Quite often, awards pundits have observed that the Oscar winner for best score typically goes to a film that has shown traction during awards season. More specifically, in recent years, those films nabbing the score win also were nominated for best picture—from 2010 onward there’s been The Social Network, The Artist, Life of Pi and Gravity all earning Oscars for score. While the final round of Oscar balloting is open to all Academy members, the notion is that those voters favoring a certain film, i.e. The Artist, will simply check off most of the category boxes for one title on the ballot.
But when it comes to television music, specifically the main title theme category, Television Academy members tend to vote with their heart, not the vogue. Part of this stems from the fact that final Emmy voting is relegated to a committee of music peers not affiliated with the nominated shows. Just because a series is a big kahuna in the above-the-line categories—Mad Men, The Sopranos, Seinfeld—doesn’t mean that its main title theme is catchy enough for the Emmy voting pool. Of late, the winners for best main title theme are shows that might be deemed too niche in their demos or too genre, such as Bear McCreary’s (pictured above) Vivaldi-esque tune for DaVinci’s Demons, which won last year, or Trevor Morris’ The Borgias (2011). Heck, the 2008 winner went to composer Russ Landau for the short-lived CBS high-seas reality show Pirate Master.
This year’s noms also are from a melting pot of genres: Andrew Feltenstein and Jon Nau’s theme for IFC’s harlequin satire The Spoils of Babylon, Alan Silvestri’s soft, but wondrous title to Fox/NatGeo’s doc series Cosmos, Daniele Luppi’s sexy, Latin beat-inflected ’60s spy sound for Starz’s Magic City, Brian Tyler and Robert Grant LyDecker’s fierce suspense strings in Fox’s Sleepy Hollow and McCreary again with a bee-sounding string- and accordion-infused main title for Starz’s Black Sails. Much like Danny Elfman’s ’80s-era work on Batman and Dick Tracy, McCreary has a talent for reinventing genre themes (such as what he did with The Walking Dead) that could get him the win again here, however don’t count out Silvestri. Despite the TV Academy’s history of selecting tunes based on their merits, exceptions are made for big movie composers in the running (Thomas Newman with Six Feet Under, Randy Newman with Monk and Elfman with Desperate Housewives).