2016 Academy Awards Best Original Song Nominees

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"Til It Happens To You" from The Hunting Ground - Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga Til It Happens To You
Lady Gaga - "Til It Happens To You". Courtesy Interscope

Written by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga and legendary songwriter Diane Warren wrote the song "Til It Happens To You" for the film The Hunting Ground, a documentary about campus rape in the US. In interviews Diane Warren heaped praise on Lady Gaga for her talent in helping put the song together and then performing it. "Til It Happens To You" earned a Grammy Award nomination as well.

The film The Hunting Ground debuted at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and received strong critical praise. The song was released digitally in September 2015 and a remix topped the dance chart.

This was Diane Warren's eighth nomination for Best Original Song as a songwriter. However, she has not yet won. Her credits include such huge hits as Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" from Mannequin, Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me" from Up Close & Personal, and Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" from Armageddon.

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"Manta Ray" from Racing Extinction - Antony Hegarty

Racing Extinction Soundtrack
Soundtrack - Racing Extinction. Courtesy Rumor Mill

Written by J. Ralph and Antony Hegarty

The film Racing Extinction is a documentary about ongoing mass extinction of species in the world and the efforts of scientists and activists to protect them. It received strong critical acclaim, and the soundtrack features two songs with vocals. They are "One Candle" co-written by and featuring the vocals of Sia. The second "Manta Ray" earned an Academy Award nomination and was co-written by and features the vocals of Antony Hegarty.

Composer J. Ralph also wrote the song "Before My Time" included in the soundtrack for the 2012 documentary Chasing Ice. It earned a Best Original Song nomination. He has worked on the soundtracks for multiple films nominated for Best Documentary Academy Awards. 

Antony Hegarty is best known as lead vocalist for the avant garde pop group Antony and the Johnsons. Their 2005 album I Am a Bird Now earned a Mercury Prize in the UK. Antony has previously worked on a number of film projects.


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"Simple Song #3" from Youth - Sumi Jo

Youth Soundtrack
Soundtrack - Youth. Courtesy Milan Records

The film Youth is an Italian comedy-drama that stars acting legends Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel. Jane Fonda also appears in the supporting cast. With strong critical reviews, Youth won Best Film at the European Film Awards and Jane Fonda earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination from the Golden Globes.

David Lang is a celebrated contemporary composer. He earned the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his piece "The Little Match Girl Passion." It went on to win a Grammy Award for the recording. 

The Academy Award nominated composition "Simple Song #3" plays a central role in the film Youth since the story is about a composer. It is sung by celebrated Korean soprano Sumi Jo. The violin solo is played by Viktoria Mullova.

Written by David Lang 

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"Earned It" from Fifty Shades of Grey - The Weeknd

The Weeknd Earned It
The Weekend - "Earned It". Courtesy Republic

Written by Abel Tesfaye, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville, and Stephan Moccio

Canadian artist The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye, was an early choice to work on the soundtrack for Fifty Shades of Grey. His seductive voice was seen as a plus for helping bringing scenes in the intimate film to life. The song was released in December 2014 approximately six weeks in advance of the film. It followed Ellie Goulding's "Love Me Like You Do" from the soundtrack into the top 10 and ultimately peaked at #3.

"Earned It" was The Weeknd's first big solo hit after he broke into the top 10 for the first time as featured artist on Ariana Grande's "Love Me Harder." He built on that success to turn into the biggest pop artist of the summer of 2015 with his #1 smash hits "Can't Feel My Face" and "The Hills."

Among the co-writers of "Earned It" is songwriter and producer Stephan Moccio. He co-wrote Miley Cyrus' #1 smash hit "Wrecking Ball." He also co-wrote Celine Dion's "A New Day Has Come."

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"Writing's On the Wall" from Spectre - Sam Smith

Sam Smith Writing's On the Wall
Sam Smith - "Writing's On the Wall". Courtesy Capitol

Written by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith

Each time a new James Bond film is under development, speculation takes off as to who will record the next James Bond theme song. The previous film Skyfall included the Academy Award winning title song "Skyfall" from Adele. It was the first James Bond theme to win an Academy Award.

For the theme to Spectre, celebrated young singer Sam Smith was chosen to create the recording. He co-wrote the song "Writing's On the Wall" with songwriting partner Jimmy Napes. Sam Smith has said the song came together in one session. The initial writing took less than half an hour.

Released as a single "Writing's On the Wall" hit #1 on the UK pop singles chart and broke into the top 20 at adult contemporary radio in the US. It was the winner of the 2016 Academy Award for Best song.

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