'To All the Boys I've Loved Before' Music Supervisors Break Down the Movie's Best Soundtrack Moments
If you’re a human being with a Netflix account, you haven’t just heard of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before -- you’ve probably watched the streaming service’s hit teen rom-com multiple times already.
Based on Jenny Han’s YA novel of the same name, the film follows Korean-American high schooler Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), who enters a fake relationship with dreamy schoolmate Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) to save face after unsent love letters she secretly wrote to various crushes -- including Peter -- are suddenly mailed out against her will. When the film debuted last month, it immediately seized the the Internet’s attention thanks to its smart, sensitive and totally swoon-worthy characters.
But the film’s indie-fueled soundtrack, curated by music supervisors Laura Webb (Teen Wolf, 500 Days of Summer) and Lindsay Wolfington (One Tree Hill, The Royals), deserves just as much praise. The friends and longtime collaborators pulled from artists such as Blood Orange, Tears for Fears and Anna of the North to construct a soundtrack that captures the spirit of Lara Jean -- eclectic, playful and, above all, hopelessly romantic.
It helped that Webb and Wolfington instantly fell in love with the film, too. “I think it treats teenagers very respectfully, in the John Hughes way of not talking down to or dumbing down the audience,” says Webb. “You could just tell it was something special.”
“We watched the film, and we thought we understood that world,” adds Wolfington. “We said, ‘Okay, I’ll do this scene, you do this scene,’ and once we were like, ‘This is a more alternative, indie vibe,’ it helped us get more in that vein.”
Below, the duo explain the thinking behind the film’s biggest music moments, including the diner heart-to-heart, Lara Jean and Kavinsky’s couple debut and, yes, that hot tub scene. Be warned: Spoilers ahead.
SONG: Twinsmith, “You & I”
SCENE: Lara Jean looks back on her friendship with Josh Sanderson, her sister’s ex (and one of her former crushes)
Webb: The scene we probably sent the most suggestions for was the flashback. What was hard about it is it’s the first song you’re hearing other than the classical or opera. You’re covering her friendship, and it’s the intro to “What’s this movie going to sound like?” But it’s also a flashback, so it’s reflecting her when she’s younger. There’s a delicate balance of not going too young with it and making it still have enough energy to get us through this early moment in the film. You always want energy at the top of a film. And the lyrics of “You & I” are a vignette about her friendship with Josh.
SONG: Blood Orange, “You’re Not Good Enough”
SCENE: Lara Jean eats lunch alone in the library and gets kicked out for munching on carrots
Wolfington: Associate producer Warren Fischer brought [“You’re Not Good Enough”] to our attention and said, “I think this is cool, where could we put it?” For that scene, we had played with score, but none of the scores were working. The idea of trying the song there was, “Maybe we could spice this moment up a little bit more.” It has that bass groove to it, which gives you energy, but it leaves space for the awkwardness of the moment: the whole carrot crunch, the idea of walking to lunch by yourself. It’s embarrassing and awkward. That was the fear: That no one would sit with you! [Laughs.]
Webb: It gave me trauma for her! Flashbacks!
SONG: Sofia Symphony Ochestra, Vassil Kazandjiev, “Das Rheingold, WWV 86a: Entry of the Gods at Walhall"
SCENE: Realizing the letters to her crushes have been mailed out, Lara Jean faints
Webb: One of our producers came up with the operatic moment for when the letters are out.
Wolfington: It’s like being in her head. She lives in her dreams, not in reality. What would that sound like, sonically? Well, it kind of sounds like a really dramatic opera scene!
SONG: Confidence Man, “Boyfriend”
SCENE: Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky make their debut as a couple in the cafeteria
Wolfington: When he puts his hand in her back pocket, that reveal was a fun moment. We sent a couple songs in the beginning that were more dreamy -- Ohhh, now I have a boyfriend-type stuff. But [because] this is a setup, it made more sense to go with something playful. That song is so quirky.
Webb: I remember she sent it to me like, “Am I crazy for suggesting this?” And I’m like, “No, it’s so fun!” You don’t always want to do the exact lyrics, but sometimes it just works.
