As Emmy Awards season begins, we take an overall look at the nominations in all of the music categories, including the ones for original composition (for a series, for a movie or miniseries, for theme, and original song), for music direction, and the new sixth category, for music supervision. Music supervisors are hailing this decision by the Television Academy to begin honoring their work, which for the most part involves finding the right song for the right scene. But there is a lot more in this story, including surprising nominations for documentary scores and even for Lady Gaga’s half-time performance at the Super Bowl — and a brief look at what highly touted songs weren’t nominated.
As you know, I tend to wax nostalgic about classic TV music of the ’60s and ’70s. But there’s a lot of really exciting work being done now in television, too, and much of it was showcased in a Television Academy concert called “Words & Music” Thursday night, June 29, at the Academy’s Saban Media Center in North Hollywood. Music from Homeland, Luke Cage, Empire, Underground, Feud, Narcos, This Is Us, The Americans, The Good Fight and many others was played live by a 27-piece orchestra with a number of vocal soloists. I reviewed the evening here in a piece for Variety.
The Television Academy likes to spread the wealth, as seen in this year’s crop of nominations in Emmy’s five musical categories: music for series, music for longform TV (miniseries or movies), music direction, title themes, and original songs. Nearly half of all the nominees are first-timers to the party, and that’s always nice to see. (Fans of the music for ultra-popular shows like Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Downton Abbey and others were disappointed when those scores failed to receive a nod, although all have been past nominees or winners.) And the song category has special zing this year: Alan Menken could become an EGOT and Diane Warren has achieved something no previous songwriter has. Here’s a rundown and quick analysis. I’ll be visiting each of these scores later during Emmy season for Variety.
One of my most challenging, but also fascinating, annual Variety assignments is looking at every nominee in all five Emmy music categories and finding something informative to say about each. (For example, Jeff Beal’s Hebraic-flavored theme for The Dovekeepers used a soprano, a duduk and Middle Eastern percussion). We then assemble a chart examining all 30 (including such details as their Emmy record, how many past wins or whether they’re a first-time nominee). And the chart is featured at the Society of Composers & Lyricists’ annual Emmy reception, which is a source of pride for us at Variety. It never looks as good in the online version. Here’s what it looks like in print.
The 2014-2015 Emmy Award nominees were unveiled this morning. Emmy divides TV music into five categories: original music for a series, original music for a movie/miniseries/special, music direction, music and lyrics (the song category) and main-title theme music. This year’s crop is especially diverse — everything from Penny Dreadful to Transparent — but is equally notable for what wasn’t nominated (songs from Empire or Galavant, for example). Here is a complete rundown with a bit of perspective. (And if Bruce Broughton wins for Texas Rising, his will mark a record 11th Emmy win.) Winners will be announced Sept. 19.
This was a challenge: Trying to anticipate what might be nominated for the song category in the 2014-15 Emmy Awards. You can never really tell what the Television Academy music branch will decide. I finally called songwriters from Empire, Galavant, Glee, Inside Amy Schumer and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt… that is, Jim Beanz, Glenn Slater, Darren Criss, Schumer herself and Jeff Richmond. Here’s the story I wrote for this week’s Variety. I’d be delighted if all of these were honored… but you can never really tell.
The hottest topic in Hollywood music circles for the past two weeks has been the issue of allowing music supervisors to join the TV Academy. (These are the folks who work with the producers to find the right songs to incorporate into the narrative, especially in drama series.) It probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to the average viewer, or even the average craftsperson in television, but it’s very divisive, especially within the composing community — many of whom are angry about the fact that the music-branch governors refused to submit the topic to a vote by the membership (“we were elected to lead, not poll,” they said in a widely circulated email). In a story for this week’s Variety, I report on what’s happened and explore what might happen.
Ian Fraser, whose extraordinary musicianship and good taste lent a polished, classy sound to many of television’s great musical specials, died this morning at his home after a long battle with cancer. Anyone who knew Ian adored him. He held the record for the most Emmy wins (11) and nominations (32 total) within the music categories over the years. I wrote the obituary for Variety, drawing in part on a video interview I did with him for the Archive of American Television in 2012. Julie Andrews and songwriter Leslie Bricusse, two dear friends, were happy to contribute reminiscences to an appreciation I’ve since written of this delightful and immensely talented Englishman.
Every year I create a full-page chart for Variety that looks, in shorthand form, at all of the nominees in the five Emmy music categories. It never comes out well online — it’s designed to be a chart!
Luckily, our friends at Variety created a large-scale version, which debuted last night at the annual reception for nominees, co-sponsored by the Television Academy and the Society of Composers and Lyricists. Here it is:
And here is the original story I wrote after the nominees were announced July 10.