Soundtracking: Behind the 2019 Musical Oscar Nominees

Being both a record nerd and an Oscar obsessive, the music categories at the Academy Awards always warrant a particular level of fascination in the Soundtracking universe.

The Academy certainly has its proclivities and favourites.

Songwriter Diane Warren – nominated this year for “I’ll Fight” from the documentary RBG – has received 10 nominations over the last 30 years, including collaborations with everyone from Celine Dion to Aerosmith to Common. Though let’s not go too far in calling her a “favourite,” since the Academy is yet to give her a statue.

Similarly, Alexandre Desplat – nominated this year for his Isle of Dogs score – also has 10 nominations in the last 13 years, the most of anyone in the category over that span (Yes, even John Williams!). Unlike Warren, Desplat has a pair of trophies on his resume.

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But beyond the usual suspects, the categories can often be mined for some intriguing names among the nominees. For every headline-grabber – Lady Gaga’s nomination this year is a prime example – there’s an equal number of nominees with interesting musical resumes. In recent years we’ve seen nominees with bands including Arcade Fire, Radiohead and even The New Radicals on their resumes.

So, who are some of this year’s hidden gems.

Kendrick Duckworth and Solana Rowe (nominated for Black Panther’s “All the Stars”)

Better known by their stage names Kendrick Lamar and SZA are hardly under-the-radar nominees, but it is refreshing to see these two get their due for a couple reasons. The first being that A Star is Born’s “Shallow” was not the only top-10 hit to crack the Best Song category, which marks a refreshing return to huge soundtrack hits making the list. The category still has a way’s to go from its pinnacle in 1984 – where five number one singles squared off – but it’s also making a nice recovery from its low in 2011, when only two songs got nominated in the category. Yes, that’s a total.

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The other area of intrigue is whether Lamar can add yet another impressive accolade to his resume. While he has thrice been denied the Album of the Year award at the Grammys (and he’s nominated in the category again this year for his contributions to the Black Panther soundtrack), he could become one of a small number of people to have won both an Oscar and a Pulitzer Prize, which he netted this year for his album DAMN.

SZA, meanwhile, netted five Grammy nominations in 2018 and is up for another four this year for “All the Stars”

Mark Ronson and Anthony Rossomando (nominated alongside Lady Gaga for A Star is Born’s “Shallow”)

Mark Ronson is another name that’s not exactly under-the-radar. Whether you know him as the man that helped bring Amy Winehouse’ Back to Black to the world, or simply as “the other guy in the ‘Uptown Funk’ video,” he’s definitely a known quantity.

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But, why does the name Anthony Rossomando sound familiar? He was a member of the mid-2000s band Dirty Pretty Things, a contemporary of both The Strokes and The Libertines (the latter he actually fronted for a while, standing in for infamous problem-child lead singer Pete Doherty). He’s also a frequently cited source in Lizzy Goodman’s oral history of the early 2000s New York music scene Meet me in the Bathroom.

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings (nominated for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings”)

A multiple Grammy nominee, Welch is one of the better known names in roots and Americana so seeing her work for the Coen Brothers’ Netflix contribution among the Best Song nominees was a nice surprise on Tuesday. Her work with Rawlings dates back to her second album Hell Among the Yearlings and includes much of her best-loved work such as her 2001 Grammy nominated album Time (The Revelator).

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Welch plays well with others, with her collaborators over the years including some of the 21st Century’s best songwriters like Ryan Adams, the Decemberists and Bright Eyes. This also is not her first rodeo with the Coens, as she contributed vocals to a couple tracks on the hit soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou?

Ludwig Goransson (nominated for Best Score for Black Panther)

Not to go over already-trodden ground, but … told you so.

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Since publishing that article, Goransson – who made his name with huge collaborations with Donald Glover’s hip hop alter-ego Childish Gambino – also netted a Golden Globe nomination for Best Score (which he lost to the not-even-Oscar-nominated-this-year Justin Hurwitz effort for First Man).

Terence Blanchard (nominated for Best Score for BlacKkKlansman)

Blanchard has been Spike Lee’s first-choice composer dating all the way back to 1991’s Jungle Fever and netted his first ever Oscar nomination just this year. In addition to having scored some of Lee’s best work including his stunning Malcolm X Jazz Suite, Blanchard’s chops have landed him in bands for jazz legends like Art Blakey and a place on four Grammy-winning Jazz albums.

His album A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina) based on Spike Lee’s 2006 Hurricane Katrina doc When the Levees Broke netted him a Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album and a nomination for Best jazz Instrument Solo.



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