Once upon a time, many moons ago, I debuted a feature called Front Row Seat, meant to highlight live performances. (Its inaugural post talked about some outstanding stuff from the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Concert by Janelle Monae and a then fairly unknown Ellie Goulding.) I’ve seen a host of terrific live songs all over the Internet in the years since that post, but for some reason, this particular blog feature fell off the radar. Hopefully I can bring it back more often, but the occasion causing its return this time around? That would be the 2015 Academy Awards, which aired this past Sunday. I actually didn’t end up watching them, but I caught up on the musical performances afterwards, and there were some very, very good things happening. You may have seen these performances already, but if you haven’t, even if you’re not a film buff, here’s your chance. Let’s get the biggest musical surprise of the evening out of the way first, since it’s likely the one you’ve already heard of. Lady Gaga did a tribute to “The Sound of Music” for its 50th anniversary. Now, I was previously well-aware that Lady Gaga, despite the absolutely bonkers things she has done in the past (musically and otherwise), has a very high level of talent and a powerful voice. Her recent jazz album with Tony Bennett is a terrific showcase for that, and very different from what she usually does, for sure. So when I heard she brought down the house with her tribute at the Oscars, I expected to hear that same brassy jazz-pop voice…but no, she surprised even me when she pulled out a top-notch musical theater-style tone, clear and note-perfect, that rivals Julie Andrews in her heyday. (Notice that I say rivals, not surpasses. I mean, Julie Andrews in her heyday, even Gaga can’t beat that.) Yes, this lives up to the hype, and then some. I’ve never considered myself a huge Lady Gaga fan, yet after watching this, I’d cast her as the lead in a “Sound of Music” remake in a heartbeat. Just how many sides does this woman have?
Earlier on in the broadcast came most of the nominated songs. Country star Tim McGraw, whose music I grew up with, paid tribute to an even greater country legend, Glen Campbell, whose final song, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” was up for Best Original Song. It’s a deep, emotional tune, and although Glen’s original is beyond compare, Tim does the song justice with a simple, stripped-down performance.
Another standout performance by a Best Original Song nominee? “Everything Is Awesome” (from “The Lego Movie,” whose unfortunate snub in the Best Animated Feature category was well-documented) would be one of those. The song’s fantastic original artists, Canadian duo, Tegan and Sara at the Oscars (!!!)? Check. Lego Oscars for the celebs in the audience? Affirmative. Batman (played by Will Arnett)? Yep. Pretty much anything and everything they could throw at us? That too. It’s crazy, it’s all over the place, but it’s fun, packed with energy, and quite a different Oscars performance than we’ve seen the likes of in quite some time. So wacky, it just works.