Most of this weekend's music media attention went toward the Video Music Awards but Monday night's Emmys feature a few musical categories of their own.
Well, technically not Monday night's version of events. Television is a format that features a heck of a lot of awards to give out, so all of the music prizes have already been announced, and this ain't The Tonys so don't expect any big musical numbers tonight. We at Music Times still feel like the nominees deserve some consideration so we're checking out all of the contenders for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music and checking our results against what the Emmys opted for.
01) Black Sails Theme by Bear McCreary
McCreary wasn't looking to Disney when he went into drafting a theme for the Starz pirate series. From the first pounding piano notes you can tell that this piece was going to be rough, and it was intended to be that way, much like the grizzled characters from the show. Largely a period piece thanks to the prominent hurdy gurdy—a string instrument that sounds much like a bagpipe—the theme still operates much like a heavy metal tune...a feeling confirmed by the guitar in the latter half.
02) Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey Theme by Alan Silvestri
Many composers dream of epic subject matter to write scores for, and Silvestri was faced with the most epic subject matter of all: The universe. Rather than go big like the John Williams Star Wars theme, the composer comes in gently, making his orchestra sound like a small body in a huge space...a sensible notion for a show based around the wonders of all time and space. His theme is more reflective than imperative, a vibe that meshes with the tone of host Neil Tyson DeGrasse (and of originator Carl Sagan).
03) Magic City Theme by Daniele Luppi
McCreary might have veered off of the period theme a tad for the Black Sails theme but Daniele Luppi dedicates his theme for another Starz series completely to its '50s setting. It's a Miami-based drama surrounding a nightclub owner who deals with the mob, so you better believe that the theme is gonna be the sounds of a Cuban house band, a sexy and sultry mix of easygoing jazz and Latin rhythms that reflects all of the sex and none of the violence featured in the series.
04) Sleepy Hollow Theme by Brian Tyler and Robert Grant
Brian Tyler is no stranger to big and scary—his film work includes The Avengers, Iron Man and The Expendables amid a litany of other adrenal-fueled titles. The theme for Sleepy Hollow is actually rather small fry for him, both in terms of budget and the relative destruction of the villains involved. Indeed the horror theme comes through in period violins (referencing back to the 1776 origins of the show's Ichabod Crane), and a congregation of background vocalists add creepy harmonies. Ultimately ends up being somewhat forgettable in a world full of similar film and television scores however.
05) The Spoils of Babylon Theme by Andrew Feltenstein, John Nau, Matt Piedmont and Andrew Steele
The theme for IFC's The Spoils of Babylon seems to be the one thing that producers took seriously. The series is a comedy satirizing epic, soap opera-esque miniseries that have come before it, flashing through all the tropes—war drama, relationship drama, drug addiction and business conflicts—but even that's not humorous enough. No, Babylon is staged as a real documentary looking back at a fake miniseries. The team behind the score had plenty of inspiration to work with, creating a new melodramatic theme to match the action of the series-within-a-series.
WHO WON? Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey
WHO SHOULD HAVE WON? Cosmos. Silvestri had some huge shoes to fill from Vangelis, the composer behind Carl Sagan's original series. Silvestri captured the mood and purpose of the series with his approach.