Now with 14 Oscar nominations, is it Diane Warren's turn for some 'Applause'?
Diane Warren is getting her flowers — in bunches — and it's about time. But a whirlwind year of big-deal recognition isn't going to change this "kid from Van Nuys." Witness her trip to Stockholm last May to accept the prestigious Polar Music Prize (previous recipients include Paul McCartney, Gilberto Gil and Yo-Yo Ma).
"The king of Sweden gives it to you, and I was up there and I went, 's—,' and 'f—,' " she says, laughing. "I'm like, 'Oh, no, you guys are gonna kick me outta the country!' And then [I see him] and he's cracking up. Because everybody's so afraid with these big people; they probably love that [irreverence]."
Along with the Polar Prize, in the last 12 months, Warren earned her 14th Oscar nomination (for the song "Applause" from the film "Tell It Like a Woman" — albeit still without a win so far in the original song category) and finally — finally — collected that elusive gold statuette: The academy's honorary Oscar — for her musical contributions to films over the years — at the 13th Governors Awards in November. Her friend and frequent collaborator, Cher, presented it to her. Warren asked her to stay with her during her speech, crying with stage fright.
"I was like, 'Oh, God, this is gonna be so scary.' I really felt like my mom and dad were with me. Because I used to watch the Oscars with my mom and dad, you know, and there I was, getting one, and they're really heavy, by the way," says Warren, rapid-fire, laughing. "I hurt my back with it. I was walking around with it and a few days later, my back went out."
Warren was actually recording "Applause" with singer Sofia Carson when the call came — out of the blue, she insists — that she was to be an honorary Oscar recipient.
"Sofia was putting her vocal on it; I'm hearing 'Give yourself some applause' ... OK. OK. I'll stop for a sec. I'll give myself a little applause for five minutes and then I'll beat the s— out of myself again."
The anthology "Tell It Like a Woman" is composed of seven shorts in five languages, all by female filmmakers, telling female-centric stories.
"They're all about women's journeys and what they go through and how they get through it. I needed to write a really empowering song. So it was perfect, you know: 'Give yourself some applause. You deserve it. Give yourself some respect 'cause you've earned it.' They've all earned respect. It encapsulates all the [shorts], really."
As "Applause's" lyrics go: "Believe it, you're the queen, you wear the crown / Feel it, take it in and take a bow / Stand up, stand up / Raise your hands up, hands up"
Warren says, "There's a lot of pain, but they got through it. There's some pretty tough [stories] in there. I wanted a song like, 'Hey, you know what? You went through all this s—, you know what, and you f— survived. Give yourself some f— applause for that. Realize who you are."
As Warren gets ready for her 14th go-round at the Oscars, she says she engages in no complex process to create so many successful movie songs; she reads the script or watches the film, sits down at the piano (or, occasionally, picks up the guitar), and the music pours out. The lyrics take longer.
"When I had the chorus [to "Applause"], I knew I had something. Then it's like being in a forest and you have built this great house, the chorus, but now you have to find your way out and back," she says of writing the rest of the song.
As some of those non-chorus lyrics go: "Pat yourself on the back, somehow you found the faith / To make it through to, through to another day / Times got tough, but somehow, you survived / You kept your head high"
"Hopefully somebody will be working hard at their job or not giving themselves the respect or the love they deserve" and hear "Applause," she says. Then she laughs at herself again: "You know, that's a song I should listen to."
She acknowledges she's so demanding of herself at least in part as a motivational tool.
"I'm not remotely complacent," she says, seated in the comfy embrace of one of the luxurious armchairs in the screening room at her Hollywood studios. "I mean, I just finished a song yesterday, and today I'm like, 'OK, can I make this great?' I don't sit back and go, 'OK, I can rest for a few.' So, yeah. I think being hard on myself drives me."
But she's not immune to her own message, especially when she got that honorary Oscar news mid-recording session.
She thought, "For a minute, I should listen to those words and just go, 'OK, you know what? All right. 'Give yourself some applause. You deserve it. Give yourself some respect.' Because you can't expect it from somebody else. Can you expect respect or love from others if you don't love yourself?"
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.