Leona Lewis, Paul McCartney and Kate Hudson: The Golden Globes guide to music
Give the Hollywood Foreign Press this much: They can at least find five songs worthy of a nomination.
The Globes, when it came to best original song, largely stayed mainstream, passing up selections from Mary J. Blige ("Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire") and newcomer Sad Brad Smith ("Up in the Air"), two songs considered favorites for scoring nominations in the like-minded category for the Oscars, to instead recognize the likes of U2 and Paul McCartney.
Rounding out the best original song category for the Globes is a film-only cut from the cinematic interpretation of the musical "Nine," a traditional ballad from "Avatar," and "The Weary Kind" from the music-centered "Crazy Heart." The latter brings a new name to the Hollywood gala in singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham, and is receiving a large, late-season push from Fox Searchlight.
Don't look to the Globes as a foreshadowing of the Oscars, as the latter are typically a bucket of unpredictability. Academy voters nominated only three songs for the 2009 gala, including two from "Slumdog Millionaire," and the year prior choose three songs (three!) from Disney's modern fairytale "Enchanted."
The Golden Globes, however, have no trouble filling out the category, and Pop & Hiss handicaps it below.
Too big to be ignored: The marquee names in this season's music and film awards race are clearly U2 and McCartney. But neither should be the shoo-in that was Bruce Springsteen's self-titled track from "The Wrestler." McCartney's "I Want to Come Home" is a piano-based slow dance, with touches of string orchestration, and it's aimed squarely at your heart. McCartney's vocals are as soft and comforting as a holiday-season fireplace and some homemade gingerbread. What it lacks in excitement, it more than makes up for with coziness. If the film it graces, "Everybody's Fine," was one that was being taken seriously, the song might have been more than holiday gooeyness.
U2's "Winter" from "Brothers" takes a more serious route. "Now I'm 25," sings Bono, "trying to stay alive, in the corner of the world, with no clear enemies to fight." U2's Bono and "Brothers" director Jim Sheridan are regular collaborators, as the star has worked on his "In the Name of the Father" and "In America." The band's "Winter," however, could have used some of the gospel atmospheres of the act's 2009 effort "No Line on the Horizon," as it's a snails-paced somber number with some oh-so-serious, look-at-me flashes of rhythm. This is awards-season solemness by the book.
The spoiler: Though "Crazy Heart" won't be the kind of music/film sensation that was "Once," it should prove to be a December surprise. With Jeff Bridges playing a down-on-his luck country musician, and respected composer-writer T Bone Burnett ("O Brother, Where Art Thou?") supplying the music, "Crazy Heart" won't be overlooked come Oscar time for the original song category. Showcase song "The Weary Kind" is an artful choice to win this category, even if it's a little on the sleepy side. Rootsy singer-songwriter Bingham shares a songwriting credit, and his scruffy, whiskey-stained vocals are the centerpiece, although there are brief touches of a country slide scattered among its finger-picked base. Like the other two songs mentioned in this post, it's a downbeat offering, but one that's at least more rugged than emotional.
The standards: A massive James Cameron film with a ballad sung by a pop/R&B star, "Avatar" and its "I See You" threaten to be completely unavoidable over the next few weeks. There's plenty of A-list names behind the song, which was composed by James Horner and Simon Franglen. Kuk Harrell, of "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" fame, shares a songwriting credit. But make no mistake: This is a massive end-credits song for an adventure film, complete with the big vocal build from Lewis that such a track requires. There's something charmingly old-fashioned about its grand orchestral burst in its final minute, but it lacks the hook to become the wedding party staple that was "Titanic's" "My Heart Will Go On."
As for "Cinema Italiano" from "Nine," Kate Hudson handles herself well, and this is the only song in the category that actually bares a bit of fun, but it's still world music for the dinner-party set, and the token nod for the year's big musical.
Biggest omissions: The aforementioned Blige track "I Can See in Color," as well as any of Randy Newman's compositions for Disney's "The Princess and the Frog," which pay homage to traditional New Orleans sounds with grace. Though they're also period pieces of a sort, Beth Rowley's "You Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger" and Duffy's "Smoke Without Fire," both from "An Education," cop an exquisite vintage soul vibe, and Karen O and the Kids' cuts from "Where the Wild Things Are" are bouncy fun.
-- Todd Martens