The Influence of HBO’s “Girls” on the Music Industry and Vice-Versa

By Ronan McGuire

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In 2012, HBO premiered a bold, forward-thinking television series from the mind of Lena Dunham called “Girls.” The series attracted some ire from both sides of the political aisle throughout its run, but was consistently praised for its’ true to life portrayal of what its like to be a twenty-something woman in New York City. Regardless of what some believe to be true about the show, it will be dearly missed by many, as it wrapped up its sixth and final season on April 17th. One of the reasons it will be so dearly missed is because of the phenomenal music used on the show.

When the first soundtrack to the series was released, Lena Dunham said in a press release, “Music is such a huge part of my creative process. … I make playlists to write by and listen to as I head to set in the morning, and I experiment in editing with songs that the characters would love and that accurately reflect their struggles.” In Season One, Hannah and Marnie, two of the show’s titular Girls, dance to “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn in the final scene of the third episode. After an episode full of heartbreak for the show’s main character Hannah, she rejoices in the kinship she shares with her best friend as they dance until the episode comes to a close. “Dancing on My Own” plays over the end credits. For a show so early in its run, it made a remarkable song choice to portray how important friendship is, and how much fun you can have if you just let go.

Because the music used on the show received so much attention, artists began recording original music for the show and would then premiere it in the subsequent episode. Santigold recorded her song “Girls” to be featured in the soundtrack to the show and be used in the trailer for the second season. St. Vincent released a demo of her song “Teenage Talk” to be exclusively featured in the closing credits of an episode of “Girls.” The song was then released as a single. It is remarkable that a television show that isn’t even about music stood as the stage for the world premiere of a hotly anticipated single from St. Vincent. And she’s not the only artist that has done this. Robyn debuted her new song “Honey” on the series during the sixth season.

“Girls” has also helped boost the popularity of already existing songs. When the HBO smash-hit series used “I Love It” by Icona Pop and Charli XCX, it helped the song go from underground indie hit to mainstream smash hit at number 7 on the Billboard charts. “Girls’” role in the music industry has been one of introducing new music to the world and using music as a narrative device to help flesh out characters. Music has great storytelling ability, and “Girls” has always understood this. The final episode of “Girls,” and all six seasons, can be streamed on HBO Go and HBO Now.

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