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With Jennifer Hudson – also a best song performer – nodding affirmatively in the audience, Gaga said, “If you’re at home sitting on your couch, this is hard work. I’ve worked hard for a long time … it’s not about winning, but what it’s about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. It’s not about how many times you get rejected, it’s about how many times you stand up and are brave and keep on going.”
Earlier in the show, Lady Gaga and Cooper’s performance of “Shallow” yielded the perfect tone.
>> Watch a clip from the performance here
With no introduction, the pair walked hand-in-hand from their front row seats onto the stage, where a copper piano had been whisked by stagehands.
Cooper, dapper in a classic tux, sat on a stool and crooned his opening verse to Lady Gaga, who stood a few feet in front of him, their eyes locked. She slipped behind the piano for her intense portion of the song, nailing the vocal acrobatics during its bridge.
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To close their sensual performance, Cooper slid next to Lady Gaga on the piano bench. The twosome sat millimeters apart as they softly sang the closing lyrics, eyes closed and passion apparent.
Prior to the announcement of the winner, performances also came from most of the other best original song nominees. (Kendrick Lamar and SZA discussed performing the nominated “All the Stars” from the “Black Panther” soundtrack, but couldn’t due to scheduling issues.)
- Hudson belted the Diane Warren-penned power ballad, "I'll Fight." Clad in a black satin pantsuit with a flowing white train spread behind her, Hudson was typically robust, but unusually off-key during the rousing anthem.
- Bette Midler looked stunning in a sheer, flowered dress as she presented the tender "The Place Where Lost Things Go" from "Mary Poppins Returns." Backed by the song's co-writer, Marc Shaiman, on piano and a string section, Midler utilized well-placed breaths and graceful hand movements to infuse the song with drama. Her versatile voice radiated warmth, especially on the song's low closing note.
- Longtime partners Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings strummed acoustic guitars (an archtop for Rawlings) for "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings." Their harmonies powered the "yippie-ki-yay" chugger, written for "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" and performed in front of a picturesque canyon backdrop.