Euphoria Isn’t Finished With Us Yet
The second season of HBO’s the-kids-are-not-alright drama Euphoria has wrapped, but the internet is still talking about it, sharing “I’VE NEVER, EVER BEEN HAPPIER” / “Bitch, you better be joking” memes, and debating whether or not creator Sam Levinson exploited his young cast in the nudity department. And as long as we’re talking about Euphoria’s cast, headed up by superstar Zendaya, each actor has achieved incredible levels of fame (with some young’uns just now realizing that Maude Apatow is the child of Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann). HBO recently revealed that Euphoria is its second-most-watched program since 2004, behind Game Of Thrones. Meanwhile, Billboard reports that songs featured on Euphoria have earned streaming jumps of up to 2,316% and Shazam searches up by 10,000%, gains “unlike any other TV show.”
It’s not hard to understand why this TV show has had a long tail in the music world. Euphoria intentionally casts a wide net around music, not unlike the way it also pays extra attention to contemporary trends in fashion, makeup, art, cinema, and technology. (As for the show’s rampant and polarizing sex, drugs, and violence, Euphoria is just inherently over the top, and I don’t know that expecting it to tone down is reasonable. Plus, this isn’t really the platform to police the morality of televised teen hedonism.)
Euphoria’s music approach is multi-layered: For starters, many of its season 1 episode titles are references to songs, such as “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy” (also a 2006 song by Birdman and Lil Wayne), “Made You Look” (a 2002 song by Nas), “Shook Ones Pt. II” (a 1995 song by Mobb Deep), “’03 Bonnie And Clyde” (the 2002 Jay-Z and Beyoncé classic), and “The Next Episode” (a 1999 track by Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg). Season 2 does this too — episode 1’s title “Trying To Get To Heaven Before They Close The Door” is a Bob Dylan reference, and episode 2’s title “Out Of Touch” references Hall & Oates.
The show’s creators were also very intentional with who they chose to oversee music selections; Euphoria’s music supervisor is Jen Malone, who also happens to select needle-drops for Atlanta and Yellowjackets, both of which heavily engage with popular music. On Euphoria, much has been made about how Malone’s selections are designed appeal to a wide range of ages and feelings — for every Orville Peck, Baby Keem, and Migos track, there are classic ’90s anthems like Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” and Sinead O’Connor’s “Drink Before The War.” As Joe Coscarelli of the New York Times noted, “Often cramming a couple of dozen tracks into a single hour — from the underground to the instantly recognizable, the 1950s to the 2020s — the show doesn’t do emphatic needle-drops so much as a TikTokian shuffle of aural and visual stimuli, bouncing between genres, eras and moods.” In other words, Euphoria made its music a whole vibe.
“The show is almost like a mixtape that we give to our audience,” Malone recently explained to Buzzfeed. “Like in the same way that everybody shares music, you know a friend will be like, ‘Oh my god, this song is so dope, you have to listen to it,’ and then it enters your personal playlist, right? So in a way, it’s like we’re sharing [creator] Sam’s [Levinson] mixtape to the audience.”
Quantitatively, the biggest beneficiaries of this approach this season were two pop-rock songs from the 1970s. According to Billboard, Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 smash “Right Down The Line” — which soundtracked a memorable scene from the S2 premiere in which a drug dealer forces Fez, Ash, and Rue to strip naked, then appeared again in the second episode — doubled its on-demand streams the week after the first episode and doubled that total the following week, topping out at over 2 million streams per week. More than 62,000 TikTok videos have now been set to the song. Meanwhile Steely Dan’s 1972 hit “Dirty Work,” last seen in a 2021 Suicide Squad trailer, more than doubled its streams in the week after its Euphoria sync, from less than 350,000 to about 800,000, and has now soundtracked 10,000 TikTok clips.
Even more impressively, the stream totals for Sinead O’Connor’s “Drink Before The War” ballooned to nearly 800,000 the week before it soundtracked a pivotal Euphoria moment after tallying just over 4,000 the week before. Other tracks that saw a huge boost from this season include Mahalia Jackson’s “Summertime/Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” (2,316% increase), while Big Mali’s “4,5,6” (730% increase), and Orville Peck’s “Dead Of Night,” which jumped from 65,267 streams the week before Euphoria to 595,221 the week after it soundtracked Nate and Cassie’s high-speed drunk driving.
Meanwhile, the Euphoria score’s composer, UK singer/songwriter/producer Labrinth, has arguably become as well-known as the show’s on-camera stars. It doesn’t hurt that certain high-profile pop musicians have written songs specifically to soundtrack Euphoria: James Blake’s “Pick Me Up (Euphoria)” featuring Labrinth, Tove Lo’s “How Long,” Lana Del Rey’s “Watercolor Eyes.” S2 cast addition Dominic Fike even had a full-blown music career before joining the show to play Elliot. Naturally, he got to sing a song on camera (in character), then release it on streaming platforms. Everybody wins.
And about those streaming platforms: The trimmed-down (and much-memed) “Elliot’s Song” has gathered more than 5 million streams, no doubt boosted from series star Zendaya’s vocal. In fact, Zendaya’s guest verse served as a fun reminder that she used to release made-for-teens pop songs via Disney’s Hollywood Records in the early ’10s. Meanwhile, Labrinth and Zendaya’s gospel-inspired song “I’m Tired” has amassed more than 17 million streams on Spotify, which makes sense when you consider how it was utilized on the show. In Season 2, Episode 4, “You Who Cannot See, Think Of Those Who Can,” Labrinth makes an appearance to sing “I’m Tired” live, as Zendaya’s drug-addled Rue hallucinates walking into a church and embracing the pastor (Labrinth, a stand-in for her late father). Her character’s mind might be clouded by drugs and addiction, but her pain at losing a parent to cancer is made more poignant by “I’m Tired,” which Labrinth wrote in collaboration with Zendaya and Levinson.
