By Steve Pond
LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - After years of jerking around the original-song category on the Oscars telecast, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is giving the nominees a night of their own with a live concert that will showcase their music three days before the big show, the Academy told TheWrap.
The concert will be held at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus on Thursday, February 27, and is not expected to be televised.
A person familiar with the AMPAS Board of Governors' thinking told TheWrap that it was too early to tell whether the concert meant that the Academy was ditching performances of the nominated songs from its telecast altogether.
Music Branch governors Charles Fox, Arthur Hamilton and David Newman said that a symphony orchestra will perform a suite of up to 10 minutes in length from each nominated score, with composers acting as conductors. Artists nominated in the Best Original Song category will be invited to perform as well.
With the concert taking place just before the Oscar show, most nominees are expected to be in town.
"This concert is truly a milestone in Oscar music history," the governors said, "placing Oscar-nominated music center stage in what will hopefully become an annual event."
The nominated songs have been a bone of contention on the Oscar show for years, with many of the producers privately grumbling as the music branch has passed over songs by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and Cher in favor of lesser-known artists and films.
Songs have been featured in full some years, in medley form other years, and in 2010 not at all.
For the show last February, producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron chose "the music of the movies" as their theme - but even so, their Oscars featured full performances of only two of the nominated songs, Adele's James Bond theme "Skyfall" and "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" from "Ted," which was co-written and performed by the Oscar show host Seth MacFarlane.
The "Les Miserables" nominee "Suddenly" was performed by Hugh Jackman in a severly truncated version as part of a "Les Miz" medley, while nominated songs from "Life of Pi" and "Chasing Ice" were dispensed with using film clips.
The nominated scores are occasionally performed on the show, but just as often heard only in the briefest of snippets. On more than one occasion, the scores have been used to back particularly cringe-worthy dance numbers.
Clearly, adding a concert will make it easier to justify leaving the songs out of the telecast entirely, in the same way that the creation of the Governors Awards in 2009 allowed the Academy to move the full presentation of honorary Academy Awards off the Oscar show.
Still, if voters nominate a song as high-profile as "Skyfall," it's hard to imagine the producers passing up the chance to feature it on the show - meaning that the decision of how to feature nominated music on the telecast is likely to remain a year-by-year choice of the show's producers.
New rules approved by the governors last year guarantee that five songs will be nominated. In previous years, the song-nominating process resulted in between two and five songs, with a full slate of five being nominated only three times between 2005 and 2011.
Despite being one of the most maligned Oscar categories, though, the song category has in the past recognized such exemplary and varied songs as Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia," Glen Hansard's and Marketa Irglova's "Falling Slowly," Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and Bob Dylan's "Things Have Changed" - not to mention such past champions as "The Way You Look Tonight," "Over the Rainbow," "Moon River" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside."