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“Who is your favorite child?” is a question most parents know they can’t, well, shouldn’t, answer. “Which songs from the Barbie soundtrack will you submit to the Academy Awards?” might be a similarly tough question for its producers to respond to.
Barbie: The Album has been a triumphant, chart-topping, multi-hit success since the soundtrack was released in July. Several songs have come to life as the film continues to break world records: Dua Lipa’s bop “Dance the Night” and Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s fiery “Barbie World” have both spent multiple weeks in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart; Billie Eilish’s lush and emotional track “What Was I Made For?” is an international hit and has topped the rock and alternative charts; and Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken” has us all wanting the superstar to rush out his own album ASAP.
All of these tunes qualify for best original song at the 2024 Oscars, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has strict rules about how many songs a movie can submit for contention, and the studio behind Barbie will need to strategize on how to proceed. (Best original song is voted on separately as part of the Academy’s shortlist group that also includes original score and eight other categories.)
That’s in contrast to the Grammy Awards, where the Recording Academy doesn’t limit the number of songs a film can submit to the best song written for visual media category.
Only three songs from a film can be put forward for best original song at the Oscars, and only two of those can land nominations.
It’s a stretch from the 2007 Academy Awards when three songs from Enchanted, written and composed by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, competed for best original song. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s “Falling Slowly” from Once won. A year earlier, three songs from Dreamgirls, including Beyoncé’s “Listen,” were nominated for the music prize; Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need to Wake Up” from An Inconvenient Truth took home the Oscar.
Three tracks by Elton John and Tim Rice from 1994’s The Lion King were nominated for best original song, with “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” winning the award, and three songs by Menken and Howard Ashman from 1991’s Beauty and the Beast also competed for the music award, with the title track, performed by Angela Lansbury, coming out on top.
So how do you decide what to submit from Barbie? The frontrunners are “I’m Just Ken,” “Dance the Night” and “What Was I Made For?” If the former two are submitted, producer-songwriters Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt — who both share an Oscar with Lady Gaga for “Shallow” from 2018’s A Star Is Born — would land the noms since they worked on both songs. Lipa’s tune, which she co-wrote, is the biggest pop hit, while Eilish — already an Oscar winner for 2022’s “No Time to Die” — wrote a touching track with her brother-musical partner, Finneas, that feels like it was made to win at the Academy Awards. “I’m Just Ken” is that wild card but lovable film song that continues to resonate with the public, and who doesn’t want to see Gosling perform it live at the awards show? Minaj and Ice Spice’s contribution has had major success, but the heavy sample of Aqua’s 1997 smash “Barbie Girl” makes it less appealing when the category is titled best original song.
And the soundtrack features other strong contenders that shouldn’t be dismissed, from Tame Impala’s dreamy and fantastic “Journey to the Real World” and Ava Max’s battle-ready anthem “Choose Your Fighter” to Sam Smith’s disco gem “Man I Am,” my personal favorite from the film. Other tracks from Karol G, Haim, Dominic Fike, Charli XCX, the Kid Laroi and Khalid also stand out.
But selecting which songs to advance shouldn’t be done too early, in case a song takes off unexpectedly, as “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Encanto did in 2021. The surprise hit topped the Billboard Hot 100 for weeks, but the studio had already submitted the soft and sweet “Dos Oruguitas” by Colombian singer Sebastián Yatra. That track earned a nom but lost the award to Eilish’s James Bond song.
Other studios would play it safe by deciding to submit one song from a film so the votes don’t cancel each other out. But much like the various Barbie dolls to choose from, Barbie has options.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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