As the 89th Annual Academy Awards are set to premier this Sunday, its no surprise that this year is about more than just films, it’s about the music too. Let’s take a look at some of the songs to grace the big screen this year and win nominations for the category “Music (Original Song)”.
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land
Music by: Justin Hurwitz
Lyric by: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
The first nomination in this category goes to La La Land’s “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” performed by Emma Stone in the film. At the forefront are the lyricists, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who were excited to get the opportunity to work with Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz, who already had a majority of the score completed. When discussing how “Audition” was written, Pasek said in an interview with Deadline, “Damien had written a story about Mia’s aunt, who inspired her because she lived a kind of wild, dangerous, a little crazy life, where she took insane risks and pursued the seemingly impossible, and that was a source of inspiration for her. And drawing from all of those inspirational pieces of source material, we began to craft and lyricize what Damien had laid out for us, and tried to find the specifics along the way”. The two of them did not disappoint as two of the songs from the film are nominated in this category.
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” from Trolls
Music and Lyric by: Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, and Karl Johan Schuster
We’ve seen Justin Timberlake take home 4 Emmys and 9 Grammys as well as pen songs for the Oscar and Golden Globe Nominated film Inside Llewyn Davis. This year he’s back at it again, merging hit songs to blockbuster films. Having starred in the animated musical film Trolls, Timberlake sprinkled his his pop genius onto the films soundtrack. “Can’t Stop The Feeling” is his first Oscar nomination and showed how a pop song can gain major recognition during awards season. In an interview with Deadline, Timberlake expressed that “Trolls is a musical and that was the most challenging part in writing [the song]… the movie itself felt like a pop song and we wanted it to feel that way all the way through… The song itself had to service this huge moment in the plot and also speak to the characters, (plus) we wanted the song to also work outside of the movie itself. Maybe we kinda put that kind of pressure on ourselves, but that’s how we were thinking about it, and it just all came together”. Not only is this song up for an Oscar, it’s also got the power to make you get up and dance!
“City of Stars” from La La Land
Music by: Justin Hurwitz
Lyric by: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
La La Land’s second nomination for Original Song goes to “City of Stars” which was performed by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as the main melody for the film. Having already won at the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, “City of Stars” is a high contender to take home the Oscar.
“The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story
Music and Lyric by: J. Ralph and Sting
A documentary such as Jim: The James Foley Story hits close to home for any human being. James Foley was a photojournalist covering the Syrian Civil War when he was abducted and later beheaded by ISIS in August 2014. As the documentary was underway, two lyricists and musicians teamed up to create one of the most touching pieces of music for the film. Out of this collaboration between J. Ralph and Sting came “The Empty Chair” whose nomination for an Academy Award has deeply humbled them both. Sting stated in an interview with Billboard that, “the stakes are higher when you’re writing about a person who really existed, a person with family and friends you want to honor… I’m glad I found the metaphor of the empty chair. I said no at first [when Ralph asked]. I said ‘This is beyond my powers.’ I curated the song from what [Jim’s] family and friends said about him. It’s their song”. It is no doubt that the lyrics in this song send a powerful message and are well deserving of an Oscar nomination.
“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana
Music and Lyric by: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda is no stranger to music. The creator of one of the most popular broadway musicals, Hamilton, he also places on high on the list of possible contenders to take home an Oscar this year. Having written the album for Disney’s newest animated film, Moana, Miranda found that going back to his roots to write the films main song wasn’t that difficult at all. The lead female role, Moana, needed her “I Want” song to delve deeper into her struggles about finding herself. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Miranda said “I think you always look for yourself in the characters you’re writing for, and for me, the thing that resonated about Moana the most was that notion of a calling, of something that you’d be doing if no one was looking. You’d be doing it if no one cared. For Moana, that’s the ocean. Every path on her island leads her back to the ocean, and it’s not that she doesn’t like where she lives. She loves her family. She loves her island. She loves her way of life. And yet there’s still this calling, so you begin to kind of question what it is. And I related to that. As someone who wanted a life in this business, it looked so far away from 200th Street, where I grew up. That’s what I related to, and that’s sort of the genesis of the song for me”. And if Miranda does take home an Oscar, he will become the youngest person to accomplish an EGOT. Having previously won an Emmy, 2 Grammy Awards, and 3 Tony Awards the only one left is an Oscar. Here’s to hoping that Miranda can take home the prize!
Although Hidden Figures was nominated for Best Picture, the phenomenal soundtrack was written by Pharrell Williams who also produced the film. Pharrell performed on 8 of the 10 tracks which featured Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, and Janelle Monáe as well as being nominated at the Golden Globes for Best Original Score. And with exciting songs such as “Surrender” with Lalah Hathaway and Pharrell, “Apple” with Alicia Keys and Pharrell, and “Jalapeno” with Janelle Monáe and Pharrell there was no shortage of great hits. But, my honorable mention for Original Song goes to “Isn’t This The World” with Janelle Monáe which perfectly captures the message of the film and the struggles these women faced in their professional careers.
You can watch the 89th Academy Awards this Sunday, February 26, at 8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT. Feel free to check out other nominees up for an Oscar and predict who you think could go home with an award!