'How I Met Your Mother' Music Supervisor Reveals Show's Top 10 Music Moments (Video)
Music supervisor Andy Gowan reveals his picks to THR, plus which character inspires him most and what tracks he wishes were featured in the series.
Of the many memorable music moments on How I Met Your Mother, the rooftop leaps in the season four finale were soundtracked by AC Newman's "Prophets" because of a ritual that music supervisor Andy Gowan has maintained throughout the series' run. "I like to put together these little playlists for Carter [Bays] and Craig [Thomas] and the other writers," he tells The Hollywood Reporter. Every few weeks, Gowan pulls a dozen tracks from his well-organized iTunes playlists of potential song choices – over 1,700 options collected from the last two seasons alone – as "just a way to spur some ideas; maybe they hear something that will influence an episode. Perhaps it was something they heard and clicked with, and envisioned it in the sequence they were writing."
But like Josh Radnor's Ted, Gowan's constant search for the perfect song for a pivotal scene – amidst budget constraints for licenses and a fast-paced network TV production schedule, and while trying to lend airtime to an under-appreciated classic track or the next great, currently unknown band – has its own "the one that got away" dead ends. He wishes Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks' "Fall Away" would've made it into season seven, and Turin Brakes' "Will Power" has been a tempting contender throughout the years. "There's a lyrical refrain, and the shape of that song just really lends itself to our big Ted moments – it's another one I kept coming back to many times, and adding to those playlists," says Gowan. "For whatever reason, it never ended up being 'the one.' "
Gowan – a Bay Area native who learned the ropes from working with industry vets Kevin Edelman and Alex Patsavas, just signed on for MTV's Happyland and is currently scouting a theme song for Netflix's first animated original series Bojack Horseman with Will Arnett and Aaron Paul – joined HIMYM's creative team after the first season, when the CBS series opted to add a music supervisor. While he's most musically inspired by Ted's emotional plot points – "it's his story; he's naturally given the most and biggest song moments of the show, so when I'm out there listening to music, I'm listening for his moments" – Gowan has enjoyed Neil Patrick Harris' "swagger days of bravado and cockiness, before Barney softened up" and Jason Segel's uniquely tongue-and-cheek, Big Fudge segments as Marshall.
Of the character who has musically seized the spotlight the least, he admits, "You know, I can't think of many music moments for Lily (Alyson Hannigan). Maybe that's in part because Lily was a little more stable in terms of her life – she and Marshall have their ups and downs, but for the most part, they were pretty solid. Robin (Cobie Smulders) had her ups and downs with Don, Kevin and even with Barney. Those types of storylines naturally drive the music … and I listen to some sad, depressing music quite a bit, so that's in my wheelhouse."
THR caught up with Gowan to highlight his top HIMYM music moments, including the Bays-Thomas originals written with show composer John Swihart. He comments on each below, listed in chronological order (and not including the series finale, because a major moment of Monday's episode would easily make this list, Gowan notes):
"Cryin' in the Streets" by George Perkins and the Silver Stars
Season 2, Episode 1: "Where Were We?"
Original air date: Sept. 18, 2006
The season's opening song was the soundtrack recapping Lily and Marshall's breakup, beginning with Ted finding his heartbroken friend sitting on their stoop. "My first big assignment after joining the show. Carter had mentioned wanting to use this song the summer before production started on season two. It was a bit of a research project to track down the copyright owners, but I eventually got the song cleared in time, and the song couldn't have been a more perfect way to start off the first episode of the second season."
"Boys Don't Cry" by Grant Lee Phillips
Season 2, Episode 1: "Where Were We?"
Original air date: Sept. 18, 2006
The cover of The Cure's track was the tender song to close the episode, as Marshall struggled to get over Lily with a bad batch of pancakes. "I'll always remember this one. This song was chosen from my first big pitch of ideas to Carter and Craig. They loved it, as did the fans of the show. Definitely felt like I had arrived as a valued member of the team."
