Mary J Blige in Mudbound

Mary J Blige in Mudbound

Courtesy of Netflix

As if Raphael Saadiq’s day weren’t going well enough after garnering an Oscar nomination for best original song Tuesday morning (Jan. 23) for co-writing “Mighty River” from Mudbound, Stevie Wonder called just to say he loved him and congratulations. 

“He just said, ‘Congratulations, my Taurean brother,’ because we’re both Tauruses,” Saadiq told Billboard, still sounding a little shocked.

Such is the life of an Oscar nominee. The 2018 Academy Awards nominations were announced Tuesday morning, and The Shape of Water led all contenders with 13 nominations.

Even for Diane Warren, who landed her ninth Oscar nomination Tuesday, for co-writing “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, the feeling was overwhelming. “How f---ing cool is this?” she exclaimed. “This is the most excited I’ve ever been to be nominated, except for maybe the first time.” (Warren’s first nomination came 30 years ago, for Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" from the movie Mannequin.)

Warren’s co-writer Common was similarly elated. He was flying to L.A. from the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and didn’t hear the news until the plane touched down. “As soon as I landed, somebody on my team was sitting next to me and they started getting a lot of text messages. I didn’t even turn my phone on. I was sitting there having positive thoughts and keeping the faith,” a jubilant Common said.

Common, who won the best original song Oscar in 2015 for Selma’s “Glory,” co-written with John Legend, was still tickled that he and Warren had found such common ground on the stirring song performed by Andra Day. “We come from two unique places: me a hip-hop artist and MC and writer, a black dude from the south side of Chicago, who would connect with this Jewish sister from Los Angeles and who’s written all these big songs, and it just really felt organic.”

Warren says she was thinking about asking Common to write a rap for the song because “he’s so great and so profound,” and a week later, she found herself sitting one row in front of him on a plane. “I started singing it to him and he said, ‘Send it to me right now.’”

Similarly, Saadiq and he and his co-writers, Mary J. Blige and Taura Stinson, found themselves totally in sync when they sat down to write “Mighty River,” the gospel-tinged end credit song. 

Blige, who also stars in Mudbound and received a best supporting actress nomination, guided Saadiq and Stinson, who hadn’t yet seen the brutal film. Director Dee Rees knew the song “would be safe in Mary’s hands because Mary had moved through this path in the film. Dee knew she was going to take great care of it,” says Stinson, who jokes that she “just happened to be in a greatness sandwich” between Saadiq and Blige. “Mary just told us, there’s parts of that film [that] just need to be reversed. ‘[Instead of] "mudbound," I need to be clean and wade in forgiveness,’ so we just wanted to write a song that spoke to the sentiment of the film.”

Though the nominations are brand-new, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who received a nomination for “Remember Me” from Coco, already have one thing settled: Their dates for the March 4 ceremony will be their 12- and 8-year-old daughters. 

“Our kids are so invested in us going to the Oscars because they weren’t old enough when we won for Frozen, but they’re old enough now that we told them if we were fortunate enough to get nominated, they’d be our dates,” said Anderson-Lopez. When the pair won for writing Frozen’s “Let It Go,” four years ago, Lopez became the youngest EGOT recipient ever, having previously won an Emmy, Golden Globe and Tony.

Rounding out the nominations in the best original song category are “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman, written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who won last year for “City of Stars” from La La Land, and “The Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name, written by Sufjan Stevens