In the end, some of the biggest names in pop music couldn't topple a Disney princess. "Let It Go" from Walt Disney Pictures' animated musical "Frozen" took the Oscar for original song, besting offerings from U2, Pharrell Williams and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Written by the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, "Let It Go" is the showcase song in "Frozen." It arrives early in the film, scoring the moment when Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) has run from her kingdom to lock herself away in a palatial ice palace.
"Let It Go" was long seen as the favorite in a rather competitive Oscar song race. Disney has traditionally performed well in the field, and with the win tonight has taken home the original song Oscar in three of the past four years.
Heading into the Oscars, the soundtrack to "Frozen" had logged five non-consecutive weeks atop the U.S. pop charts, the most for any soundtrack since "Titanic" in 1998 (home to the Oscar-winning song "My Heart Will Go On").
In a field that included U2's slow-building anthem "Ordinary Love" (from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom") and Karen's O's quiet and lonesome "The Moon Song" (from "Her"), "Let It Go" was arguably the most traditional song in contention. Yet if it's old-fashioned Disney in sound, it's less so in tone, as "Let It Go" is the moment a not-so-typical princess discovers the fear and courage of going it alone.
While "Let It Go" provides moments for vocalist Menzel to belt out the chorus, it's also something of a character study. The song starts with a light flurry of piano notes and, like its main character, gets stronger, tougher and more chaotic with each verse.
"It took a while to find Elsa's moment where the song would take off from," Robert said in a recent interview with The Times. "At first, she was a spoiled brat and a misunderstood wild child. Then the character changed -- she became more secretive, buttoned up, trying to be perfect. … It was hard to get there. But once we got there, it almost wrote itself."
Rounding out the field was Pharrell Williams' celebratory retro-soul cut "Happy" from "Despicable Me 2." While Williams won't be going home with an Oscar, "Happy" has sold more than 1.3 million downloads in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, and the artist will on Monday release a new album, "G I R L."
The Oscar song race was not without controversy. Missing from Oscar contention tonight was "Alone Yet Not Alone," a religious hymn from the faith-based film of the same name that had originally been nominated.
The nomination of "Alone Yet Not Alone" raised questions from the start. The song by Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel is from a little-seen movie about 18th century colonists, but its outsider status wasn't why it attracted attention
Broughton is a well-known industry name who has multiple Emmy awards and a previous Oscar nomination for his score to "Silverado," but he has also served as a governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is a former chair of the music branch.
For the first time in its history, the academy in January revoked an Oscar nomination on ethical grounds, citing improper campaigning by Broughton. The academy said Broughton improperly emailed members of the branch during the voting period.
No song was chosen to take the place of "Alone Yet Not Alone."