Original songs for movies is a world unto itself, as we continue to discover. This year’s awards-worthy movie songs were covered in several Variety stories spread over the past two months: discovering that Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber had collaborated on a new song for Cats, Oct. 24; our early guesses as to who might make the final Oscar and Golden Globe lists, published Oct. 29; an overview of this year’s Disney movie songs, several likely to make those final lists, on Dec. 4; and interviewing Diane Warren, Pharrell Williams, Cynthia Erivo and Regina Spektor about their current work, Dec. 6.
As always on Oscar-nominations-announcement day, I have written a kind of “instant analysis” of the song and score categories — who was nominated, who was not, and a bit about the background of the nominees. The lead of my story — the fact that two major pop names, Diane Warren and Jonny Greenwood — remained intact even though editors chose to highlight a “Taylor Swift snub” in the headline (something I have nothing to do with). But that’s about attracting readers to the story. The story itself is solid and filled with data about John Williams’ 51 nominations, Greenwood’s past history with the Academy, Warren’s failure to win despite eight previous nods, and whose recent wins may be a factor in whether they win again. It’s on Variety‘s website today; I will be writing new stories on the topic for print over the next two weeks.
An astonishing number of major pop and rock artists are now contributing songs to documentaries. This year, nearly a fifth of all the songs entered for Oscar consideration came from non-fiction films, and some of those were written and/or performed by among the biggest names in music. For the lead story in this week’s special Variety Contenders issue, I interviewed several of those artists, including Sting (now Oscar-nominated with co-writer J. Ralph for a song in Jim: The James Foley Story), Tori Amos, Common, Trent Reznor and Diane Warren.
For Variety‘s second installment in our series on potential Oscar nominees in the music categories, I interviewed five composers, seven songwriters, a music supervisor and a director. Our main story features John Williams, in his first interview offering details of his new Star Wars score, as well as Hateful Eight music supervisor Mary Ramos talking about Ennio Morricone’s music; and The 33 director Patricia Riggen discussing the late James Horner’s contributions to her film. I also wrote four of the six composer profiles (on Thomas Newman, Michael Giacchino, Carter Burwell and Brian Tyler) and half of the song story (including interviews with Spectre singer-songwriter Sam Smith and The Hunting Ground songwriters Diane Warren and Lady Gaga). And there’s still more to come!