Haunted, possessed or spirited: 2022 Emmy music nominees

The songs nominated for the 2022 Emmy for unique music and lyrics are every haunted by one thing. Some are vigorous, even wacky homages that resurrect sounds of the previous — the grand, previous “Oklahoma!”-type musical; a calypso wedding ceremony toast delivered by (a fictional model of) Harry Belafonte. One music spiritually guides a younger lady off the knife’s edge she has been treading. One other brings its complete collection full circle, constructed on a wisp of a melody that has lingered within the ambiance for six seasons. And one has roots in each the story’s betrayal in love and a poignant, real-life revelation.

From “This Is Us”; music by Siddhartha Khosla, lyrics by Taylor Goldsmith

“This Is Us” collection composer Siddhartha Khosla and songwriting companion Taylor Goldsmith (of the band Dawes) are nominated for “The Forever Now.” The unique music and lyrics may very well be mentioned to characterize Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore’s) swan music.

(NBC / NBC)

An aged lady sits at a keyboard at her daughter’s wedding ceremony to play a music she wrote. She struggles to recollect. She’s affected by Alzheimer’s. When her fingers do discover the notes pulled from deep in her reminiscence, the viewers — the hundreds of thousands of followers who’ve watched “This Is Us” for six seasons — abruptly have the same feeling of realization, of recognition.

“The melodic concept of ‘The Forever Now’ is something that we’ve been sort of teasing along for a while,” says collection composer Siddhartha Khosla. “It’s one of the main themes for six seasons. [Series creator] Dan Fogelman had this plan that the melody we’ve been hearing would end up becoming Rebecca’s [Mandy Moore’s] song at Kate’s wedding. Dan’s mandate was ‘Go and write the best song you guys have ever written.’ No pressure.”

Luckily, Khosla says, his co-writer, Taylor Goldsmith, “has a window into Rebecca in a way that none of us do, because his wife is Mandy Moore.”

Goldsmith, frontman of the band Dawes, has watched the actor-singer work on the character for years, from the earliest phases of receiving scripts, to hashing out moments together with her performing coach, to the completed product on the air. (“Also, I’m a massive fan of the show,” he says.)

He says Rebecca is, “for lack of a better phrase, a failed songwriter. She didn’t get to live that dream. So we couldn’t put on our Leonard Cohen hat or something. How do you do it through someone else’s voice” — an admittedly restricted songwriter, however maybe having her best second whilst she struggles by way of the gathering fog of dementia?

“How do you speak to these themes that the show’s been touching on this whole time that she’s not realizing she’s touching on? It’s a Friday crossword instead of a Monday crossword,” says Goldsmith, and each males snigger.

Goldsmith says the title thought of “The Forever Now” got here instantly — an expression of maybe the essence of “This Is Us”: the previous’s fixed presence, bolstered by the present’s time-jumping narrative. It was the remaining that took a while. He and Khosla went backwards and forwards, in search of the primary verse. Then he discovered the opening line: “They say time will tell, but I think it likes to keep secrets.”

“I don’t know where that line came from, but once it showed up, then it was just like cooking with gas,” Goldsmith says.

They had been quickly able to file a sophisticated model with Moore on the prime of her vocal powers. It went to No. 1 on iTunes. Then, for the efficiency within the present by which the 38-year-old Moore is in character because the 70-something Rebecca, they dropped the important thing a half-step on the singer’s urging.

“We created an alternate version where the piano chords were simpler, for someone who’s not too skilled on piano. At first she’s fumbling trying to remember it, but once she does, she’s locked in,” says Khosla. “She’s able to transcend her predicament and be a force of strength. It’s what makes Rebecca this superhero for the family.”

Goldsmith, having simply returned from touring with Moore (they needed to lower the tour brief resulting from her being pregnant), says the singer made the music her ultimate encore within the concert events. “We would play it every night and the fans treated it like one of the biggest songs she’s ever had. The eyes would go wide and they’d cheer at the first line. They sang along to every word.”

From “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”; music and lyrics by Thomas Mizer and Curtis Moore

Two smiling men, composers of an Emmy-nominated song sung by "Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's" fictional version of Harry Belafonte.

Curtis Moore and Thomas Mizer, composers of the Emmy-nominated “Maybe Monica” from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The music is a playful wedding ceremony toast by the present’s fictional model of iconic singer and activist Harry Belafonte.

(Xanthe Elbrick)

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s” songwriting group of Curtis Moore and Thomas Mizer is used to getting requests from showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino to tailor songs to a selected late ‘50s/early ‘60s genre. She managed to throw them for a loop, however, with her marching orders for “Maybe Monica.”

“Amy will call up and be like, ‘Uh, Harry Belafonte’s gonna sing at Shy’s wedding ceremony. Go!’ After which she’ll hold up,” says Mizer, laughing.

