Double Oscar nominee Mary J. Blige. We’ve had a few days for the awesomeness of that phrase to sink in. This is a woman who once vowed “no more drama in my life.” Let’s be glad she didn’t stick to that promise. Exceptional drama is carrying her to this year’s Academy Awards. She’s up twice for her work in Mudbound, once for Supporting Actress and once for Original Song. Her performance is strong, gripping, and memorable. But it’s her work on the mic that will be rewarded with Oscar gold.
Love Is the Answer, Hate Is A Cancer
Mighty River is her nominated song on the Mudbound Soundtrack. It is passionate, pleading, helpless and hopeful. Miss Mary J. has maintained her sound for years, only marginally evolving over the past 15, but hey, when you reach perfection, there’s not a lot left to do but keep being perfect. And that’s exactly what she does on this song. Unlike in some years, no nominated song this year was a huge hit getting tons of radio play to propel it to a nom or a win. So non-musically inclined voters will have to rely on name recognition and how well the song fits the movie. Mighty River checks both those boxes.
Rise Up, Love, Lift Your Hands
The only other nominee that is common in pop culture is, well, Common. Aside from being a longstanding member of the hip-hop community he also won an Oscar in 2014 for Glory on the Selma soundtrack. Common co-wrote Stand For Something on the Marshall soundtrack with Diane Warren and is featured on the track with Andra Day. Marshall is a good, well told film. But this is a situation where the song is stronger than the film and that could hurt it when voters are staring down their ballot. Andra is powerful on the track and Common kicks it with his cool-but-urgent style.
I Am Not A Stranger To The Dark
You would think we’d be picking This Is Me from The Greatest Showman to win. After all it did win this category at the Golden Globes. The song is great, but all the songs in this category are. Keala Settle is amazing. Seriously, pour a vodka gimlet and watch the jam session they shot to get the movie greenlit. But the Globes are like a New Hampshire presidential primary: retail politics. Only about 75 people vote on those awards. The Oscars are like campaigning in Florida. There are more than 6,000 members of the Academy (producers, actors, costume designers,etc.), which is in the middle of implementing a plan to have a younger and more diverse voting base. If they had entered a duet by Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron, we’d be having a different conversation.
2 More For The Show
Rounding out the category is Mystery of Love from Call Me By Your Name and Remember Me from Coco. Coco will hear its name called when they announce Animated Feature. the talented people from Call Me By Your Name will certainly enjoy Oscar week and the after parties.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
All this said, the Academy could surprise us. We never saw Three Six Mafia’s win coming, and it was one of the greatest moments in Oscar history. So make a Banana Dacqueri. It’s light, fruity, and makes you feel good, just like an outstanding song should.