At the time, the press laughed it off. How could the biggest popcorn movie of the year win an Oscar? But "Furious 7" wasn't just your average nitrous oxide-fueled action film; it was something more. "Furious 7" transcended its genre, hitting us right in the gut with kinetic thrills and raw emotion -- thanks, in part, to Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's "See You Again."
The poignancy of "See You Again" had a lot to do with its emotional impact on-screen. When you heard that subdued piano intro start to play, you knew what was about to come. Your stomach began to turn, and your eyes got misty. You felt that distinct discomfort and sadness start to wash over you, aided by Puth's soft tenor. It was time to say goodbye to Paul Walker's Brian O'Connor.
The powerful ending montage of the film didn't take advantage of Walker's untimely death. Rather, it earnestly paid tribute not just to the beloved actor and the character, but to the series as a whole. It was an incredibly moving moment, made even more compelling by Khalifa and Puth's pervasive lyrics.
"We've come a long way from where we began / Oh, I'll tell you all about it when I see you again."
Upon its release, "See You Again" mirrored the box office success of the film. The rap-and-piano ballad was the No. 1 song on Billboard's Hot 100 chart for 12 non-consecutive weeks, tying Eminem's "Lose Yourself" for the longest-running rap No. 1 hit in the country. It also peaked at No. 1 in more than a dozen countries worldwide.
The music video was viewed over 1 billion times on YouTube, shattering records. You couldn't go anywhere without hearing Puth's falsetto. It played in every cab and every bodega -- it was ubiquitous. However, "See You Again" was more than a catchy hook and a dope beat; it became a souvenir of the movie's poignant farewell to Walker.
Throughout awards season, "See You Again" looked poised to earn that coveted Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. Given its radio play alone, it was the clear frontrunner, and Universal even launched a global "For Your Consideration" campaign to help its chances. After it was recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at the 2016 Golden Globes, "See You Again" looked like a shoo-in for the Oscar nomination, even despite losing the Globe to Sam Smith's Bond theme "Writing's On The Wall."
However, today (Jan. 14), Oscar voters put the kibosh on the reign of "See You Again" when they didn’t award the track a nomination in the Best Original Song category. And it's a damn shame.
I keep going back to what Diesel said all those months ago: "unless the Oscars don't want to be relevant ever." Well, do they? For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated an all-white group of acting nominees. The glaring lack of diversity among nominees has long been the status quo -- white men have dominated Hollywood since its inception -- but we shouldn't accept it as such.
Not to mention, the Academy has always honored prestige over popularity. This year's nominees for Best Original Song are no different.
The nominees include Smith's Golden Globe winner "Writing’s On The Wall," Lady Gaga and Diane Warren's "Til It Happens To You" from "The Hunting Ground," The Weeknd's "Earned It" from "Fifty Shades of Grey," J. Ralph and Antony’s "Manta Ray" from "Racing Extinction," and David Lang's "Simple Song #3" from "Youth."
As is commonplace with this category, each of these songs carry a powerful message and a certain prestige. Even "Earned It" is a departure for R&B croomer The Weeknd, whose lyrics are often a hotbed for vice and misogyny. "See You Again" undoubtedly has a message, but does it have the prestige? Khalifa is a charismatic rapper who fancies himself a weed connoisseur. Meanwhile, Puth is a young newcomer to the industry who's worked with the likes of Lil Wayne, Meghan Trainor and Selena Gomez.
It's not that the Academy hasn't honored hip-hop in the past; it's that they so often don't. Eminem became the first-ever MC to take home the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Lose Yourself" in 2002, 74 years after the ceremony's inception. Three years later, Three 6 Mafia again set a new mark, becoming the first hip-hop group to take home the same honor for "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp." And just last year, Common and John Legend took home the Oscar for their song "Glory," from "Selma," a film that was all but ignored by the Academy in the major categories.
At this point, we know that Academy voters are markedly less diverse than they should be. That is, the Academy is mainly old, white and male. (Back in 2012, Oscar voters had a median age of 62.) They're also not so great about engaging with the material before casting their votes. Much like in real life, some voters just kind of vote for the ones that sound the best.
So, no. The Academy isn't trying to be relevant, Vin -- but they should be. The Oscars should embrace what makes songs like "See You Again" so special: hope. At its core, "See You Again" is a beautiful reminder that grief is never indomitable. It's a universal message. If the Oscars want to truly represent the best of what cinema has to offer, then they should acknowledge the intimate connection between art and those who consume it.
"See You Again" transcended its medium. It transcended that film. It deserved to be recognized for its impact around the world -- and for its impact on us.