Legendary entertainer and civil rights icon Belafonte is, on this planet of “Mrs. Maisel,” a good friend of supporting character Shy Baldwin (a closeted crooner who has an advanced relationship with protagonist Midge).

Moore’s first response: “Are we being punked? He’s got a thousand amazing songs already. Why wouldn’t he be singing” a kind of?

The 2 say they had been stymied by the considered writing a brand new music for the fictional Belafonte as an alternative of merely utilizing one among his many actual hits till Sherman-Palladino gave them a key notice: It was to be a marriage toast.

“Ah! Story!” exclaims Mizer. “Suddenly that was the reason for us to be writing this.”

“Now we could have fun with it on two levels,” Moore says. “One, Harry’s writing this jab, this fun little joke song to Shy about, ‘How’d you get that great girl to marry you?’ Because I don’t think Harry necessarily knows the entire backstory of Shy Baldwin. But we as writers know, and you as the audience know, so that allows us another level to write that into the song. This is a sham wedding! This is a publicity stunt.”

Lyricist Mizer says, “At the same time, it’s the question we should be asking the whole episode. ‘Why is Monica [marrying him]?’

“My favorite thing in it is just that I made the singer have to do ‘Baby made a Maybe a Yes’ over and over again: ‘Baby made a Maybe a Yes / Baby made a Maybe a Yes.’ Everybody on set was trying to say it three times fast.”

Curtis says, “It all ends up a fun play on this moment, but also, ‘What is this farce that’s happening in front of us?’ And of course, we’re trying to show that while still having a joyous, fun, Harry Belafonte calypso number.”

From “Euphoria”; music and lyrics by Labrinth; lyrics by Sam Levinson and Zendaya

A young composer in a dark room, leaning his chin on his hand and his elbow on an organ keyboard.

Labrinth is nominated for 2 songs he co-wrote for the second season of “Euphoria.” Collaborator and collection star Zendaya can be nominated for each, making her a triple nominee this yr, whereas showrunner Sam Levinson shares the nomination for one and Labrinth’s spouse, songwriter and frequent collaborator Muzhda Zemar-McKenzie, shares the nomination for the opposite.

(Daniel Prakopcyk)

“Euphoria” protagonist Rue (Zendaya) goes by way of hell on the present. She plummets in a spiral of habit and betrayal till realizing she has to cease her descent.

“When you get to that place where you’ve gone around in circles so many times, there’s this tiredness in your soul. It’s not just tiredness physically,” says collection composer Labrinth of the gospel-inflected “I’m Tired.”

“I just started singing it and then [series creator Sam Levinson] started writing lyrics to some of my melodies and Zendaya would say something; it was like us playing tennis in the studio.”

The easy, repeated traces really feel like a mantra (“Hey, Lord, you know I’m tired” and “Hey, Lord, you know I’m trying”) that bends towards darkness (“I’m sure this world is done with me”). However in its bare plea, it comes round to “Hey, Lord, I wanna stay.” The vocalist for many of it’s male, although the phrases may come instantly from Rue’s coronary heart.

“It could sound suicidal if a person listened to it very little, but for me, the end of the old you is the beginning of a new you. What we’re saying is we wanna renew ourselves.”

One would possibly anticipate some hints of Kirk Franklin in Labrinth’s inspiration for a gospel music, or Prince, and he says each had been within the combine. He additionally cites Kanye West, Queen and Nat “King” Cole as resonating in his head as he wrote.

“They all have this ethereal, kind of spiritual energy. When I was listening to Queen, those big harmonies take you somewhere. Nat “King” Cole, his ballads can have harmonies that really feel like they morph into different universes after which return.”

Within the present, Rue staggers right into a church, the place we understand the music is coming from a familiar-looking gospel singer who embraces the spiritually battered lady.

“I was a bit nervous because I hadn’t performed for a while,” Labrinth says of lastly fulfilling Levinson’s request that he cameo on the present. “Then the whole church, everyone was crying. Me and Zendaya cried. We were all in tears together.”

“Schmigadoon!”; music and lyrics by Cinco Paul

A smiling man in a dark blue button-down shirt, the Emmy-nominated composer of songs from a fake musical for "Schmigadoon!"

Cinco Paul is nominated for an Emmy for “Corn Puddin’,” one of many songs he wrote for the residing piece of old style musical theater by which the primary characters of “Schmigadoon!” discover themselves trapped.

(Brendan Meadows / Apple)

In “Schmigadoon!,” a pair on the rocks (performed by Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Robust) discover themselves in a suspiciously quaint hamlet whose denizens have a behavior of launching into well-coordinated musical numbers. The 2 haven’t realized they’re trapped in a weird musical-theater limbo when Robust’s character says she has by no means tried the place’s well-known corn pudding and the entire gosh darn city turns as much as sing and dance its praises.

