×

Common, Pasek and Paul, Diane Warren Reveal Inspiration Behind Oscar-Nominated Songs

On Thursday night, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Variety teamed up for a panel highlighting some of this year’s Oscar contenders for best original song.

Held at the L.A. Film School, the talk included Common and Diane Warren, who co-wrote “Marshall”s” “Stand Up For Something”; Taura Stinson, who co-wrote “Mudbound’s” “Mighty River”; and legendary songwriter Bill Withers. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote “The Greatest Showman” hit “This is Me,” also video chatted into the discussion.

All three songs are nominated in the best song category, alongside “Call Me By Your Name’s” “Mystery of Love,” written by Sufjan Stevens, and “Coco’s” “Remember Me,” written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.

During the panel, Common and Warren talked about the political and cultural relevance of their song, which has been embraced by #MeToo, ACLU and Everytown for Gun Safety.

Warren, who is nominated for her ninth best song Oscar, noted how the song’s political importance is relevant this week particularly in the wake of the shooting at a Florida high school. “Everyday it becomes more timely,” she said. “Look what those kids are doing right now, you see people standing up.”

Common said it’s been a dream to see people being so impacted by his work, and that he wrote his portion of the song in response to Donald Trump’s inauguration.

“So many people were down and I was like, ‘Man, we have the power as human beings to put the light out in the world, there’s no one man who can take us down, no government that can take us down,’ so this song for me was an outlet,” the musician said.

He agreed that the song was particularly impactful this week, and added that “last night I was watching the town hall on CNN and they were using ‘Stand Up for Something’ for the song…just to have art that’s connected with that is very important.”

Pasek and Paul, who last year won an Oscar for writing “La La Land’s” “City of Stars,” discussed the difference between that experience and working on “The Greatest Showman.” Paul said that on “La La Land,” the music had been entirely written by composer Justin Hurwitz before they signed on, so they were only in charge of the lyrics and had less control over the story.

“It was really about serving Damien [Chazelle]’s vision and Justin’s vision and on ‘Greatest Showman’ we really worked with [director] Michael Gracey over a period of three years developing these songs, throwing songs out and writing new songs, a more old fashioned approach to building a musical from the ground up,” Paul said.

The duo also talked about finding inspiration in “This is Me” singer Keala Settle, who started as more of background character before becoming the bearded lady and delivering the film’s signature song.

“For us, [writing] is really inspired by character and the character in this film is the bearded lady and this group of oddities, and that actor that plays her, who is Keala, and she has such a guts and a ferocity about her and that’s what inspired the song,” Pasek said. “It’s a song about identity and she really represents what the message is about.”

Stinson shared her inspiration for writing “Mighty River” as well. She added that she had performed on stage with Common during their 2015 Oscar rendition of “Glory,” and was so inspired by the experience she vowed to write her own song to be back in that room. For “Mudbound,” she said she needed to create a song that balanced the intensity of the film.

“If you’ve seen ‘Mudbound,’ you know the heaviness of it,” she said. “Just wanting to clean the palate because the movie was so heavy, you want to leave with something that’s a little bit more redemptive, a little bit more forgiving and hopefully setting us on the right path.”

More Music

  • Little Shop of Horrors review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Little Shop of Horrors'

    With its strains of kitschy doo-wop and its sci-fi B-movie inspirations, the quaint 1982 musical “Little Shop of Horrors” hardly seems a thing of modern-day revivalism, even despite its touches of S&M. Yet this year alone, not only is there an Off Broadway production of the blackly comic “Little Shop” featuring Jonathan Groff of Netflix’s [...]

  • BBC's Little Mix Talent Show to

    BBC's Little Mix Talent Show to Be Produced by Management Firm's New Shingle, ModestTV

    The BBC has confirmed its Little Mix talent show, which the pop band’s management firm, Modest!, will produce through a new banner, ModestTV. “Little Mix The Search” will be exec produced by Andrea Hamilton, who has partnered with the management outfit to launch the new operation. Her entertainment show credits include “The Voice” and “Strictly [...]

  • NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 15:

    Midland Turns L.A.'s Dormant Palomino Club Into a Honky-Tonk Brigadoon

    Would it be too much to ask Midland to give up its burgeoning-country-star status and move west to become the humble house band at a newly reopened Palomino club in L.A.? It doesn’t seem a lot to beseech for a good cause, however unlucrative it might be for the group’s fortunes and fame. The famed [...]

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 16:

    Idina Menzel, Bebe Rexha Take the Stage for Justin Tranter's 'Beyond' Benefit Concert

    We’re here, we’re queer and we’re writing your favorite songs was the theme of Beyond, the third annual benefit concert that Justin Tranter and his CAA agent, Jenna Adler, organized to benefit GLAAD at the Sunset Room in Hollywood on Wednesday night (Oct. 16). Beyond a music showcase, its mission is to highlight the annual [...]

  • Taylor SwiftMTV Video Music Awards, Arrivals,

    Vivendi's Third Quarter Results Up Nearly 17%, UMG Still Rising

    Vivendi saw its third quarter revenues increase by 16.7% to €3.97 billion ($4.4 billion) compared with the third quarter of 2018, once again boosted by the growth of Universal Music Group, while Canal Plus Group remained stable. For the first nine months of 2019, Vivendi’s revenues reached €11.3 billion ($12.5 billion), an increase of 14.6% [...]

  • Parliament-Funkadelic and George ClintonIEBA Annual Conference,

    George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Sheila E. to Perform in ‘Grammy Salute’ Airing Friday

    Parliament-Funkadelic stars George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, along with Sheila E. and many others, perform in the “Grammy Salute to Music Legends” airing as part of PBS’ “Great Performances” series Friday night. The show, the fourth annual all-star concert offering a primetime spotlight for the Academy’s 2019 Special Merit Awards recipients, premieres nationwide Friday, Oct. [...]

  • Lola Marsh

    Ping Pong Sets the Beat in Hypnotic, Green Screen-Ambitious Lola Marsh Video (Watch)

    Forrest Gump has nothing on Lola Marsh. The Tel Aviv-based twosome of vocalist Yael Shoshana Cohen and multi-instrumentalist Gil Landau transform into ping pong rivals in the video for “Only for a Moment.” The indie-pop jam combines Cohen’s Lana Del Rey-esque vocals over an upbeat blend of snaps, claps, shakers, and a driving melody courtesy [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content