Despite what the Academy Awards would have you believe, original songs in films can have a profound impact on the cinematic experience. This is true even if the singer/songwriter is not an A-List celebrity. J. Ralph and Anohni's "Manta Ray" from Racing Extinction would be my choice for the best original song written for film in 2015. The pair present a heartbreaking ballad from the perspective of Mother Earth mourning the loss of her children due to mass extinction.
Anonhi's voice is so emotive. When she sings "my children are dying" throughout the song, you feel compelled to act. A mother in this much pain over the loss of a child would be noticed; why don't we offer the same respect for Mother Earth when species are dying off every day?
Anonhi becomes the voice of the worst case scenario for conservationists. If we don't change the impact of our behavior on the environment, it will be too late to mourn its loss.
J. Ralph's simple arrangement evokes a more sophisticated version of the protest song. The repetition of rhythmic piano patterns under key portions of the song embeds the most significant imagery of the song in the listener's mind. It's a perfect complement to Racing Extinction's documentary narrative of undercover activists fighting against the human destruction of the environment.
The music video for "Manta Ray" borrows captivating microscopic video of plankton and other species from The Secret Life of Plankton. If the lyrics weren't enough to get the message across, the clever edit of the video should make the message clear.