Marshall, music is continuously used to build up the atmosphere of the film, and “Stand Up For Something,” performed by Andra Day and Common and written by Common and Diane Warren, is an emphatic call to action at the end of the narrative: it asks the audience not only to leave the theatre with talks and discussions, but alsorn thoughts into concrete actions — a timely dictum in the current political climate. While powerful and inspiring, however, “Mighty River” and “Stand Up For Something” are unlikely to win against some of the more popular tracks that arrive at more momentous points in their respective films. Their nods in the Oscars nominations, however, round out another year of five remarkable contenders for Oscars’ Best Original Song.
- “Remember Me” from Coco
- “Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name
- “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman
- “Mighty River” from Mudbound
- “Stand Up For Something” from Marshall