There’s a aspect serving to of smiley innuendo with this “Corn Puddin’ “: “If he wants my puddin’,” brightly sing the women, “he’ll have to marry me.” And a number of other of the feminine dancers finish in inverted splits, held up by male dancers. It’s an everyday horny-on-the-down-low hootenanny, a refined foreshadowing of the repression beneath the shiny floor.

“Ken and I would sing that song to whoever we were pitching the show,” says co-creator and collection composer Cinco Paul, recognized for his work with writing companion Ken Daurio on big-screen Dr. Seuss animated movies and the “Despicable Me” franchise. “It’s a big part of why Apple decided to buy it in the first place.

“The point was twofold — to parody those songs in musicals that have no purpose. ‘Why are you singing a song about this now?’ ‘A Real Nice Clambake’ from ‘Carousel’ is a good example. ‘Shipoopi’ from ‘Music Man’ is another one. They stop the story dead: ‘Let’s sing about food!’

“It was also finding the song that would be most annoying to Keegan’s character. So ironically, it moves the story forward because it gets him to the point of ‘We have to leave right now. I can’t take another song like this.’ ”

There’s an plain earworm on this “Corn”: “You put the corn in the puddin’ and the puddin’ in the bowl / You put the bowl in your belly ‘cause it’s good for the soul.”

“I think that was the big breakthrough [in writing it], as silly as it sounds,” says Paul.

“I recently saw a T-shirt with that line in emojis. They used a corn emoji and a bowl emoji; a halo emoji for ‘good for the soul.’ That was really fun. Also, you know you have something when you hear the crew on the set singing along.”

Delighted as he’s with the Emmy laurels, Paul needs to ensure everyone is aware of “I’m in a rivalry now with Zendaya.” Tongue firmly in cheek, he mentioned of his fellow nominee, “It’s getting pretty heated.”

From “Euphoria”; music and lyrics by Labrinth; lyrics by Muzhda Zemar-McKenzie and Zendaya

A dramatic multiple-exposure shot of composer Labrinth's profile against a black background.

“Euphoria” collection composer Labrinth is nominated together with star Zendaya for 2 songs they co-wrote for the present’s second season: “I’m Tired,” which they co-wrote with collection creator Sam Levinson; and “Elliot’s Song,” which they co-wrote with songwriter (and Labrinth’s spouse) Muzhda Zemar-McKenzie.

(Daniel Prakopcyk)

“Elliot’s Music,” this yr’s second unique music and lyrics nominee from “Euphoria,” is sort of a radio sign from house that recedes once more into darkness. Its supply, nevertheless, is from a hauntingly actual place.

“Elliot’s saying, ‘I’m sorry [for betraying you], but I wanted to save you. I’m in hell, but I don’t want you in hell with me,’ ” says collection composer Labrinth, who shares the nomination with star Zendaya (once more) and along with his frequent collaborator (and spouse), Muzhda Zemar-McKenzie.

Zendaya defined to Labrinth her character, Rue, and Elliot (Dominic Fike) had been thick as drugged-out thieves within the present’s second season. However alongside the best way, Elliot betrays her twice: He sleeps together with her girlfriend, Jules, and rats her out for resuming her addictive methods.

Labrinth sums up Elliot’s pondering on the latter, expressed within the music he writes for Rue: “ ‘If I’m going to lose you, I’d rather keep you alive than lose you by my side.’ Once Zendaya spoke to me about what he’d done, I heard in my head, ‘I’ve got no place / Buildin’ you a rocket up to outer space.’ ”

The lyric continues, “I watch you fade / Keepin’ the lights on in this forsaken place” and finishes every pair of stanzas with “I hope that it was worth it in the end.”

When Labrinth had solely the primary verse, he talked the music over with Zemar-McKenzie. She mentioned it made her consider a really pricey good friend who died in an accident when she was 17.

“They were like peas in a pod,” mentioned her husband. “They would get in trouble together. He always said to her, ‘I think I’m gonna go early.’ He would say it as a joke. And then he did end up going.”

Years later, “She had a dream about him saying, ‘Have you read my letter?’ After she had the dream, she learned from a mutual friend that he had left her a letter that she hadn’t previously known of.

“The letter was basically him saying, ‘I want you to have the best life. Don’t stay here; go and win.’ It was deep. It kind of makes me emotional speaking about it.

“He wasn’t planning on going, but in the letter it felt like him going was for her to become what she needed to become. We started writing in that perspective: ‘I know I may have upset you by abandoning you, but I hope you see that this becomes worth it in the end, to see you become what you need to become.’ ”