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Donald Glover Had to Help Clear
Donald Glover Had to Help Clear

How Donald Glover Picked the Perfect Tracks For 'Atlanta's' Infamous 'Teddy Perkins' Episode

“Atlanta” co-music supervisor Jen Malone says it isn’t always easy to clear tracks for use in TV, and in one particular instance, series creator Donald Glover himself had to get involved.

Glover wanted music by Stevie Wonder to bookend the episode “Teddy Perkins,” including scenes that involved a murder-suicide, Malone explained. Many artists, evidently including Wonder, aren’t particularly thrilled when their music is used over potentially disturbing content, so Glover had to help persuade Wonder to allow them to use the music.

“Donald had to get on the phone with Stevie and we were all very intrigued about what went on on that phone call,” Malone said. “But we ended up getting the song and it was just such a perfect musical moment.”

Malone says her favorite music pick for “Atlanta” involves an alligator and The Delfonics’ “Hey Love.”

“An alligator named Coach walks in slo-mo to the Delfonics’ ‘Hey Love.’ Such a surreal moment scored by such a classic, iconic song that is just completely unexpected,” she said. “And Donald actually wrote that song into the script, it was there from the very beginning and there was no topping it.”

She explained that music helps complement the imagery in TV, particularly for “Atlanta.”

“Donald being Donald, and a creative genius, of course music was going to be a huge, huge part of the show,” Malone said. “The music creates so much atmosphere, both as a character and also supporting the scenes and the storyline and the narrative. But it is so much about the vibe and the tone and sometimes it’s about making the audience feel or think something that isn’t necessarily said in dialogue.”

Malone said hip hop is notorious for being hard to get rights to. She said one of the most difficult clearances was for the song “The Race,” by Tay-K.

“The kid’s in jail,” she said. “For murder, and he’s probably never getting out. But his song was, like, No. 40 on Billboard, so he does have management, and the management had to go jail, visit with him, and have him sign off on the request.”

You can stream “Atlanta” on the FXNow App and Hulu, or watch on FX with a cable subscription.

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