For those who enjoyed the ’80s nostalgia-drenched soundtrack for the first season of the Netflix series GLOW, expect more of the decade’s most glorious earworms with season 2, which premieres Friday (June 29).
Craving some adrenaline-pumping standards? Look no further than Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” Heartsick ballads? Genesis’ “Man on the Corner” fills that quota nicely.
But it’s not all fun and games. This season, music supervisor Bruce Gilbert’s use of irony reaches full effect in an episode that sees one of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling facing an unwanted sexual advance from a Harvey Weinstein-esque producer. When the traumatized woman re-enters the wrestling ring to perform for a sea of salivating male fans, the needle drops on The Waitresses’ flirty 1982 single “I Know What Boys Like.”
“I think that it offered sort of a multiplicity of notions inside of this one song that otherwise would have been just like giddy and playful,” Gilbert tells Billboard. “I think that there are opportunities to use songs that in some cases would seem sort of trite or light, and in this case…I think it deepened the sort of punctuating moment of the episode.”
Of course, sometimes no such pointed message is needed — or warranted — such as for a training montage set to Frank Stallone’s growly 1983 single “Far From Over” (written for the Sylvester Stallone-directed Staying Alive). “I hate that song,” Gilbert admits. “[But] I think there’s a huge benefit to using something that’s quote-unquote cheesy, or something that was even used in a fight sequence in another movie or a training montage. You know, it’s like you just think about Rocky …or let’s say The Karate Kid. You know, the stuff like that where it adds a giggle and a point of reference and something ultra-recognizable.”
Much like last season, season 2 takes place in the mid-’80s and leans heavily on the pop side of the musical spectrum. Such well-loved tracks as Madonna’s “Crazy for You” and Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” crop up in scenes that require what Gilbert refers to as “‘80s compilation song[s]” — the kind of top 40 hits one would expect to hear at a disco or a dance circa 1985. Elsewhere, he exploited opportunities to indulge his love of less obvious tunes, including The Jesus and Mary Chain’s feedback-drenched classic “Just Like Honey,” which closes out a dramatic moment at the end of episode 1.
“I think part of the beauty of a song like that is it’s unexpected and it’s not something that you would necessarily immediately associate with like, ‘Oh, my top ’80s jam!’” says Gilbert. “It’s not in the same playlist as Madonna or Genesis or Prince or Starship or any number of megahits. But for me, it’s near and dear. … Trying to find stuff like that that’s just like a little less expected is I think a treat. It’s a treat for me and hopefully it’s a treat for the viewer.”
The Jesus and Mary Chain may count as “unexpected,” but they’re practically mainstream compared with some of the virtually unknown artists included on this season’s soundtrack. (Never heard of The Pills? You’re not alone.) With much of Gilbert’s budget spent on licensing some of the era’s most iconic songs, digging up period-appropriate tunes from little-known acts became a necessity. For those instances, the music supervisor turned to more specialized corners of the internet.
“Most of the smaller labels from back then don’t exist [anymore], but there are people who have done their own research and represent some of these smaller acts or smaller labels,” says Gilbert. Though the research required to dig up these songs takes time, Gilbert finds it a gratifying aspect of the job. “Because of the internet, it becomes easier to fall down these little rabbit holes of research where if you’re a music nerd like me, it’s a lot of fun to find the more obscure stuff,” he continues. “I’m glad I’m doing this now and not 20 years ago, when it was a lot more [difficult].”
As for songs on his wish list that Gilbert tried and failed to secure this season, the music supervisor opted to remain mum. “As much as I’d love to say who the artist is and how they crushed our dreams, I won’t, only because you never know exactly what’s transpired on the [other] end,” he says.
Not all the abandoned songs this season were ditched for legal reasons; some of them simply came out a year or three too late. “When we were sending songs back and forth just that we loved, sometimes it would be like, ‘Ooh, this came out in the late ‘80s, but what a jam!’” says Gilbert. Still, if GLOW continues beyond season 2, they may well get the opportunity to circle back.
“There were a ton of songs that we were like, ‘Well, if the show goes on for [several] more seasons, maybe we’ll eventually get to this cut from 1988,’” he says with a laugh.
Soundtrack for GLOW: Season 2
“You May Be Right,” Billy Joel
“Just Like Honey,” The Jesus And Mary Chain
“It’s Like That,” Run DMC
“Nobody Thrills Me,” DB Night
“Baby You Got It,” Brenton Wood
“You’re All I Need To Get By,” Aretha Franklin
“Small Town Boy,” Bronski Beat
“I Know What Boys Like,” The Waitresses
“I’ll Walk Alone,” The Pills
“Far From Over,” Frank Stallone
“You Make My Dreams Come True,” Hall & Oates
“Destination Unknown,” Missing Persons
“Kyrie,” Mister Mister
“Don’t You Want Me,” Human League
“Crazy For You,” Madonna
“Man on the Corner,” Genesis
“Stop the Music,” Robby D. feat. Heli Sterner
“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” Starship