While film and TV are commonly formulated as visual mediums, we cannot ignore the potent relationship between sound and images. Our favorite films aren’t simply the result of compelling narratives, memorable performances, and engrossing images. They also use meticulously crafted soundscapes — consisting of dialogue, scores, sound effects, original and preexisting songs — to increase their emotional impact and heighten our connection to the characters, settings, and themes.
Sometimes a film’s soundtrack can be a cultural touchstone in its own right; other times a film’s ingenious use of a song or score will indelibly define a viewing experience or vice versa. (For example, I can’t listen to Black Flag’s “Rise Above” without thinking of Daniel Desario trying to convince himself that he’s punk. And whenever an article, coworker, or friend mentions Orson Welles, the jaunty yet melancholy zither theme from The Third Man pops into my head.) Even though music and sound exert such a powerful, emotive presence on viewers, there has been a relative lack of public recognition for composers, sound designers, and music supervisors — in comparison to actors and directors — for decades.
Lately, though, award show patterns have started to demonstrate a newfound respect for the role of music in cinema and TV. In 2017, the Emmys introduced a new category: Outstanding Music Supervision, which honors the musical contributions — including scores and original or pre-existing songs — for a single episode of a series, TV movie, or special. Also, for nearly a decade, the Hollywood Music in Media Awards have celebrated composers, music supervisors, and music artists for their accomplishments in visual mediums.
While the HMMAs haven’t reached the same level of cultural awareness of, say, the Oscars, they are the only award show that comprehensively appreciates the value of musical excellence in visual media. The awards show recently released a massive list of its 2018 nominations, and the individual awards extend across various mediums and genres. For instance, Original Score is divided into distinct subcategories like “Feature Film,” “Scifi/Fantasy/Horror,” “Animated Film,” “Documentary,” “TV Show/Limited Series,” “Independent Film,” “Short Film (Foreign Language),” “Mobile Video Game,” and so on and so forth. In other words, nearly 10 total films can snag Best Original Score.
The specificity of the HMMA categories may seem needlessly bloated or even obtuse, but it nonetheless illustrates how different mediums and genres use music for unique purposes. Horror film scores generate suspense, shock, and dread, whereas standard dramas — “feature films” — typically employ a score to support a narrative and reflect a character’s innermost feelings. Economics also underline the need for these detailed categories, as composers for low-budget independent films usually don’t have access to giant orchestras and quality instruments for recording scores. The technical quality of indie scores, therefore, don’t warrant comparison to that of most feature films or blockbusters, which tend to have more recording-related expenditures to refine their scores’ sounds.
Because the HMMAs acknowledge music’s significance in specific visual mediums, the nominations are diverse, sprawling, and multifarious, but not wholly surprising. Black Panther is the leader of the pack with four nominations: Original Score – Scifi/Fantasy/Horror Film, Original Song – Scifi/Fantasy/Horror Film (for “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA), Outstanding Music Supervision – Film, and Soundtrack Album. A Star is Born comes in a close second with three nominations: Original Song – Feature Film (for “Shallow” by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga), Outstanding Music Supervision – Film, and Soundtrack Album.
Aside from their critical praise and commercial success, Black Panther and A Star is Born‘s soundtracks have generated thunderous cultural impact. Ludwig Göransson‘s Black Panther music is perhaps the best and most innovative Marvel movie score so far. Its inclusion of authentic tribal chants, heavy percussion, and American hip-hop beats triumphantly capture the multiplicity of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. While A Star is Born‘s HMMA nominations aren’t surprising, they don’t feel as deserved. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s soundtrack has its moments of greatness (“Shallow” included) but becomes bogged down by lackluster, lame country rockers that feel superfluous even in the context of the film.
Other notable HMMA nomination highlights include Alexandre Desplat for his scores for Isle of Dogs and The Sisters Brothers, with the latter being one of the prolific composer’s finest and most subversive scores. Justin Hurwitz — Damien Chazelle’s frequent collaborator — is also nominated for his lucid, uncompromising, and moving First Man score. Hurwitz’s score forefronts retro synthesizers and renders the film an otherworldly feel, yet it still manages to humanize the reticent and enigmatic protagonist, Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling).
Within the awards show circuit, music is often neglected and undervalued. With its narrow focus, the HMMAs embrace the wonderful, diverse, and defining soundtracks and scores across visual media, thereby representing a great stride in the acknowledgment of music in film. The HMMA ceremony features live performances and award presentations, and it will be held November 14th.
Here is the full list of nominees excluding video game and short film categories (see those here):
ORIGINAL SCORE – FEATURE FILM
Alexandre Desplat – THE SISTERS BROTHERS (Annapurna)
Carter Burwell – THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS (Netflix)
Hans Zimmer – WIDOWS (Twentieth Century Fox)
Justin Hurwitz – FIRST MAN (Universal)
Kris Bowers – GREEN BOOK (Universal)
Max Richter – MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (Focus Features)
Nicholas Britell – IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (Annapurna)
Theodore Shapiro – DESTROYER (Annapurna)
Terence Blanchard – BLACKKKLANSMAN (Focus Features)
ORIGINAL SCORE – SCIFI/FANTASY/HORROR FILM
Alan Silvestri – READY PLAYER ONE (Warner Bros.)
