Billboard.com takes a look at -- and listens to -- the 2008 nominees for the best original song Oscar: songs from "Enchanted," "Once" and "August Rush."

With the 13-week writers' strike settled and the Academy Awards ceremony set to go on in the usual star-studded fashion, songwriting will be honored at the Feb. 24 event in the best original song category. Three of this year's five nominees are culled from Walt Disney's "Enchanted," but "Falling Slowly" from the surprise hit "Once" -- which was the tenth best-selling soundtrack of 2007 -- and "Raise It Up" from the film "August Rush" have just as much of a chance at earning the Oscar. Billboard.com takes a look at -- and listens to -- the 2008 nominees.



NOMINATED SONG: "Falling Slowly"
FILM: "Once" (Fox Searchlight)
ARTIST(S): Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
SOUNDTRACK CHART PEAK: No. 2 on Top Soundtracks chart; No. 27 on the Billboard 200
SOUNDTRACK COPIES SOLD: 363,000
(Sales through the week ending Feb. 17, 2008 according to Nielsen SoundScan)

"Once," the little film that could, was released last May and earned more than $9 million at the box office. But its male star, Glen Hansard of veteran Irish band the Frames, almost didn't appear in the movie at all.

Director John Carney had already chosen to use Hansard's songs in "Once" before casting, but after the intended star dropped out, he turned to the singer/songwriter, who previously appeared in the film "The Commitments," to fill the role. "I actually recommended Damien Rice," Hansard recalls. "But John said, 'Then I'd have to use his songs, and I really like these ones I've already chosen.' " A few days later, Carney had an epiphany. "It's as plain as the nose on my face that you should be the guy in this film," he told Hansard, who reluctantly agreed.

Hansard plays a busker in the movie, which also stars his bandmate in the Swell Season, Czech singer/pianist Marketa Irglova. The Frames are superstars at home but little-known in the United States, but thanks to strong word-of-mouth, Columbia's "Once" soundtrack has sold over 350,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, many times more than that of any Frames record. "If people like the music enough to want to hear it again, they'll draw a line between me and the band," he says. "All they have to do is Google my name and the Frames come up."

Hansard often played the soundtrack's now-nominated "Falling Slowly" solo acoustic during the Frames' North American tour last year. With "Once" having exceeded everyone's expectations, could another film be in the works? "John's talking about making another one at some point, called 'Twice,' " Hansard says. "Then the third one would be called 'Three Times a Lady.'"

Hansard and Irglova will be on hand at the Academy Awards ceremony to perform "Falling Slowly" at the Academy Awards.

Related: "Once" soundtrack review

NOMINATED SONG: "Raise It Up"
FILM: "August Rush" (Warner Bros.)
ARTISTS: Music and lyric by Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas
CHART PEAKS: No. 10 on the Top Soundtracks chart; No. 99 on the Billboard 200
SOUNDTRACK COPIES SOLD: 105,000
(Sales through the week ending Feb. 17, 2008 according to Nielsen SoundScan)

"August Rush," which stars Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Freddie Highmore and Jamia Simone Nash, unfolds as a sophisticated fairy tale in which characters are defined by the music they perform. Because the film centers on a young musical prodigy who was separated from his parents at birth, Warner Bros. hosted several in-school music programs across the United States and worked with VH1 Save the Music. "The heart of the story is how we respond and connect through music," score composer Mark Mancina says. "The way the [main character] is going to find his parents is through music -- not the Internet or the Yellow Pages."

Warner Bros' marketing push was heavily supported by Sony, which issued the movie's soundtrack on Nov. 6. Eleven-year-old Nash, who previously portrayed a young Fantasia Barrino in a 2006 TV movie, will perform "Raise It Up" at the Academy Awards.

NOMINATED SONGS: "Happy Working Song," "So Close" and "That's How You Know"
FILM: "Enchanted" (Walt Disney Pictures)
ARTIST(S): Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
SOUNDTRACK CHART PEAK: No. 5 on Top Soundtracks chart; No. 39 on the Billboard 200
SOUNDTRACK COPIES SOLD: 199,000 (Sales through the week ending Feb. 17, 2008 according to Nielsen SoundScan)

"Enchanted," which boasts a soundtrack containing three of this year's nominated songs, used 2-D animation, live action and CGI to tell the story of a princess (Amy Adams) who is pushed down a well, comes up through a manhole in modern-day New York and falls in love with a single father (Patrick Dempsey). And who better to sell a fairy tale than Carrie Underwood? The singer, whom Walt Disney Studios president of music and soundtracks Mitchell Leib calls "America's princess," sings the Alan Menken/Stephen Schwartz song "Ever Ever After" at the end of the movie. Underwood's "Ever Ever After," however, was not one of the songs up for an Academy Award. The three numbers nominated, which have collectively sold 177,00 digital downloads, were also written by film music veterans Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz ("Pocahontas," "Hunchback of Notre Dame"). "Happy Working Song" will be performed at the Academy Awards ceremony by Amy Adams, "That's How You Know," will be performed by Kristin Chenoweth and Marlon Saunders, and Jon McLaughlin will sing "So Close," at the Feb. 24 ceremony.

Related: Watch video of composer Alan Menken being interviewed at the recent Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film and TV Conference

Additional reporting by Jessica Letkemann and Keith Caulfield.

Check out more Academy Awards coverage at The Hollywood Reporter.

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