Compiled just for you: The Emmy-eligible original songs playlist for 2020
The streaming explosion has wildly ramped up competition in all kinds of Emmy categories, with many more contenders and many boundaries broken. The original songs race is certainly no exception, since traditional contenders often find themselves competing these days against pop stars and viral hits.
Streamers such as Apple TV+, Netflix and Disney+ bring new muscle to the fight. But will multiple winners “Saturday Night Live” and the Tonys continue to rule with their brand of novelty tunes? Here are some of the best original songs eligible for Emmys this year.
For the record:
11:14 a.m. June 17, 2020An earlier version of this post included the song “Only You” from ABC’s “A Million Little Things.” That song is not original to the show and has been removed from the story and playlist.
As a bonus, these flow together nicely as a playlist (hence the numbering here, which is for the sequence of play, not as an indicator of quality). The whole thing is also available as a YouTube playlist with a bonus track.
The official lyric video for “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher,” from Netflix’s “The Witcher.”
1. ‘Toss a Coin to Your Witcher’ (‘The Witcher’)
Warning: Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli’s song (with lyrics by Jenny Klein and performed by Joey Batey) is accursedly catchy, likely due to some dark magic in the chorus. So beware of the ear worm, O Valley of Plenty. Now, maybe they didn’t have hair metal back in ye olde sword-and-sorcery days (whenever those were), but although the version in the show doesn’t rock your face off, there are a number of viral covers that do (the song has been remixed and covered by many, many fans), and it’s just so right for that treatment. If you check Dan Vasc’s stab at it on YouTube (more than 12 million views), grab the arms of your chair around the 2:33 mark and ROCK ON.
Song “One Less Angel” from Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” Season 3.
2. ‘One Less Angel’ (‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’)
Simply nails the show’s turn-of-the-’60s period. The vocal by Darius De Haas (the singing voice of crooner Shy Baldwin, played by Leroy McClain) is particularly strong.
Song “Kiss Me in the Morning” from Netflix’s “The Eddy,” performed by the cast during quarantine and released for International Jazz Day (April 30, 2020).
3. ‘Kiss Me in the Morning’ (‘The Eddy’)
A legit upbeat jazz tune from the heavily music-themed Netflix show. This version was recorded in quarantine and released to commemorate International Jazz Day 2020 (April 30). The soundtrack also contains a version with a soulful vocal by Jorja Smith.
Song “That’s Enough” from the Disney+ “Lady and the Tramp,” performed by Janelle Monáe.
4. ‘That’s Enough’ (‘Lady and the Tramp’)
Lyric video for the song “I Am America” by Shea Diamond, from HBO’s “We’re Here.”
5. ‘I Am America’ (‘We’re Here’)
An R&B rave-up anthem you can (must?) dance to, powered by an excellent vocal from Shea Diamond. This is the unscripted series’ theme song, but it remains eligible in this category because there’s no main title sequence. Besides, this playlist needed a shot of attitude.
In an appearance on the animated “American Dad,” The Weeknd reveals his deep, dark secret ... in song.
6. ‘The Weeknd’s Dark Secret’ (‘American Dad’)
Then come the novelty songs, which frequently win in this category (“D— in a Box” is how Justin Timberlake got his first Emmy, and seven winners in the last decade could be considered such). This one is not only performed by Grammy-winning, platinum-selling superstar the Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye), but absolutely inhabits his sonic persona.
The wistful folk song “Five Long Years (Waiting for You),” performed by Peter, Paula & Murray (David Harbour, Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant, but not necessarily respectively) on “Saturday Night Live.”
7. ‘Five Long Years (Waiting for You)’ (‘Saturday Night Live’)
Speaking of novelty songs, “Saturday Night Live,” with 10 nominations and two wins since 2010, has its usual slew of qualifiers this year. Among its best is this early-’60s-style folk ballad by a Peter, Paul and Mary-ish trio (played by host David Harbour, Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant). In it, they mark their lives by the calendar, “Seasons of Love” style. But perhaps not as pithily.
Other contenders from the show include “Salad,” featuring Bryant with a suitably jarring appearance by Daniel Craig, and the Halloween-themed “Spooky Song,” featuring Chance the Rapper in a shocking recitation of how ghosts in a graveyard met their fates.
Music video of Olivia Rodrigo performing “All I Want” from Disney +’s “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.”
8. ‘All I Want’ (‘High School Musical: The Musical — The Series’)
Written and performed by star Olivia Rodrigo, it’s a memorable power ballad that was certified gold as a single.
