From "We Won't Move" ('The Hate U Give') to "All the Stars" ('Black Panther'), this year's hopefuls tuned into the social justice movement.
When music producing partners Mike Woods and Kevin White attended an early screening of The Hate U Give, they walked out with an absolute conviction of what they needed to compose for the end of the movie. "What was really touching about the film was how real it was," says Woods. "It was obvious that we needed a song that gave a scene that was so heavy a feeling of empowerment."
The question was, what kind of musical piece would provide a big finish to the adaptation of Angie Thomas' YA novel, expressing anguish, determination and hope for characters fighting racial injustice and police brutality in 21st century America?
Best defined as an anthem, "We Won't Move" captures a sense of unwavering resilience. But articulating how a bona fide musical anthem comes about creatively is like describing the process of trapping a genie in a bottle, according to the writers. "I don't think you know you're going to write an anthem before you write it," says White. "It's something that happens organically with good chemistry."
Capturing the passion of the present-day civil rights movement started with crafting the right lyrics. "The title, 'We Won't Move,' says 'We're going to hold our ground, we're going to remain peaceful but vigilant,' " Woods explains. "Also, 'step by step, brick by brick, we're going to face these challenges that we are going through' — lyrically that conveyed what the emotion was for the song and for the scene. We knew as we finished our session that this was a great song with an important message."
Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars” triumphantly roars over the end credits for the Marvel superhero blockbuster that’s been hailed as a watershed moment for onscreen representation.
Troye Sivan, who wrote love song “Revelation” for Joel Edgerton’s gay conversion therapy drama and also stars in the film, thinks “it’s so crazy that we had to make this movie in 2018, that it does feel timely.
Kesha wrote “Here Comes the Change,” lauding the inspiring journey of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For the period film, she wanted the song to feel like it could play in the ’50s, ’70s or now.
David Crosby, whose track “Home Free” plays over the eminent domain court case drama, says that being directly political is appropriate sometimes, but as a songwriter, “Our main job is to make you boogie.”
This story first appeared in a December stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.