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Column - Really STRANGE Mercy: How St Vincent ended-up on Gossip Girl

Column - Really STRANGE Mercy: How St Vincent ended-up on Gossip Girl
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St Valentine has a rival. The patron saint of lovers can move over, because as far as US teen soap Gossip Girl is concerned, when they wanted a saintly figure for their Valentines‘ special which airs tonight (13 February) in the US, they opted for St. Vincent.

No, not another relatively obscure religious figure, but thatSt Vincent .

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So far, so unlikely, but when you consider Robyn and Sonic Youth have previously appeared on the show – Thurston Moore was keen for more than just a cameo: “I’d like to have a role on the show I’d love to be a 51-year-old ex-indie rocker who hangs out in some capacity,” he told Rolling Stone in 2009 – and the likes of The Killers, Foals and Death Cab For Cutie have all appeared on teen shows in recent years, recruiting the New York-based Annie Clark to perform Cruel and Cheerleader on a show about the lives of the Upper West Side‘s teen elite, suddenly feels a glove-like fit.

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“With Gossip Girl we look for acts with pop sensibilities and whose sound is suited to the New York locale of the show,” explains Gossip Girl‘s music supervisor, Alexandra Patsavas of casting the singer for tonight’s special. “St Vincent seemed a perfect fit, so we reached out to her management and it turns out she’s a huge fan of the show. It was great to have her on.”

Having also worked on The O.C. and The Twilight Saga via her music supervision company Chop Shop Muisc, Patsavas has virtually invented the modern teen-soap-meets-indie-band crossover, but as she points out the shows and films she works on are not just looking for incidental music, they want something that will help convey their characters and move the plot on, and so occasionally having the people who create that music on screen makes sense.

“We used music like a character in The O.C., a way of reflecting the stories and emotions of the other characters,” she explains. “So we would have the likes of Death Cab For Cutie and The Killers come on the show and play.”

And while The Smiths appearing in Grange Hill (if only) was never on the cards and The Flaming Lips’ 1995 performance on Beverly Hills, 90210 was a one off, the nature and plots of modern teen soaps – Gossip Girl deals with some pretty adult themes, to use TV speak – means credibility damage no longer seems an issue. “I think in the past it’s been hard for bands to feel good about it but that has changed,” suggests Patsavas. “It’s still a mainstream endeavour for bands, but they know that we will use their music respectfully.”

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They also know that they will gain access to a completely different demographic through one, relatively painless cameo. Death Cab For Cutie‘s slot on The O.C. helped them achieve more mainstream success, while even a band like The Walkmen expanded their fanbase with a 2004 appearance.

“Artists can commonly expect to see a pretty big spike in sales after featuring on a show like Gossip Girl, especially on iTunes,” suggests Patsavas. With the Gossip Girl website linking to all the music it plays, not to mention the success of Taylor Momsen who used her stint acting on the show between 2007 to 2011 to help launch her band The Pretty Reckless, it would be hard for any artist – let alone one like St Vincent who is signed to an indie label – to turn down that level of exposure, particularly considering the lack of opportunities for music on national television and radio in the States (not to mention the 197 other countries Gossip Girl is syndicated to).

Better still, unlike letting your music be used in an advert there’s a chance you might even like the show you’re appearing. “Kim [Gordon] and I are pretty fanatical viewers of the show,” declared Sonic Youth‘s Moore after their 2009 cameo. “It’s sort of our dose of Shakespeare every week.”

Al Horner@Al_Horner


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