H.E.R. brought the themes and even subject of the film “Judas and the Black Messiah” into the performance of her Oscar-nominated song “Fight for You” on the Academy Awards’ pre-show telecast, “Into the Spotlight,” Sunday. Watch it below.
The singer-songwriter started the number off at a drum kit before moving out in front of her band, soon joined by a large phalanx of beret- (and mask-) wearing dancers styled to resemble the Black Panthers. The circular platform at the center of the stage atop the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures showed video images of Fred Hampton, whose betrayal and murder are at the heart of “Judas.” Twin banners bearing the message “Power of the people” were unfurled on either side of the platform.
The singer is nominated for best original song for the theme, along with collaborators D’Mile and Tiara Thompson.
All five nominated songs this year are being performed on the 90-minute pre-show, instead of on the awards show. “Fight for You” is one of four that were all pre-recorded on the terrace of the soon-to-open Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. A fifth song, “Husavik,” from “Eurovision Song Contest,” was filmed in the city of Husavik in Iceland, with Molly Sanden leading a children’s choir from that city.
The other nominated songs are “Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (performed by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste), “Io Si (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)” (performed by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini) and “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami…” (performed by Leslie Odom Jr.).
The late ’60s/early ’70s soul style of “Fight for You,” though it has contemporary touches, was designed to match the period of a film that dramatizes Fred Hampton being betrayed by an FBI informant that has infiltrated the Panthers.
“There’s not much that separates that time and that story from what’s going on right now with the Black Lives Matter movement in the Black community,” H.E.R. told Variety in a recent interview. “I wanted to create a universal message that represented what is still happening today and how that connects two generations. We’re passing the torch and continuing on Hampton’s work.”