×

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

  • The Eddy

    'The Eddy': TV Review

    “Jazz is Paris and Paris is jazz,” spoke-sang Malcolm McLaren a quarter-century ago, though the statement is valid as ever today: Since the end of World War I, when a number of African American soldiers settled in Paris — and still others left their music behind — the city has become a kind of world [...]

  • GREEN DAY

    Green Day Cancels Tour Dates in Asia Due to Coronavirus

    Green Day has canceled scheduled tour dates in Asia due to the coronavirus epidemic. The band’s Hella Mega tour would have taken them throughout the continent in March — and in countries with confirmed cases of the virus — starting in Singapore and stopping in Bangkok, Manila, Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, Osaka and Tokyo. The [...]

  • Beyonce Kobe Bryant Performance

    Ken Ehrlich on the Kobe Bryant Memorial Service's 'Transcendent' Music Moments

    Ken Ehrlich produced his final Grammy telecast Jan. 26 … and, through the sad fluke of Kobe Bryant dying the day of the show, there was a direct segue to the first live broadcast of Ehrlich’s post-Grammys career, when his company was asked to assist with the Kobe Bryant memorial Feb. 24. The veteran is [...]

  • Editorial use only. Hand Out HANDOUT

    BTS Cancels Korea Concerts Due to Coronavirus

    BTS has canceled concerts planned for Korea, the group announced on Thursday, Feb. 27, due to concerns about the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. According to a post on an official BTS Twitter (@bts_bighit), “Map of the Soul” tour shows scheduled for April 11, 12, 18 and 19 at Seoul’s Jamsil Olympic Stadium have been called off, [...]

  • La Vita Nuova album Christine and

    Christine and the Queens' 'La Vita Nuova': EP Review

    With stellar albums from Charli XCX, Caroline Polachek, Selena Gomez and Grimes over the past few months, it’s been a hot stretch for the genre inaccurately but conveniently labelled “alt-pop” — and joining the group is this surprise release from France’s Christine and the Queens, who recently collaborated with two of the above artists. Her [...]

  • Former C3 Promoter Charlie Jones Launches

    Former C3 Promoter Charlie Jones Launches Four Leaf Productions

    Charlie Jones, a veteran producer who has worked extensively on the Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits festivals, is today officially launching his new venture, Four Leaf Productions, which is described as “a new company built on a foundation of creating live experiences that bring people together for a purpose.” Over the course of his [...]

  • Radio Placeholder

    Veteran KROQ Program Director Kevin Weatherly Exits Entercom

    Kevin Weatherly, who made his mark at L.A.’s leading alternative station KROQ and has been a renowned radio programmer for nearly three decades, is leaving his post as SVP programming at Entercom for a reported new post at Spotify, which a source suggests will likely be in an editorial capacity. Weatherly originally joined KROQ as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content