About The Music
Annie's songs became legendary almost as soon as the show premiered on the New
York stage. Today, it's hard to imagine a world without songs like "Tomorrow,"
"Maybe," and "It's the Hard-Knock Life" - songs everyone knows by heart. But in
fact, those songs, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin,
debuted fewer than 40 years ago.
Still, the songs were written then for a different spin on Annie - a period
take, and a traditional Broadway staging. With the new film set in 2014, the
music needed to feel like it belonged in 2014. With that in mind, Will Gluck
teamed up with the experts - the Australian superstar Sia, and Greg Kurstin, who
has produced and co-written many songs with Sia and many other award-winning
artists. Gluck and Sia would rework and update the lyrics of some of the songs;
Sia and Kurstin would reimagine the music for modern ears; and Kurstin, who
served as the film's Executive Music Producer, would arrange and produce the
tracks, playing many of the instruments himself. Overseeing the music as it was
integrated into the film was Executive Music Supervisor Matt Sullivan.
"I love Annie," says Sia, who also has a cameo in the film. "I grew up watching
it hundreds and hundreds of times as a kid."
"We've kind of flipped the songs on their heads, and made them contemporary,"
says Sullivan, a veteran music supervisor who joined the Annie team. "There's a
mix of all genres of music in it."
"I love the 'Annie' music," says Kurstin. "Of course, I saw the show when I was
growing up. And I have a jazz background - I used to play all the old standards
- so I appreciate the songs and the compositions. But I do a lot of pop
production now, and I don't really get to work on songs like these."
A veteran producer of pop songs, Kurstin is also a recording artist in his own
right; with singer Inara George, he has recorded three albums as The Bird and
The Bee. In 2010, they recorded the album "Reinterpreting the Masters Vol. 1: A
Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates," on which Kurstin created new arrangements
of the AM radio favorites of his childhood. It's an experience he drew upon for
his work on Annie. "These are songs that I grew up hearing, whether it's Hall
and Oates or Annie," he explains. "For me, there's something very exciting about
the chance to do a contemporary version of these classic songs. I like to look
at these songs, at the production, and to see how we can bring these into the
future so they sit side-by-side with today's music. I think these Annie songs
are great pop songs, and if you take them out of the typical Broadway treatment
and treat them like modern day pop songs, maybe more people could hear them for
what they are. They're just great songs."
In collaborating with Sia, Kurstin says that the process usually begins in the
studio, with Kurstin at the piano and Sia singing. "I'll play a few chords, Sia
will pick out a chord she likes, she'll say, 'Let's go with that,' and she'll
start singing a melody. From there, it's very quick - it'll be me on the piano,
we'll hash out the chords and the basic melody, and from that point on I'm
building the track and Sia will be working on the lyrics with Will, and that's
how it happens. We work very quickly together - Sia is the fastest writer I
know. She doesn't really analyze; a melody just comes out, very organically, and
she goes with the first melody that comes out. It's really fun to work with Sia
in that way; we can come up with ideas without getting too technical. There
might be some tweaks here and there, and they ended up doing a lot of tweaking
on the lyrics, but the initial music and melody usually comes out very quickly."
In fact, Kurstin says, it's that speed that may have inspired Gluck to give
Kurstin the job of updating the music. "Will saw the way we work for the first
time when we worked on 'Little Girls,'" he remembers. "He seemed excited by that
process - witnessing me and Sia coming up with this idea very quickly. I think
he got excited by the potential of what could be done."
Gluck was very involved with the music - not only tweaking lyrics with Sia, but
directing Kurstin on the sound he wanted to hear. "Will wanted to keep it very
raw - not too slick or polished, not too orchestral, slick, or cinematic," he
says. "He wanted to have an edge to the music; he wanted the beats to be a
"It was hard," says Sia. "'Little Girls' in particular was difficult to
deconstruct, because I'm such a fan of the original version. I didn't want to do
anything blasphemous. But in giving the songs these anthemic pop choruses, I
thought it came out really cool. I hope we did okay."
In addition to the reimagining of the classic songs, three all-new songs are
woven seamlessly into the classic score. One, "Who Am I," is written by Sia,
Kurstin, Thomas Edward Percy Hull and Gluck, and produced by Kurstin. "'Who Am
I?'" was the same process," says Kurstin. "Sia brought in the seed of an idea
for that one. We hashed it out together in the same way, me sitting at the
piano, working on the music, and Sia singing on top of that. We agreed on an
arrangement, a melody, and once we had that she started coming up with lyric
ideas as I'm adding the bass and the guitar and the strings and the drums, and
within an hour or so, we had a song recorded."
Another new song is "Opportunity," written by Sia, Kurstin, and Gluck, with
Kurstin producing, a standout number sung by Annie with a full orchestra behind
her at a black tie event at the Guggenheim Museum. This song came out of the
script. "We wanted to create a song that would be happening at an event, where
Annie would be singing in front of an orchestra," says Kurstin. "It is probably
the most traditional 'Annie' arrangement, because it's completely orchestral -
it's the only song in the movie that's like that. She's singing, and it's a
spontaneous song that comes out of her in front of this orchestra."
"The City's Yours," written by Sia with the songwriter-producers Stargate and
Benny Blanco, comes as Will Stacks sings to Annie while flying above Manhattan
in a helicopter. "It lets her know that no matter where you come from, you still
got an opportunity to make it," says Jamie Foxx, who stars as Stacks. "The words
are, 'This is just the start of your story, If you got guts, you got glory,
Anyone can make their dreams come true.' Those are words that we could all live
Both before and during filming, Matt Sullivan worked very closely with the
actors, many of whom, like Quvenzhane Wallis, Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne, and
Bobby Cannavale, were not necessarily known as singers. Wallis, for example, who
was nine years old when she first started taking voice lessons for Annie, had
only sung at home or in the car with her family before landing the lead role of
the musical comedy.
The musical talents of Jamie Foxx, on the other hand, were already well known.
Foxx has recorded several chart-topping albums and has an Academy Award for his
portrayal of Ray Charles in another musical film, Ray.
"It's crazy how good he is," Will Gluck says about Jamie Foxx's talents as a
singer. "He added so much in the recording sessions to put his own stamp on all
his songs because he knows what he's doing."
Next Production Note Section
Home | Theaters | Video | TV
Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.
© 2018 4®, All Rights Reserved.