Track by Track: The Music of FX's Pose

Read the stories behind the songs that brought season 1 of the groundbreaking television series to life.
Reading time 8 minutes

To accompany the inaugural digtial issue of L'Officiel USA, Alexis Martin Woodall, executive producer of Pose (2018's most talked about series for its representation of the LGBTQIA+ community and because it's great) provided a playlist of her favorite tracks from the series. As Woodall tells is: "I'm so personally attached to every single song in the show; some have been favorites for years, some were new discoveries and some were just kismet, but all of them resonated with me (and with Ryan Murphy) for a variety of reasons. A few of my favorite picks below, in no particular order."

"In My House" by The Mary Jane Girls

This is a song that our editor Adam Penn selected when he was working on the museum heist scene in the opening of our first episode. I couldn't help but become its biggest champion. It encapsulates the humor and adventure of the moment, but it also tells the viewer "Welcome to our house."

Thinking about the different Houses (Evangelista, Abundance, and later, Ferocity) as characters in their own rights give us as storytellers a chance to let the audience know what kind of tone to expect. With this song, you know that the House of Evangelista is going to take what they want when they want—Mother Elektra taught her children well.

"Sugar Walls" by Sheena Easton

I was so excited to use "Sugar Walls" in an episode focusing on femininity and the female body, because how often do you hear a woman singing about the joys of her vagina? When I read the script, I immediately knew that the introduction of Aphrodite, recently returned from "Bangkok" (a euphemism for her completed bottom surgery), needed a song that wasn't afraid to proclaim its blatant sexuality and womanhood. Also, that melody is fire.

"Love Come Down" by Evelyn Champagne King

At the beginning of the fifth episode, we go back in time to 1982 and spend a minute meeting Blanca at her first ball. Choosing a song set in that specific year was important to me as a storyteller. While I often choose songs from a variety of eras, in this situation I really wanted to be exacting about where we [were] in time. "Love Come Down" has so much lightness to it, a killer beat, and the chimes in the music stems give it a little bit of a magical quality, which is what Blanca is experiencing for her first ball.

"The Boss" by Diana Ross

Ryan Murphy and I just think Diana Ross is the ultimate Mother of them all, so we have quite a few of her tunes in the series. But with "The Boss," it was the first time that Blanca is prepared to go up against Elektra and win, so hell yes, she's the boss! Again, lyrics mean nothing if you don't feel like shimmying; this song is literally "The Boss."

Blanca sails in gorgeous and ready to play, much to the chagrin of Elektra; the accompaniment of Miss Ross's incredible vocals make the moment both heartfelt and hilarious.

"Love is a House" by Force M.D.s

This song was a treat for me—a total discovery that I had never heard before until I went looking for the final closing heartbeat of the show. I knew I needed something that could serve on multiple layers for Blanca's win for Mother of the Year, as well as the emotional win for all of our characters. When I came across this song—which charted on both the Billboard 100 and held a #1 spot on the Billboard Black Singles chart—I was struck by how on-point the song was. Lyrically it's exactly right, musically it's beautiful and what a hook!

"Love is a house, love is a home, I don't want to be alone. Open up and let me into your heart."  

"Head to Toe" by Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam

This song was, is, and will always be a stone-cold hit. I loved it when I was seven and listen to it probably too much, but it's just so damn good. In the second episode when Blanca is fighting the transphobic gay bar for her right to drink there, I needed a song that would naturally be playing, but that meant something, even if it was just for me.

"Head to Toe" works because the beat is amazing, but for me in this context, there is a deeper significance of what it really means to be adored from head to toe—the total self, not just the exterior. Also, I love how fun the song is and how strongly it contrasts with the brutality of how Blanca is treated.

This song is a jam. No other words needed. But, since I'm writing about my reasoning, I'll say that there is a minor-chord sense of mystery and tempo that plays perfectly as Patty (Stan's wife) enters the ball for the first time in search of Angel. I generally shy away from being this literal, but Patty is about to make some discoveries that will change the course of her life forever...the ball is her own point of no return. Also, doesn't this song make you want to dance?

"Is This Love" by Whitesnake

This song is one that I've loved since I was little, but I really fell back in love with it during my college years when Monster Ballads (the compilation CD of hair band ballads) came out. Never in a million years did I think I would use this song in a show like Pose, but as we worked on the tone of Show World (where Angel and then Elektra work), I realized we needed a certain sound that was very different from the rest of the show.

"Is This Love" lyrically connects to Stan and Angel, but there is driving masculinity to the song that stands out starkly from the fluidity that Stan is experiencing.

And again, why not be a little surprising with the music? Whitesnake has never sounded better than pounding through the walls of Show World.

"I Wanna Dance With Somebody" by Whitney Houston

I mean, come on. This song is the perfect synthesis of joy and love and yearning and movement. How else do you end the first episode of Pose? All hyperbole aside, Ryan [Murphy] was the one who called me late one night before we had shot even a frame of the show and said, "we MUST use this song!" I couldn't agree more—as a seven-year-old, I broke my Whitney Houston tape listening to it so much. Don't fret, I got another one. And then I did the same thing a few years later with The Bodyguard you could say I have a bit of a Whitney addiction.

"Holding Back the Years" by Simply Red

This is a fun story. I knew I wanted to play a song with personal themes rather than love themes for the beginning of the final episode because Elektra isn't experiencing anything other than her own personal journey. We had gone down a different path with an excellent song that shall remain nameless; at the eleventh hour the rights just weren't going to be granted to us and we were going on the air in a week—what's a girl (producer) to do? I searched endlessly for songs that would speak to Elektra's life—I didn't want a "boy did me wrong" kind of vibe, this needed to be her moment. On a whim, I threw "Holding Back the Years" up against picture and I honestly fell in love. We all felt that this song did something special for her character and, in a funny way, it was a better fit than the prior song. Sometimes last minute panic can become something very special.

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