The below editorial features the opinions and views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of #escYOUnited as a whole, Eurovision or the EBU.
American songwriter Diane Warren is nothing short of a deity in the pantheon of pop music. She has written numerous classics you can name off-hand, won almost every award in the industry, and gave the United Kingdom hope that they could escape their bad Eurovision form of the 2000s.
However, there is one award that is conspicuously absent from the mantelpiece of the co-writer of the United Kingdom’s 5th placed entry at Eurovision 2009 (Jade Ewen’s “It’s my time“), and that is the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Warren has been nominated for an 11th time for “I’m Standing with you,” from the original soundtrack to the 2019 drama Breakthrough. We will find out on Sunday, February 9, 2020, at the 92nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, if she finally snags the Oscar at the 11th time of asking. She has, despite writing some of Western Civilization’s greatest pop songs, never won.
Before Sunday’s show, let’s go through each nomination, Warren’s rivals for each year, and whether or not she was fairly or unfairly snubbed (spoiler alert: most are going to fall in the latter category). If it’s decided she was snubbed, she will get a Billy (Billy being ESC United’s official fire extinguisher mascot, first seen in Kiev, Ukraine, then Lisbon, Portugal, and then again in Tel Aviv, Israel).
I am sure Billy is a great consolation to an Academy Award, because as you can determine from some of the songs on this list, she can use dollar bills from those cashed in royalty checks to light up cigars.
1987: Starship – “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” (Mannequin)
Warren’s first nomination is a big one – this went to Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s one of three Number 1 hits by Starship, and the other two were written by the Austrian couple who came in joint last at Eurovision 1979.
We’ve also covered Diane Warren’s contribution to Star Trek and also the mad as badgers movie that Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is from. From interviews, it seems like Warren recognizes she was dealing with a plot where a hapless wannabe entrepreneur played by Andrew McCarthy falls in love with a mannequin who due to an Egyptian curse comes alive as Kim Cattrall, and with co-composer Albert Hammond and rock icons Starship led by the (to put it mildly) eccentric Grace Slick, she achieved a power ballad that fits the track perfectly. (In another Eurovision coincidence, Mannequin’s score was written by Sylvester Levay, who entered Eurovision 1977 as part of Silver Convention for West Germany.)
“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is great, and like Meshach Taylor’s Hollywood Montrose, I am going to turn the firehose on anyone who disagrees.
So Warren gets her first Billy? Not so fast. This was a fierce year for the Oscars. We had Bob Seger’s “Shakedown” from Beverly Hills Cop II, and theme songs from Cry Freedom (the Steve Biko biography with Denzel Washington as the titular anti-Apartheid activist) and The Princess Bride (a so-so fantasy flick with Cary Elwes and Robin Wright that American women age 30 – 45 can’t shut up about).
But the Academy Award winner is iconic. What do you think of immediately when you hear the phrase, “I’ve had the time of my life?”
God is from Texas, and his name is Patrick Swayze. And the lead single from the movie that turned him into an international superstar, Dirty Dancing, took home the Oscar. “(I’ve had) the time of my life” by Bill Medley, one of the Righteous Brothers, and Canadian singer Jennifer Warnes, was one of several great tracks that charted from that film’s soundtrack, including Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes” and Swayze himself with “She’s like the wind.” Sorry Diane, the Oscars got it right on this occasion.
1996: Celine Dion – “Because You Loved Me” (Up Close & Personal)
Warren would have to wait nine years for her next Oscar nomination, and this time there’s also a Eurovision connection – she wrote “Because You Loved Me” for Eurovision 1988 winner Celine Dion. As with “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” this one went to Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remains one of Dion’s most recognizable songs.
I can’t remember the movie this was from. Google says Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer were in it and it looks like some New Yorker in love romantic drama that I didn’t watch that year because I was watching Kurt Russell punching hillbillies to death in Breakdown or Jean-Claude Van Damme doing slip ‘n slide kickboxing in the exploding jeans action of Knock Off. (Exploding jeans being an actual plot point, by the way.)
“That Thing You Do!” was another contender, but guess who pipped her to the Academy Award! None other than her eventual Eurovision 2009 writing partner Andrew Lloyd Webber with a song from Evita, the Number 18 reaching “You Must Love Me.”
It’s not even the most remembered song from Evita let alone Madonna’s discography. So in looking at the evidence, I have to declare Warren the winner of the Billy in 1996.
1997: Trisha Yearwood – “How do I live” (Con Air)
Interestingly, the version of “How do I live” for which Warren was nominated is not the most famous version. LeAnne Rimes hit Number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 with her take on “How do I live.” You may remember that Rimes later married the actor who cheated on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’s Brandi Glanville. Or you may not, but that’s how I remember her anyway. But Warren’s song helped Rimes’s career immensely with this song after her breakthrough debut album, but it was another country star who would be the reason for Warren’s third Oscar nomination.
