“I just think it’s special that my first Oscar-nominated song was about a guy f***ing a mannequin,” superstar songwriter and 12-time Academy Award nominee Diane Warren tells Yahoo Entertainment, in her typical blunt and hilarious manner. “And then it became this big wedding song — but hopefully not for, you know, marrying mannequins. Hopefully for marrying real people. Or mannequins. Whatever. You do you.”
Thirty-five years ago, Warren’s first Oscar-nominated song, Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” was released on the soundtrack for a sex fantasy/comedy titled — you guessed it — Mannequin, starring Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall. It lost to “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing (“They all lose to something,” Warren notes pragmatically), but the 1987 single, which was cowritten with Albert Hammond, was Warren’s first No. 1. Soon she was an in-demand cinematic hitmaker, penning other nominated themes like Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” from Up Close and Personal, Trisha Yearwood’s “How Do I Live” from Con Air, Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from Armageddon, and Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground.
Warren and Hammond actually didn’t know when they wrote “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” — which was partially inspired by Hammond’s impending marriage to his live-in girlfriend of seven years (and the mother of his son, the Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr.) after his finalized his divorce from his first wife — who would record it for the film. “We didn’t write it for Starship. The way I write songs, I don’t really usually write them with somebody in mind,” Warren explains. “I just try to write a great song, and if it’s for a movie, then it’s about casting. Casting a song in a movie is like casting a role in a movie. It has to really be perfect. And it has to really fit.”
Warren’s friend at RCA Records suggested Starship (formerly Jefferson Airplane and then Jefferson Starship), and when the result topped the Billboard Hot 100, it was another landmark moment: Not only was “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” Warren’s first No. 1 and first Oscar nomination, but Starship’s Grace Slick also became, at age 47, the oldest woman to have a No. 1 single in the U.S. (a record she held until a then-52-year-old Cher went to No. 1 with “Believe” in 1999).
Warren describes this feat as the “knockout punch” of Starship’s 1980s revival, following the chart-topping success of “We Built This City” and “Sara”; their Mannequin theme spent two weeks at No. 1 in the States and four weeks at No. 1 in the U.K., and it was the biggest hit for any version of the classic rock band. Warren knew when she heard Starship’s recording that it was going to be a smash. “I remember hearing it for the first time and going, ‘This is just great.’ Just that intro, just that drum fill, that little synth part — it’s just a perfect pop record, really. … And it’s become this crazy classic.”
As for the other legacy that “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” has left, the song was back in the news cycle five years ago when it appeared in a commercial for Chick-fil-A during the 2017 Grammy Awards; Slick agreed to let the song run in the ad for the conservative fast food company, only to immediately pull a switch-a-roo and donate her profits to the LBGTQ+ civil rights organization Lambda Legal. And Warren, an animal rights activist and vegan, protested in her own way. “I gave a lot of my royalties to animal organizations,” she reveals. “I don’t really like to encourage people to eat chicken, to be honest.”
“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” producer Narada Michael Walden actually won the Producer of the Year, Non-Classical honor at the 1987 Grammy Awards. As mentioned, Warren didn’t win the Oscar that same year, and she says she doesn’t even “have a big memory” of the “exact actual ceremony. Isn’t that weird? … I remember more going to the Golden Globes at that time, because my dad came with me and he wrote an acceptance speech for me on Ed Begley’s napkin. And then I didn’t win.”
Warren has since won two Golden Globes trophies — Cher’s “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from Burlesque, and Laura Pausini’s “Io sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead — and she’s also won a Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television Grammy for “Because You Love Me.” As for the Oscars, Warren is “the most-nominated woman in any category in the history of the Academy Awards to have been nominated this many times without winning. So, I think it’s kind of a cool thing. Look, I’ve had 12 nominations. There’s nothing shabby about that. If you look at the people that vote in that category, they’re the greatest composers and lyricists and musicians on the planet working in movies. If they [nominate] my song, when there’s hundreds a year, then how is that not a win?”
Now Warren’s Reba McEntire song “Somehow You Do,” from Four Good Days starring Glenn Close and Mila Kunis, is shortlisted for this year’s Oscars, with the five final Best Song nominees being announced in February — just in time to coincide with Mannequin’s 35th anniversary. (“Thirty-five years. Ugh, I don’t wanna think about that! Didn’t I write great songs when I was 3 years old? I was really precocious!” Warren quips.) Warren laughs thinking of the “many pieces of scrunched-up paper” and never-read acceptance speeches on her old Blackberry (“I’ve gotta find them!”), and she admits that she doesn’t quite know what she’d say if “Somehow You Do” actually won the Oscar this year and she had to give a speech.
“I’d say, ‘What took you guys so long?’ No, I won’t really say it,” she chuckles. “Here’s what would really happen: I would faint if they said my name. I would faint. That’s what’ll happen. They’ll have to just carry me up there and I’ll go, ‘What am I doing? Where am I?’”
Warren’s track record has earned her title of the “Susan Lucci of the Oscars,” but even Lucci eventually won a Daytime Emmy after multiple nominations. So, with a likely 13th Academy Award nomination looming for “Somehow You Do,” is Warren thinking 2022 might finally be her year? “I’m feeling good,” she admits with a grin. “I love the song. I’m really proud of it. Reba McEntire sings the s*** out of it. And William Shatner just did a spoken-word version of it. They’re both out there, and I’m waiting for the mashups!” (Editor’s note: A Reba/Shatner mashup now exists, as seen below.)
Regardless of whether or not Warren wins or is even nominated at the Oscars this time around, her illustrious film-composing career can be traced back to Mannequin. “Any success opens a door, or opens more doors,” she says. “I found out that I’m really good at it, you know? My dad, when I was younger, said if I went to college he’d pay my rent. … So, I just took up space, basically. I took a bunch of film classes at Cal State Northridge — the ones where you just watch movies, so I could sit in the back of class and work on my songs and I wouldn’t have to really do anything. But I think that by watching all those movies, I might have learned subliminally. And so, I know what a movie needs. I know how to tie it up emotionally.”
And apparently, Warren knows how to do that whether she’s writing the theme for a harrowing, dark film about addiction, like Four Good Days, or for a lighthearted, high-concept romp about, well, a guy f***ing a mannequin. “I just write the song that I want to see in that movie. That’s what I do,” she shrugs. “And I just thought of this: With ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ and ‘Somehow You Do,’ there is a parallel in there [between the two songs], where it’s hopeful. You know: We can build something. And when you think it’s end, some way, somehow, you get through it.”
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