Book U2 frontman Bono for the Grammy Awards and perhaps only a Beatle or a Rolling Stone could upstage him. At the Oscars, however, the rock 'n' roll humanitarian had nothing on a Disney princess.
Idina Menzel stole the Dolby Theatre stage Sunday with "Let It Go," the diva belter from Disney's smash "Frozen," which would go on to win the Oscar a few minutes later for original song.
"To our fellow nominees, you are all rock stars — literally," said Kristen Anderson-Lopez as she accepted the Oscar with her husband, Robert Lopez.
Indeed, the "Let It Go" competition included U2, hitmaker Pharrell Williams and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O.
The winners dedicated the honor to their two daughters and "the hope," Anderson-Lopez said, "that you never let fear or shame keep you from celebrating the unique people that you are."
But it was the film academy that kept the audience from celebrating all of "Let It Go." Three verses of the song were axed from the telecast, including the all-important, tough-as-nails transition that "the cold never bothered me anyway."
That was puzzling, as this year's telecast was hyped as one of the most pop-focused Oscars in recent history, even booking Pink to sing "Over the Rainbow" in a tribute to the 75th anniversary of "The Wizard of Oz."
Pop's Karen O teamed with Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig to perform "The Moon Song" from the film "Her." She sang, tucked into a graceful red dress, while he strummed, sporting red socks, in a performance more intimate than any seen on the Oscars since perhaps Elliott Smith performed his song "Miss Misery" from 1997's "Good Will Hunting."
U2's "Ordinary Love" from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" is the type of slow-building arena rock number that Bono & Co. can churn out with ease, but the band muted the song Sunday night. On record, gospel-tinged electronics give way to a giant chorus. At the Oscars, the Edge's signature twinkling guitar notes were replaced by far-less distinct acoustic strumming.
A far more stirring moment occurred earlier when Darlene Love broke into a few bars of "His Eye on the Sparrow," giving a brief yet impassioned take onstage after "20 Feet From Stardom," a film about the ups-and-downs of backup singers, including Love, won for documentary feature. That suggests Oscar would do well to loosen its tux a little — as Williams seemed to understand: His light-stepping "Happy" was the nominated song that shone most brightly on the Oscar stage.
But the category's only real controversy was over a song that wasn't performed at all. There were originally five nominees, the fifth being the little known hymn "Alone Yet Not Alone," from the faith-based film of the same name. The song was ruled ineligible after its composer, a former governor of the academy, was judged to have breached the organization's ethics by promoting the song to his fellow academy members.