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July 24, 2014
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Famous musicians in fierce fight for Best Song

U2 at The Tonight Show. The legendary rock band will entertain the Academy Awards ceremony.

U2, Pharrell Williams, Idina Menzel and Karen O to perform at the Oscars tonight

LOS ANGELES — A recent Grammy winner, a legendary rock band, a Broadway star belting out a girl-power ballad and an impossibly cool indie rocker have found themselves at the juncture of one of the most compelling Oscar races of the year: best original song.

It’s a category that has drawn big names and some drama of its own, and a lot of buzz around one song in particular that many girls and their parents are now playing in their heads; Let It Go, from Disney’s blockbuster animated film Frozen.

“The song category is the most interesting category in my opinion, and it’s drawn the biggest campaigning this year,” said Matthew Belloni, executive editor of trade magazine The Hollywood Reporter.

The best original song category drew attention early in the race when Oscars organizers revoked a nomination for Alone Yet Not Alone, from an independent Christian faith movie of the same name, citing improper campaigning by the songwriter.

The remaining four contenders span a wide spectrum of genres: Grammy winner Pharrell Williams’ upbeat R&B ditty Happy from Despicable Me 2, Broadway star Idina Menzel’s inspirational interpretation of Let It Go, indie rocker Karen O’s dreamy ballad The Moon Song from Her, and U2’s rock-infused Ordinary Love from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

All four acts will lend their star power on the Oscars stage on Sunday to sing the nominated tunes.

U2’s song benefited from a high-profile television performance last week on comedian Jimmy Fallon’s debut night on NBC’s Tonight Show, while Pharrell’s Happy has been heavily featured in a Fiat television commercial. Both songs have been getting regular radio airplay, and both acts have been performing at private parties to drum up buzz during the two-week Oscars voting period this month.

Karen O teamed up with Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig for a duet on The Moon Song, which received attention from fans online and was released in a three-song extended play album.

But all three songs may be dwarfed by Disney’s Let it Go, which has been helped by what Belloni calls “the juggernaut that is Frozen.” The song has become a viral hit with more than 115 million views on YouTube and has helped the film’s soundtrack top the Billboard album chart for five weeks.

In addition to that, Disney has benefited from sing-along versions of the film, which is storming toward making US$1 billion at the worldwide box office, becoming the second highest-grossing animated film of all time. Frozen is also the frontrunner for best animated filmtonight.

“It’s in the tradition of the grand Disney musicals,” Belloni said. “I think voters are going to look at that and they’re going to say ’This movie is successful in part because of this one song,’ and they’re going to vote for it.”

The rehearsals. Pharrell Williams ran through his catchy hit Happy more than half a dozen times on Friday in preparation for the Oscar telecast. He even shared the spotlight with a spate of stars: Jamie Foxx, Brad Pitt and Kate Hudson showed up to rehearse while he was on stage.

“All I care about is the fun,” Williams said to Hudson, who boogied in the audience as he practiced his dance-heavy number. A choir of high-school students and 20 professional dancers accompany his colourful performance.

Other competitors for Best Song also rehearsed on Friday: Broadway star Idina Menzel, U2 and rocker Karen O.

Menzel was awed by the technology that allowed the Oscar orchestra, playing off-site at the Capitol Records building, to coordinate with her live at the Dolby Theatre.

“Hi, Bill, can you hear me?” she said into the microphone at conductor William Ross, whom she could see on a monitor from inside the theater. “I’m trying to get that telepathic vibe with you because I’m alone up here and this is my first time (on the Oscars).

“You look very handsome,” she added.

Karen O, front woman of the rock band Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, took notes from director Spike Jonze as she practiced her performance, The Moon Song.

“Spike just asked me to hold the mic a little bit lower, so I need a little more level,” she told a sound engineer. Jonze sat in a front-row seat in the audience.

Accompanied by Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig on acoustic guitar, O sang the song again and again, sitting on a corner of the stage in a long floral dress, leather motorcycle jacket and killer blue boots.

Williams arrived wearing a polka-dot jacket, patterned scarf and his trademark hat.

He ditched the chapeau for rehearsals, emerging onstage in just a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. He danced through the audience, pausing to shake hands with show producer Craig Zadan, saying, “Thanks for having me.”

Foxx arrived in the middle of Williams’ rehearsal. He quickly joined the dancers on stage, much to their amusement, pretending to stretch alongside them and offering unneeded dramatic direction.

“Walk, walk, curiosity! And retreat,” he said to a chorus of laughter.

U2 also wasn’t above rehearsals, running through their nominated song Ordinary Love late into the night.

In Argentina, the Oscars will be televized on TNT from 9.30pm.

Herald with AP, Reuters

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