It was a stellar year for movie songs (pleasant U-turn from 2015's wasteland), especially thanks to three original musicals providing us with catchy new tunes. Theoretically, I could have filled all five of my Best Original Song slots using any one of them, but in the spirit of spreading the wealth, I made the executive decision to only select a single entry from each. It wouldn't be fair otherwise, especially to some non-musicals with worthy tracks to feast our ears upon.
Here are the final five I've settled on, followed by a longer-than-usual list of second tier contenders:
“Letter To The Free” from 13TH
(Common, Karriem Riggins, Robert Glasper)
Throbs with a quiet anger and suppressed energy that makes Common's rapid-fire truth bomns all the more potent. It calls for hope like his Oscar-winning “Glory”, but with even greater solemnity.
“No Dames” from HAIL, CAESAR!
(Henry Krieger, Willie Reale, Chris Gattelli)
The most pleasurable musical number of the year came not from any of the legit musicals featured on this list, but from this relentlessly catchy tap sequence, pulsing with Coen-style innuendo. [In fact, the dancing is so much a part of why I nominated this tune, I had to include choreographer Chris Gattelli in the nomination -- Tapping is a form music, after all]
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from LA LA LAND
(Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul)
A simple, heart-crumbling crystallization of La La Land's central themes;
A musical parable about the world's need for fool-hardy dreamers, if only so we can slightly warm ourselves in their passionate glow.
“Where You Are” + “I Am Moana” from MOANA
(Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i, Mark Mancina)
Lots of goodies on the soundtrack, but this one is the most complete; Of greater narrative, thematic and rhythmic service to the whole. Taken with its emotional reprise, it's clearly the album MVP.
“Drive It Like You Stole It” from SING STREET
Any of Sing Street's eighties-lite imitations would be welcome on this list, but it's this centrepiece anthem that best embodies the film's spirit of self-actualization.
"I See A Victory" from Hidden Figures (Pharrell Williams)
"Another Day of Sun" from La La Land (Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul)
"City of Stars" from La La Land (Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul)
"How Far I'll Go" from Moana (Lin-Manuel Miranda)
"Shiny" from Moana (Lin-Manuel Miranda)
"No Wrong Way Home" from Pearl (Alexis Harte, J.J. Weisler)
"Set It All Free" from Sing (Dave Bassett)
"A Beautiful Sea" from Sing Street (Gary Clark, John Carney et.al.)
"Up" from Sing Street (Gary Clark, John Carney et.al.)
"Can't Stop The Feeling" from Trolls (Justin Timberlake, Max Martin)
"Get Back Up Again" from Trolls (Benj Pasek, Justin Paul)
+ anything else from La La Land, Moana or Sing Street