It seems the category of Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media (as the Grammys formally call it) slowly fades into the background each ensuing year. We're at the point now where said category is as ignored as much as Best New Age album has been throughout the entire history of the Grammys. But it's an interesting assortment this year for the compilation movie soundtrack, particularly because nothing stands out particularly, even if most of the nominees are decidedly retro.
The only two soundtrack nominees that can be said to contain any music written recently would be "The Muppets" and "The Descendants." And even then, the few new songs from "The Muppets" were done in a way that reminded people of the original Muppet movie franchise rather than foolishly going contemporary. As well, "The Descendants" used all Hawaiian music from over a period of decades rather than exclusively new material.
As for the rest of the nominees, you can't get more retro in a movie soundtrack than iconic French jazz clarinetist and saxophonist Sidney Bechet being front and center for Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris." The same can be said for an album consisting of nothing but music from Bob Marley for the docu "Marley." If you want, hang your head in shame with the adding of "Rock of Ages" to the compilation category, despite 1980s heavy metal perhaps having a renaissance for use in upcoming films.
And the retro ambiance doesn't stop. The category of Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media also has that touch of old school with "The Artist" soundtrack still eligible for a Grammy. There, a locking of horns may take place between the use of prior film music and the contemporary rock innovativeness of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
All of this jostling of classic sounds may look familiar when you remember how Woody Allen and Nora Ephron's "When Harry Met Sally" seemed to unofficially get the retro side of the compilation category started decades ago. But soundtracks aligned with vintage songs from the Great American Songbook have ebbed at times since then. Now it's evolved to the point where most compilation soundtracks are entirely retro to gain the feelings of a favored era when those songs were new to a film score.
Perhaps the feeling is still there that the Grammy voting academy is just as covertly aging as the Oscar voters are. That can't be entirely blamed when John Williams and Hans Zimmer still wrote some of the best film scores during the Grammy eligibility year. Chances are still good of traditional Williams winning for the video game score to "The Adventures of Tintin--The Secret of the Unicorn" or Zimmer for "The Dark Knight Rises", based squarely on the music's compelling nature.
Faults to these two Grammy categories for movie soundtracks come in how late they seem to be. It may explain why there isn't much buzz for who's nominated or over who wins, because everybody is already on to the soundtracks for this year. It's clear, however, that compilation soundtracks are as retro now as they ever have been with Woody Allen nowhere near slowing down.
That ever-backwards spin to music of the past may be fully realized if John Williams' score to "Lincoln" wins both of these categories during next year's Grammys. It may be the only major awards the film will receive outside of Daniel Day-Lewis's extended awards victory lap.