Nowadays Trisha Yearwood is mostly coasting with a cooking show on The Food Network and raking in piles of cash touring with her equally legendary country star husband Garth Brooks, but she got to Number 23 with her take on “How do I live.” And Warren returned to providing a song to a mad as badgers film, and this time it is the Nicolas Cage action jamboree Con Air.
“How do I live” references the 30 seconds of Con Air that doesn’t feature explosions and extreme violence, namely the part where Cage dances with his wife played by Monica Potter just before Cage murders a few low lives in self defense. I personally prefer Yearwood’s version, mostly because I prefer her as a singer, she has not affiliated herself with any dodgy folk from a Real Housewives franchise, and she gives the song more of a mature polish that better match the lyrics. This is a song for a couple who have been together a long time, something a relatively callow youth like Rimes should not be as good at relating to.
Now Warren didn’t win with one of Celine Dion’s most famous songs in 1997, so what stopped Warren from winning the Oscar in 1998? Arguably Dion’s most famous song of all, “My Heart will go on,” written by James Horner and Will Jennings from Titanic. You could not escape this damn song, and though Warren had nudged Dion into music royalty, it was arguably “My Heart will go on” that kept there as a pop legend.
So sadly, looks like the Oscars called it correctly in 1998. In her two losses so far, Warren had the bad luck to have great songs from dodgy movies against great songs from legendary movies.
1998: Aerosmith – “I don’t want to miss a thing” (Armageddon)
Now this song was one that was everywhere when it was released, and is well remembered to this day (sometimes in versions you’d rather not hear). For those keeping track, Warren’s Oscar nominations reached Number 1, 1, 2, and on her 4th attempt, she got back to Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with yet another resurrection of Aerosmith’s career in “I don’t want to miss a thing.”
It may have been an unusual pairing with this ballad and the guys who did “Love in an elevator,” but it worked. And in Warren form, it was a mad as badgers movie. This time, the Michael Bay disaster film Armageddon, where Bruce Willis leads a team of oil rig workers into space to destroy an incoming asteroid because NASA astronauts are too fancy or something to be able to do it. This was a MAGA movie 18 years before that was a thing.
This song was huge, is fondly remembered to this day by brosephs who have trouble remembering where they parked their car at the gym, so what prevented Warren from winning the Oscar here? A song from an animated film no-one remembers. Problem is, the singers of said song by Stephen Schwartz are none other than Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.
“When You Believe” went to Number 15, but as most hipster Eurovision fans don’t understand and keep ranting about, power ballads by great singers work as well with Oscar juries as they do with Eurovision ones. “I don’t want to miss a thing” is KEiiNO to “When You Believe’s” Tamara Todevska. No televote in the Oscars, so Schwartz gets the award because he lucked out in getting two of the best divas of the day to sing on his song for The Prince of Egypt.
Billy is a Eurovision populist, so Warren earns her second here. The other contenders are serial Oscar nominees Randy Newman and David Foster, former husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’s Yolanda Hadid, but not for songs anyone will remember.
1999: Gloria Estefan and NSYNC – “Music of my Heart” (Music of my Heart)
Warren hit Number 2 with “Music of my Heart” (for those keeping track: 1, 1, 2, 1, 2) on the Billboard Hot 100, performed by Cuban-American legend Gloria Estefan and NSYNC (featuring Eurovision 2016 interval act Justin Timberlake) and produced by David Foster.
Problem with this song is that it’s a ballad, Estefan is not doing Miami Sound Machine in 1999, and NSYNC has four random goons other than Timberlake in the group, including Lance Bass, who shows up now and again as a friend of Lisa Vanderpump in Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Vanderpump Rules. Yes, I cut and paste my articles between my Eurovision and Real Housewives blogs.
Okay, okay, it’s not a bad song, in hindsight. And it’s from a Wes Craven movie! Woohoo! They’re in a school! Which Scream is it from, then? No, sadly, Craven took a break from movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street that gave every Gen-X’er night tremors to do one about funding for public school art programs called Music of my Heart. Starring Gloria Estefan, Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn and Angela Bassett, the plot centers around a music teacher whose successful program loses funding and she gets kids to do a recital at Carnegie Hall for funding and awareness. I didn’t watch this Wes Craven movie on the same principle that I’d find it strange to see Vincent Price doing a slapstick comedy or Arnold Schwarzenegger being impregnated.
