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Music at the Oscars: “Frozen” anthem wins Oscar gold
by Mark Guarino
The Oscars were all about the movies, but music played an important role too.
Awards for best original song and best original score were awarded Sunday at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.
No doubt both are big awards, but best original song is a cultural touchstone because of so many of the iconic songs that have won in years past: Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg’s “Over the Rainbow,” Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields’ “The Way You Look Tonight,” Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia,” Bob Dylan’s “Things Have Changed,” Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and, most recently, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s “Falling Slowly.”
In this category, “Let It Go,” from the animated Disney film “Frozen,” won the honor. Singer Idina Menzel performed the song, but the award went to songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.
U2 topped the list of superstar performances at the Oscars, which included nominees Karen O, frontwoman of the New York punk band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Pharrell Williams, and “Frozen” singer Menzel.
Williams sang “Happy,” his song from “Despicable Me 2,” providing audiences a rare opportunity to hear him sing, considering he is best known as behind the studio glass a producer. He not only proved he is an appealing lead vocalist, he also was able to get Meryl Streep to shimmy and Amy Adams to stand up and shake alongside him as he worked the audience. And yes, his performance marked the reappearance of the Canadian Mountie hat he debuted at the Grammy Awards last month, where he won a slate of awards, including producer of the year, record of the year and album year for his work on the Daft Punk album.
Another unorthodox set was by U2 in a first-ever full band performance of “Ordinary Love,” the band’s nominated song in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” The simple setting — Edge and Adam Clayton on acoustic guitar and bass and Larry Mullen, Jr. operating a single snare drum — was unusual for the band, either at awards shows or when they play sports stadiums.
Karen Lee Orzolek, or Karen O, performed “The Moon Song,” in the Spike Jonze film, “Her.” She whisper-sang the quiet ballad accompanied by a guitarist. Orzolek is a frequent Jonze collaborator — She provided most of the songs for his version of the children’s book, “Where the Wild Things Are.” But substituting her familiar punk bellow for hushed, baby crooning plays to her weakness, not her strength.
An unscripted musical performance came when the film “20 Feet From Stardom” won best documentary feature. The film is the first to look at the role backup singers play in the world of rock and pop. Stepping to the microphone, veteran singer Darlene Love said she was “representing the ladies.” She sang several verses of “His Eye Is On the Sparrow,” the gospel standard, which earned her a standing ovation.
In a dress reminiscent of Dorothy’ red ruby slippers, and inspired by “American Hustle,” Pink sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in tribute segment toasting the 75th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz.” Unlike her Grammy appearance last month, Pink actually sang, and didn’t twirl, spin, or lip sync while bound in aerial rigging.
Steven Price won best original score for “Gravity,” an inevitable victory considering the film’s string of wins. Price defeated Arcade Fire’s William Butler and Owen Pallett (“Her”), plus six-time nominee Alexander Desplat (“Philomena”), 12-time nominee Thomas Newman (“Saving Mr. Banks”) and 49-time nominee John Williams (“The Book Thief”).
One musician who didn’t perform was Joni Eareckson, the singer of “Alone Yet Not Alone,” a song in the evangelical Christian movie of the same title. While songwriter Bruce Broughton originally received a nomination for the song, rounding out nominations in that category to five, it was revoked once the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences learned he violated rules by emailing voting members during the nomination period.
The Academy said that Broughton emailed at least 70 members of the Academy’s Music Branch, representing one-third of the 240 members. “When he identified the song … and asked voting branch members to listen to it, he took advantage of information that few other potential nominees are privy to,” the Academy said in a statement. “The Academy takes very seriously anything that undermines the integrity of the Oscars voting process. The Board regretfully concluded that Mr. Broughton’s actions did precisely that.”