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Gossip Girl’s Jordan Alexander, Joshua Safran, and Rob Lowry Dish on the Reboot’s Musicality, Explosive Episodes, and Gen Z Mentality

August 12, 2021

Though Gossip Girl may have secrets she’ll never tell, star Jordan Alexander—who plays Julien Calloway—plus showrunner Joshua Safran and music supervisor Rob Lowry were more than willing to dish on the show’s iconic soundtrack.

Ahead of the show’s mid-season finale, the Gossip Girl team also curated a Julien Calloway-themed playlist called Inside Julien’s Headphones to give viewers a deeper look into the leading character. But they’re not the only ones working on character playlists. Since the premiere of the show’s reboot in July on HBO, Spotify listeners have created more than 3,700 playlists, while searches of Gossip Girl-related music on Spotify increased by more than 80%. It’s clear the show’s distinct musical footprint is resonating with its audience.

To better understand Gossip Girl’s powerful sound, For the Record sat down with the three experts to discuss Julien Calloway, unpack the show’s musical stylings, and tease drama ahead. Read on for all the details, no narrator required. 

First, the question on everyone’s mind: Jordan, what songs do you listen to when getting into character as Julien?

Jordan:successful” by Ariana Grande and “Traitor” by Olivia Rodrigo, depending on the scene.

And how do your and Julien’s musical tastes compare? Do you both listen to the same songs?

Jordan: I don’t think our tastes are crazy different. Julien probably likes pop, and I love pop. But I also imagine that Julien likes classical music, but for a different reason than I do. I feel like it makes her feel really powerful and a little psychotic, and she likes that when she’s in her big penthouse in these dramatic dresses. There’s nothing better than classical instrumentation, like Tchaikovsky or something similarly intense. I would say that classical would be the overlap.

Turning to the playlist, what song or genre do you think most captures Julien?

Jordan: There’s a song on there called “Flood” by Vagabon, and it encapsulates how I feel about Julien, both sonically as well as lyrically. It’s such a momentous rush of emotion, and the title of the song is “flood,” which is fitting. Julien as a human being is this rush, and there’s a lot going on always, no matter what. She’s completely swept off her feet in episode one, and it just doesn’t stop after that. She really is trying her best, and it’s so beautiful and overflowing. She has a powerful water essence to her, too. It could be tears, but it also could be a rushing river that destroys half of a mountain.

Joshua: Julien’s always searching, always a little lost, a little lonely, no matter how much she looks like she has it all together. There’s this melancholy and sadness in her. The Prince song that I put on there called “Pop Life” was important to me because it sounds poppy and happy, but when you listen to it, the lyrics are about deeply questioning where you are, what you think, and how you are moving through the world. It’s devastating, but you can’t tell from the sound. That’s Julien.

Joshua, Rob, what was your thought process while developing the playlist and the music for the show?

Joshua: I think the show does a good job of capturing how kids these days, because of Spotify, have a wider range of music. You go on TikTok and the current challenge might feature a song you’ve never heard of from the 1920s, one of the earliest recorded songs. Somebody has found that song because they can go through Spotify and dig deep in a way that old people like me and Rob couldn’t have. We would have had to go to a record store and be like, “Today, I’m looking at jazz.” Now you can find anything. And Julien’s playlist reflects that she can go on there and find this wide range.

Rob: Josh, you hit the nail on the head in terms of how Gen Z processes music, how they find it, and how genreless both their playlists and musical creations are, which I think is cool. Gen Z is constantly deconstructing aesthetics, whether that’s an Instagram aesthetic or a musical aesthetic like hyper pop, but they’re also seamlessly blending all of these different things. The real challenge for us was making sure it still felt cohesive. But what we’ve done is make the music hyper-specific in its relationship to the city and relationship to the characters. And that gives it its own arc and its own kind of character definition.

Musically, what’s next for Julien? How will her defining songs change?

Jordan: Julien’s next chapter of music is going to be more stripped down and raw, mimicking the progression of her as a person. She starts off with this polished veneer, and that might be like high pop and powerful. And then, I think we’ll see her finding the power in an indie acoustic, like a Phoebe Bridgers song. I feel like that would be the arc of her music.

Rob: And that’s a good representation of the music in the soundtrack of the show, too. The soundtrack has also evolved so much. By incorporating classical and opera, plus Josh’s wide range of tastes, we’re able to complement the more pop-leaning songs, hip-hop, and R&B. [Record producer and songwriter] Ariel Rechtshaid‘s score does a great job of walking that line. There are these beautiful, melodic, and timeless classical elements, and then there are layers of sophisticated, modern pop production and electronic.

Joshua: Yes, Julien gets more introspective as the season goes on, and so does her music. The sound dials down. But then maybe it explodes again…

Explodes?! Can you give us a hint of what’s to come?

Joshua: I don’t want to give it away, but the end of episode eight is incredibly dramatic. Probably one of the most dramatic endings of any episode of the season, if not both series. Jordan is in it and finding the right song was crucial. It had to be a song that, if you didn’t hear the scene, the song is the scene. But there’s something about the two coming together that’s beautiful. It’s pop, but it’s also melancholy and dark.

Exciting! And what’s the dynamic like on set? Is there music in the air?

Joshua: Jordan and most of our cast are incredibly musical. What I find so amazing is that their musicality is reflected in their performances, in the way they move their bodies, and in the way they find the emotion of the character. They have musical emotionality, these actors. Music is in every crevice of Gossip Girl in more ways than you realize.

Still craving more? Get the rest of the drama on Friday by tuning into “Deux Moi After Dark x Gossip Girl,” a chat between real-life Gossip Girl Deux Moi and Gossip Girl showrunner Joshua Safran. The two will be spilling secrets from the set of the show live on Spotify Greenroom at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST.

For now, get inside Julien Calloway’s head by listening to the playlist Inside Julien’s Headphones now: