Janelle Monae has made successful ventures into acting with the films “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures” as well as the Amazon series “Homecoming.” But she’s still probably best known for her work as a singer-songwriter. So it’s ironic that she could win her first Oscar this year while the Grammys keep giving her the cold shoulder.
Monae made the Oscars shortlist for co-writing the original song “Turntables” (watch the video above) with George A. Peters II and Nathaniel Irvin III for the documentary “All In: The Fight for Democracy,” which recounts the history of voter suppression in the United States and the efforts of Georgia politician Stacey Abrams to make the system truly democratic.
This would be only the second Oscar-winning song from a documentary, following Melissa Etheridge‘s political anthem “I Need to Wake Up” from 2006’s climate change doc “An Inconvenient Truth.” But several documentaries have been nominated for songwriting since then, including “Chasing Ice” (for J. Ralph‘s song “Before My Time”), “The Hunting Ground” (for Lady Gaga and Diane Warren‘s “Til It Happens to You”), “Racing Extinction” (for J. Ralph and Anohni‘s “Manta Ray”), “Jim: The James Foley Story” (for J. Ralph and Sting‘s “The Empty Chair“) and “RBG” (for Diane Warren’s “I’ll Fight”).
Monae has already made strong impressions on the academy, even though she herself hasn’t been nominated yet. In addition to her aforementioned roles in the Oscar-winning “Moonlight” and Oscar-nominated “Hidden Figures,” she performed the opening number at the Oscars broadcast just last year. By now voters might be eager to give her the nod. As of this writing “Turntables” is likely to be nominated, according to the combined predictions of Gold Derby users. And one of the Expert journalists we’ve surveyed, Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), is currently betting on the song to win.
You’d think, then, that the recording academy would be just as enthusiastic about her as the motion picture academy might be. But to date she zero-for-eight at those elite music kudos. It seemed like 2019 would finally be her year for Grammy glory thanks to her critically hailed “Dirty Computer,” but while it was nominated for Album of the Year, she was conspicuously snubbed everywhere else except Best Music Video (“Pynk”), and she ultimately came away empty-handed.
On the plus side, Monae could kill two birds with one stone. “Turntables” was released in September 2020, which means it’s eligible for Best Visual Media Song at the Grammys that will be held in 2022. Oscar and Grammy have agreed on the same song several times in recent years, with both awards going to tunes like the title theme from “Skyfall,” “Let it Go” from “Frozen,” “Glory” from “Selma” and “Shallow” from “A Star is Born.” So while the recording academy has been stingy to Monae thus far, perhaps the tables are finally about to turn.
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