Songs for Screens: How an ‘All the Boys’ Hot-Tub Scene Turned ‘Lovers’ Into a Hit

Scandinavian pop singer Anna Lotterud's breakup song has turned into a stateside breakout thanks to the cult rom-com.

Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

A year ago, Scandinavian pop singer Anna Lotterud, frontwoman of duo Anna of the North, was on her way to quietly becoming Norway’s answer to Bebe Rexha, appearing on buzzy tracks with Frank Ocean, G-Eazy and Tyler, the Creator while carving out her own name with debut album “Lovers,” released last September via Honeymoon/+1 Records.

But it took another co-sign, in the form of Netflix’s viral rom-com “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” for Lotterud’s music to really catch fire stateside. The cult hit’s pivotal hot tub scene between lead characters Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) and Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) is scored by the slinky title track from “Lovers,” which instantly became the film’s biggest streaming breakout after its Aug. 17 release. If “To All the Boys has become the Netflix generation’s “Pretty in Pink,” then its fans have helped christen “Lovers” as its “If You Leave.”

Within a week of the film’s debut, daily streams for “Lovers” on Spotify rocketed from 5,900 on Aug. 16 to 158,000 the following Thursday, eventually tabulating over 5.4 million streams across Spotify and Apple Music over the first three weeks. On iTunes, where “Lovers” sold exactly one copy the day before the release of “All the Boys,” the song moved over 5,200 downloads in the first three weeks after the Netflix bow. By mid-September, Anna of the North scored its first-ever U.S. tour dates, supporting indie-pop band LANY in mid-to-large size venues like the Hollywood Palladium and New York’s Terminal 5.

So how did Lotterud score the summer’s sleeper synch hit? For the film’s music supervisors, Laura Webb and Lindsay Wolfington, “Lovers” had all the main characteristics they were seeking. “We wanted something that fit that warm, intimate yet little bit sexy vibe of what’s happening there,” says Webb, “and when we found that song that was the first thing that resonates for us. And I feel like the lyrics apply to both of them being in the dark — ‘Show a little loving,’ ‘Shine a little light on me.’”

And with “Lovers” playing for the majority of the three-minute scene, Wolfington notes, “we love a song with a good build. They’re so great for editing purposes.” Plus its chilly, synthy production fit into the film’s overall proto-John Hughes vibe. “There’s a retro ‘80s accent that’s happening in music right now, and everything we chased sounds like everything that’s cool about independent music today,” Wolfington says.

The fact that “Lovers” soundtracks a romantic moment is made all the more ironic by the fact that the song was actually inspired by a relationship Lotterud had just ended as she was writing the material for her album. “There’s still a hopefulness in there,” Lotterud says, “and I could see that’s why it really fits in the movie. Because they have had this argument, they’ve not really proven their love to each other yet and it’s about, ‘Show me that you care’ and then, boom, it all happens. So even though it ended in a breakup for me, I guess it goes both ways. There’s still a future ahead, life is gonna get better, and I guess that’s what I needed to hear — and other people needed to hear.”

Although Lotterud has provided a musical moment for many teenagers, her own high school experience in suburban Norway was a far cry from the one enjoyed by the film’s characters. “I looked at that and I was like, ‘Shit, I wish I could have experienced something like that when I was young’,” says Lotterud, for whom the word “cheerleader” was never even part of the vernacular. “We didn’t have lockers, we didn’t have the football players, we didn’t have the girls… what do you call the girls that are cheering for the team? We didn’t have any of that stuff. We just had a normal gym.”

As a result, Lotterud is currently entertaining a Kylie Jenner-esque offer that would allow her to get the proper American high school experience next year. “I actually got asked to go to prom with a guy on Instagram. That’s my dream,” she says. “I’ve never gone to prom, I’ve never worn a really, really nice dress before. It would be cool if it was at the high school where the film was made. Maybe I could do a tour of high school proms!”

Songs For Screens is a Variety column sponsored by music experiential agency MAC Presents, based in NYC. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column will highlight a noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as new and catalog songs that we deem ripe for synch use.