Charles Newman On Creating The Diverse Soundtrack From Universal Pictures’s The List

We all remember those iconic scenes from a selection of films that have remained a staple of cinema. From the actor’s performance to the sharp editing and mood-determining lighting, every little intricate detail melds together to create a moment that audiences will soon label as unforgettable. Of course, there’s another key element that assures a scene’s resonance: the music. 

Record producer and music supervisor Charles Newman kept this in mind when compiling a soundtrack for Universal Picture’s The List, a romantic comedy about the unexpectedness of love and where you find it. Following Abby (Halston Sage) after her fiance sleeps with a celebrity on his “free-pass list”, the film transports us and our determined protagonist to Los Angeles to sleep with a celebrity from her list. In her peculiar conquest, Abby meets Jake (Christian Navarro) who challenges her pre-conceived notions of love and relationships.


Though it might seem easier than creating an original score, putting together a top-notch, well-suited soundtrack is no easy task. Fortunately, Newman and The List’s director Melissa-Miller Costanzo are no amateurs when it comes to curating the musical vibe of a film. After working together on the drama All These Small Moments, the two rejoined forces for The List resulting in an eclectic soundtrack featuring a myriad of sounds and aesthetics that match up with the film perfectly. 

From the folksy alternative tracks “On Top Of My Shoulders” by Austin-Hartley Leonard and “I Am Lying” by The Davenports to the ravey hip-hop beats of “Everyday Saturday” and “No Regulas” from Sandflower, and even slowcore and softer songs drenched in melancholy “Shadow” by Byland and “Too Soon” by Frank Bell, The List soundtrack explores the emotional landscape of love and finding yourself with jubilance, reflection, and bitterness making for a riveting musical component alongside the unfolding story. 


Q. You’ve composed for a variety of films all unique in genre and style. What attracted you to the list?

A. I had worked with the director Melissa Miller-Costanzo on her last film All These Small Moments where we developed a great working relationship.  When she began working on this film I read the script and we started talking about music and artist ideas. It was over a year from then until we were actually putting songs to picture. It’s always great to be part of the process from the beginning.


Q. Did the film, being a romantic comedy, compel you to focus on more upbeat contemporary tracks? 

A. Yes, the pacing and comedy of the film initially dictated that kind of sound. There were some other really beautiful cinematic moments that some of the melancholy tracks fit as well.


Q. You worked closely with The List’s director Melissa Miller-Costanzo to curate a soundtrack that perfectly encapsulates the movie’s vibe. Talk about working with her.

A. She’s a kid of the 70s so her tastes gravitate there, but with so much new music rooted in that history, it was fun turning her onto new artists and finding fresh new music that connected with her.


Q. Some songs were recorded specifically to be played alongside certain scenes. How do you think the music elevates those scenes?

A. Those scenes had songs temped in that were out of the budget, so with Melissa having them already setting the tone, it gave us the roadmap of what the tempo and feel should be. [It] gave room for the artists to write and produce to picture with more detail and dynamics than the original temp track had. 


Q. What are some personal highlights for you from the soundtrack? 

A. I love the Oshima Brothers track and the Byland track. Both happen during key emotional scenes in the film and really elevate those moments.


Q. The music featured spans across multiple genres from hip-hop, to indie pop, to rock. How were you able to highlight these differences while maintaining the essence of the film?

A. Everything has continuity as it’s all indie artists with similar production aesthetics.  From the more alt-pop tracks to the Americana and rock songs, there’s an overall melodic sensibility to everything, and most of the songs are hook-driven and catchy in their own way.

Pop Culture Press