Since the Academy Awards handed out its first statues for Best Original Song in 1935, nearly two-thirds of the winners have been writing duets, including such famous duos as Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Alan Menken and Howard. . Ashman.
Now, 87 years later, composers Conrad and Herb Magidson won the inaugural trophies for composing “The Continental” from the 1934 film gay divorceSome observers say the Oscars need to update their rules to better reflect how songs are scored now.
Current Academy rules favor fewer songwriters at a time when the number of writers per song is increasing. So far this year, the average number of songwriters at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 is 6.4, compared to 4.77 a decade ago in 2009.
Yet the Academy makes an exception for a Best Original Song contender for any combination of more than two writers. According to the rules, if there are three or four songwriters, “a third statuette may be awarded when a song has essentially the same author. The Executive Committee of the Music Branch reserves the right to decide what to award to the fourth idol in a very rare and exceptional circumstance alone.
If there are five or more credited songwriters, only one statue is awarded collectively, and the rules state that “each songwriter may be awarded a single ‘group statue’ by signing and returning a group award form before the submission deadline”. ‘ must agree to the option.” (Although a handful of other categories limit the number of eligible nominees, only Best Original Song and Best Original Score have a group statue option.)
Denying all eligible songwriters, regardless of their numbers, is “outdated thinking,” says a senior A&R executive at a major label working on Oscar-nominated songs. “The making of art evolves over time. And as an organization that represents the arts – whether it’s visual media arts or recorded arts – you have to adapt and grow.
The Academy (which declined to respond to the anonymous opinion piece in this piece) sticks to a tradition “going back decades, the way a song was written essentially by two people, a composer and a lyricist.” was written,” says the head of the music. a film studio. “They’re out of touch.”
Only two Best Original Song winners have had four songwriters (“Arthur’s Theme” in 1982 and “The Shallows” in 2019), and no Oscar has gone to five or more songwriters. Only once have more than five writers been nominated, when all seven members of Counting Crows earned a nod for “Accidentally in Love”. shrek 2 in 2004. The following year, limits on the number of statues were implemented.
As a result, when there are more than four songwriters, it is often up to them to make difficult decisions. In January 2019, from “All the Stars,” black Panther, received a Best Original Song award, but only four of the five songwriters – Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Soundwave and Anthony Tiffith – were credited. Fifth collaborator Alexander Shucksberg (aka Al Shucks) was not listed, even though a month earlier, when “All the Stars” received a Grammy nod for song of the year, his name was there. (Shacks did not respond to a request for comment.)
“Because of the constraints of the rules, we’ve had to have really uncomfortable conversations with the songwriters to say, ‘Hey, you guys, go and figure it out,'” says the movie studio executive, adding that in some cases, the writers The participating songwriters are back together, reducing their total to four. “It’s sad and unfair.”
At least two tracks that could potentially make the shortlist of 15 songs to be announced on December 21 have five or more lyricists. “Lift Your Wings” from Netflix my father’s dragon Five credits are the lyricist. This was entered as a group submission so that all authors can be identified. to track title my mind and meApple Original Films’ documentary about Selena Gomez features six songstresses.
The group submission form requests a detailed description of the creative process, and songwriters may be deemed ineligible at the discretion of the Music Branch Committee.
“I understand from the academy’s perspective that they want to keep it special and not be perceived as handing down [awards] A partnership is like a prize,” says another label executive, “but some of the best songs of the last 20 years have been written by an army of collaborators, [and] We’ve seen an evolution of thought in terms of how those songs are perceived.
The head of music at another film studio takes a more nuanced view of the issue and, while not necessarily agreeing with the limitations of the assigned hardware, appreciates the seriousness of the Academy’s deliberations on having many songwriters.
“Each song can be a unique situation, and you have to be able to consider that,” says the executive. “You have to see who has done most of the work. It’s really important that you have music that was definitely made from scratch for that project. You have to put a railing somewhere.
This story will appear in the issue dated November 19, 2022 Billboard.