‘Gossip Girl’ Gave Me Good Taste In Music

by Gwen Berumen

“The best film music is not heard,” quotes Claudia Gorban in her essay Music as Salvation: Notes on Fellini and Rota. She tastefully disagrees with this quote, asking why is that people focus so much on the “background” music in Fellini’s films?

I ask myself the same question. Why is that I focus so much on the background music? Our non-diegetic friend that is lurking behind what is going on on-screen stands out further to me than any scene happening in the forefront.

This is exactly why shows like Gossip Girl and The O.C. specifically stuck out to me. Creator Josh Schwartz (co-creator in Gossip Girl’s case) “always intended that music be a character on the show.” He and the glorious music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas made it so that each scene leaves you feeling full. The needs of scenes are enhanced by each specially selected track; take Imogen Heap’s presence at Caleb’s funeral in The O.C. or Serena’s hopeful entrance at Grand Central in Gossip Girl. Carefully crafting these perfect scenes that resonate with us for so long afterwards, music and all, is an art form.

Music in television has definitely shifted and expanded my mental music catalogue away from the songs on the radio. First off – most of these songs would not be on the radio. (Independent artists need love too!) Second – music within a narrative framework is be more memorable than the sound by itself. “In hearing we don’t automatically identify a sound with its source,” so music to go along with story-telling seems fit because we can then attribute the song to a specific scene. Since this is true, films and TV shows “relegate music to the viewer’s sensory background, that grey area of secondary perception least susceptible to rigorous judgment and most susceptible to affective manipulation.”  

What music supervisors like Patsavas do is place songs that seem to fit the best into the scene, knowing that whatever song they choose will contribute to something that the viewer may not have felt sans music.

These series really broadened my taste in music. I began my own version of the app Shazam where I would write down a couple of lyrics in my “notes” section of my phone and google them to see if I could find the song. I also started to read up on magazines like Pitchfork and NME and subscribed to services like Daytrotter. I started tracking all of these music I listened to via services like Last.fm, and looked for really new, underground stuff made from people’s bedrooms. I would try to find music that I didn’t associate with a scene in a film or TV show, and imagine what kind of scenes would go well with the song. I now have a very extensive taste in music that I wouldn’t have had had I not watched shows that so carefully crafted their scenes.

In a vintage NYT article on the fashion of Gossip Girl, it is stated that the “show’s sense of style is having a broader impact” and that “in stylistic terms it “may well be the biggest influence in the youth culture market.” I think that The O.C. and Gossip Girl both revolutionized TV soundtracks. After The O.C. (which released unofficial soundtracks), it wasn’t just about the music in films. It was also about the music in shows. And thanks to these shows, I became really interested in something that I never thought I would be.

To conclude, I think it’s pretty necessary for me to include some classic GG music moments that made me feel things. Here are a few:  

1. As mentioned earlier, the opening scene of the series when Serena comes into Grand Central. It’s so hopeful, so eager to start. I think that Peter Bjorn And John’s “Young Folks” gathers all of these emotions flawlessly.

2. Season 6’s episode “Monstrous Ball” features a Frank Ocean-only soundtrack. It was the first time a GG episode featured only one artist. I thought that this was very well done, especially since Ocean’s Channel Orange isn’t exactly super rich Upper East Siders. It juxtaposed perfectly.  

3. “The Goodbye Gossip Girl” features “Season of Love” by Shiny Toy Guns. The season 2 finale finally featured Chair (Chuck and Blair) proclaiming their love for each other. Entertainment Weekly put this scene as on their “25 Great TV I Love You’s” list. The song probably had a lot to do with it.

4. The season 4 trailer features everyone vacationing in Paris, and the crew appropriately placed the song “Cette Bottes Sont Fait Pour Marcher” which has been a classic by written by composer Lee Hazelwood, now covered many times.  

5. The plot twist of the century in the season 1 episode “All About My Brother” when Serena tells Blair she killed someone. This remix of “U.R.A. Fever” remix is sure to keep everyone on the high that they all got from seeing The Kills live at Gov Ball.

Have you ever had a favorite music scene? Any favorite soundtracks or scores? Let me know below!


 Photo via Wikipedia and Fanpop.com

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