Lyric video for “Weirdos” from Apple TV+’s “Central Park.”
9. ‘Weirdos Make Great Superheroes’ (‘Central Park’)
The new musical animated series on Apple TV+ has an embarrassment of riches in the talent department. This song is written by Sara Bareilles and sung by Kristen Bell and Tituss Burgess.
Jennifer Nettles and Walton Goggins perform “Misbehavin’ ” from HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones.”
10. ‘Misbehavin’’ (‘The Righteous Gemstones’)
Perfect for that show’s environs and would have been right at home on a “Grand Ole Opry” broadcast. Series costar Jennifer Nettles is a Grammy- and ACM-nominated singer-songwriter, but fans of “Justified” may be surprised to find that Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins, playing Baby Billy on “Gemstones”) can kick up his heels when he wants to.
The song “Anything Goes in Florida” from Netflix’s “Big Mouth.”
11. ‘Anything Goes in Florida’ (‘Big Mouth’)
A hair-metal tribute to some of the Sunshine State’s special qualities. One of the cleanest excerpts from this NSFW rocker: “Come on down and do your worst / Snort a rail off a dolphin / Naked and a-golfin’ / Chances are you won’t be the first.”
The song “Afterlife” from Apple TV+’s “Dickinson,” performed and co-written by series star Hailee Steinfeld.
12. ‘Afterlife’ (‘Dickinson’)
Performed and co-written by series star Hailee Steinfeld, it would be an unusually forward-reaching choice by Television Academy voters. The lyrics effectively express the protagonist’s morbid/romantic obsessions (“Will death be our last kiss, my love? Oh-oh / When my heartbeat stops, will you stay mine?”). But the music — totally appropriate for the often-anachronistic show — is meticulous electro-pop with layered production ... not the kind of thing that usually gets a nomination, regardless of quality. The same qualification applies, by the way, to Labrinth and Zendaya’s song from “Euphoria,” “All for Us.”
The song “Wondering,” from “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” on Disney+.
13. ‘Wondering’ (High School Musical: The Musical — The Series)
A wistful ballad perhaps overshadowed by the better-known “All I Want,” but definitely worthy of consideration. Rodrigo and Julia Lester look like formidable young talents. There’s also a lovely acoustic version that showcases the impressive pipes of more of the cast.
Grace VanderWaal’s song “Today and Tomorrow” from the Disney+ movie, “Stargirl.”
14. ‘Today and Tomorrow’ (‘Stargirl’)
Speaking of wistful, there’s this unadorned ukulele ditty by the Disney+ movie’s star and real life rising singer-songwriter Grace VanderWaal (co-written by Ido Zmishlany).
15. ‘The Eddy’ (‘The Eddy’)
A haunting jazz rhapsody written by Randy Kerber and longtime pop producer Glen Ballard and performed by the show’s band, featuring lead actress/vocalist Joanna Kulig (of “Cold War”). Note: This is not the show’s theme, so it is eligible in this category.
The opening number of the 73rd Tony Awards, performed by James Corden and many others: “We Do It Live.”
16. ‘We Do It Live’ (‘The 73rd Annual Tony Awards’)
Big, brassy, long (about 10 minutes) and featuring cameos from tons of nominated casts, it’s just the kind of glammy, showy number that gets voters’ attention. Three songs from Tonys broadcasts have won since 2012.
“Next Year,” from the socially distanced, COVID-19 benefit online show, “Saturday Night Seder.” Lead vocals by Shaina Taub and Skylar Astin.
17. ‘Next Year’ (‘Saturday Night Seder’)
And then, out of nowhere, an online, Passover-themed COVID-19 benefit boasting major-league talent (Jason Alexander, Darren Criss, Rachel Brosnahan, Idina Menzel, for starters) pops up with a beautiful gut-punch closer. The song plays off the Seder-ending, hopeful idea of “Next year in Jerusalem” to tie touchingly into the pandemic. It features award-winning singer-songwriter Shaina Taub (who co-wrote) and reminds us that that Skylar Astin dude (of “Spring Awakening”) can really sing. By the way, the song is co-written by Benj Pasek (“Dear Evan Hansen”); should it win, he would become an EGOT honoree at just 35.
The 2020 Emmy contenders original song playlist
Here, for your listening and viewing pleasure, is (almost) the entire sequence as a YouTube playlist. With bonus tracks!
Five seasoned entertainment journalists predict the shows and performances the Television Academy will honor with Emmys; do you agree with their picks?
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