Fans of the Walt Disney animated film Encanto – and there are a lot of them, evidenced by the soundtrack’s sprint from No. 110 to No. 7 in its fifth week on the Billboard 200 albums chart – are no doubt hoping that the witty and lighthearted “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” receives an Oscar nomination for best original song. The song, credited to Carolina Gaitan, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Rhenzy Feliz, Diane Guerrero, Stephanie Beatriz and the Encanto Cast, is the top new entry on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 50.
The tune is connecting, but an Oscar nod isn’t going to happen. “Dos Oruguitas,” another entry from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song score, was the only song submitted from that film. That acoustic, Spanish-language ballad is on the shortlist of 15 contenders for best original song, which was culled by members of the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences from a longer list of 84 eligible songs. Those same music branch members will vote again to winnow the list of 15 shortlisted songs down to the five nominees that will be announced on Feb. 8. All Academy voters will vote to determine the winners, which will be revealed on March 27.
So why wouldn’t the Encanto team have entered both songs in hopes of putting two songs on the shortlist and maybe even landing two nominations?
They could have. Filmmakers may submit up to five songs from any one film. But it’s risky. You can wind up splitting your votes. In 2014, multiple songs were entered from Boyhood, The Fault in Our Stars, Muppets Most Wanted and Rio 2, among other films. No songs from those films were nominated. The five nominees that year were the only songs entered from those films.
The Encanto filmmakers weren’t the only ones who were careful not to split their votes. An Academy spokesperson said that of the 15 films that had songs shortlisted for best original song this year, only two — Cinderella and Don’t Look Up – had more than one song in contention. In each case, two songs were submitted, one of which advanced to the shortlist.
It has been five years since the last film that had more than one best original song nominee – La La Land. “City of Stars” won. “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” was also nominated. Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul collaborated on both songs.
It has been 12 years since an individual songwriter achieved a double. In 2009, Randy Newman was nominated with two songs from The Princess and The Frog. “Almost There” and “Down in New Orleans” both lost to “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart.
The first film to receive two best original song nominations was Fame in 1980. Four films have spawned three nominated songs: Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Lion King (1994), Dreamgirls (2006) and Enchanted (2007). One of the nominated songs from the first two of those films won, but Dreamgirls and Enchanted were shut out in the category. A new rule was instituted in June 2008 that a film could have no more than two songs nominated.
The Academy also has a rule to limit repetition on the shortlist. No more than two songs from any one film by the same writers may be shortlisted. If more than two songs from a film by the same writers make the top 15 on the music branch members’ tally, the two songs with the most votes will advance to the shortlist.
A lot is riding on the decision of which song from Encanto to enter. Miranda has just needed an Oscar to clinch EGOT status since 2014, when he won an Emmy to go along with his Tony and Grammy, both won for In the Heights. (His collection of hardware has since expanded to include three Tonys, three Grammys and two Emmys.) While it’s nice to be just one award away from EGOT status, it’s nicer to nail it down already. Miranda was Oscar-nominated five years ago for “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana but lost to the aforementioned “City of Stars.”
“Dos Oruguitas,” which is performed on the Encanto soundtrack by Sebastián Yatra, has special meaning for Miranda. It was his first song written entirely in Spanish. (The title is Spanish for “Two Caterpillars.”)
“It was important to me that I write it in Spanish, rather than write it in English and translate it, because you can always feel translation,” Miranda told The Los Angeles Times. “There are masterful translators out there — I am not one of them. I was really proud of it, I felt like I pulled it from a deeper place within myself.
“I really had to go out of my comfort zone. My task was to write a Colombian folk song that feels like it’s always existed. So I’m imitating some of the folk songs from my culture, great songwriters like [Antonio Carlos] Jobim and Joan Manuel Serrat.”
“We Don’t Talk About Bruno” isn’t the only song from Encanto that is off to a fast start. A second song from the film, Jessica Darrow’s “Surface Pressure,” is the second-highest new entry on the Hot 100 at No. 54. Both of those songs also enter Digital Song Sales, at Nos. 10 and 9, respectively. Two more Encanto songs enter Digital Songs Sales: “The Family Madrigal,” by Beatriz, Olga Merediz and the Encanto Cast, opens at No. 35, while Guerrero and Beatriz’s “What Else Can I Do?” enters at No. 42.
Miranda wrote both music and lyrics for all of the Encanto songs. Germaine Franco composed the score. (Her work was shortlisted for best original score. She is vying to become the first Latina to be nominated in the category.)
Encanto is the first soundtrack to reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200 in as few as five weeks since Frozen II made the top 10 in its second week a little more than two years ago. Frozen II vaulted from No. 15 to No. 3 on the Dec. 7, 2019, chart, on its way to No. 1 a week later.
In addition to its breakout move on the Billboard 200 following the film’s premiere on the Disney+ streaming service on Dec. 24, Encanto surges from No. 7 to No. 1 on this week’s Top Soundtracks chart. Disney’s Moana soundtrack, on which Miranda was one of the songwriters (along with Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i) held the top spot on that chart for a record-setting 61 weeks from 2016 into 2021. (Its run at the top was likely extended because the pandemic slowed the release of new theatrical films that might have provided competition.)
The idea that the smartest strategy in awards is generally not to compete against yourself isn’t limited to the Oscars, of course.
In the upcoming 64th annual Grammy Awards, of the 14 artists who are nominated for record of the year (three of the 10 nominated singles billed multiple artists), all but two were those artists’ only entries on the massive list of eligible singles and tracks (which numbered 1,172 entries). Even Justin Bieber, Lil Nas X and Olivia Rodrigo, who released multiple strong singles in the Grammy eligibility period (Sept. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021), knew better than to flood the zone with multiple entries.
Artists and their labels know that, while it can be ego-stroking to submit multiple entries, you’re almost always better off taking what you think is your best “shot” — to borrow a word from an earlier Miranda song.