×

Oscar Music Surprises: No Dolly Parton or ‘First Man,’ but Terence Blanchard, Gillian Welch Bust In

Tuesday’s Oscar music nominations produced some of the day’s biggest surprises (yes to Gillian Welch, no to Justin Hurwitz), inevitabilities (Diane Warren is in, like clockwork) and near-inevitabilities that still produced a sigh of relief (Terence Blanchard, un-snubbed at last). Some notes on the shocks and happy affirmations in the Best Original Song and Score fields:

1.  No “First Man.” That was the biggest shocker of Tuesday’s announcement. Justin Hurwitz, who won song and score Oscars for 2016’s “La La Land,” was widely expected to be among the final five for his music for Damien Chazelle’s moon-landing saga. After all, he already won the Golden Globe and Broadcast Film Critics awards. Clearly the film had lost momentum in  the marquee categories, but it was well seen and highly regarded enough to place in four of the Oscars’ technical divisions (production design, sound mix, sound edit, visual effects), leaving Hurwitz’s MIA status all the more mysterious.

2. Terence Blanchard’s first nomination. Sound the trumpets! Blanchard was singled out for his music for Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” and everyone agrees that he’s way overdue for Oscar attention. He’s been scoring Lee’s movies since 1991’s “Jungle Fever,” and his powerful scores for films like “Malcolm X” and “25th Hour” were unjustly overlooked.

3. No Dolly Parton. Parton and her co-writer Linda Perry were also thought to be among the frontrunners in the song category for their “Girl in the Movies” from “Dumplin’.” Maybe music branch members skipped the Netflix movie and never heard it? Or maybe they just decided it was no “Nine to Five,” since awareness was high, with Parton campaigning heavily for the nod.

4. A novelty song makes the cut. Comedy isn’t always appreciated at the Oscars, and that goes doubly for comedy songs. “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” is the hilarious punchline for the first segment in the Coen brothers’ sericomic Western “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” and Oscar voters appreciated rather than eschewed the odd-cowpoke-out qualities of this clever pastiche. Willie Watson and Tim Blake Nelson perform the song by Americana favorites and first-time David Rawlings and Gillian Welch.

5. “Black Panther” for original score. Ludwig Goransson’s African-infused music for the year’s biggest-grossing movie was widely admired, but skeptics wondered if the music branch would actually nominate a Marvel superhero movie. (The only caped-crusader score to be nominated was John Williams’ “Superman” in 1978. None of the “Batman” or other Marvel movies have reached Oscar glory.)

6. Diane Warren’s 10th nomination. The veteran movie tunesmith has been at it for more than 30 years, with previous noms for such movie songs as “Because You Loved Me” (Celine Dion), “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (Aerosmith) and “Til It Happens to You” (Lady Gaga). She’s become the perennial bridesmaid at Oscar ceremonies, with admired songs that somehow never quite get all the necessary votes.

7. Shortlist shortcomings. The reinstatement, after 39 years, of the “shortlist” — an earlier round in which branch members choose 15 songs and 15 scores from which to draw the final five in each category — remains controversial. It subtracted a full month from the schedule for voters to see all the necessary films, and the results were mixed. Most criticized was the absence of any women composers, such as Jocelyn Pook for “The Wife” or Anna Meredith for “Eighth Grade.” It’s one thing for women to be perennially excluded from the top five, but when the Academy finally puts 15 on view and they’re still MIA, that’s cause for embarrassment.

8. “A Quiet Place,” “Suspiria” fail to make the list. Marco Beltrami’s unsettling music for the hush-the-monster-will-hear-you suspenser “A Quiet Place,” and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s song “Suspirium” from the psychological horror thriller “Suspiria,” were skipped. Music branch voters can be skittish about horror films, and this is the latest example.

9. Only one song from “Mary Poppins Returns.” The only movie that got two slots in the Oscar song shortlist was the long-awaited sequel to the Disney classic, and in the end, voters chose the touching ballad “The Place Where Lost Things Go” over the big dance number “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” (both penned with his co-writer Scott Wittman). It’s another instance of the branch preferring traditional heart-tugging tunes. Happily for everyone involved, submitting two songs didn’t cause them to cancel each other out with voters — something Warner Bros. feared when they chose to only put up “Shallow” for consideration.

10. Marc Shaiman, EGOT? Shaiman has a Tony and a Grammy for his songs for Broadway’s “Hairspray”; an Emmy for writing Billy Crystal’s funny Oscar medleys back in the ’90s; and five previous Oscar nominations. If he wins for song or score, he will join that elite group of 15 individuals who have won all four major show-biz awards (most recently, John Legend, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice).

More Music

  • Bandsintown Platform Acquires Hypebot, MusicThinkTank

    Bandsintown Platform Acquires Hypebot, MusicThinkTank

    Bandsintown, a leading platform for letting music fans know about upcoming concerts by their favorite artists, has acquired Hypebot, a news site publishing stories about the music industry and technology, and its sister site MusicThinkTank. “I’m proud to share that Hypebot and MusicThinkTank have been acquired by Bandsintown,” wrote Bruce Houghton, the founder of the [...]

  • Barry Manilow illustration by Ben Kirchner

    Barry Manilow Reflects on Early Career, New York Talent Show 'Callback,' and Featherbed

    Barry Manilow’s place as one of America’s best-loved entertainers was secured decades ago, but the 75-year-old shows no signs of resting on his laurels, which include nearly 50 top 40 hits, beaucoup gold and platinum albums, sold-out tours, an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony and a Clio. His 21st century accomplishments include more SRO dates, [...]

  • R Kelly Sexual Assult Accusations Mugshot

    R. Kelly Ask for More Time on Dubai Travel Request

    R. Kelly’s court hearing on Friday morning produced little of substance, as the singer’s attorney Steve Greenberg asked the judge to delay a ruling on his request to travel to Dubai to perform several still-unconfirmed concerts next month. After the hearing, another Kelly attorney, Doug Anton, said the singer’s team is preparing contracts for the [...]

  • Jenny Lewis

    Album Review: Jenny Lewis' 'On the Line'

    Early on in her new record, Jenny Lewis warns us that Mercury’s retrograde wrath is far from over. Her cautionary words form the conceit of “Wasted Youth,”  a lament dressed in melody and charm. With the prospect of planetary bad luck looming, Lewis spends the chorus listing some of the ways in which we doom [...]

  • 'This Isn’t Spinal Tap': Dishing the

    'This Isn't Spinal Tap': Dishing the Dirt on Motley Crue's Surprisingly Dark Biopic

    The new, eagerly awaited Motley Crue biopic, based on Neil Strauss’ best-selling 2001 book, “The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band,” premieres today on Netflix after a seemingly endless 13 years in development hell. Those anticipating “a fun ‘80s music movie,” as Crue bassist Nikki Sixx puts it, will inevitably be stunned [...]

  • Victoria Monet

    Hitmaker of the Month: Ariana Grande Collaborator Victoria Monét on 'Thank U, Next'

    Victoria Monét is what you’d call an all-around creative. A singer, songwriter and dancer, the Sacramento native is also among Ariana Grande’s go-to collaborators. Most recently, Monet had a hand in constructing Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” which topped the charts in multiple territories upon its November 2018 release, including the United States, the U.K., Australia, [...]

  • Tame Impala FYF Fest

    Tame Impala Drop House-y New Single 'Patience' (Listen)

    Australia’s Tame Impala tend to switch things up with each album, but we’d have to say that an infusion of house music and Philadelphia soul were not what we were expecting. The group — which, in the studio, is essentially frontman Kevin Parker — has delivered what may be their most infectious single yet with “Patience,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content