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From viral dance hit to Oscar winner, RRR's 'Naatu Naatu' has a big night

In a field full of heavy hitters — including Lady Gaga, Rihanna and perennial nominee Diane Warren — RRR's "Naatu Naatu" won best original song at Sunday's Academy Awards, becoming the first-ever song from an Indian film to win the prize.

Songwriters M.M. Keeravani and Chandrabose received the Oscar statuettes, but the success of "Naatu Naatu" had many authors, from the stars who danced to it in RRR (N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan) to the vocalists who performed it (Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava) to the choreographer who helped make its video a viral sensation (Prem Rakshith). Unlike its fellow nominees for best original song, "Naatu Naatu" was central to the film from which it came; the song pops up an hour into RRR, soundtracking a fierce dance battle between the film's main characters and a group of stuffy British colonizers.

"Naatu Naatu" was widely considered the frontrunner in this year's field of nominees, which included Lady Gaga's "Hold My Hand" (from Top Gun: Maverick), Rihanna's "Lift Me Up" (from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Sofia Carson's "Applause" (from Tell It Like a Woman) and Son Lux, David Byrne and Mitski's "This Is a Life" (from Everything Everywhere All At Once). "Applause" was written by Diane Warren, who missed out on a competitive Oscar win for the 14th time without a victory.

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Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson is a host, writer and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist and guest host on All Songs Considered. Thompson also co-hosts the daily NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created with NPR's Linda Holmes in 2010. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)