It’s late on a Friday afternoon and as the working week draws to a close, music supervisor Jen Malone is invigorated. The cause for celebration? An email she had been waiting for just arrived, marking the last clearance for a song to be used in the season finale of HBO’s “Euphoria.”
Malone’s needle drops for the music-heavy series helped make “Euphoria” a social-media phenomenon, trending on a weekly basis as two million-plus tune in. Those viewers are also holding their phones toward the screen with the Shazam app open, looking to capture every song.
Malone — who has been nominated for two Guild of Music Supervisors Awards, both in the same category: music supervision for film budgeted under $5 million, for “Malcolm & Marie” and “Zola” (alongside Nicole Weisberg and Mandi Collier) — spends Sunday evenings glued to HBO herself. And in a case of life meets art, she was also watching her other ear-candy series, Showtime’s “Yellowjackets,” which is set partially in the present time, and partially in 1996 New Jersey.
“Both shows have a very different tone and way they use music to tell the story,” says Malone, who has placed such disparate choices as Bo Diddley, Poison and Steely Dan all in the same episode of “Euphoria,” and artists such as Tracy Bonham and Belly in “Yellowjackets,” which she co-supervises with Whitney Pilzer.
Says Malone: “ ‘Yellowjackets’ is a love letter to the ’90s. I was in high school in the mid-’90s in New Jersey. I was literally going back to the mixtapes I had when I was growing up. It was so fun and rewarding to pitch some of my favorite songs, whether it was PJ Harvey or Jane’s Addiction or Portishead. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the music I want to put in ‘Yellowjackets’ from that time period.”
In contrast, for “Euphoria,” Malone has virtually no restrictions, which, at times, can prove challenging. “Where do I start? What genre? What year? It’s very overwhelming,” she says. “The fun part comes in when you go down various music genre rabbit holes. We used a lot of catalog music this season and were dealing with older generation estates. The content is really brutal at times, but there’s such a nuance to it and we had to explain that to the estates. We’re not using the song disrespectfully, but to help tell the story, and that it’s in good hands.”
Malone points to the opening scene of Season 2 as an example: full male and female frontal nudity, drugs, strippers, oral sex, substance abuse, all at the same time, being soundtracked by Billy Swan’s cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel.” These are the descriptions she had to include when approaching the King’s estate, exercising her public relations skills — honed via a previous career in the music industry — to make it sound palatable.
In 2020, Malone won the GMS Award for music supervision — television drama, for Season 1 of “Euphoria” (alongside Adam Leber). She received an Emmy nomination in the category, too — her second nom, following her work on “Atlanta” in 2018. (The FX series returns, with Malone on board, in March.)
Before moving to Los Angeles to pursue music supervision, Malone was washing dishes in a café in Boston. At the age of 30 she began interning, first with Dave Jordan, and then at Viacom for MTV and VH1, where she was sitting alongside college students. Now, Black & White Music is Malone’s robust, all-female, independent music supervision company with credits such as “Umbrella Academy,” “King of Staten Island,” “Defending Jacob” and “Kevin Can F**k Himself.”
“I started from the bottom,” says Malone of her trajectory in the industry. “I interned, I put in my dues and I figured it out. When I have to do something every day, I want it to be something I love that’s inspiring and gets me excited.”
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