Academy’s Songwriter Dilemma & Its Impact on Nominees – Billboard

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For the reason that Academy Awards handed out their first statuettes for greatest unique track in 1935, nearly two-thirds of the winners have been writing duos, together with such legendary twosomes as Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.

Now, 87 years after composer Con Conrad and Herb Magidson received the inaugural trophies for penning “The Continental” from the 1934 movie The Homosexual Divorcee, some observers say the Oscars must replace their guidelines to higher mirror how songs are actually created.

Present academy guidelines favor fewer songwriters at a time when the variety of writers per track is growing. To date this yr, the typical variety of songwriters credited on a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 is 6.4, in contrast with 4.77 over a decade in the past in 2009.

But the academy considers any mixture of greater than two writers for a greatest unique track contender an exception. In line with the foundations, if there are three or 4 songwriters, “a 3rd statuette could also be awarded when there are primarily equal writers of a track. The Music Department Govt Committee has the precise, in what it alone determines to be a really uncommon and extraordinary circumstance, to award a fourth statuette.”

If there are 5 or extra credited songwriters, just one statuette is awarded to the collective, and the foundations state “every songwriter should comply with the only ‘group statuette’ choice by signing and returning a Group Award kind previous to the submission deadline.” (Although a handful of different classes restrict the variety of eligible nominees, solely greatest unique track and greatest unique rating have the group statuette choice.)

To disclaim all eligible songwriters their very own statuette, whatever the quantity, is “antiquated pondering,” says a senior A&R govt at a serious label who has labored on Oscar-nominated songs. “The creation of artwork evolves over time. And as a corporation that represents artwork — whether or not it’s visible media artwork or recorded artwork — it’s a must to adapt and evolve.”

The academy (which declined to answer the nameless opinions on this piece) is clinging to a convention “going again many years, that the best way a track received written was primarily by two individuals, a composer and lyricist,” says the top of music at a film studio. “They’re out of contact.”

Solely two greatest unique track winners have had 4 songwriters (“Arthur’s Theme” in 1982 and “Shallow” in 2019), and no Oscar has gone to 5 or extra songwriters. Solely as soon as have greater than 5 writers been nominated, when all seven members of Counting Crows earned a nod for “Accidentally in Love” from Shrek 2 in 2004. The subsequent yr, the limitation on the variety of statuettes was launched.

Consequently, when there are greater than 4 songwriters, it’s usually as much as them to make a tough resolution. In January 2019, “All the Stars,” from Black Panther, obtained a greatest unique track nod, however solely 4 of the 5 songwriters — Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Sounwave and Anthony Tiffith — have been credited. Fifth collaborator Alexander Shuckburgh (aka Al Shux) was not listed, though a month earlier, when “All of the Stars” obtained a Grammy nod for track of the yr, his identify was. (Shux didn’t reply for a request for remark.)

“Due to the constraints of the foundations, we’ve needed to have actually uncomfortable conversations with songwriters to say, ‘Hey, you guys, go away and determine this out,’ ” says the film studio govt, including that in some circumstances, the writers have come again with collaborating songwriters left off to cull their whole to 4. “It’s hurtful and unfair.”

A minimum of two tracks that might doubtlessly make the shortlist of 15 songs to be introduced Dec. 21 have 5 or extra songwriters. “Elevate Your Wings” from Netflix’s My Father’s Dragon has 5 credited songwriters. It was entered as a gaggle submission so all writers can be acknowledged. The title monitor to My Thoughts & Me, Apple Unique Movies’ documentary about Selena Gomez, has six songwriters.

The group submission kind requests an in depth clarification of the artistic course of, and songwriters could also be deemed ineligible on the Music Department committee’s discretion.

“I perceive from the angle of the academy that they wish to maintain it particular and never be perceived as handing [awards] out like a participation prize,” says one other label govt, “however among the greatest songs of the previous 20 years have been written by a military of collaborators, [and] we’ve seen an evolution of thought by way of how these songs are regarded.”

The pinnacle of music at one other film studio sees the difficulty as extra nuanced and, whereas not essentially agreeing with the constraints on the {hardware} handed out, appreciates the seriousness of the academy’s deliberations when there are a number of songwriters.

“Every track is usually a distinctive state of affairs, and you’ve got to have the ability to think about that,” the manager says. “You do have to take a look at who has carried out the vast majority of the work. It’s actually essential that you’ve music that was determinately created from scratch for that venture. It’s important to put guardrails someplace.”

This story will appear in the Nov. 19, 2022, issue of Billboard.





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