“It was a bit of a challenge, thinking ‘oh my gosh,’ how are we going to pull it all off? I really wasn’t sure until I saw it, and said ‘oh my goodness,’ it was everything that I thought it would be,” acclaimed songwriter Taura Stinson admits about writing a song for the end of the world, and the light-bulb moment that led to the song “Just Look Up,” from “Don’t Look Up,” Netflix’s dark apocalyptic satire.
“We had to perform it at the last concert ever. The song has to be beautiful; it has to be something that people are going to sing along with,” she explains. “It is going to have to be something that is both a ballad and believable, but it also is going to be grim and end in disaster and tell us all about ourselves.”
We talked with Stinson as part of Gold Derby’s special film songwriters “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with key Oscar contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
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“Don’t Look Up” stars Oscar winners Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as two astronomers who discover that a giant comet is careening toward Earth. As they attempt in vain to warn humanity about the approaching extinction event, the world around them either doesn’t believe them or simply doesn’t care. As an allegory for humanity’s failure to reckon with the burgeoning global climate crisis, the Netflix film is a scathing and often hilarious rebuke of the role of government and the media in fostering worldwide neglect and complacency.
Alongside the big-band musical score from Oscar nominated composer Nicholas Britell, the all-star satire boasts the original ballad, “Just Look Up,” which Stinson co-wrote with Britell and performers Ariana Grande and Scott Mescudi (a.k.a. Kid Cudi).
The song features as a crescendo in the film as the biggest pop star in the world belts out an anthem to inspire the world not to ignore the impending doom of a comet rocketing towards the earth. It starts off earnestly and heartfelt, but the lyrics eventually tell a different story; not pulling any punches when Grande sings “get your head out of your ass” and “listen to the goddamn scientists.” The song uncomfortably and hilariously acknowledges the ridiculous times we are living in right now, as the audience in the arena sways side by side with their phones up, inexplicably oblivious to the certain death that approaches before their very eyes.
While the song was written before the film was shot, it was always intended to be sung by the world’s biggest pop stars at a spectacular arena concert to mark the impending apocalypse. “They were going to perform the song at the last concert in the at the end of the world, and so yeah so it was kind of like envisioning that which wasn’t so hard with our crazy world,” Stinson reveals. “It’s not too hard to imagine Ariana Grande performing in front of the biggest audience ever along with Kid Cudi and so it was just you know, taking that script and all the craziness of the world and putting it together. Piecing it together was a bit of a challenge, but I think we pulled it off,” she smiles.
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