“Vegas” interpolates the key phrase “you ain’t nothin’ but a …” from “Hound Dog,” a blockbuster hit for Elvis Presley in 1956. Doja Cat repeats that line 14 times in “Vegas”‘s 3:04 running time.
The final determination on the song’s Oscar eligibility will be made by an Oscar music subcommittee. Its ruling will hinge on how much of “Hound Dog” is in the new song and if the committee members feel there is enough original material in “Vegas” for it to qualify it as an original song.
Here’s the rule taken from the Oscar eligibility guidelines: “An original song consists of words and music, both of which are original (emphasis added) and written specifically for the motion picture. There must be a clearly audible, intelligible, substantive rendition (not necessarily visually presented) of both lyric and melody, used in the body of the motion picture or as the first music cue in the end credits.”
Doja Cat’s soulful exhortation on the key line “you ain’t nothin’ but a …” owes more to Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton’s original 1953 version of “Hound Dog” than to Presley’s 1956 cover version.
Thornton’s recording topped two of Billboard’s R&B charts (most played in jukeboxes and national best-sellers) for multiple weeks in 1953. Presley’s 1956 version, paired with “Don’t Be Cruel,” was one of the biggest double-sided hits in music history.
Thornton’s recording was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013 and the National Recording Registry (sponsored by the Library of Congress) in 2016. Presley’s rendition was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1988, but has yet to be honored by the National Recording Registry.
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller co-wrote “Hound Dog” and dozens of other hits. They were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985 and received that organization’s top honor, the Johnny Mercer Award, in 2000. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and received a Grammy Trustees Award in 1997.
Here’s what Billboard’s Jason Lipshutz wrote about “Vegas” in his First Stream column on Friday (May 6): “Speaking of soundtrack contributions, Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Elvis biopic has been bestowed with a ‘Hound Dog’ revival courtesy of one of the most ubiquitous voices in pop today. Doja Cat’s ‘Vegas’ allows the A-lister to have some frothy fun in between Planet Her smashes, spinning a classic track around her finger and confidently rhyming about a lowdown partner, whom she finally invites to ‘come find a treat.’”