Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross won their second Oscar on Sunday night, a little over a decade after their first win for “The Social Network.” Along with Jon Batiste, the longtime musical partners took home statues for Best Original Score for their collective work on the Pixar film “Soul.”
“Soul” is one of the only films with a music-related protagonist to win this category since 1999’s “The Red Violin,” joining (arguably) only “La La Land” over that span. It’s fitting, then, that the team behind it has the impressive musical pedigree to match. Batiste has been the bandleader for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” since its premiere in 2015. Over that time, he’s also released multiple studio and live albums, including last month’s “WE ARE.” He was also nominated in a pair of categories at last month’s Grammy Awards.
Ross has worked on a number of TV projects in recent years, including most recently as the composer for the AMC series “Dispatches from Elsewhere.” He and Reznor teamed up for the Emmy-winning score for the HBO limited series “Watchmen.” Both were also nominated for the score for “Mank,” one of the film’s 10 nominations on Sunday night. Reznor and Ross are currently the primary members of the band Nine Inch Nails.
The pair’s 2011 win for “The Social Network” (like “Mank,” a David Fincher film) was far from the first for a score to build its sound around a primarily electronic feel. But through its sparse melodies (as also found in Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score for “Joker”) and the blending of artistic influences found in their more mainstream work (as was the case for Ludwig Göransson and his “Black Panther” score), the music of that film doesn’t connect to just “Soul,” but the category’s two winners preceding it too.
“Soul” faced a formidable slate of Best Original Score contenders. The “Minari” music from Emile Mosseri (who also delivered one of 2020’s most memorable scores in the world of TV) became part of that film’s strong last-minute momentum within the Oscar season. Like Thomas Newman last year, James Newton Howard and Terence Blanchard are multi-time nominees with acclaimed careers whose time to take home Oscar gold will have to wait a little bit longer.
The award marks the first time since 1987 (David Byrne, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Cong Su for “The Last Emperor”) that the winner of the category was a score credited to more than two composers.