The awkward, self-involved, and at times pretentious cast of “Girls”, shows Americans what we have all been at one time, or will be—depending on age. When the series ended in April 2017, social media was abuzz with declarations of both disbelief and good riddance. Despite the dichotomy of responses to the show, the music of “Girls”, was arguably its most important aspect.
“Girls” was forced upon the American viewing public with a great deal of hype. The consensus was that it would mean something to many people. And then it aired. The hopefulness which had characterized the show, turned into the now-classic criticism of any show set in New York City with white principal characters: There are no, or few, people of color. The same criticism was waged against “Friends”, “Sex and the City”, “Seinfeld” and “Gossip Girl”. And when people of color were worked into the script, the response was that the characters were “one-note” or “token”. But would characters as entrenched in their own worlds and minds as the four principles of “Girls” be able to make real friends outside their demographic?
But, the music. Could anyone hear the music over all the extra-ness being tossed around on the screen? I hope so. Sometimes the music was the best part. In the interest of full-disclosure, I liked “Girls”. I liked it as a New York story just as I did “Saturday Night Fever”, “Taxi Driver”, and “The Warriors” and some of the aforementioned television shows. But the music in “Girls” does so much over six seasons. It provides an ultimately American soundscape (regardless of where the performers are actually from) that shines a light on the eclectic way contemporary Americans consume music for their own purposes, whether it is for a night of karaoke, or singing a child to sleep. And yes, all of that happens over six seasons of “Girls”. In Season 1, just as some viewers might have thought all of the selections would range from alternative to pop, with minor bends in genre here and there, Jay-Z featuring Swizz Beatz pops up with “On to the Next One.” Jay-Z’s music appears in more than one season, and Beyoncé’s work shows up, as well.
But hip-hop is not the only outlier here. Random songs from musicals, such as “Hot Lunch Jam” from “Fame” by Irene Cara, and “Take Me or Leave Me” from “Rent,” appeared in seasons 2 and 6 respectively. In between were songs by Solange, Carly Rae Jepsen, Smashing Pumpkins and the big hair era hard rock band Great White. Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” almost became a supporting character it appeared so many times in the final episode.
The music of the show became less background noise (sometimes it was sung by the characters) and more a means toward common ground, or commiseration. When art brings people together, it has achieved something larger than itself and that is what matters.