Perhaps another reason why fans have connected so vividly with Labrinth’s musical vision on Euphoria is due to the fact that the composer reportedly has very few creative boundaries. As has been proven time and time again, the quickest path to “uncool” is by a bunch of network suits telling creatives what they think is “cool,” which is code for “get eyeballs and make money.” Describing the show’s approach to music, Labrinth recently told Variety: “The main approach with most of the music on the show is Sam is like, ‘Lab, just make what the fuck you’re making. Don’t let no one get in the way of what you’re making, just do what you do.’ It’s like he’s going to a record shop, and I’m the record shop,” he says. “Especially being in the music industry, sometimes you can feel pushed to do something that people are expecting to hear, whereas Sam’s just like, ‘I want to hear the weirdest shit in your hard drive.'”
For all of Euphoria’s chaos — both on and (if you believe the rumors) offscreen — the creative team is clearly doing something right when it comes to staying in the pop music conversation, even weeks after the season 2 finale aired. The approach is multi-pronged and seemingly very intentional — and it’s working.
Chris here with your weekly chart news! Glass Animals’ slow-build success “Heat Waves” remains at #1 on the Hot 100 for a second straight week. According to Billboard, it’s the first song by a British group to top the chart for multiple weeks since the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” lasted four weeks at #1 in 1997. (In between, Coldplay were the only British group to hit #1, and their two chart-toppers — 2008’s “Viva La Vida” and 2021’s BTS collab “My Universe” — lasted one week apiece.)
“We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Encanto remains at #2, while Kodak Black’s “Super Gremlin” rises to a new #3 peak. The rest of the top 10 includes GAYLE’s “abcdefu” at #4, the Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber’s “Stay” at #5, Adele’s “Easy On Me” at #6, Bieber’s “Ghost” at #7, Ed Sheeran’s “Bad Habits” at #8 and “Shivers” at #9, and Lil Nas X’s “That’s What I Want” at #10.
The Encanto soundtrack spends a ninth week atop the Billboard 200 with 72,500 equivalent album units, including 8,000 in sales. It thus surpasses Taylor Swift’s folklore to become the second longest running #1 album of the 2020s so far behind Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album. Don’t expect Encanto to tie Wallen, though, because Lil Durk’s 7220 is coming in hot next week.
King Von’s posthumous What It Means To Be King debuts at #2 with 59,000 units including 4,000 in sales. It’s the late rapper’s second top-10 album. Wallen’s aforementioned Dangerous is at #3, followed by Kodak Black at #4, Gunna at #5, and the Weeknd’s greatest hits package The Highlights at #6. After Olivia Rodrigo at #7, Drake at #8, and Doja Cat at #9 comes a #10 debut for DaBaby and YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s Better Than You with 28,500 units, almost entirely via streaming.
Megan Thee Stallion & Dua Lipa – “Sweetest Pie”
Welcome to the jungle, indeed. 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” could never.
Yungblud – “The Funeral”
Two things can be true at once. On one hand, this song and video are giving serious “because tonight will be the night that I will fall for youuuu” vibes. But as a child of the early ’00s, obviously I can’t help but love that Sharon and Ozzy showed up for cameos.
COIN – “Brad Pitt”
You all know how I feel about COIN by now. While this has a catchy, bumpin’ beat, and I can appreciate naming a song with lyrics like “keep me young forever, I’m begging you” after an actor who is still thirst-trap material at 58, this just sounds like a slightly saucier Jonas Brothers’ B-side to me.
The Chainsmokers – “iPad”
Sorry, the Chainsmokers are back… with a song called “iPad.”
Imagine Dragons – “Bones”
Between this, the Chainsmokers, and COIN, I’m reminded of Julia Stiles’ classic 10 Things I Hate About You retort, “What is it, asshole day?” And before you all come at me on Twitter, yes I know Dan Reynolds is actually a really nice person.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Drake is planning “interactive” concerts in New York and Toronto. [Twitter]
- Machine Gun Kelly revealed the cover art and guestlist for his new album Mainstream Sellout featuring Bring Me The Horizon, Lil Wayne, Pete Davidson, blackbear, WILLOW, Iann Dior, Gunna, and Young Thug. [Twitter]
- Morgan Wallen won Album Of The Year at the ACM Awards. [Tennessean]
- Justin Bieber brought out Leon Bridges at his LA show. [Twitter]
- BTS performed in Seoul for the first time in over two years, but fans were prohibited from cheering or singing as a COVID precaution. [New York Times]
- BTS also have a new line of Tamagotchis. [YouTube]
- Lauren Jauregui launched a new mental health podcast series, Attunement, via Patreon. [Patreon]
- Shawn Mendes urged Floridians to call their senators in opposition of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. [Twitter]
- Kacey Musgraves will receive the Vanguard Award at this year’s GLAAD Media Awards. [Glaad]
- Sia revealed her secret NFT Twitter account. [Billboard]
- Taylor Swift and Adele lead nominees for the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. [Hollywood Reporter]
- The Weeknd commented on an alleged leaked original tracklist for DAWN FM that includes Ariana Grande, Ty Dolla $ign, and Kali Uchis: “i love every single one of these artists but this is beyond fake.” [Twitter]
- Lady Gaga and her mom are launching a free online mental health course. [People]
- A New York appeals court ruled against Kesha in a part of her Dr. Luke defamation case, saying the state’s anti-SLAPP law would not apply. [Daily Mail]