Welcome to Right on Cue, the podcast where we interview film, TV, and video game composers about the origins and nuances of their latest works, as well as select commentaries from some of the score’s most important tracks.
For Texan-born composer Chanda Dancy, 2022 feels like a breakthrough year. She’s worked in the film and television composing business for eighteen years, an alumnus of the USC Film Scoring Program and the Sundance Composers Lab, as well as projects like Netflix’s The Defeated and Everything Before Us. But she’s struck gold with several major projects this year… including one that has her on the shortlist for an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score. If she gets the nod, she’d be the first Black woman in the history of the Oscars to receive such long-overdue recognition.
That project, of course, is J.D. Dillard’s moving, effective Korean War epic Devotion, starring Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell (in his second go-round in the cockpit this year after Top Gun: Maverick) as real-life fighter pilots — and eventual best friends — Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner. Charting the course of their friendship over sorties and scuffles within a very racially-stratified US Navy, Dillard’s work is understated in its power, anchored by Majors and Powell’s wounded, vulnerable performances. And thrumming underneath their interpersonal tensions and the roar of gunfire is Dancy’s churning, propulsive score, one that pits steady synths and percussion with whirling high strings to contrast the powerful machines on display with the very human men who fly them.
That’s not the only iconic project Dancy worked on this year: she also provided the incidental score for Kasi Lemmons’ biopic of Whitney Houston, I Wanna Dance with Somebody. Together (just a few hours before her Oscar shortlist inclusion was announced, mind you), Dancy and I talked about the long road she took to get to this place in her career, the classical influences that have shaped her work, and what it meant to her and her orchestras to get the chance to highlight the biggest moments of The Voice’s life and songs. (Plus, enjoy an exclusive track commentary from Dancy on the opening cue of I Wanna Dance with Somebody.)
You can find Chanda Dancy at her official website here.
Devotion is currently streaming on Paramount+, and Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody is currently playing in theaters. You can also listen to the score for Devotion on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Lakeshore Records.