Examining Academy Award-Winners for Original Song Over The Past Decade (2005 – 2015)

John Legend & Common, Glory © Paramount

On Sunday night, Common and John Legend joined elite company, becoming the recipient of the Academy Award for Original Song in a motion picture. While there was much said about a lack of black talent being nominated at the 87th Academy Awards – specifically David Oyelowo (as MLK, Jr. in Selma) and director Ava DuVernay (Selma as well), Common and Legend’s song “Glory” was a lock for victory – just too perfect and prudent to overlook.

Over the past decade, there have been some truly great and even some puzzling wins for Original Song. There have also been plenty of losers who should’ve been recognized. But only one song wins and sometimes it’s not the ‘favorite’ in the moviegoers’ eyes. Here’s a look at who won, beginning with the most recent aside from “Glory.”


1) “Let It Go” from Frozen – Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (2013, presented in 2014)

While looking back this seems like it was a shoe-in, it was actually somewhat of a tight race as Pharrell Williams’ equally ubiquitous “Happy” was nominated against arguably the biggest song of Idina Menzel storied career.

2) “Skyfall” from Skyfall – Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth (2012, presented in 2013)

Can you say lock city? Adele was the biggest thing since slice bread when “Skyfall” materialized and there was NO way she was losing the Oscar – NONE!

3) “Man Or Muppet” from The Muppets – Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie (2011, presented in 2012)

Most disappointing was the fact that only two songs were nominated, the other being from Rio (“Real in Rio”). Seems a travesty to only nominate two when five nominees are always possible. Go figure!

4) “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 – Music and Lyric by Randy Newman (2010, presented in 2011)

Randy Newman is an Oscar darling, winning back in 2001 for another Disney film, Monsters, Inc. (“If I Didn’t Have You”). He was also nominated in 2005 (Cars) and in 2009 for two of his songs from The Princess and The Frog. More on that next…

5) “The Weary Kind (Theme From Crazy Heart)” from Crazy Heart – Music and lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett (2009, presented in 2010)

Even with Randy Newman nominated with two songs, everyone knew that the highly respected T Bone Burnett had this award locked down without question. The film was the frontrunner for Original Song for “The Weary Kind” and more notably, Jeff Bridges was a lock for Best Actor.

6) “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire – Music by A.R. Rahman; Lyric by Gulzar (2008, presented in 2009)

When Slumdog Millionaire blew up, it literally blew up – period. A. R. Rahmann had a robust 67% to win Original Song considering two songs from the film were nominated, with the outsider being Peter Gabriel’s “Down To Earth” from WALL-E. It would be “Jai Ho” that would beat out “O Saya” for the Oscar.

7) “Falling Slowly” from Once – Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (2007, presented in 2008)

It’s always interesting when a musical – particularly a Disney musical – has numerous songs nominated for Original song and fails to capitalize on the win. That’s exactly what happened as Enchanted went home empty-handed, while the moving “Falling Slowly” took home the prize from Once.

8) “I Need To Wake Up” from An Inconvenient Truth – Music and Lyric by Melissa Etheridge (2006, presented in 2007)

Much like Enchanted would a year later, Dreamgirls delivered three sensations Original song nominees – “Listen,” “Love You I Do,” and “Patience.” Additionally, Randy Newman was nominated for Cars (“Our Town”). But did Dreamgirls or Randy Newman win? Nope, Melissa Etheridge took the prize from An Inconvenient Truth (“I Need To Wake Up”).

9) “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp” from Hustle & Flow – Music and Lyric by Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman, and Paul Beauregard (2005, presented in 2006)

This was the shocker for years and years to come. Only three songs were nominated, but didn’t every think that Dolly Parton’s song from Transamerica was lock? Sure, Eminem had been awarded for “Lose Yourself” in 2002, but could a song entitled “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp” featuring the lyrics “Because a whole lot of b*tches talkin’ sh*t” really win an Oscar? It did, unbelievably. Maybe the motion picture academy is more progressive than the recording academy?

10) “Al Otra Lado Del Río” from The Motorcycle Diaries – Music and Lyric by Jorge Drexler (2004, presented in 2005)

Another year that featured five nominees, those five hailed from five different films: Shrek 2, The Motorcycle Diaries, The Polar Express, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Chorus. As cool as it may have been for Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) to be awarded for “Accidentally in Love” from Shrek 2, the Oscar went to “Al Otra Lado Del Río” from The Motorcycle Diaries.

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