“La La Land” may feel like old awards news, but it still has one last chance to get called out — correctly — at an awards podium. The music from the film is nominated in all three of the Grammys’ Visual Media categories — only the third time in the last 10 years that Grammy voters cited the same film for compilation soundtrack, score and song.
The “La La Land” music is contending in two of those categories against “Moana,” which may feel like a rerun of last year’s Oscar music competition. But it’s also up against some possible future Academy Awards contenders, like the songs from “Fifth Shades Darker” and “Marshall.” That oddity is a result of differing eligibility periods: the Oscars are strictly by calendar year and the Grammys are drawn from October 2016 to September 2017 releases.
The apples-and-oranges mixture in these categories extends to mixed media: Since TV is a factor here, too, Justin Hurwitz’s “La La Land” score will compete against Ramin Djawadi’s music for season 7 of “Game of Thrones.”
And the compilation soundtrack category is more of a mixed bag than ever this year. It’s the place where music supervisors pick up the trophies, primary for song-driven compilation albums. But curated collections like the “Baby Driver” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” albums will compete against the song scores for “La La Land” and “Moana.” Will voters favor the original content of a musical, or think that Edgar Wright’s knack for picking ‘70s songs as the bed for action choreography is just as great an accomplishment?
Age, burnout and even backlash could work against “La La Land,” which might have been favored for a sweep if it’d come up in all these categories a year earlier. It might be a strong favorite only in the song category, since “City of Stars” won the Oscar for original song for composer Justin Hurwitz and lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Grammy voters are unlikely to overturn that decision in favor of “Moana’s” “How Far I’ll Go,” which was nominated but lost at the Academy Awards — unless Lin-Manuel Miranda finally prevails — and they almost certainly won’t do it for another 2016 tune, Sia’s “Never Give Up,” from “Lion,” which Oscar music-branch voters bypassed altogether but snuck in here.
The two 2017 songs that “City of Stars” faces are the Taylor Swift/Zayn duet “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” from “Fifty Shades Darker” (by Swift, Jack Antonoff and Sam Dew) and “Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall” by veteran movie tunesmith Diane Warren and Common (performed by Andra Day and Common). Awards prognosticators will see these as possible Oscar nominees when those are announced Jan. 23. But neither is seen as a runaway Oscar front-runner, which may leave the Ryan Gosling-sung number with just enough Grammy heat to get one more award. Then again, if Recording Academy members just opt on the side of the biggest hit, it wouldn’t be for the first time, and that would favor Swift, who’d be getting an early taste of the love she’ll get much more in a year, when her “Reputation” album is eligible.
In the other two Visual Media categories, Grammy voters could be more likely to decide it’s time to reward something fresher or more unusual. In the score category, any such impulse would bode well for Djawadi’s “Game of Thrones” music. This marks Djawadi’s second Grammy nomination (he was nominated in 2009 for his “Iron Man” score) but his first for his “Game of Thrones” music. In a rarity for instrumental scores, Grammy voters can follow the money as well as the art: Djawadi’s “Game of Thrones Concert Experience” was right up there with the rock stars in terms of cash haul, ranking 43rd on Pollstar’s list of the top 100 grossing tours for the first half of 2017 (with $13.5 million in 27 dates). Commerciality aside, finally rewarding a prestige TV series could be a sweet carve-out for the Grammys in 2018.
And in the soundtrack category, few song compilations outside of the Quentin Tarantino oeuvre have attracted as much attention for their importance to the film as the mix tape that is “Baby Driver,” which could well banish “La La Land” to Neverland.
Still, there’s no slighting the significance of “La La’s” nod in all three Visual Media categories marking only the third time in the last decade that’s happened, with “Frozen” achieving that honor in 2014 (and winning for song and compilation), preceded by “The Great Gatsby” in 2013.
The score nod for “Game of Thrones” marks only the second time in the last decade that a TV score album has joined the ranks of the generally higher profile movie scores in that category. Last year, both volumes of the trendy, synth-driven “Stranger Things” were nominated.
In that category, again, three of the five nominees are from movies released last year: Johann Johannsson’s “Arrival,” Justin Hurwitz’s “La La Land” and the “Hidden Figures” trio of Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams and Benjamin Wallfisch. Besides Djawadi’s “Game of Thrones Season 7”, the other pick from the calendar year is Hans Zimmer’s “Dunkirk.” Zimmer is a previous four-time Grammy winner for scores including “The Dark Knight” and “The Lion King.”
The “Arrival” nomination stands out because the score was disqualified from Oscar consideration last year on the basis of the extensive use of other, pre-existing music in the film (Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight”). Grammy voters have often acknowledged Oscar-disqualified scores in past years (including last year’s “The Revenant,” “Birdman” in 2015, “Black Swan” in 2011, and “There Will Be Blood” in 2009).
Again this year, video games were shut out of the score soundtrack category. To date, only one (Austin Wintory’s “Journey”) has been Grammy nominated, in 2012.