On Sunday night, "Glory" came — and it conquered.
Minutes after their powerful performance earned an extended standing ovation inside the Dolby Theatre, John Legend and Common won the Oscar for original song with "Glory," their stirring anthem from director Ava DuVernay's "Selma."
The song, which promises to "fight on to the finish" for civil rights, links Rosa Parks' historic refusal to give up a bus seat to the demonstrations last year in Ferguson, Mo.
FULL COVERAGE: Oscars 2015
And in accepting the award — one of only two that the widely acclaimed "Selma" was nominated for — Legend said "the struggle for justice" continues.
"There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850," the singer said.
Common recalled performing "Glory" recently on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. organized the march on which DuVernay's film is based.
"This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now it's a symbol for change," said the rapper. "The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status."
Though he's best known for silky-smooth love songs such as "Show Me" and "All of Me," Legend put some welcome grit into his voice on Sunday, while Common gesticulated forcefully during his verse about walking "through Ferguson with our hands up."
It was a starkly effective moment in a show that routinely aims for slick grandiosity.
Lady Gaga certainly provided the latter in her appealingly lush tribute to the 50th anniversary of the movie version of "The Sound of Music."
Wearing an elaborate gown and long silver-blond hair, the pop star cranked her vocal power — and her mega-watt smile — to full, beautiful blast as she sang bits of "Edelweiss," "My Favorite Things" and, of course, "Climb Ev'ry Mountain."
Did it make much sense? Nah.
But how good it was to see Gaga enjoying herself again after a year in which she seemed to be grasping at ways to come back from the perceived flop of her album "Artpop."
Other musical performances were milder in execution (if not intent), including Adam Levine's blandly wistful rendition of "Lost Stars" (from "Begin Again") and Tim McGraw's respectful but dreary run through "I'm Not Gonna Miss You," the Glen Campbell song from James Keach's wrenching documentary about that country veteran, who's suffering from late-stage Alzheimer's disease.
The British singer Rita Ora pumped up the energy slightly for "Grateful," Diane Warren's Oscar-nominated tune from "Beyond the Lights."
But Ora's low profile in this country, coupled with the movie's cult-favorite status, combined to make this "Grateful" easy to forget.
Not so with "Everything Is Awesome," the breathless electro-pop ditty from "The Lego Movie" that got a spirited performance Sunday by Tegan and Sara, the Canadian sister duo, and Andy Samberg's goofy joke-rap crew, the Lonely Island.
With unannounced assists by Questlove of the Roots and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, this bit was as lovably chaotic — and as inspired by punk — as anything in recent Oscar memory.
As for host Neil Patrick Harris' opening number?
Well, the guy's a better magician than a singer, which is probably why he invited Anna Kendrick and the huge-lunged Jack Black to join him for the tune about — oh, yes, let's hear it again — cinema's unrivaled ability to make us think deeply about life and the bonds we all share and...
Actually, never mind movies for a minute.
Somebody get Black and Lady Gaga into a big, splashy Broadway revival.