The Oscars might be the film world’s biggest night, but this year, music was front and center too.
The best original song nominations and Academy Awards performers included two of the biggest pop stars in the world in Rihanna and Lady Gaga, not to mention previous winner David Byrne, Diane Warren up for a 14th time, and Golden Globe victors (and eventual 2023 Oscar champs) M. M. Keeravani and Chandrabose. We also had Lenny Kravitz soundtracking the “in memoriam” segment, Austin Butler nominated for playing rock legend Elvis Presley, and Halle Bailey introducing the first trailer for Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.
It was only confirmed earlier Sunday that Gaga would sing her nominated song “Hold My Hand,” and her onstage intro explained why she decided to perform after all. “I wrote this song with my friend BloodPop for the film Top Gun: Maverick in my studio basement,” she said. “It’s deeply personal for me, and I think that we all need each other. We need a lot of love to walk through this life, and we all need a hero sometimes. There’s heroes all around us, in unassuming places, but you might find that you can be your own hero even if you feel broken inside.”
But beyond what you saw onscreen, Billboard was inside Hollywood’s Dolby Theater on Sunday night (March 12) and at the Governors Ball afterparty to cover all the action in person, and we’ve rounded up seven music moments the cameras didn’t catch — and one moment the in-person crowd missed.
A Round of ‘Applause’ for Hollywood Magic
The first performance of the night was from 14-time nominee Diane Warren, who accompanied singer Sofia Carson on the song “Applause” from the anthology film Tell It Like a Woman. The performance was introduced by Woman star Cara Delevingne, but what the TV audience couldn’t see while the actress was onscreen was that a full production was being set up on the stage, including Warren’s grand piano, a string section and a full choir. It all looked like a well-oiled machine when an elegant Carson sauntered onstage in an ethereal cape dress, but a lot went into the brisk two-minute performance. When the show cut to commercial break, Warren took a small bow and got a lot of love from the Academy audience — which clearly loves the celebrated songwriter.
‘Everything’ Out of Nowhere All at Once
The Oscars’ secret weapon on Sunday night was a multi-leveled, dynamic stage that allowed a lot of varied setups without a lot of chaos visible to the in-house audience. The best deployment of the stage was for David Byrne, Son Lux and Stephanie Hsu’s performance of the nominated Everything Everywhere All at Once song “This Is a Life.” The performers started out below the stage and then all of a sudden, they rose up from the depths along with the band’s instruments and a troupe of white-clad dancers, adding to the overall surprise factor of the offbeat song.
Not ‘Part of Your World’
The audience was very excited when Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy came out to present a brand-new trailer for the live-action Little Mermaid remake — but that excitement soon fizzled when Bailey informed the Dolby crowd that the musical preview wouldn’t be shown in the theater. Apparently, the VIP crowd didn’t get all the perks of the night.
Gaga’s Band Lovefest
Lady Gaga kept things simple for a last-minute performance of her nominated song “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick, wearing a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers with no makeup for the mostly unplugged jam session. She stuck around onstage once the show went to commercial break and gave all four members of her band hugs as the crowd gave her a standing ovation. Then she blew the audience a kiss, waved and rushed backstage to get back into glam for her category to be announced.
Baby On Board
The Oscars crew wasn’t leaving anything to chance for Rihanna’s performance, for which the pop superstar had to make her way to the stage in the dark while Black Panther: Wakanda Forever star Danai Gurira introduced her. Before Rihanna performed “Lift Me Up,” she was accompanied by a half-dozen crew members to center stage, likely taking extra care since she’s currently expecting her second baby with A$AP Rocky, as revealed during last month’s Super Bowl halftime show. And when she wrapped up, the half-dozen assistants were back with flashlights to lead her backstage.
A Light Moment for Lenny
Lenny Kravitz soundtracked the night’s “in memoriam” tribute with a subdued performance of “Calling All Angels” appropriate for the gravity of the segment. What fans at home didn’t see, though, is once the tribute ended in complete silence and Kravitz got the all-clear that the show had gone to commercial break, he stood up and gave the crowd a big wave and a smile. While the “in memoriam” segment is never really about the performer, it was nice to see Lenny get some love for the set.
Some Accessories for the Afterparty
Coming out on top over all the star power in the best original song category were M. M. Keeravaani and Chandrabose, who wrote the song “Naatu Naatu” for the blockbuster Indian film RRR. After a high-energy performance and a Carpenters-inspired acceptance speech, Billboard spotted the duo arriving triumphantly to the Oscars Governors Ball afterparty, each holding an Oscar and ready to get their hardware engraved inside.