Christophe Beck – ANT-MAN and THE WASP (Walt Disney)
Ludwig Goransson – BLACK PANTHER (Walt Disney)
Marc Shaiman | Scott Wittman – MARY POPPINS RETURNS (Walt Disney)
Marco Beltrami – A QUIET PLACE (Paramount)
Tyler Bates – DEADPOOL 2 (Twentieth Century Fox)
ORIGINAL SCORE – ANIMATED FILM
Alexandre Desplat – ISLE OF DOGS (Fox Searchlight)
Bruno Coulais – WHITE FANG (Netflix)
Chris Bacon – SHERLOCK GNOMES (Paramount)
Heitor Pereira – SMALLFOOT (Warner Bros.)
Henry Jackman – RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (Walt Disney)
Michael Giacchino – INCREDIBLES 2 (Walt Disney)
ORIGINAL SCORE – DOCUMENTARY
Cyrille Aufort – MARCH OF THE PENGUINS: THE NEXT STEP (Canal +)
Daniel Pemberton, Simon Ashdown, Will Slater – ONE STRANGE ROCK (National Geographic)
Jeff Morrow – SCIENCE FAIR (National Geographic)
Jonathan Kirkscey – WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? (Focus Features)
Marco Beltrami – FREE SOLO (National Geographic)
Miriam Cutler – RBG (CNN)
Patrick Jonsson – ON HER SHOULDERS (Oscilloscope)
ORIGINAL SONG – FEATURE FILM
“Animal Sauvage” from THE EQUALIZER 2 (Columbia Pictures) Written by Gertjan Mulder, performed by Brainpower, Pharoahe Monch, Pitcho Womba Konga and STIX
“For You (Fifty Shades Freed)” from FIFTY SHADES FREED (Universal) Written by Andrew Watt, Ali Payami, Ali Tamposi. Performed by Liam Payne & Rita Ora
“Girl in the Movies” from DUMPLIN’ (Netflix) Written by Dolly Parton and Linda Perry. Performed by Dolly Parton.
“Here Comes the Change” from ON THE BASIS OF SEX (Focus Features) Written by Kesha Sebert, Drew Pearson, Stephen Wrabel. Performed by Kesha
“Living in the Moment” from BOOK CLUB (Paramount) Written by Carole Bayer Sager, Jay Landers, Walter Afanasieff. Performed by Katharine McPhee
“Revelation” from BOY ERASED (Focus Features) Written by Leland, Troye Sivan & Jónsi. Performed by Troye Sivan & Jónsi
“Shallow” from A STAR IS BORN (Warner Bros.) Written by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, and Andrew Wyatt. Performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
“We Won’t Give” from THE HATE U GIVE (Twentieth Century Fox) Written and performed by Arlissa
ORIGINAL SONG – DOCUMENTARY
“Gravity” from FREE SOLO (National Geographic) Written by Tim McGraw and Lori McKenna. Performed by Tim McGraw.
“I’ll Fight” from RBG (CNN) Written by Diane Warren. Performed by Jennifer Hudson.
“Keep Reachin’” from QUINCY (Netflix) Written by Mark Ronson, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Wyatt, Chaka Khan and Quincy Jones. Performed by Mark Ronson, Chaka Khan and Quincy Jones.
“Song for the Untitled” from YO GALGO (Skinny Dog Films) Written by Rickie Lee Kroell and Arturo Cardelús. Performed by Rickie Lee Kroell.
“These Are the Words” from POPE FRANCIS: A MAN OF HIS WORD (Focus Features) Written by Patti Smith & Tony Shanahan. Performed by Patti Smith.
ORIGINAL SONG – ANIMATED FILM
“Finally Free” from SMALLFOOT (Warner Bros.) Written and performed by Niall Horan
“Good Day” from EARLY MAN (Lionsgate) Written and performed by New Hope Club
“I Promise You” from PETER RABBIT (Columbia Pictures) Written by Ezra Koenig, performed by James Corden
“Stronger Than I Ever Was” from SHERLOCK GNOMES (Paramount) Written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin, performed by Mary J. Blige
ORIGINAL SONG – SCI-FI, FANTASY, HORROR FILM
“All the Stars” from BLACK PANTHER (Walt Disney) Written by Kendrick Lamar, Top Dawg, SZA, Sounwave, and Al Shux. Performed by Kendrick Lamar and SZA
“Ashes” from DEADPOOL 2 (Twentieth Century Fox) Written by Petey Martin, Jordan Smith and Tedd T. Performed by Celine Dion
“Fall On Me” from The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (Walt Disney) Written by Ian Axel, Chad Vaccarino, Matteo Bocelli and Fortunato Zampaglione. Performed by Andrea Bocelli and Matteo Bocelli. Performed by Andrea Bocelli and Matteo Bocelli
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from MARY POPPINS RETURNS (Walt Disney) Written by Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman. Performed by Cast.
