Emmys: How Diane Warren's 'Hunting Ground' Song is Empowering Sexual Assault Survivors

9:30 AM 8/23/2016

by Carolyn Giardina

Whether it's a series' theme, its soundtrack or an original song that captures a character's mission, music for television often is deceiving in its simplicity. Five nominees reveal the process behind those haunting (and often hilarious) melodies including how 'Mr. Robot's' music helps get inside Rami Malek's head.

Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

  • Diane Warren, The Hunting Ground (CNN)

    Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics

    Diane Warren
    Diane Warren
    Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

    As a 14-time Grammy nominee whose music has been featured in more than 100 films, songwriter Diane Warren is accustomed to hearing from fans. But not like the recent night she went out to dinner with a friend. “This woman came up and started crying,” Warren says, “telling me she’d been raped and my song 'Til It Happens to You' gave her strength to carry on with her life. It really is moments like that when you realize how powerful a song can become.”

    “Til It Happens to You” was so powerful that is has become the first song ever to be nominated for a Grammy, an Oscar and now an Emmy. Featured in the documentary The Hunting Ground — released theatrically last year by Radius-TWC and this year by CNN — the documentary tells the story of several victims of sexual assault on college campuses. The song took on a very personal meaning for its author.

    “I was molested when I was younger, so I could relate to these stories,” says Warren. “And I was inspired by them. The women [in the documentary] are such bad-asses, so strong, and what’s so great about this song is that it’s empowering for them and for me.”


  • Fargo (FX)

    Jeff Russo, Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries Movie or a Special (Original Dramatic Score)

    Courtesy of FX

    "The biggest challenge happened the moment I'd heard that I had to basically abandon all the themes from season one and start fresh. The only thing we kept was the main theme. If I had to pick one challenging scene, it was when Peggy [Kirsten Dunst] is watching an old movie on TV. Noah [Hawley, Fargo creator] told me it was going to be a fake Ronald Reagan war movie, which sounded great. Then I got to see the footage, and I remember thinking, 'This is a lot more than I expected.' It had to be its own thing but also fit in with the show. Ultimately, I ended up making it sound like one of those classic '40s movies, with lots more winds and percussion than I'm used to."

  • Mr. Robot (USA)

    Mac Quayle, Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score)

    Courtesy of USA

    "To me, the show is all about being on the inside of Elliot Alderson's [Rami Malek] head, so that in general brings up challenges from one scene to the next. It's definitely a challenge to find something that would be used to describe both the light and the dark in him. He has good intentions but is super plagued by all the psychology going on. So the instrumentation for the first season was almost exclusively electronic. I was intentionally going for a synthesized sound, which came out of my initial discussion with [series creator and showrunner] Sam Esmail. It was really his idea from the start to root Mr. Robot's music somewhat in a retro electronic sound."

  • Galavant (ABC)

    Alan Menken, Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics

    Courtesy of ABC

    "Probably the most challenging character to write for was Gareth, the hard-as-nails defender of King Richard, played by the amazing Vinnie Jones. [Lyricist] Glenn [Slater] and I wrote a number of big songs for him that somehow didn't make the cut, usually because of the risque nature of the subject matter and the language. Two of our favorite cut songs ('Manlyology' and 'Your Mother Is a Whore') only exist in demo form. However, there will now be a double CD set that will include those demos. There are a number of other songs that Gareth sings that do remain among our Galavant catalog: 'Let's Agree to Disagree' [a duet with Mallory Jansen's Madalena] and 'Love Makes the World Brand New.' As for the song we are nominated for, 'A New Season,' I chose to submit it because it involves more of our characters than any other number. It's a perfect reflection of how hilarious and self-deprecating Glenn Slater's humor is. And it's a big, old-fashioned production number that we're really proud of."

  • Jessica Jones (Netflix)

    Sean Callery, Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music

    Courtesy of Netflix

    "Doing a main title theme is quite hard because you're trying to create a signature and an expression for the series that represents the entire show. And this was my first Marvel series ever, which was unique because I wasn't allowed to look at the director's first cut. They have a high bar for security clearance. They put me in a dark room and showed me a series of still images from the show. That was my first visual intro to Jessica. A lot of the theme came just from those shots. My reaction was immediate, seeing Krysten Ritter's appearance and facial expressions. Sometimes it was coyness. Sometimes it was a smart-ass smile. Sometimes it was a look of grave concern and hurt. This was also a lead character who was a hard-drinking detective, and the tone of the script was new but noirish. So I told the producers they should have a neo-noir sound. What is that? Hell if I know, but the music just came to me."