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Gossip Girl
Gossip Girl

The musical moments that defined Gossip Girl

Sitting on the steps of the Met listening to One Republic

Good morning, Upper East Siders: finally, we have some gossip on the Gossip Girl reboot, with a casting announcement that sets the series firmly in the present. Tavi Gevinson, primarily of Rookie fame but recently of Scream Queens, is set to lead. Alongside her, other fresh faces Emily Alyn Lind, Thomas Doherty, Adam Chanler-Berat, and Zion Moreno will star. It’s a refreshing line-up that seems like it will bring fresh blood to an old idea, rather than rehashing the dramas of Chuck and Blair. Set eight years after the OG Gossip Girl website went dark, the series will follow a new generation of rich, mean, spoiled New Yorkers dealing with constant surveillance. Of course, a complete lack of privacy is less of a novelty now than it was ten years ago, but it’ll be fun to see how that shift is represented.

Despite its myriad flaws and silly moments, Gossip Girl, which ran from 2007-2012, was iconic. Based on the book by Cecily von Ziegesar and adapted by The O.C.’s Josh Schwartz, Gossip Girl impacted teen TV and the wider world. It changed how we used technology on-screen, pushed the limits of late-00s fashion, and created new standards for how music could be used on TV. Legendary music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, who also worked on The O.C., Grey’s Anatomy, and Twilight, utilised everything from pop to emo to Flo-Rida to underscore pivotal, funny, and devastating moments to ridiculous effect. The O.C. and Gossip Girl pioneered the use of real musicians on-screen, too, with Lady Gaga and Robyn being notable features in the latter. It’ll be interesting to see how the reboot keeps things current, but for now, let’s return to some (not all) of Gossip Girl’s most iconic music moments.


Taken from: Season 1, Episode 7, “Victor, Victrola”

What music is most appropriate to pop on while you’re at it is up for debate. Most people, however, would likely be in some kind of agreement that sombre, emotional Elliott Smith is not ideal. Dan Humphrey, ever the maverick, disagrees. When he finally gets his chance (and the space) to get down with Serena properly in this season one episode, he puts Elliott Smith’s “Whatever (Folk Song in C)” on vinyl. It skips, because it’s vinyl, but once it kicks in, they have some meaningful, sad sex to the original emo. It works, even if it shouldn’t, and was a talked-about Gossip Girl moment even at the time.


Taken from: Season 3, Episode 11, “The Treasure of Serena Madre”

One of the most iconic moments in The O.C., both musically and just generally, was the utterly inappropriate use of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” as Marissa shoots Ryan’s brother Trey. It made a pivotal, intense moment the complete opposite, undermining the entire scene and sparking an SNL parody. That is Patsavas’s power, and that’s why the use of an extremely 2009 Jason Derulo song in which he samples and covers parts of Heap’s is so perfect. It’s used to underscore a passive aggressive Thanksgiving dinner at which literally everyone appears to be fighting because nobody in the Upper East Side is capable of having a nice time, and it’s a fun throwback to The O.C.


Taken from: Season 4, Episode 7, “War of the Roses”

In 2012, Lena Dunham’s show Girls made history for a lot of reasons, but mostly for her use of Robyn’s sad girl bop “Dancing on my Own”. It’s a brief respite in a show that’s mostly full of friends fighting – showing Hannah enjoying her own company and getting on with friend Marnie. But two years prior, in 2010, Gossip Girl used it to much more vicious, less wholesome effect in an episode where Chuck tears up a peace treaty between he and Blair before hate-fucking her on a piano. The ridiculousness of teenagers signing notarised peace treaties and the melodrama of their cutting barbs aside, this episode is perfect both for the speedy cutting to the beat of “Dancing on my Own”, and because Robyn herself makes a cameo appearance in the episode.


Taken from: Season 1, Episode 18, “Much ‘I Do’ About Nothing”

As early as the first season of The O.C., Alexandra Patsavas has utilised emo to elevate any scene’s emotional weight (see also Bright Eyes and Motion City Soundtrack, among many others). In “Much ‘I Do’ About Nothing”, Chuck gives a best man speech for his father that shows his emotional growth while creepily glorifying the refusal to give up chasing the object of your affections. Towards the end, the opening chords of Death Cab’s “The Ice is Getting Thinner” play, and Blair praises Chuck for his speech. He confesses that it came from his heart, before almost apologising for all the horrible things he’s done. They slow dance as the song kicks in, and whether or not anyone other than Seth Cohen would have chosen Death Cab as their first dance, it’s not a bad bittersweet season finale.


Taken from: Season 2, Episode 1, “Summer, Kind of Wonderful”

Very little epitomises the late 2000s like Lady Gaga, and her appearance in the third season, when she performs “Bad Romance” with her hair backcombed to death, only serves to prove that. But before this cameo, her song “Paparazzi”, with its themes of surveillance, was the perfect backdrop to a petty Gossip Girl kiss that’s observed by Gossip Girl himself. At the ‘white party’, an event at which rich people wear very expensive, mostly ugly white clothes, Serena kisses Nate to make Catherine, his older lover, jealous. When ex-boyfriend Dan sees it, he’s mad, and everything kicks off. But until then, it’s a dramatic snog that features everything great about this tacky hell of a show: rich drama, weird clothes, and inappropriate pop music.


Taken from: Season 1, Episode 10, “Hi, Society”

Sometimes the music choices on Gossip Girl are thoughtful, intense, even appropriate. Other times they are at once so of-the-time and so inappropriate that they clash with the action, undermining the incredibly intense scenes and amplifying the ridiculousness of the whole show. From “Like a G6” to Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls”, some of the song choices have barely been heard since the late 2000s – and One Republic’s “Apologize” is one of them. As Rufus apologises to Lily and she watches her daughter and his son (Serena and Dan) cavorting and snogging, it should be an emotionally charged moment, and quite a serious one at that. Instead, with “Apologize” playing, it borders on ludicrous in a way that only Alexandra Patsavas has nailed, and that at once made Gossip Girl timeless and instantly outdated.