With a snowballing list of controversies, behind-the-scenes battles, and mind-boggling presenters—including the producer of “All I Do Is Win” and a retired snowboarder facing sexual harassment allegations—this Sunday’s Academy Awards could be the most cursed telecast of 2022.
Mercifully, the musical aspect of the ceremony should ensure it’s not entirely cringeworthy, with live performances from Best Original Song nominees Billie Eilish and Finneas, Reba McEntire, and the cast of Disney’s Encanto, who will be singing the viral smash “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” despite the song not even being nominated. There will also be an “all-star band” that includes Sheila E. and Kourtney Kardashian’s fiancé. But the show’s saving grace will almost certainly be Beyoncé, who’s set to perform her nominated track “Be Alive” from Best Picture contender King Richard, either at the Dolby Theater or on a Compton tennis court (allegedly).
When the pop and R&B icon was originally announced as a first-time nominee in February, the news didn’t generate much excitement outside of BeyHive Twitter. Even the singer’s mother, Ms. Tina Knowles-Lawson, was noticeably unenthused when asked about her daughter’s achievement in an interview, calling it a “nice gesture” and asserting that “she should’ve got one many times before.” It’s hard to disagree, given the “Crazy In Love” singer’s notable contributions to movie soundtracks throughout her career and, in particular, the work she’s previously put in for Hollywood’s biggest night.
Beyoncé’s first brush with the Oscars came in 2005, two years after the release of her debut album, Dangerously In Love, and the same year Destiny’s Child would announce their disbandment. The 77th Academy Awards was the ideal showcase for an artist establishing herself as a formidable solo act (and looking to break into film), and Knowles performed three of the five Best Original Song nominees that night, including a duet with Josh Groban and a ballad sung in French.
Two years later, at the 79th Academy Awards, she was there representing the 2006 Dreamgirls adaptation, which had received eight nominations and nabbed a Best Supporting Actress win for Jennifer Hudson. Along with Hudson and fellow co-stars Anika Noni Rose and Keith Robinson, Beyoncé sang a medley of the film’s nominated songs “Love You I Do,” “Listen,” and “Patience” in one of the best-received moments of the night.
Beyoncé’s role during the ceremony, however, was less of the honor it had been a couple years prior and more of a slight, given that she was listed as a co-writer for “Listen” but was not nominated for Best Original Song with its other writers, thanks to a new rule enacted that year by the Academy of Arts and Motion Picture Sciences. Under Rule 16, which has since been abolished, the organization limited the number of statuettes to just two winners, with the provision that a third songwriter would be eligible if they made equal contributions.
While four is famously Queen Bey’s lucky number, it certainly wasn’t that year, when the executive committee of the Academy’s music branch ranked her as the fourth—and therefore, least important—songwriter after Henry Krieger, Scott Cutler, and Anne Preven. At the time, a spokesperson for AMPAS declined to reveal how the board reached its decision. A rep for Knowles told MTV News that the singer didn’t expect to be nominated given her contributions and was “very happy” for her fellow songwriters. Regardless, “Listen” did not go on to win the Oscar.
Beyoncé’s next bid for a nomination was “Once In A Lifetime” from the 2008 film Cadillac Records, in which she played Etta James. Despite initial Oscar buzz for the biopic and Golden Globe and Grammy nominations for the 1960s-inspired pop track, it failed to make an impact on voters. Still, at the 2009 Academy Awards, she gamely assisted host Hugh Jackman, along with Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and Amanda Seyfried, in a hilarious medley paying tribute to musicals.
Five years later, Bey wrote and sang the forgettable anthem “Rise Up” with her frequent collaborator Sia for 2013’s Epic: a movie that, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist. Considering how many animated children’s films supply the Best Original Song category year after year, it seemed like a safe bet—until it clearly wasn’t. (The song isn’t even available on streaming services, for some reason.)
When Beyoncé was snubbed by the Academy two years ago for her song “Spirit” from The Lion King remake, being overlooked by major industry awards—save for the Video Vanguard Award at the VMAs in 2014 and Video of the Year in 2016—had become a notable trend in her career. Particularly after losing Album of The Year to Beck and Adele at the Grammys, as well as several Emmys to “Carpool Karaoke,” her chances of EGOT’ing had seemingly stalled despite the respect she was accumulating as a culture-defining powerhouse. For the Grammys in particular, she represented the show’s tendency to nominate Black talent and invite them to perform while ultimately giving the major awards to white artists. Convincing the very old and white members of the Academy that she deserved recognition began to seem even less likely.
So what chance does Beyoncé have now of winning Best Original Song? So far, “Be Alive” has not fared well against Eilish’s James Bond theme “No Time To Die,” which has already collected a pile of critics association awards and a Grammy. Considering Eilish’s reputation as an award magnet and the song’s resemblance to the last two Oscar-winning Bond themes, the 20-year-old wunderkind seems like a shoo-in. Meanwhile, some awards predictors also favor Lin-Manuel Miranda to win for Encanto’s “Dos Oruguitas,” which would complete his EGOT.
Whatever the outcome on Sunday night, Beyoncé will continue a career trend of showing up. And whether she Zooms in from a tennis court or performs onstage in Hollywood, she’s sure to be one of the best parts of an inevitably weird show.