Matthew Heineman’s moving documentary feature “American Symphony” was recently acquired by Netflix after its debut at the Telluride Film Festival, cementing itself as one of the early frontrunners for the Oscars. Its main subject, “Soul” Oscar winner Jon Batiste, will now be in the race for best original song with the track “It Never Went Away.”
Batiste sings the emotional number, which he co-wrote with Grammy-winning songwriter and producer Dan Wilson.
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“‘It Never Went Away’ is a lyric detailing a love that outlasts any condition of the physical world,” Batiste tells Variety. “It probes the questions of our mortality while at the same time speaking to the enduring quality of our deepest callings and desires. That part of us that stands in protest to the ills of the physical world is, in fact, evidence of our perpetual nature.”
The film follows multi-instrumentalist Batiste beginning in early 2022, when he finds himself celebrated with 11 Grammy nominations, including album of the year. Amid that triumph, Batiste is immersed in his most ambitious challenge yet: composing an original symphony for a performance at the storied Carnegie Hall. However, this extraordinary trajectory is upended when Batiste’s life partner, Suleika Jaouad, learns that her long-dormant cancer has returned.
With the addition of Batiste, the original song race is overflowing with some of the biggest names in music angling for Academy attention. Among those are Billie Eilish (“Barbie”), Justin Timberlake (“Trolls Band Together”), Diane Warren (“Flamin’ Hot”) and Lenny Kravitz (“Rustin”).
Batiste served as the bandleader and musical director of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” for seven years. In 2021, he became the second Black composer (after Herbie Hancock) to win the Oscar for best original score for the animated feature “Soul” (2020), which he shared with fellow composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Batiste’s latest studio album, “World Music Radio” features collaborators including Jon Bellion, Lana Del Rey and Lil Wayne.
Wilson, best known as the lead vocalist of the ’90s rock band Semisonic, has built an impressive resumé as a songwriter. He’s a multiple Grammy winner, including for song of the year in 2007 for Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice” and for album of the year in 2012 as one of the producers for Adele’s “21.”
Verve Records and Interscope Records will release the song. “American Symphony” will premiere on Netflix on Nov. 29.
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