So what prevented Warren, produced by Foster and performed by Estefan and the biggest boy band of the day from snagging the Oscar? Phil Collins. “You’ll be in my heart” only hit Number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, but is more fondly remembered these days, mostly because Gen-Y’ers and Phil Collins fans are a sentimental bunch.
However, “Blame Canada” from the South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was also nominated for an Oscar that year, so the Billy should actually go to that Marc Shaiman composed song with lyrics by Trey Parker.
2001: Faith Hill – “There You’ll Be” (Pearl Harbor)
Easily the worst film on this list for which Warren has a nomination, and Warren’s hot chart streak ends here, as Faith Hill’s “There You’ll Be” hit Number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. An admirable position, but remember, Warren’s record thus far is 1, 1, 2, 1, and 2.
That being said, anyone who has anything bad to say about Faith Hill and her husband Tim McGraw will receive a swift kick to the taint. This is a very solid performance by Hill, and also earned a Grammy nomination. It’s just a pity the movie it’s attached to is a big stream of livestock effluent. It’s as if Michael Bay went to Pearl Harbor and thought, “hey, I loved the love triangle in Titanic, let’s try shoehorn a love triangle into the Japanese attack here, and I will cast three of the most wooden actors of our time!” Good thing Pearl Harbor bombed, otherwise who knows how he would have followed it up.
Hill, though very eccentric, is an underrated artist in my book, and doesn’t seem to get the popular culture recognition she deserves despite the sheer volume of album and single sales she’s had. Such was the case with this year and the Oscar snub for Warren.
Especially in 2001, when Warren and Hill were the upstart young ‘uns (they were 44 and 34 at the time, respectively) in the bunch. They were up against Enya, Sting, Paul McCartney and Randy Newman, so you think modernity would shine kindly and award Warren an Oscar on her 6th attempt.
No, it went to Randy Newman for “If I didn’t have you” from the Monsters, Inc. soundtrack, with vocals by John Goodman and Billy Crystal. It didn’t chart. I may be too old for this, but I don’t recall this song or anyone who fondly recalls this.
However, like the Grammy Awards, the Academy Awards have a penchant for giving awards to performers and writers who did not get a nod in their prime, and Randy Newman had an even longer barren stretch than Warren at this point – Newman had gone 15 nominations for an Academy Award (though for both Original Score and Original Song) without a win. The Academy felt he was due, so he got the award.
So I have to give the Billy to Warren here because of Hill alone (“We are not worthy,” etc. etc.).
2014: Rita Ora – “Grateful” (Beyond the Lights)
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we had to wait 13 years for her next nomination? It’s not like the winners and nominees in the meantime were owt to talk about. However, Warren had in the meantime co-written “It’s my Time” with Andrew Lloyd-Webber, though like the Academy, the British public seem particularly ungrateful for her efforts. The British public should be lining up to wash her feet for an entry that did not make the United Kingdom a laughing stock at Eurovision. Well I’m grateful, and fellow Brit Rita Ora is obviously grateful as this song got quite a few major award nominations.
This song, if entered into Eurovision, would probably have had a strong finish at the time. It’s an empowerment ballad, Ora was at her peak, and this would have been a contender for the United Kingdom.
This appears to be Warren’s first non-charting song nominated for an Academy Award, and the film is a well-regarded indie romantic drama about an up-and-coming singer who falls for a cop. Dare I say this may be the first time Warren was nominated for a song attached to a critically acclaimed film?
Sadly, Warren lost to a Common and John Legend collaboration from Selma, an even more critically acclaimed movie about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Though “Glory” only hit Number 49 on the Billboard Hot 100, it scooped up almost every award from the Golden Globes to the Grammys to, yep, the Oscars.
So who to pick for the Billy? Two socially conscious movies with deep themes and emotional songs… no, the Billy goes to “Everything is AWESOME!!!” by Tegan and Sara because those two Canadian twins can’t do anything wrong. If they entered Eurovision, they’d nuke the place.
Glen Campbell’s “I’m not going to miss you” was also nominated that year, and though this was a phenomenal swan song for a legendary artist, I am not going to deny I am shallow as a puddle of Mountain Dew and I will stan hard for Tegan and Sara even if it’s not their strongest effort.
2015: Lady Gaga – “‘Til it happens to you” (The Hunting Ground)
This was at a time when Lady Gaga was trying to expand her horizons, and with Warren she wrote a personal song from her experience as a rape survivor for a film about sexual assault and rape on American university campuses. The music video featured survivors of sexual assault, and the impact of the movie The Hunting Ground and Lady Gaga’s song resulted in administrative changes on university campuses as well as in public policies in how to proactively prevent sexual assault from happening.
