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Grading Oscars’ Best Song Performances: Everyone Gets a Zzzzz

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The Academy Awards have been downplaying the show's musical honors since 2009, when producers decided to trim Best Song performances to save time (because having Justin Timberlake pretend to change the backdrop with an iPhone app is such a better use of precious live broadcast moments). But perhaps encouraged by the fact that a onetime Oscar winner who really likes to sing would take the stage this year, the show brought songs back. And they were really boring. So... yay?

Oscar performances are never flamboyant like the Grammys, so we didn't expect Gwyneth Paltrow to hoist herself up on a piano flanked by psychedelic puppets. But if only someone had done anything interesting, the four biggest musical moments (aside from Trent Reznor's not-so-surprising win for his score for "The Social Network") wouldn't have been such a snore.

Randy Newman
The worst part: The sound mixing was off, so Newman's goofy voice was drowned out by his piano and the other instruments.
The best part: The sound mixing was off, so Newman's goofy voice was drowned out by his piano and the other instruments.

Alan Menken, Mandy Moore, and Zachary Levi
The worst part: Awesome Mandy Moore had to share the stage with the guy from "Chuck."
The best part: Wait, the guy from "Chuck" can sing!? (Apparently he wouldn't mind making an album, too.)

A.R. Rahman and Florence Welch
The worst part: The fact that Florence + the Machine's Welch didn't get to sing one of her own songs -- but she held it down for Dido, who couldn't make the ceremony, and hopefully made a few new fans.
The best part: Rahman and Welch's big, ethereal voices blended perfectly together. This was The Amp's favorite of the four Best Song performances.

Gwyneth Paltrow
The worst part: Jennifer Hudson introduced her as "a singing sensation and country music's newest star." Really? With no album out? Newest star?
The best part: "Coming Home" from "Country Strong" is not Diddy-Dirty Money's "Coming Home," one of the most abysmal songs of 2010.

The PS 22 Chorus
The worst part: OK, these kids were clearly lip synching.
The best part: But they're way better at it than Britney Spears! These talented 10-year-olds from Staten Island only got a few seconds at the end of the broadcast to sing "Over the Rainbow," but they were totally adorable and endearing. Too bad they couldn't find a way to squeeze some of their more offbeat indie rock catalog into their performance -- if Arcade Fire ended the Grammys on "Ready to Start," someone should have let these kids bust out some Ariel Pink.

[Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images]

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