Jules' "Euphoria" Episode Featured Lorde, Billie Eilish, Rosalía, and More
Still thinking about the excellent use of "Liability."
There are various elements that make HBO’s Emmy-nominated Euphoria great: the acting, the makeup, the photography, and, of course, the music. Since its premiere in June 2019, the Sam Levinson-directed series has made music one of the key elements, contributing to the drama’s storytelling and at times acting almost like a character itself. “[The songs] help support the scene and elevate it and enhance what's happening and who’s the character, what are they going through, how can we create a connection between our audience and what they're seeing on screen,” Jen Malone, one of the show’s music supervisors alongside Adam Leber, told The Fader in July 2019.
Nowhere has that been clearer than during the season 1 finale, with the mise-en-scene of Labrinth and Zendaya’s collaborative track “All for Us.” After that, Labrinth released a 26-track album called Euphoria (Original Score from the HBO Series) in October 2019, building upon the music-film relationship portrayed on the silver screen. He even put on a theatrical live performance of some of the tracks via YouTube in August 2019. However, Jules’s special gives the music of Euphoria a new spin.
“F*ck Anyone Who's Not A Sea Blob” (or, “Part Two: Jules”) premiered on HBO on January 24 as a continuation of December 2020’s "Trouble Don't Last Always" (or, "Part 1: Rue"). As the title makes clear, this episode centers around Jules Vaughn, played by Hunter Schafer, who’s also listed as one of the writers and executive producers for the episode. Musically, one of the first things you’ll notice is Labrinth is nowhere to be seen in the new special. Unlike "Part 1: Rue," which did feature a Labrinth-backed score, the Jules episode highlighted music by the likes of Lorde, Billie Eilish and Rosalía, Arca, and newcomer Ai Bendr.
“F*ck Anyone Who's Not A Sea Blob” kicks off on an emotional high note with Lorde’s 2017 track “Liability,” from her critically-acclaimed sophomore album Melodrama. Lorde’s entire ballad plays as Jules’s memories from season one – good and bad – flash before her eyes, or, more literally, through her eyes, as tears slowly form. As Jules reflects on her relationship with Rue, “Liability” gets the queer love story it deserved to soundtrack.
We also have this episode to thank for Billie Eilish and Rosalía’s long-awaited collaboration. The Grammy winners link up for “Lo Vas A Olvidar,” which translates to “You’ll Forget It.” Previewed days ahead of the debut on HBO Max with its inclusion in the episode’s trailer as well as a standalone music video directed by Nabil that released on January 22, the song brings together Billie and Rosalía’s team to create the ultimate haunting ballad.
Featuring both Spanish and English lyrics, the song is written by the two singers in tandem with their respective long-time collaborators FINNEAS and El Guincho, and produced by the former. “[‘Lo Vas A Olvidar’] went through lots of stages, which is kinda rare for us,” Billie said in an interview with Apple Music's Zane Lowe. “Usually the production we do is the production we end up with. This one was really not that way. The time I heard it when it was done I was just like ‘this is so weird.’ I don’t feel like I’ve heard a song that sounds like this. Maybe that’s stupid. I do feel like it’s weird and different.”
With tender melodies and synths, in “Lo Vas A Olvidar,” the two singers’ soprano voices melt together like liquid velvet to elevate the raw, heartwrenching lyrics even more. “Tell me if you miss me, tell me if you don’t forgive me yet. What will you do with all this poison? Nothing good. Tell me if you still miss me,” the song opens.
The painful sensibility of “Lo Vas A Olvidar” fittingly serves as the backdrop for one of Jules’s most vulnerable moments during the episode, as she opens up about her concerns of Rue relapsing and the parallels with her own mom’s backstory, which we are presented with for the first time, via a series of flashbacks.
Another Rosalía collaborator featured in the episode is Barcelona-based, Venezuela-born artist Alejandra Ghersi, known by her stage moniker Arca. Arca’s wonderfully bizarre musicality and experimental approach lend perfectly to Euphoria’s aesthetic. Her compositions, “Madreviolo” in particular, take center stage during Jules and ShyGuy’s sexting scenes and sex fantasies.
"Euphoria has such a beautiful library of music, for the first season and these special episodes but something I am particularly excited about is how Arca contributed to this sort of Jules’s fantasia sex sequence that happens in the second half of the episode. It’s sick,” Hunter Schafer said during a Twitter Q&A. “It is a pleasure and an honor to be a part of Jules’s fantasia! You killed it, your performance is spellbinding,” Arca herself responded.
“Madreviolo” is part of Arca’s Madre EP, which was released on January 22, 2021. The EP features four in total: “Madre,” which is a collaboration with Oliver Coates, “Madreviolo,” “Madre Acapella,” and “Violo.” The cello in “Madreviolo” is played by Arca herself and the instrument was used only for this track and later destroyed.
“After recording ‘Madreviolo’, I destroyed the cello I bought specifically for this. It had to be like a one-time thing for the version where I pitched up my vocal to castrati registers. But the original version with my unprocessed vocals, which felt a necessary version to share alongside ‘Madreviolo’ needed an arrangement that I could envision but couldn’t hear. When I shared the a cappella version with Oliver there was an insane resonance and chemistry; where he took it felt like the place I dreamed of but couldn’t reach without him,” Arca said about the EP, per NME.
Arca’s more orchestral, instrument-heavy repertoire – including “List (Excerpt)” – also soundtracks various Jules’s moments throughout the episode. Aside from her own solo career, Acra is also known for her work behind the scenes, particularly her producing credits on Kanye West’s 2013 album Yeezus. She has also produced for the likes of Kelela, Björk, Frank Ocean, and FKA Twigs – among many others.
17-year-old Ai Bendr (real name Chioma Ai Bendors Ilozor) provides the colophon track for the episode in the form of “Love Me Low,” a track she wrote, produced, and recorded entirely from the boiler room of her home just six months ago. “Love Me Low” soundtracks the very last scene of the episode, when Jules is at home and Rue (Zendaya) comes to wish her happy holidays on her way to meet Ali (Colman Domingo). As Hunter revealed on Twitter, it was the series’ director, Sam Levinson, that tapped the alt-pop crooner for the episode’s soundtrack.
Much like the scene it soundtracks, “Love Me Low” is a tonal shift, while still interpolating downhearted elements. “Don’t let me go. Baby, don’t let me go. I can’t seem to fight this feeling I get when I’m with you,” Ai Bendr sings amidst bottled synths, kicking off the lo-fi track. “I just want to be with you.”
“You know I love you. You don’t even know how I'm gonna miss you,” the song goes as Rue enters Jules’s room on that rainy Christmas Eve. “Baby, I just wanna kiss you. Stay, until the day is done. You don’t even know just how much I need you. Baby, I just wanna keep you with me.”
‘Love Me Low’ is a bittersweet song I wrote while I was 16 in high school, about loving someone you knew you were going to have to leave,” Ai tells Teen Vogue. “I cut the vocals in my house’s boiler room in Ann Arbor, Michigan, timing takes in between the boiler running and my siblings yelling! Euphoria is one of the only shows I watch, never mind even enjoy, and I knew right away my voice would be perfect for it; having that be a reality now, well… that’s just incredible, and I am beyond grateful.”
Hailing from Michigan and of Nigerian and Singaporean-Australian descent, the now Los Angeles-based singer is a new addition to Interscope Records’ roster. She’s currently working on all-new music, and her debut project is to be expected this year.
Euphoria is expected to start filming its sophomore season, which was first delayed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, sometime this March, IndieWire reported. New episodes are expected to air before the end of 2021.