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These quotes first appeared in the Jan. 10, 2013, issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Writing songs is one thing, writing songs for film is quite another. THR asked five Oscar-eligible songwriters — who penned tracks for the big screen for the first time this year — to explain the genesis for the tracks featured in Django Unchained, Act of Valor, Rise of the Guardians, Katy Perry: Part of Me and Promised Land. Read on for their responses.
Katy Perry: “I wrote ‘Wide Awake’ in two days with the dream team of songwriters. It’s like a bookend to the film [Part of Me], just a great punctuation for the film and for that time in my life. It tells the story of the movie. Rewatching the last year of my life in the edit bay was a catalyst for these feelings to come out. I was congested with the idea, and I knew I needed to get it out. I needed to have my say right then and there. I knew it was going to be a bit of a retrospective, that it would be ballad-y, midtempo. I knew the feeling of it — I knew it wasn’t going to be an uptempo dance number, and what really triggered it was a simple combination of beats that this guy Cirkut played. You never really know where songs can come from. When I was a kid, I made up songs to the sound of the washing machine or a dripping faucet or windshield wipers. I took the sounds that were continual and put my lyric or melody ideas with them. There are songs that say, “I’m strong after everything I’ve been through,” and that’s not always the case. Sometimes the reality is you’ve had a revelation. I wanted to capture how humbling that revelation can be. When I started this record cycle, it was all about cotton candy clouds and living the high, sweet life, and even though it didn’t end so sweetly for me in some ways, the call back was falling from those same candy clouds.
I thought about the [Alice in Wonderland-themed] video right as I was writing the song. Nine times out of 10, I come in with a visual to match the song, and five times out of 10, it ends up being that original idea. I always knew that I wanted it to be me being guided through the labyrinth of the last few years of my life. There are some subliminal messages; some of it’s a little more dramatic than it was, and some of it was less dramatic. I had the idea for this music video when I hosted SNL last December, before I had even written the song. I knew this song was in me for a long time, and going through the SNL process of being led around from scene to scene gave me this surreal feeling that I wanted to capture in the visual for the song.”
Jamie Foxx: “Rick Ross came on the Django set. I said, ‘Rick, I’m not a rapper, don’t grade me. But you should do a song, ‘100 Black Coffins.’ Gimme an hour to write lyrics: ‘I need 100 black coffins for 100 bad men/100 black graves I can lay their ass in.’ ”
Joey Ryan: “Being called by Gus Van Sant to lend a musical through-line to Promised Land through ‘Snake Eyes’ flattered me and Kenneth Pattengale deeply, especially because he had done the same thing so beautifully before with Elliott Smith [for Good Will Hunting].”
Keith Urban: “ ‘For You’ comes out of a funeral scene [in Act of Valor], but they wanted it to be big and optimistic without being cheesy. I knew it would be a minor chord that morphed into a major chord to give a sense of triumphantness.”
Alexandre Desplat: “’Still Dream’ [from Rise of the Guardians] is my first song for an American movie. Very difficult. If it was easy, we’d only hear good songs. I can’t think of an end-title song in the last 20 years sung by an opera singer. Renee Fleming hits a high G.”
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