Magazine article Variety

Dramatic Tunes

Magazine article Variety

Dramatic Tunes

Article excerpt

AS THE YEAR winds down, the race to the Oscars will fill up with contenders from animation and musicals. But right now, the spotlight's on top-flight pop, R&B, and country stars with theme songs for dramas rooted in recent history.

Hold the Light 1

From the film "Only the Brave" Music and lyrics by: Dierks Bentley, Sean Carey, Joe Trapanese and Jon Randall

The song plays over an end montage of the real firefighters who died in the Arizona forest blaze dramatized in the film. Country star Bentley says the film's creators "agonized over: Do we lift them up as they walk out? Or do we let them sit with the sadness for a bit?" They went with the latter. "It's real, it's heavy ... and it's gonna mess you up," he says.

The recorded version is co-credited to Bon Iver's S. Carey, who was working on the tune with the score composer, Joseph Trapanese, before Bentley came in. "That vocal sound that Bon Iver has is such a big part of it," says Bentley.

Bentley was an obvious pick; besides being an Arizona native, he had performed at a benefit for the firefighters' families three weeks after the tragedy. But today, he hears it in a new light in the wake of the Las Vegas shootings. Says Bentley: "Maybe it's getting older and just being conscious of it, but it seems like there's been a lot of death this year, with these awful atrocities and natural disasters. It could be a good moment for a song like this."

If I Dare 2

From the film "Battle of the Sexes" Musc and lyrics by: Sara Bareilles and Nicholas Britell

"Battle of the Sexes" directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris tasked Bareilles with reworking some of composer Nicholas Britell's instrumental themes into song. "So musically, I had this awesome launching pad," Bareilles says. Lyrically, she had a fairly direct inspiration: "I met Billie Jean King at the theater one night when I was in 'Waitress' on Broadway... I said, 'What are your hopes for this song?' She said, 'I just want people to feel like they can do anything.' Well, that's a tall order! But I really wanted to make Billie Jean happy."

Bareilles has already racked up a long string of nominations, including nods by the Grammys and the Tonys. "I have a perfect record in losing all those nominations, too, so yeah, rack 'em up, baby!" she laughs about adding Oscar to the pile.

It Ain't Fair 3

From the film "Detroit" Music and lyrics by: Ahmir Thompson and Tariq Trotter

"I know that typically for movies like this, the closing credits offer some soothing resolution," says the Roots' Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, who co-wrote "It Ain't Fair. …

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