The decade is young but we’re going to start this conversation anyway. As new winners are announced throughout the decade, I’ll add them here. If you are looking for more rounded conversations about winners, feel free to browse around the other decades.
Just a quick note on my process: for me, these are fluid rankings. I reserve the right to revisit the winners and rethink their standing. The Academy is bound to stand by its selections but I am under no such obligation.
3. “No Time to Die,” No Time to Die (2021)
On the one hand, Skyfall really did deserve to win this category. On the other hand, the fact that it won (weirdly becoming the first Bond song to claim an Academy Award after decades of bangers) ruined Bond songs for the foreseeable future. The two entries we’ve gotten since (Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On the Wall” and this, from Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas) have attempted to match Skyfall‘s slow-burn pace but completely lacked the gravitas that Adele brought to it. Now that Skyfall opened the floodgates, boring Bond songs keep winning.
This is a deeply fine song. That’s about all you can say about it. Now can we please get back to a wider variety of Bond song?
Maybe the worst part is that if Disney hadn’t selected the wrong song from Encanto when they decided to only push one (instead of running the risk of splitting their own votes), this probably wouldn’t have even been a contest. Alas, they chose “Dos Oruguitas” over “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” and now Lin Manuel Miranda is still waiting for that EGOT.
2. “Fight For You,” Judas and the Black Messiah (2020)
Best Actor was far and away the biggest surprise of Oscar night for this year, but hovering in second place was H.E.R.’s unexpected win in this category. Advance buzz seemed to believe there were only three real contenders and “Fight For You” wasn’t one of them. “Husavik,” a surprisingly resonant and catchy song from a Will Ferrell comedy, had popular support locked up (many believed it might not even make the ballot at all due to snobbery)–plus it was the only song out of the five nominees that actually factored into the movie (the rest played over the end credits). “Speak Now” was Leslie Odom Jr.’s second nomination in addition to his nod in Best Supporting Actor, and since Daniel Kaluuya had that category locked up, this seemed like a good place to reward Odom Jr. And legendary Diane Warren, nominated many, many times over the years for iconic songs but without a single win, was in the mix yet again for “Io Sí.” Most Oscar pundits believed that one of those songs would win. Indeed, I checked off “Husavik” on my own Oscar prediction ballot.
Perhaps it was vote splitting in the absence of a clear favorite that allowed “Fight For You” to sneak in through the backdoor, but in hindsight it’s easy to see why it ended up winning. Its message of struggle and resilience in the wake of police violence and systemic prejudice was an unfortunate hallmark of 2020. Plus, it’s a super catchy song with a sound that ties into the era of Judas and the Black Messiah without sounding like a throwback.
“Fight For You” was a surprise winner, but you really can’t find fault with it.
1. “Naatu Naatu,” RRR (2022)
At long last, this category landed on a viral sensation. Is it a great song? Not really. Would I have voted for it? No. But is it catchy as hell when placed in the context of the film? Absolutely. And do the actors perform the ever-loving fuck out of it? Yes, yes, yes, and yes some more. Their boundless enthusiasm and awe-inspiring athletic prowess as dancers are a huge part of why this song became a runaway favorite in 2022.
It’s also refreshing to have a winning song that is so heavily identified with its movie. Most competitors in this film play over the credits, but Naatu Naatu is a pivotal scene in RRR.
Other Rankings for the 2020s
Best Supporting Actor • Best Supporting Actress