Netflix’s surprise 2018 YA rom-com hit “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” spawned a lot of hard-to-duplicate success metrics: star Noah Centineo gained over 12 million Instagram followers in the two months following the film’s premiere, Japanese probiotic milk Yokult saw a surge in sales from its brief product cameo and Norwegian singer-songwriter Anna of the North scored a viral hit and her first-ever U.S. tour after her steamy, synthy song “Lovers” was featured in a fan-favorite hot tub scene between lead characters Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavisnky (Centineo.)
But to ensure that Volume 2, “To All the Boys 2: P.S. I Still Love You” (which premiered on Netflix Feb. 12), is an equally huge cultural smash, Netflix teamed with Capitol Records for the franchise’s first official soundtrack, which dropped Feb. 7 in advance of the film’s debut. The album features five all-new songs, including lead single “About Love” from pop songstress Marina, which scores the film’s final scene, and standout ballad “As I’ll Ever Be” from Loud Robot/Capitol signee Chaz Cardigan, which plays over a key slow-dance moment.
Though strategic placement of recent synth-pop singles, ‘80s covers and pop-culture Easter Eggs plays an equally strong role in the film’s music supervision, having an original music component for the first time unlocked lots of new storytelling opportunities for Lindsay Wolfington and Laura Webb, who return as music supervisors from Vol. 1, and first-time franchise director Michael Fimognari.
“This film felt like it was screaming for a song that could be associated just with this film, and now we have a whole soundtrack with five of them,” says Wolfington. “Just like with the first film, we loved showcasing new artists and indie artists. Even with someone like Marina, who isn’t necessarily new, having a new song from her is really exciting. And to be part of that creative process, we don’t get to do that on many projects.”
Among the standout music moments in “To All the Boys 2” is (spoiler alert) a pair of songs that bookend the pivotal breakup scene between Lara Jean and Peter, starting with Blackpink’s global hit “Kill This Love,” which serves as both a premonition for the events about to unfold and a subtle cultural nod to Lara Jean’s half-Korean heritage.
The song, which was released during the movie’s filming in spring 2019, also happens to feature marching band-style beats that paired seamlessly with Lara Jean’s cheerleading costume in the scene. “It got good cheers at the premiere, which was really fun,” says Webb of the film’s February 3 premiere for fans at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre. “Given the nature of a Netflix movie you don’t always get to feel the audience experience or reacting to your work.”
The breakup is then followed by a fourth wall-breaking sequence in which Lara Jean sings Ashe’s 2019 single “Moral of the Story” directly to the camera. “Lindsay and I jokingly call ourselves the ‘sad songs queens,’” says Webb, who chose the Ashe single because “it works really well stylistically, and she’s the example of an artist who definitely has a presence but it’s a great opportunity to hopefully introduce her to an even bigger fanbase and hope that people love her the way that we all do. It definitely conveys a lot of emotion.”
The co-starring role that music has played in both films drew Anton Monsted, exec VP of soundtracks and A&R at Capitol Music Group, toward getting involved with a proper soundtrack for volume 2, as well as the upcoming third installment which was shot back-to-back and is expected for release in the next year.
“The palette Laura and Lindsey have set is very specific, and the way they use is music is such a narrative-forward way,” Monsted says. “As a record company, we really want to work and partner on projects where music is used as a foreground element and not just window dressing. And when we saw it at the premiere, I don’t think I’ve seen an audience react to what’s happening onscreen like that in a very long time. There was squealing and spontaneous applause and a lot of people in the crowd going ‘Oh, no! Don’t!’ There’s something very powerful about this film we’re very excited to be able to tap into.”
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 highlights noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as film and TV. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ahampp.