Oh, where to begin with this category. Last year it looked like the music branch had maybe taken a step towards not embarrassing themselves on a yearly basis, having recently overhauled their voting system to yield five respectable (if not unanimously exceptional) nominees. Well, that streak was short-lived, as this year saw the suspicious nomination of the ultra-obscure Alone Yet Not Alone for music branch executive committee member Bruce Broughton, who apparently sent out emails soliciting votes. The Academy went and humiliated Mr. Broughton even further by revoking the nomination, but then decided not to replace it with another song, which is so sad and unfair for that sixth place song, whatever it may have been.
"The Moon Song" from Her is the only one of the nominated tunes that hails from a Best Picture nominee, but that isn't always an automatic benefit in this category. Best Picture status failed to bring wins for nominated songs from Les Miserables, Life of Pi, or Crash in recent years. Often, voters will just go with the song they can remember, and I daresay that may put "The Moon Song" at the back of the pack. It's wistful indie-cuteness fits the film like a glove but isn't exactly an earworm. At least it makes a triple nominee out of Spike Jonze, and I'm extra delighted that it makes a nominee out of Karen O (who should have been nominated and won for Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are back in 2009).
One nominee that may be a darkhorse to watch is "Ordinary Love" from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom by internationally reknowned rockers U2. True, its Golden Globe win can mostly be attributed to celebrity status, which the Academy is less influenced by than the HFPA. But then again, anyone who doesn't believe that celebrity played at least a small part in Adele's Oscar triumph last year for Skyfall is maybe being a bit naive. The film itself may not be widely seen, especially if the media blitz surrounding Mandela's death and funeral late last year has resulted in some "Mandela fatigue", but as facile as it sounds, I can maybe see some voters equating honouring the song to honouring the man. Just an inkling I have, but not a strong enough one for me to predict it.
24-hour music video. I can definitely see people voting for it on affection alone, but some may also chalk it up as reward for its massive box office success since it won't win Best Animated Feature.
But at the end of the day, it doesn't make sense to predict anything other than "Let It Go" from Frozen. The power anthem written by Book of Mormon composer Robert Lopez and wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez is easily the best of the four, and is stunningly showcased by the earth-shaking vocals of Broadway superstar Idina Menzel in what has become the film's centrepiece sequence. The campaign for its chief rival "Happy" may be extensive, but the PR department at Disney is equal to the task, having released the entire musical number in all its HD glory onYouTube in both English and in a nifty 25-language dub. At a staggering $368 million and counting, the film is a hit, and that song is simply its most memorable moment. "Memorable"; That's the key word.
Will win: "Let It Go", Frozen
Runner-up: "Happy", Despicable Me 2
Should win: "Let it Go", Frozen
Should've been nominated: "Do You Want to Build a Snowman", Frozen