'13 Reasons Why' Music Supervisor Talks Season 2's Punk-Influenced Sound, Selena Gomez's Vital Contributions

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Dylan Minnette, Selena Gomez and Katherine Langford arrive at the Premiere of Netflix's 13 Reasons Why at Paramount Pictures on March 30, 2017 in Los Angeles.

The hit Netflix series 13 Reasons Why is coming back for season two on Friday (May 18) with some lingering questions about Hannah Baker's suicide, a lawsuit hanging over Liberty High and hints that Bryce's assault on Jessica might be the focus this time. It's also returning with a whole new, slightly harder-edge soundtrack that will relay the anger and disillusionment of some of the characters, thanks to some classic post-punk ragers and contemporary tracks that tap into an angsty mid-1980s vibe.

"Any season one of any show, you're establishing the aesthetic of the show: the sound, the tone, those kinds of things," the show's music supervisor, Season Kent (Suicide SquadThe Fault in Our Stars), tells Billboard about the bridge from the musical aesthetic of season one to the groove of the upcoming sophomore return.

"We didn't want to start doing hip-hop [in season 2]. [Creator] Brian [Yorkey] was a kid of the '80s so it's very nostalgic for him, so we definitely kept with this '80s synth sound, whether it's new bands that have that influence or bands that are actually from the '80s," Kent adds.

Just as season 1 focused on classic doom pop tracks from Joy Division, The Alarm, The Call and The Cure, along with newer ones from Sir Sly, Lord Huron, the Chromatics and Billie Eilish, Kent says season 2 will slide into a more similarly consistent post-punk groove. "This season lended itself to bringing in a little bit of a different sound," she says. "The kids are a bit angrier this season, there's new characters that we meet that we were able to use to introduce a new sound. So this season it's a lot more '80s punk and new bands." 

That's why you'll hear some classics by Agent Orange and the Buzzcocks on the show, and favorites by The Alarm ("Strength"), Siouxsie and the Banshees ("Cities in Dust"), New Order ("Love Vigilantes") and Echo and the Bunnymen ("The Killing Moon") on the soundtrack, as well as new songs from up-and-coming acts including England's YUNGBLUD ("Falling Skies" featuring Charlotte Lawrence and "Tin Pan Boy"), Eilish ("Lovely" featuring Khalid), dark dance pop singer Leon Else ("My Kind of Love") and British synthpoppers Years & Years ("Sanctify").

Kent says the soundtrack for this season has a lot more unreleased material because she had more time to work on the lineup after collecting options for months and focusing on the new vibe: "I knew what the sound was and Brian and I have such a shorthand at this point. I know what he likes." That's why you'll hear an unreleased song from Brooklyn synthpop duo Haerts.

Of course, no conversation about 13 Reasons is complete without some talk about the crucial role of the show's executive producer, Selena Gomez. "She's always been really open-minded about it and she understands the show has a sound and has certain needs," Kent says about the singer, who offered up the lush cover of Yazoo's 1982 hit "Only You" for the season one soundtrack. "She says, 'I'm here when you need me, tell me what you want.' Last season, we really wanted her to do a cover and luckily our composer did the track for us, and she was totally cool doing the cover." 

This season, Gomez offered up the recently released original track "Back To You," which mixes an acoustic sound with a driving EDM sound -- similar to her collaborations with Kygo and Marshmello. "It timed out well and it's a bit of a different sound for her and it's a love song and it really works lyrically so well for the storyline between two characters. It's a great fit," Kent says. The singer was trying to figure out when she wanted to release the track, then realized it would be a perfect contribution to the 13 Reasons comeback, if producers could find a place for it. Which, of course, they most definitely could. (Check out the official "Back To You" lyric video below.)

"It's got a great use in the show and this is her project; she brought it to Netflix and she's been really behind it from day one," says Kent, who notes that while Gomez isn't involved as a day-to-day producer, she's well aware of her value to the audience, which is also her audience. "She is really behind a lot of these issues in the show and we're lucky to have someone like her on board with us." 

Check out the full track list below:

Selena Gomez, "Back to You"

Billie Eilish & Khalid,  "Lovely"

YUNGBLUD, "Falling Skies" (feat. Charlotte Lawrence)

Lord Huron, "The Night We Met" (feat.Phoebe Bridgers)

Parade of Lights, "Tangled Up"

Colouring, "Time"

Leon Else, "My Kind of Love"

Haerts, "Your Love"

New Order, "Love Vigilantes"

Echo and the Bunnymen, "The Killing Moon"

Human Touch, "Promise Not to Fall"

Years & Years, "Sanctify"

YUNGBLUD, "Tin Pan Boy"

OMD, "Souvenir"

Tears for Fears, "Watch Me Bleed"

Siousxie and the Banshees, "Cities in Dust (Single Version)"

Gus Dapperton, "Of Lacking Spectacle"

Telekinesis, "Falling (In Dreams)"

The Alarm, "Strength"