MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The Golden Globes are tonight. And, usually, the spotlight is on the movies, especially the nominees for Best Actor and Actress and Best Picture. This year, though, the best original song category is making a serious bid for your attention.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL THE STARS")
SZA: (Singing) This may be the night that my dreams might let me know all the stars are closer, all the stars are closer...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REVELATION")
TROYE SIVAN: (Singing) It's a revelation. There's no hell in what I found...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REQUIEM FOR A PRIVATE WAR")
ANNIE LENNOX: (Singing) Underneath the shooting stars...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHALLOW")
LADY GAGA: (Singing) I'm off the deep end. Watch as I dive in. I'll never meet the ground.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIRL IN THE MOVIES")
DOLLY PARTON: (Singing) Popcorn, soda, box of Raisinets...
MARTIN: Those five songs up for the top award not only bring the star power, they're songs that make deep impressions in their own right. They are, in reverse order, Dolly Parton's "Girl In The Movies," from the movie "Dumplin'," Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow" from "A Star Is Born," Annie Lennox's "Requiem For A Private War" from "A Private War," Troye Sivan and Jonsi's "Revelation" from "Boy Erased" and "All The Stars" by Kendrick Lamar and SZA from "Black Panther."
We wanted to talk more about those and also look - have an excuse to play the songs. So, of course, we called NPR Music's very own Stephen Thompson. Stephen, thanks so much for joining us.
STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Oh, it's my pleasure.
MARTIN: Well, talk about the list of the nominees for Best Original Song this year. What stood out to you?
THOMPSON: Well, I think there's somewhat of a two-horse race here when you're talking about what's actually going to win. The song from "A Star Is Born" really captured people's, I think, attention and imagination. It's a big booming ballad. But you also have "All The Stars" from "Black Panther." When you listen to these five songs back-to-back, that one really has a little bit of crackle to it. And it's my favorite of the five. But I think it's going to come down to those two songs.
MARTIN: It's my understanding just from reading the coverage that Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are favorites to win for the song "Shallow." You think that's merited?
THOMPSON: Yeah. I mean, I think that's what's going to happen. I think it's a good example of a song that is actually integrated very well into the movie from which it comes. A lot of times, these Best Original songs are just popular songs that are tacked onto the end of movies that run over the closing credits, including - "All The Stars" isn't actually integrated into "Black Panther."
MARTIN: But it is fair to say, though - isn't it? - that the songs that were nominated weren't just background music. They do have sort of a power in their own right.
THOMPSON: Well, and, thematically, they fit into the themes of the movie. If you listen to "Revelation" from "Boy Erased," "Boy Erased" is - it's a very painful movie and Troye Sivan, who appears on "Revelation," actually acts in the movie "Boy Erased." This is a subject matter that is very close to the heart of not only Troye Sivan but also Jonsi, who performed those songs.
"A Private War" is - you know, is a very intense movie about a private war. And Annie Lennox related very closely to that material. And Dolly Parton has a close kind of personal connection to the story of "Dumplin'" and wrote a lot of original songs for it. So I do think you have a little bit more of a connection between the artists and the material than you sometimes have.
MARTIN: Is there a song that you think should have been nominated that wasn't?
THOMPSON: Well, I'm not necessarily on the record as a huge fan of "Mary Poppins Returns," but I do think several of the songs from that film would have been natural replacements for - I found the Annie Lennox song a little flat for me. And I was surprised not to see anything from "Mary Poppins Returns" given that "Mary Poppins Returns" received so many other Golden Globe nominations. You had original songs from that film. "Trip A Little Light Fantastic" would have, I think, injected a little bit of energy into this mix. I was really surprised not to see any representation from that movie in the songs list given how integral music is to that movie.
MARTIN: All right. Then, we'll go out on "Trip A Little Light Fantastic."
THOMPSON: Not nominated for a Golden Globe tonight.
MARTIN: Not nominated for a Golden Globe tonight. That's NPR's Stephen Thompson talking about the nominees for Best Original Song at tonight's Golden Globes. Stephen, thanks so much.
THOMPSON: Thank you, Michel.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRIP A LITTLE LIGHT FANTASTIC")
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: (Singing) Now when you're stuck in the mist, sure, you can struggle and resist or you can trip a little light fantastic with me. Now, say you're lost... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.