×

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

  • Beyonce poses for photographers upon arrival

    Beyoncé Releases Music Video for 'Spirit,' Her 'Lion King' Soundtrack Contribution

    Beyoncé fans are stampeding across the web veldt to get a look at her just-released music video for “Spirit,” the original song she co-wrote and sang for the “Lion King” soundtrack. The track is also included on the companion album she executive-produced and will release Friday, “The Gift.” Clips from the computer-animated film are interspersed [...]

  • Woodstock 50's Latest Plea Denied by

    Woodstock 50's Latest Plea Denied Unanimously by Town of Vernon

    UPDATED: The light is quickly fading on Woodstock 50, which in its latest plea to the town of Vernon, New York, was rejected in its effort to secure a permit to hold the three-day concert at Vernon Downs. The Syracuse area venue with a capacity of 35,000 was the most recent proposed site for the [...]

  • Beyonce-HOMECOMING-Netflix

    Beyoncé, Sara Bareilles Vie for First Emmys as Ramin Djawadi Looks to Reclaim Throne

    Beyoncé and Sara Bareilles could add Emmy trophies to their awards shelves this year, having been nominated in key music categories Tuesday by the Television Academy. Beyoncé’s “Homecoming” special on Netflix was nominated in six categories, and four of those include a nod for the pop superstar herself. Only one of those is in a [...]

  • LiveXLive Names AOL and MTV Vet

    LiveXLive Names AOL and MTV Vet Dermot McCormack President

    Live entertainment digital media company LiveXLive Media today announced that AOL and MTV veteran Dermot McCormack has been named president of the company. According to the announcement, McCormack will lead the business and creative operations of LiveXLive, effective immediately. McCormack previously served as AOL’s Global President of Video and Studios, where he oversaw the video [...]

  • Harry Styles to Play Prince Eric

    Harry Styles in Talks to Play Prince Eric in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Harry Styles is going under the sea. The former One Direction frontman is in early negotiations to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • R Kelly Sexual Assult Accusations Mugshot

    R. Kelly Ordered Held Without Bail

    R. Kelly has been ordered held without bond at a hearing Tuesday in federal court in Chicago, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The singer entered a not-guilty plea. The hearing, which follows the singer being hit Friday with a total of 18 counts of serious sexual misconduct and other charges in Chicago and New York, [...]

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content