Justin Paul, one of the song’s lyricists, made a point to shout out public schools in the acceptance speech. “I was educated in public schools where arts and culture were valued and recognized and resourced,” he said. “And I’m so grateful to all my teachers who taught so much and gave so much to us.”
In any other year, his remarks might not be seen as a political statement. However, his comment comes at a time when Betsy DeVos, the recently confirmed secretary of education under the Trump administration, has taken heat from teachers’ unions and some charter school advocates.
“City of Stars” fought off competition both from within — in the form of “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” — and from the outside — with “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana,” “The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story,” and “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from “Trolls” also up for the prize.
“City of Stars,” which was composed by Justin Hurwitz with lyrics from Pasek and Justin Paul, is sung twice throughout the film. Ryan Gosling’s character Sebastian first belts it out solo on a dusk-lit pier, where it comes across as a more lonely ballad. It’s performed as a duet on the second refrain, with Gosling and Emma Stone signaling their love through the “rat-tat-tat” on their hearts.
“La La Land’s” music was also nominated for best original score, one of the movie’s record-equaling 14 nominations.
All of the best original song nominees were performed, with “La La Land” star John Legend taking over the live-performance duties for the song from Stone and Gosling. The other performers were Sting for “The Empty Chair,” Lin-Manuel Miranda and Auli’i Cravalho for “How Far I’ll Go,” and Justin Timberlake for “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”