The absorbing stories behind the Oscar nominees for Best Original Song 2020

Cynthia Erivo (Photo: Getty Images)
Cynthia Erivo (Photo: Getty Images)

Cape Town – The nominees for The Academy Awards were announced on Monday and to say that not everyone was happy, would be an understatement.

The award show will take place on Sunday, 9 February in Los Angeles and will not have a host. 

The Academy has been lambasted for only nominating men in The Best Director category – shutting out Little Women's Greta Gerwig and The Farewell's Lulu Wang - and not recognising talented women of colour like Jennifer Lopez and Lupita Nyong'o in the best actress category to name just a few. 

READ NEXT: Oscars 2020 once again lacks diversity as white men continue to dominate in top categories.

The race for best song is one of the few categories where LGBTQI and people of colour as well as women are represented, by more than one or two people. 

So, we're going to take a closer look at the fascinating backstories to the nominees who include Elton John and Cynthia Erivo.

Here are the interesting stories behind the Oscar nominees for Best Original Song 2020:

I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away from Toy Story 4

Music and lyric by Randy Newman

This song is written by and sung by long-time Pixar collaborator Randy Newman. Just like The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy – which is about Woody - the other original song on the Toy Story 4 soundtrack, I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away is about a character from the film, a plastic fork, named Forky. 

Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) is a plastic utensil, and you might not think much of him when you first meet him in the trailer. But, when you watch the film, you'll see that Forky is how the movie explores many existential issues from self-worth to purpose and the feeling that sometimes you just want to "throw yourself away". 

Writer Randy Newman explained the meaning of the song to Vents Magazine saying: "He gets it in his head that he's disposable, so he keeps trying to throw himself in the trash can. And Woody has put himself in charge of keeping him from doing so."  Like so many of us do, this character has convinced himself that he belongs in the trash and his friend is saving him from himself.

Trust Pixar to make a spork one of the most relatable characters we saw on the big screen this year. 


(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again from Rocketman

Music by Elton John; Lyric by Bernie Taupin

This duet from Rocketman is sung by the movie's star Taron Egerton, and it's subject, Elton John. The song reflects on the events chronicled in the movie from achieving his dream to his struggles substance abuse.

Starting with the first verse where he croons about learning how to back yourself after a period of self-doubt: "Through the years/a theory can grow cold/I'm up to be the king/it's gotten clear/The voice inside my head is the one I hear". 

They sing together during the redemption-filled choruses. Then Taron takes over on the second verse and sings about the light and dark side of fame, belting out: "The golden age was somehow bittersweet/But now the past lies sleepin' in the deep/The peaceful days that followed hollow nights."

Variety has called it the front runner in the category, and with this positive message, I can totally see why. In what many call a good omen it has already taken home the Golden Globe for best song. That award is Bernie and Elton's first award together in 52 years of songwriting collaboration according to the publication.

Elton already has an Oscar, which he won in 1994 Oscar for Can You Feel the Love Tonight from the original Disney animated version of The Lion King.


I'm Standing With You from Breakthrough

Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

This Christian pop song and it's the incredible performance by the star of the film Chrissy Metz is unique in the category that usually recognises more secular songs.

The song – written by eleven time Oscar nominee Diane Warren - encompasses the inspirational message of the film, Breakthrough, which tells the true story of a young man who survived 45 minutes without a pulse after being submerged in an icy lake. 

Some of the lyrics are: "When your faith is, faith is running low/I'll never lose faith in you/When the night surrounds you." Chrissy – currently starring on NBC's hit show This is Us - plays Joyce Smith, the young man's mother.

Following this Oscar nomination, according to Deadline, Universal Music Group Nashville announced that Chrissy has been offered a record deal. 


Into The Unknown from Frozen 2

Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

This song – which some have called the new Let It Go – is sung by Idina Menzel in the film and by Panic! At the Disco over the end credits. The story meaning behind the song is found at the beginning of the movie when Elsa is trying to be a good queen but keeps hearing a voice singing that seemingly nobody else can hear.

The voice propels her story and makes her question everything because she tries to ignore it and thereby a part of herself. She sings "I can hear you, but I won't/ Some look for trouble while others don't/There's a thousand reasons I should go about my day/And ignore your whispers, which I wish would go away." 

As the song continues, though, Elsa comes to understand that while she's content in Arendelle, she's not happy because she's looking for someone like herself. There's a part of her that's still unexplored, and the voice that she hears (which is actually that of Norwegian pop star, named Aurora) offers a chance for exploration. In addition to Frozen 2, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez wrote the music for its predecessor Frozen, including the anthem Let It Go, which won an Oscar.

They also won an Oscar for the song Remember Me from the Disney film Coco.


Stand Up from Harriet

Music and Lyric by Joshuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo

Cynthia Erivo – the star of Harriet – is nominated for her work as an actress and a songwriter with a nomination for each. 

The 32-year-old star began her career on Broadway and took home a Tony award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for her performance as Celie in The Colour Purple.

The cast of that production also earned a Grammy for their work. The movie tells the story of Harriet Tubman's escape from slavery to her years spent freeing others on the Underground Railroad. 

The poignant lyrics encompass that journey, poetically and give a message of power: "While the clouds roll back and the stars fill the night /that's when I'm gonna stand up, take my people with me / together we are going to a brand new home, far across the river / Can you hear freedom calling? / Calling me to answer, gonna keep on keeping on / I can feel it in my bones,".

Cynthia told OprahMag.com that music had a significant hand in her preparation for the role, and the songs that inspired the Oscar-nominated song. She explained: "I would find pieces of music by different artists to access any sadness". 

For those who don't know, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Harriet Tubman was born in 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland and died on 10 March 1913 in Auburn, New York.

She escaped from slavery in the South to become a leading abolitionist before the American Civil War. She led hundreds of bondmen to freedom in the North along the route of the Underground Railroad—an elaborate secret network of safe houses organised for that purpose.