Wolfington: [Centineo], who plays Kavinsky, was so perfect. I always thought he felt like a young Mark Ruffalo. And he had been in another show I music-supervised called Tagged.
SONG: LAUV, “I Like Me Better”
SCENE: Lara Jean, Peter and friends take a trip to Aspen
Webb: LAUV really felt like this movie, for sure. Even if it wasn't that spot, we were like, “This fits in this film.”
Wolfington: I’ve been obsessed with LAUV since 2017. I mean, the lyric “I like me better when I’m with you”? You can’t say anything sweeter than that. We love championing independent artists, and Lara Jean feels a little bit indie. She can appeal to the mainstream, but she’s not the popular girl. This was honestly a directive from the top, too -- they wanted the whole film to match Lara Jean and to feel indie. LAUV’s an artist who’s not on a label. He can say yes or no to whatever he wants.
Webb: He tweeted that he watched it! [Laughs.]
SONG: Anna of the North, “Lovers”
SCENE: While in Aspen, Lara Jean and Peter make out (finally!) in a hot tub
Wolfington: That was one where we were like, “We’ve got to get this right.” We wanted it to be the song that people remember, that people come away with and are like, “Oh my God, the song in the hot tub!” It’s almost a four-minute use of the song, and they talk a lot before they get to the reconciliation and kissing part. It’s what we needed there: a romantic vibe that wasn't intrusive. And it built just enough to give us that [sings] “Ahh, they’re kissing!” moment. I was looking for something that has a little build to it, because we’re going somewhere in this conversation, and it’s going to be a great ending. [Laughs.] That song feels like it was meant to be.
Webb: And that can sustain that whole scene. You didn't get bored, it [didn't feel] too repetitive, it didn't detract from their dialogue. We didn't want to distract from that.
SONG: Many Voices Speak, “Video Child”
SCENE: Doubting Peter’s commitment, a heartbroken Lara Jean cleans out her room
Wolfington: That’s another band I’m obsessed with, and they work so well for syncs. They have texture, and they’re emotional. That was actually one of the last songs to get put in a scene.
Webb: It actually was temped with something that was really expensive, to be honest. My problem was it was also five or six years old, and we prefer to look forward when possible. And everything else in the movie, other than Tears for Fears, was super current. When [“Video Child”] landed in the scene, we were like, “That is perfect!” It’s melancholy but with pace. It’s not super-sad, it’s not dragging down the whole movie.
Wolfington: It’s contemplative. I have a “thinking/pondering” playlist. You need those. [Laughs.]
Webb: I put “pensive” in my notes a lot.
SONG: Tears for Fears, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”
SCENE: Lara Jean has a heart-to-heart with her father at the diner
Wolfington: Laura came up with the idea of using Tears for Fears, and it was the perfect combination. It was supposed to be a song that [Lara Jean’s deceased] mom used to get up and dance to, but it also was playing [during] a really intimate conversation, so that’s kind of a delicate balance. Tears for Fears hit that really nicely.
Webb: It’s such a tender moment. The first idea was a ‘60s song, like something you would think of at Johnny Rockets. The hard part about some of those songs is the vocals are pretty loud. When you think about the wavelength of Tears for Fears, it’s probably a pretty thick, consistent wavelength. Not a lot of peaks or vocals would stick out. So that's helpful, to make sure you can hear what’s being said by the characters. Tears for Fears have really lush instrumental parts that were helpful, too.
SONG: Matthew E. White and Natalie Prass, “Cool Out”
SCENE: At the end of the movie, Lara Jean and Peter kiss and decide to be a couple -- for real this time
Wolfington: The Matthew E. White song could have gone a lot of places. That was a song that I initially thought, “Maybe in the party [scene].” Part of me was pitching songs that were quiet, quiet and then went super big in the chorus when they finally kissed. But everybody was more into a subtler idea, which kind of fits Lara Jean. So this song was the subtle idea. Sometimes there's not a reason: If you put it in [the scene], and you say, “This feels good…”
Webb: Now I can’t picture any other song there, but we did pitch quite a few things. It was a big moment, so we wanted to nail it. Now I can’t picture really anything else.