“Trip A Little Light Fantastic” from MARY POPPINS RETURNS (Walt Disney) Written by Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman. Performed by Cast.
MUSIC DOCUMENTARY/SPECIAL PROGRAM
GOODNIGHT BROOKLYN – THE STORY OF DEATH BY AUDIO (Amazon)
GRACE JONES – BLOODLIGHT AND BAMI (Kino Lorber)
ORIGINAL SCORE – TV SHOW/LIMITED SERIES
Daniel Pemberton – BLACK MIRROR (Netflix)
Mark Isham, Cindy O’Connor, Michael D. Simon – ONCE UPON A TIME (ABC)
Nicholas Britell – SUCCESSION (HBO)
Nico Muhly – HOWARDS END (Starz)
Ramin Djawadi – WESTWORLD (HBO)
Thomas Newman, Chris Westlake – CASTLE ROCK (Hulu)
MAIN TITLE THEME – TV SHOW/LIMITED SERIES
Carlos Rafael Rivera – GODLESS (Netflix)
Jeff Beal – THE PUTIN INTERVIEWS (Showtime)
Jeff Cardoni – THE KOMINSKY METHOD (Netflix)
Jeff Russo – ALTERED CARBON (Netflix)
Mychael Danna – THE LAST TYCOON (Amazon)
Nico Muhly – HOWARDS END (Starz)
OUTSTANDING MUSIC SUPERVISION – FILM
Becky Bentham – MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN (Universal)
Dave Jordan – BLACK PANTHER (Walt Disney)
Gabe Hilfer – TAG (Warner Bros.)
John Houlihan – DEADPOOL 2 (Twentieth Century Fox)
Julianne Jordan & Julia Michaels – A STAR IS BORN (Warner Bros.)
Lynn Fainchtein – ROMA (Netflix)
OUTSTANDING MUSIC SUPERVISION – TELEVISION
Bruce Gilbert – GLOW (Netflix)
Charles Scott IV – CASTLE ROCK (Hulu)
Chris Swanson – WILD WILD COUNTRY (Netflix)
Jen Ross – POWER (Starz)
Morgan Rhodes – DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (Netflix)
Season Kent – 13 REASONS WHY (Netflix)
A STAR IS BORN (Interscope Records)
BLACK PANTHER (Interscope Records)
DEADPOOL 2 (Columbia Records)
FIFTY SHADES FREED (Republic Records)
MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN (Polydor Records)
ORIGINAL SCORE – INDEPENDENT FILM
Austin Wintory – THE LAST MOVIE STAR (A24)
Christopher Willis – THE DEATH OF STALIN (IFC Films)
Harry Gregson-Williams – BREATH (Film Rise)
Jóhann Jóhannsson – MANDY (Spectrevison, Legion M)
Nami Melumad – MISS ARIZONA (Side Gig Productions)
Thomas Ades – COLETTE (30 West)
ORIGINAL SONG – INDEPENDENT FILM
“Hearts Beat Loud” from HEARTS BEAT LOUD (Stage 6 Films) Written by Keegan DeWitt. Performed by Kiersey Clemons
“Home Free” from LITTLE PINK HOUSE (Film Mode Entertainment) Written and performed by David Crosby
“Requiem For a Private War” from A PRIVATE WAR (Aviron Pictures) Written and performed by Annie Lennox
“To Get Here” from THE LAST MOVIE STAR (A24) Written by Diane Warren, performed by Willie Nelson
“Sway Lake” from SONG OF SWAY LAKE (The Orchard) Written by Ethan Gold. Performed by John Grant
SONG/SCORE – TRAILER
Danny Cocke – LOST IN SPACE (Reveal Trailer)
Don Bodin – READY PLAYER ONE (Dreamer Trailer)
Jochem Weierink – BUMBLEBEE (Trailer, Jupiter composition, additional music by Cavalry-Music, Chroma-Music and Nicolas Felix)
Kurt Oldman – PERFECT (Official Trailer)
Pawel Gorniak – CROSSFIRE 2 (Official Trailer)
Steven Vitali – THE JEWELS OF THE SALTON SEA (Trailer)
ORIGINAL SCORE – INDEPENDENT FILM (FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
Anne-Kathrin Dern – THE JADE PENDANT
Elik Alvarez & Sandro Morales-Santoro – PAPITA 2DA BASE
Joan Vilà – QUIEN ERES
Neal Acree and Michael Tuller – ANIMAL WORLD
Ralf Wengenmayr – JIM BUTTON AND LUKE THE ENGINE DRIVER
Ricardo Curto – HALCON CIEGO (BLIND HAWK)