This is one of those rare instances where artists such as Warren and Lady Gaga bring awareness to an issue that results in substantive reform, so in that sense, Warren not receiving an Oscar for this is not a big deal. That reforms that (hopefully) prevent less sexual assaults on campus were passed is this song’s biggest achievement.
So what beat “Til it happens to you?” The theme song from Spectre, “The Writing’s on the Wall” by Sam Smith. I personally cannot stand Sam Smith’s boring music and his nasally whining, and I am not a big fan of the new Bond movies either. Spectre was a contrived mess, where every injury to Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld is dialed in awkwardly so he’d end up the one-eyed paraplegic with a fluffy white cat of the classic Connery films.
The Weeknd was also nominated for a song from Fifty Shades of Gray, so I am going to give the Billy to Warren and Lady Gaga here.
2017: Andra Day featuring Common – “Stand up for something” (Marshall)
Common pipped her to the post a couple years ago for a biopic about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but Common joined Warren and Andra to perform “Stand up for something” for a biopic about Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.
Though it didn’t chart, this song received acclaim to such an extent it was nominated for the CMT Performance of the Year when Common and Andra Day did a version with Little Big Town, Lee Ann Womack and Danielle Bradbery.
So with her second social conscious nomination in a row, who pipped Warren to the post? “Remember Me,” from the Pixar film Coco.
Yep, Warren had the bad luck to go up against the song that peppers the soundtrack to Coco, one of Pixar’s best and most poignant movies. If this is a company that can make you cry about the antics of a little robot on an ecologically devastated Earth, what chance did people have when Pixar delved into the mythos of Dia de Muertos (the Mexican tradition of The Day of the Dead)? Sorry, got to give the Billy to Coco.
2018: Jennifer Hudson – “I’ll Fight” (RBG)
Knowing that she started her career being nominated for dodgy movies like Mannequin and Armageddon, Warren is trying to make up for lost time by attaching empowerment anthems to socially conscious movies. This time it’s RBG, a movie about legendary liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Regardless of your political affiliation, she is a legal figure who inspires, and getting Jennifer Hudson, a tough as nails performer who has lived through a lot of hell and heartache, to perform “I’ll Fight” was a coup for this small movie that achieved acclaim.
You could actually imagine Australia sending a modern pop anthem like this to Eurovision, so what prevented Warren from winning this time?
A pop culture dump truck that ran over all in its path, and as is Warren’s curse, an artist she’s worked with before.
You may have noticed that in the 2010s entries, we have not mentioned chart positions too much. That’s because Academy Award Original Song nominations and chart performance had decoupled this past decade, but “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper from A Star is Born not only won the Academy Award but restored Lady Gaga to the Number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. This was “(I’ve had) the time of my life” for 2018, and Warren has had the misfortune to be up against two pop cultural phenomena that swept all before them.
2019: Chrissy Metz – “I’m Standing with You” (Breakthrough)
Yes, “I’m Standing with You” is sung by the lass from that TV show where Jess from Gilmore Girls is killed in a fire caused by a malfunctioning Crock-Pot.
With this entry, Warren has entered the realm of faith based films. Nothing to sneer at, as Christian movies have earned a reputation of being able to make a mint on the back of small to medium sized budgets. Such is the case with Breakthrough, a film about adoption and about the power of prayer in a young man nearly drowning to death in an ice-cold lake.
All I took from the movie is that it was directed by Roxann Dawson, who Robert Skilleter and other Star Trek: Voyager fans may recognize as half-Klingon / half-human engineer misfit B’Elanna Torres.
I’m going to give Warren the Billy right now, which by my count make its five (please don’t collect, Diane, I live in the back arse of Devil’s Canyon with a dodgy Subaru, two cats, and a partner who says my Eurovision hobby is worse than a crack habit because a crack habit doesn’t generate a lot of boring trivia).
Who’s Warren up against? Randy Newman, of course. Is he like Paul Sorvino from Knock Off in that he has explosives in every Academy member’s item of clothing and kids’ toys? Warren is also up against Elton John with a song from his not-quite critically acclaimed autobiography Rocketman, Cynthia Erivo’s “Stand Up” from the Harriet Tubman biopic, and a song from a Frozen movie not called “Let it go.”
Tune in to the Academy Awards later this evening, and we will see if Diane Warren can break her Academy Award duck once and for all.
But let’s be clear – eleven Academy Award nominations is a phenomenal feat by itself. Warren is a legend for the nominations alone. We all know that for someone who worked on a British Eurovision entry, things can get a lot worse…
Do #YOU think Diane Warren has been robbed? Do #YOU think Number 11 is strong enough to earned her her first Oscar? Let us know in the comments below, in our forum, or on social media.