"Let's Go to the Mall" by Robin Sparkles
Season 2, Episode 9: "Slap Bet"
Original air date: Nov. 20, 2006
Barney reveals that Robin used to be a Canadian pop star by sharing her hit single, written by Bays and Thomas. "I'm a firm believer that this show will be enshrined in the annals of TV history, and the character of Robin Sparkles will be a cornerstone of what people will talk about 30 to 40 years from now when discussing the brilliance of the series. This was her entree into our cultural fabric – and it's a damn catchy song!"
"Sea Green, See Blue" by Jaymay
Season 2, Episode 22: "Something Blue"
Original air date: May 14, 2007
The acoustic song comes on at the end of Marshall and Lily's wedding, as Ted reflects on his breakup from Robin with Barney and reinstates him as his wingman. "We ended season two with this song, which was actually a pitch from Josh Radnor. This was my introduction to [Jaymay], and we'd not only go on to work together on Josh's first film, Happythankyoumoreplease, but she also became one of my favorite singer-songwriters."
"Thirteen" by Big Star
Season 3, Episode 14: "The Bracket"
Original air date: March 31, 2008
The rock ballad plays during Ted's heartwarming, two-minute date with Stella. "Up to this point I had only known Big Star for their power-pop anthems and for their song "In the Street" that was the theme song to That '70s Show. But this song changed my whole outlook and appreciation for a woefully unrecognized band who had enormous influence on the shape of rock music."
"Rewind" by Goldspot
Season 5, Episode 2: "Double Date"
Original air date: Sept. 28, 2009
The Goldspot song plays as Ted and his repeat blind date imagine what would've happened if things had worked out after their first meeting. "True story: I heard this song in my head while reading the script for this episode. It was a weird moment of kismet. Its bittersweet poignancy was the perfect tone to play in an episode about missed opportunities, second chances and bad timing."
"Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp" by George Harrison
Season 6, Episodes 1 and 24 : "Big Days" and "Challenge Accepted"
Original air dates: Sept. 20, 2010, and May 16, 2011
The song is played at the very beginning and end of season six, as the series flashes forward "a little ways down the road" to Barney's wedding. "It was such an honor to be able to use music from a Beatle (and one of my favorite albums of all time – All Things Must Pass is definitely on my 'desert island' albums list). We bookended the season with this song, which was the first time it was hinted at that the place where Ted ultimately meets 'The Mother' was at a wedding. It certainly wasn't easy to secure the rights to the song, but it was well worth it."
"Let Your Heart Hold Fast" by Fort Atlantic
Season 8, Episode 12: "The Final Page, Part 2"
Original air date: Dec. 17, 2012
The last page of Barney's playbook, entitled "The Robin," is his rooftop proposal. "One of my favorite parts about my job is helping to share music from relatively unknown acts with a larger audience. We went through a ton of songs for this scene – including songs from much bigger acts – but this song won the day, and it was one of the most popular song uses in the show's history. I still hear from people about this one, thanking me for helping them discover this band."
"Simple Song" by The Shins
Season 8, Episode 24: "Something New"
Original air date: May 13, 2013
Cristin Milioti is shown for the first time, purchasing a train ticket while holding her signature yellow umbrella. "This song has to be on the list. Played over the first time we saw 'The Mother' – a very powerful song for a very powerful scene."
"You Just Got Slapped" by Boyz II Men
Season 9, Episode 15: "Unpause"
Original air date: Jan. 20, 2014
Marshall's "Slapsgiving" theme song is given a soulful remix during the final season. "What happens when you combine Boyz II Men and a favorite original song from our series? Magic, that's what. We had a lot of fun bringing [Boyz II Men] into the studio and onto our set to make the end of this episode so damn funny. What other show can pull off a whole Kill Bill-inspired episode, centered around one character slapping the other in the face as hard as he can?"
Did your top music moments of How I Met Your Mother make Gowan's list? Sound off with your favorites in the comments below, and tune back into THR after Monday's finale for Gowan's strategy on the show's swan song.