This Year’s Emmy Song Nominees: Few Superstars in Contention

The Emmy lineup might have looked like this: Kanye West nominated for music supervision. Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Mary J. Blige, Phoebe Bridgers and Sheryl Crow up for best song. Mick Jagger, Imagine Dragons, 50 Cent and Isabella Summers nominated for main-title theme. Finneas O’Connell up for limited-series score, and Meshell Ndegeocello nominated for series score.

All of those superstars entered songs, themes, scores and music-supervision lineups for the 74th annual Emmy Awards, and none of them wound up with a nomination.

Emmy’s music peer group consists of 460 composers, songwriters, music supervisors and other professionals involved in making music for TV. They are not impressed by big names.

The closest they came was a dual nomination for Zendaya in the original song category for HBO’s “Euphoria”: “Elliot’s Song,” co-written with score composer Labrinth and his partner Muzhda Zemar-McKenzie; and “I’m Tired,” co-written with Labrinth and series creator-writer Sam Levinson.

Two of the other three songs in that category are from previous nominees, all veterans of the TV biz. Thomas Mizer and Curtis Moore wrote the Harry Belafonte-style “Maybe Monica” for a fourth-season episode of Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” their second Emmy nomination for the series.

For the final season of NBC’s “This Is Us,” composer Siddhartha Khosla and Dawes songwriter Taylor Goldsmith penned “The Forever Now,” sung by Goldsmith’s wife Mandy Moore, who plays Rebecca on the series. They were earlier nominees for a song in a fourth-season episode, and Khosla has been nominated twice more for “This Is Us” scores.

The fifth nominated tune is “Corn Puddin’,” a comic hoedown from the Apple+ musical parody “Schmigadoon!” with words and music by Cinco Paul, one of the creators and the showrunner.

What works, and what does not work, for the TV Academy music branch has been a mystery for as long as they have been awarding Emmys. Some of the greatest music ever written for the medium wasn’t even nominated: the failure of Thomas Newman’s “Angels in America” score to be cited was a scandal in 2004. The acclaimed HBO mini won 11 Emmys and received 10 other nominations, but not music, pointing up flaws in the voting process that Emmy officials sought to correct in subsequent years.

A more recent issue is the vast number of projects being entered for Emmy consideration. Last year’s 535 entries in the seven music categories this year ballooned to 619: 159 for series score, 67 for limited-series or movie score, 60 for documentary score, 22 for music direction, 89 for song, 69 for main-title theme and 153 for music supervision.

It’s become impossible to see or even audition everything entered. (Twenty years ago, the music branch created a system that ensured that every entry would be screened by at least a handful of members; that system was discarded a few years ago as impractical and costly.)

The result seems to be, in many cases, nominations for series that are popular with other Emmy voters. Four of the six nominees in the series-score category, for example, were for shows that had some of the biggest Emmy tallies: “Succession” (25 nominations), “Severance” (14), “Only Murders in the Building” (17) and “Loki” (six).

Similarly, three of the five nominees in the limited-series or movie score category were for similarly acclaimed shows: “The White Lotus” (20 nominations), “Moon Knight” (eight) and “Station Eleven” (seven). First, voters had to see the shows; then they could pass judgment on the music.

Thus many Emmy voters may not have seen “Slow Horses” with its Mick Jagger theme song; “Nine Perfect Strangers” or “Queer Eye” with their Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert tunes; the documentaries on Sheryl Crow and Mary J. Blige with their original songs; or “BMF” with its 50 Cent theme. Or if they did, they didn’t care enough to nominate them.