Spoilers ahead for the nearly decade-old run of Gossip Girl.
This week sees the revival of a cult show quite like no other - Gossip Girl. The original infamous 2007 series followed the high school (and later college, albeit to lesser success) lives and exploits of New York's elite and one lonely boy. The HBO Max reboot will bring that messy vision to the modern-day as a new flock of New York's privileged elite deal with a Gossip Girl who knows how to use a VPN.
The original Gossip Girl was everything a teenager in the late 2000s could ask for; it had sex, fantastically awful depictions of the rich, and most parents hated it. However, I'm not here to discuss whether or not Dan should have ended up with Blair (my own awful hot take for another time) or whether or not the reboot should be woke, because there's nothing I need more than rich kids explaining neoliberal theory to me. What I am here to talk about is the absolutely wild soundtrack of the original Gossip Girl and whether or not the reboot has any hopes of living up to it.
The original run of Gossip Girl was a show with the audacity to firmly rope me in for half a decade to leave me with one of the most lackluster and confusing endings in existence. Dan, really? He wanted to fit in so badly that he would go so far as to leak details of his sister's sex life, inevitably driving her from the city? Anyway, plot holes and Taylor Momsen's music-driven departure aside, what honestly sticks with me all these years later is the audacity of the soundtrack. This is the show that dared to ask teenage me if I'd enjoy a side of Sonic Youth with my cocktail of St. Vincent, Lady Gaga, and Cyndi Lauper.
Led by Alexandra Patsavas, the famed music supervisor behind The Twilight Saga, Grey's Anatomy, The O.C., and plenty more, the three-time Grammy nominee was largely responsible for the original's genre and generation - spanning soundtrack. In its first episode, we open on Peter, Bjorn and John only to jump between the pop star stylings of Rihanna and Justin Timberlake before delving headfirst into a flashback scored by French space pop duo Air. Yes, the same Air who scored Sofia Coppola's debut film, The Virgin Suicides. And this is not to make any mention of the other artists featured in the show's pilot, from Akon to Amy Winehouse, from Albert Hammond Jr. to Timbaland.
Gossip Girl's omnivorous approach to music direction is something that would continue throughout its show run, helping to establish it as an hour-long block where anything could happen. And I mean anything. When I passively mentioned Lady Gaga, St. Vincent, and Cyndi Lauper earlier, it wasn't just because their music was passively featured on the show, but because it was commonplace for artists themselves to feature as prominent plot points.
The Mother Monster-centric episode in question revolves around our hero-villain Blair convincing Lady Gaga to perform a Snow White play based on her songs, all in the hopes of impressing the theatre kids at NYU's Tisch. And that wild sentence doesn't even begin to touch upon the fact that Dan Humphrey aka Gossip Girl is currently dating Hilary Duff (whose character is playing an actress because this show knew nothing of subtlety). The natural theatrics of the Blair-centric episode were admittedly a perfect fit for Lady Gaga's own, and did make slightly more sense than Robyn's private performance for Blair's 20th birthday.
However, the one musical guest that stands out most to me now is Sonic Youth, who rush from New Hampshire to a Brooklyn loft, so they can play "Star Power" for a wedding party full of kids who presumably don't know the first thing about Sonic Youth. Rewatching the show for the third time earlier this year, the moment sticks out all the more, because I am 100% certain that middle school me was in the same position as half the guests at that wedding party. There's very little chance I had any idea what was going on or why it was such a big deal to have Kim Gordon officiate your wedding, but it's something that present me appreciates to no end.
And that's one of the many things I love about Gossip Girl to this day. Subconsciously or consciously, Gossip Girl helped shaped my then-nebulous music identity. My first exposure to Conor Oberst, The Rapture, Death Cab for Cutie, The xx, St. Vincent, and a host of other indie bands that would score my high school years was in-between scenes of New York's elite battling to be the worst possible version of themselves. It's that same sense of oddball music discovery that I hope the reboot can capture, but I fear may be difficult in a time where music discovery is so calculated and widespread, driven by algorithms and a seemingly endless barrage of new music at our fingertips.
Because while I have little to no doubt that the Gossip Girl reboot's soundtrack will be great - actually, I'd take bets on it being amazing, maybe too amazing - what made the original Gossip Girl's soundtrack so memorable was how ridiculously camp it was. It mirrored the ridiculousness of the show itself, presenting a vision that felt surreal and utterly detached from reality. It wasn't trying to follow trends; it was daring to create them, unafraid and unbothered by whether it turned out to be a flop or cultural touchstone.