Are Lady Gaga and Diane Warren set to make awards history with a triple crown of Best Song nominations for their powerful anthem “Til It Happens To You,” from the documentary The Hunting Ground? Already having been nominated for an Oscar and a Grammy for Best Song Written For A Motion Picture, it has now been entered into the Emmy race for Outstanding Original Music And Lyrics.
Has there ever been one song nominated for an Emmy, Grammy and Oscar in the same year — or any year? The answer would have to be no. Rather than the famous EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony), Warren told me this could be her EGO, at least in terms of nominations. An Emmy nod July 14 could go a long way in easing the disappointment she and Lady Gaga felt when “Til It Happens To You,” heavily favored to take home the Oscar, inexplicably lost to Sam Smith’s James Bond song “Writing’s On The Wall” from Spectre.
Off the top of my head I can think of no other instance of one song getting this kind of potential recognition. It is only possible because, as is sometimes the case with docus, The Hunting Ground, due to its airing on CNN, became eligible in the documentary Emmy categories despite the fact it was first competing in the Oscar race (the campus rape doc made it to the final 15). There have been a few instances of Oscar-nominated and -winning docs that also got Emmy love in the same year, most recently HBO’s Citizenfour which took an Emmy for Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking after first winning the Documentary Feature Oscar just six months earlier. But in the case of a song, that is almost unprecedented. Another 2015 Oscar nominated tune, “Manta Ray” from writers J. Ralph and Anohni from Racing Extinction was also initially entered in the Emmy contest but ruled ineligible after it was discovered it did not appear in the televised version of that documentary. Instead Ralph entered another tune from the movie, “One Candle” , co-written with Sia.
“That makes me want it even more,” Warren laughed when I brought up the possibility of being a triple awards threat.
It was actually her publicist who first informed her the film, and by extension the song, could be Emmy-eligible. “My reaction was just like ‘Wow, it doesn’t end with the Oscars.’ That’s very cool,” she said. Warren doesn’t beat around the bush about her extreme disappointment in losing the Oscar (for the eighth time) because this year she was behind the clear favorite. Vice President Joe Biden came on the show to introduce Lady Gaga’s breathtaking and powerful performance with rape victims, and the song was placed just before Common came on to announce the winner.
“I have been nominated lots of times and I usually think I am going to lose, and usually I am right. But this one hurt, but on the positive side of it, her performance was galvanizing. Oddly not winning the Oscar really made the song even bigger because everybody was like ‘What? Really?’,” she said. Lady Gaga’s label, which had been dragging their heels, even finally put out the single. “It’s become larger than life. It goes beyond awards, although I am not going to lie, it would have been great to win the Oscar. It was surprising. I cried twice,” she said, adding that she had a really good speech prepared this time — short and sweet. Warren speculates that the Bond film was much more widely seen than the little-known Kirby Dick documentary for which her song was written.
On the Oscar ballot the names of the songwriters do not appear, so movie recognition is all that much more important to a casual voter. It is true that “Writing’s On The Wall” took the Golden Globe as well, but Hunting Ground was ineligible to compete there since the Globes don’t recognize docs. Lady Gaga did take a Golden Globe for her dramatic performance in American Horror Story in the movie and miniseries category and is Emmy-eligible for that as well. However just to clarify from an earlier version of this article she is not personally eligible for an Emmy for the song per the Television Academy as her cue sheets are below the standard they require. Only Warren would receive the Emmy should the song be nominated and win.
But, awards recognition aside, for Warren the rich reward of “Til It Happens To You” has been its ongoing impact, even being used again in reports recently about the controversy over the six-month sentence Stanford swimmer Brock Turner received in his sexual assault trial and the ensuing worldwide attention the case got due to his victim’s very public and emotional letter describing her ordeal. “This song has become so synonymous with people being able to talk about what was never being talked about,” she says, mentioning that she herself was a victim of sexual assault when she was younger but never spoke of it. “I was ashamed and writing this song made me be able to talk about it. And almost every day now I get letters or texts or Facebook messages about what the song has meant to so many people.”
That’s the mark of a true winner no matter how you look at it.