U2 Makes Big Oscar Bid With New 'Mandela' Song

Suzy Byrne
Yahoo Movies

U2 has returned with its first new tune in three years. And with it, the iconic rockers could be cashing in on Oscar gold.

"It's a new U2 song, it's from the soundtrack of 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,' and it's called 'Ordinary Love,'" the Irish band posted on Facebook Thursday, along with the new lyric video of the full song — which was hailed as a frontrunner for Best Original Song for the 2014 Academy Awards before it was even released. It features images of the smiling South African activist and former president, who, at 95, is the subject of the biopic.

The film, which hits theaters next week, stars Idris Elba as the peace proponent and Naomie Harris as his wife, Winnie. It chronicles Mandela's early life, education, and the nearly three decades he spent in prison before becoming president and helping end apartheid. The band, which has had a long friendship with Mandela was inspired to write a song after seeing early footage from the film.

It didn't take much to get U2 on board for the soundrack, according to Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinsein Company is distributing the film.

[Related: Nelson Mandela — Unlikely Action Hero]

"Over the years U2 and I have had a superb relationship including partnering on the Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning song 'The Hands That Built America' for Martin Scorsese's 'Gangs of New York,'" the mogul said.

"When I asked them to consider writing a song for 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,' it was the fastest 'yes' I have ever received. The band saw various cuts of the film over the summer and worked diligently to write a song that truly reflects Nelson Mandela. I think they did a brilliant job honoring the man and the leader they have known for over 20 years."

Watch the trailer, which features "Ordinary Love":

The history between U2 and Mandela is a rich one. In 2002, they worked closely together on the leader's 46664 anti-AIDS initiative. Bono partnered with the late Joe Strummer and Dave Stewart to write a song about the politico, which was sung at the close of a benefit concert in Robben Island, South Africa, the next year. Bono has also attended several galas for Mandela's foundation. There is already buzz that this new song — which has a classic U2 sound and earned about 330,000 Facebook likes overnight — could score the Hall of Fame group its elusive Best Original Song Oscar. Fuse's Joe Lynch wrote, "Listen to it here and ask yourself if U2 aren't a shoo-in for the Best Original Song Oscar this time around."

Tom O'Neill, who keeps track of these types of things for the Hollywood awards site GoldDerby.com, is optimistic as well.

"U2 has an excellent chance to return to the Oscars race," he tells Yahoo Movies. "Look who's behind 'Mandela's' campaign — Harvey Weinstein, the ultimate Oscar happy warrior, who fearlessly tub-thumps all of his contenders.

"U2 has been nominated in the past, so they are proven Academy darlings, but they weren’t eligible in recent years. Now they’re in the race with the kind of music voters usually adore — a song with soaring vocals and a sweeping scope. Even better: it’s featured in an inspiring biopic about a heroic figure. That makes it feel important."

So far that Oscar has been elusive to the band. In 2003, U2's "The Hands That Built America" won the Golden Globe and was thought to be a lock for an Academy Award. However, they lost in an upset to Eminem's "Lose Yourself" from "8 Mile." Then, in 2010, the band was dealt a snub when its song "Winter" from the soundtrack of Jim Sheridan’s "Brothers” was omitted from the nominees list.

U2 has contributed several other original songs to movie soundtracks, including the theme to "GoldenEye" (sung by Tina Turner), "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" from "Batman Forever," and "Stay" from the 1993 Wim Wenders film "Faraway, So Close." Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. also redid the "Mission: Impossible" theme for the Tom Cruise franchise, while Bono teamed with singer-songwriter Gavin Friday for "In the Name of the Father" and "In America,” both helmed by fellow Irishman Jim Sheridan.

U2's first album of new material in five years is slated to drop in April, but there's no word yet whether "Ordinary Love" will be one of the featured tracks.

The new tune, however, will officially go on sale the day the movie opens — Nov. 29 — though the more important date to remember could be March 2, which is Oscar night.