Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste Win Best Original Score Oscar for ‘Soul’

Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste picked up the Oscar for Best Original Score for the Disney and Pixar animated film Soul. This marks the second win for Reznor and Ross, who won for Best Original Score in 2011 for The Social Network, and the first win for composer and jazz musician Batiste, who melded his New York-fused jazz compositions with the duo’s score.

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“This was a film that asked us, as composers, to reflect on the meaning of life,” said Ross post-Oscars interview with Reznor and Batiste. “And when this film landed it was a point in COVID. I think that one of the few good things about COVID is that it was a kind of transformative period where a lot of people were able to look at their lives and examine what is really important, and what isn’t, and ‘Soul’ speaks to that.”

Nominated for Soul and Mank—the ’30s-set Netflix series, helmed by David Fincher—Reznor and Ross have already had decade-long run together, picking up more than 35 accolades, including a Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Critics’ Choice awards, in addition to an Emmy for scoring the Damon Lindelof HBO series Watchmen in 2019, and their 2011 Grammy for scoring the soundtrack to Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, leaving them a Tony Award away from EGOT status.

Batiste, who also served as the main inspiration, in his piano playing and maneurisms, for the film’s main character Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx, praised the “gift” of music.

“Every gift is special,” said Batiste in his Oscar speech. “Every contribution with music that comes from the divine into the instruments, into the film, into the minds and hearts and souls of every person who hears it, the stories that happen when you listen and watch it, the stories you share, the moments you create, the memories you make. It’s just so incredibly special.

He added, “What’s deep is that God gave us 12 notes. It’s the same 12 notes Duke Ellington had, Bach had, Nina Simone… I’m just thankful to God for those 12 notes. This moment is a culmination of a series of miracles. It’s so incredibly powerful to stand here and the lineage that we come from, the lineage in this film.”

In between his Soul sessions, Batiste, musical director and bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, was also working on his new jazz-and-pop fused studio album WE ARE (Verve Records), which he calls “a vivid turn from straight jazz to joyful, danceable pop and neo-soul.” Recorded in New York, Los Angeles, and Batiste’s native New Orleans, WE ARE features songwriter Autumn Rowe, producer Kizzo, POMO (Anderson .Paak), Ricky Reed (Lizzo), and Jahaan Sweet (Drake, Eminem), in addition to appearances by Quincy Jones, Mavis Staples, Zadie Smith, Trombone Shorty, St. Augustine Marching 100, P.J. Morton, along with his father Michael Batiste, and grandfather David Gauthier.

“‘WE ARE’ is a message of love for humanity, of humble reverence for our past, and of a hopeful future, in which we are the ones who can save us,” said Batiste in a statement. “The art reveals its motive to you. You just have to wait for the spirit to tell you what it wants.”

(L to r): Trent Reznor, Jon Batiste, and Atticus Ross (Photo: ABC)

Reznor and Ross said that they’re also ready to work on new material for Nine Inch Nails, as well as more film scores during the press interview. The band last released their tenth and eleventh albums, Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts, respectively, as a free download to fans during the pandemic in 2020.

“Ten years ago when we did ‘[The] Social Network,’ which was the first film that Atticus and I worked on, it was such a great experience,” said Reznor. “It was six months of the most intense and positive … we came out of it inspired and re-energized and it was working in a medium we hadn’t done before and we learned so much that we felt like, ‘Hey, let’s do a Nine Inch Nails record. Let’s go on tour.’”

Reznor added, “What we’ve tried to do since then is break it up where we do some rock music and come back and do some film work. We’ve just done three pretty big [scores] with ‘Watchmen,’ ‘Mank’ and ‘Soul’ in a row. We should be on tour, but Covid has prevented that… we are planning on working on Nine Inch Nails material as soon as probably tomorrow.”

When asked if they’re interested in working towards their EGOT stature with a musical based on Soul or another project, Ross joked “I wouldn’t say no. We’re going to start on that tomorrow as well.”

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