Benj Pasek and Justin Paul Win Best Original Song Oscar for “City of Stars” from La La Land

By Erik Philbrook, Editor in Chief  •  February 27, 2017

On February 26th, at the 89th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, ASCAP members Benj Pasek and Justin Paul took home the Oscar for Best Original Song for “City of Stars” from the musical film La La Land, which they shared with the film’s composer, Justin Hurwitz. The duo had previously won the Golden Globe in January for “City of Stars.”

Pasek and Paul created the music and lyrics for the current Broadway hit show, Dear Evan Hansen. They previously lent their musical gifts to Broadway’s A Christmas Story and the award-winning Dogfight and are currently working on Hugh Jackman’s movie musical, The Greatest Showman. Their previous work for the screen includes music for Smash, Sesame Street and Johnny and the Sprites.

The celebrated collaborators first became involved in ASCAP when they attended a Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project at Northwestern University in 2006, where they first met ASCAP’s Musical Theatre rep Michael A. Kerker. As Benj told ASCAP in a 2012 interview: “Michael was there moderating the program and has been tremendously helpful to us ever since. Over the last six years, he has recommended us for jobs, schlepped to productions of our shows in rural Connecticut and Pennsylvania to offer support, connected us to artists we've wanted to work with and introduced us to other writers who have mentored us. And getting a check in the mail every so often from ASCAP is always a nice surprise!

In December, Pasek and Paul were honored at the ASCAP Foundation Awards in New York City with the Harold Adamson Lyric Award. The team opened the show with “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen (Outer Critics Circle Award, Obie Award, Helen Hayes Award, Drama Desk Award), and shared their feelings on why ASCAP has been so important to their careers.

ASCAP members were nominated for all five songs in the Best Original Song category. In addition to “City of Stars,” Pasek and Paul were also nominated for La La Land’s “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”; Max Martin, Shellback and Justin Timberlake were nominated for “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls; J. Ralph was nominated for “The Empty Chair,” co-written with Sting for Jim: The James Foley Story; and Lin-Manuel Miranda received a nom for “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana. All five songs were performed live during the Academy Awards broadcast. Another musical highlight of the night was ASCAP member Sara Bareilles’s performance of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” during the moving In Memoriam tribute.

Congrats to Pasek and Paul on their well-deserved Oscar, and for making ASCAP home.