Adele vs. Florence Welch vs. Katy Perry: Dare to dream?

What a Monday for Oscar.  

First, Adele and Sony Pictures confirms the news everyone already knew, that she has recorded the title track to the new James Bond film, “Skyfall.”  Second, the Academy announced a somewhat surprising choice to host this year’s Academy Awards, Seth MacFarlane.  Combined, the duo could help Oscar hit its highest ratings in years.

MacFarlane is a brand unto himself, of course.  His directorial debut, “Ted,” was the sleeper hit of the summer grossing $218 million in the U.S. and over $430 million globally.  The multi-talent is best known for voicing, writing and producing the animated TV series “Family Guy” and “The Cleveland Show.”  He’s also got a flair in front of audiences, though.  He has taken his show out on the road and performed with a complete orchestra singing selections from famous movie musicals (really).  To say he has a wide range of talents is something of an understatement (we’re also going to ignore the fact he’s also co-hosted more than one Comedy Central Roast as long as we can). He’s not necessarily part of the “movie” club (yet), but he’s got a foot in the door enough to make his selection legit (to be clear, before “Ted’s” success his selection would have been frowned upon by many in the Academy).  Can he host a 3-hour plus long show without breaking into any of his trademark “Family Guy” voices?  A habit he seems to do in interviews or in front of large groups when he’s nervous?  We’ll see.  If the ratings are up and the male demo numbers are up, ABC and the Academy won’t care if he talked like Stewie all night long.  Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have gotten MacFarlane at precisely the right time in his career, but fate may be handing them an even bigger ratings winner in – of all things – the best original song category.

Last year’s two, yes, two nominated songs weren’t even performed during the show, but the Academy made a significant change to the rules over the summer making sure there will be five nominated songs for the foreseeable future. Members are also now allowed to review potential nominees via DVD screener.  For a number of years, members of the music branch had to go to a special screening in either New York or LA to judge the potential nominees projected in context in their films.  The Academy will never admit this, but the attendance at these events were weak and is likely why the category has been something of a crapshoot for a good six years or so.  The DVD and five nominees should change all that.  Now, members are still judging the songs in context and being a closing credits song does not help your cause, but its not as though closing credit songs haven’t been nominated during that time period. In fact, five nominees were closing credit songs (arguably) including winners “We Belong Together” (“Toy Story 3”), “The Weary Kind” (“Crazy Heart”), “Jai Ho” (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and “I Need To Wake Up” (“An Inconvenient Truth”). So, let’s not shut any doors this year shall we?  Instead, let me share you what Zadan, Meron and a whole floor of ABC executives are dreaming of for three nominees among the five this year…

performed by Adele, from “Skyfall”
Remember all those stories about how the 2012 Grammy Awards had a higher rating than the 2012 Academy Awards this past February?  Want to know one of the biggest reasons why?  No, it wasn’t just the untimely passing of Whitney Houston. It was also thanks to a little lady named Adele.  The Brit songstress is a cross-generational legend at the age of 24 andher last album, “21” (which also went on to win six Grammys) has sold a staggering 20 million copies. Granted, the last time a Bond song was even nominated was “For Your Eyes Only” in 1982.  That Sheena Easton sung number lost to the popular Christopher Cross track “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do).”  Previous 007 nominees include just “Nobody Does It Better” which lost to “You Light Up My Life” in 1978 and Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” which lost to “The Way We Were” in 1974.  So, yes, there have been a number of great 007 tracks that haven’t made Oscar’s cut.  Still, after listening to a snippet “Skyfall,” we’re willing to bet money Adele gets James Bond back to the big dance.

“Breath of Life”
performed by Florence + The Machine, from “Show White and the Huntsman”
Florence Welch has already performed at the Oscars. She stepped in for Dido in 2011 to perform “If I Rise” with nominee A.R. Rahman.  “Breath of Life” would be a much bigger deal. Co-written by Welch and James Newton Howard (don’t discount his name on the credits to voters), “Life” is a larger than, um, life production that could blow the top off the Dolby Theater if Welch is in top form.  Besides Florence + the Machine fans, “Snow White” has a feverent fan base of its own that will probably scare the crap out of the Academy on social media (more tweets don’t mean more Oscar votes people).  Of course, Zadan and Meron are smart enough to see the song’s recognition as a way to snag “Snow White” star Kristen Stewart to the Oscars to perhaps introduce. Of course, I think it’s a worthy nominee on its own, but it does fall into the closing credit song category.

“Wide Awake”
performed by Katy Perry, from “Katy Perry: Part of Me”
A strange qualifier to be sure and lord knows if we want to hear Ms. Perry actually sing live, but the track was a smash this past summer hitting no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and landing Perry some of the finest songwriting reviews of her career. Will the Academy’s music branch take it seriously? “Awake” probably has the longest road of the three, but Zadan and Meron are dying for this one.  

Of course, other potential nominees such as Owl City (“When Can I See You Again” from “Wreck-it-Ralph”), Arcade Fire (“Abraham’s Daughter” from “The Hunger Games”) and “Suddenly” from “Les Miserables” (likely Hugh Jackman jumping on stage) could create some media attention. No one could duplicate the excitement Adele, Perry and Welch could, however.

When the Oscars have big music stars in the mix ABC promotes it like crazy to various degrees of success.  Did the duet between Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston help the 71st Academy Awards’ ratings? (Hard to tell, it was coming off the incredible high of “Titanic’s” dominance the year before).  Did Beyonce give the 79th show a rations boost? Hardly, it was one of the lowest rated Oscars ever. Even back in 1994 there was no bump from Bruce Springsteen singing eventual winner “Philadelphia.”  Granted, 1995’s 67th Oscar might have benefited from Elton John’s “Lion King” performances.  So, you can never tell what’s going to work and what won’t.  Now that a host is finally secured, you can bet Zadan and Meron are praying that fate delivers them at least Adele.

Dare to dream?

What do you think about Adele’s “Skyfall” theme?  Does Katy Perry and Florence + The Machine have a shot to make the final five?  Share your thoughts below.