‘Euphoria’ Composer Labrinth Is Mad Chill About All the Backlash to His Song

·8 min read
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/HBO
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/HBO

Euphoria has received twice as many Emmy nominations for Season 2 than it did for Season 1, heading into the 2022 awards. A number of Season 2 standouts—Sydney Sweeney, Colman Domingo, Martha Kelly—have earned their first Emmy nominations. The frequently controversial, incredibly popular series even snagged a Best Drama nom.

But some of the Euphoria folks have been enjoying the praise since the beginning of the show. Alongside Zendaya, who became the youngest Lead Actress in a Drama winner when she won two years ago, the series’ composer, Labrinth, has been raking in the Emmy noms, critical acclaim, and social media fan-cams since the very beginning of the series premiere in 2019.

Labrinth was one of the three folks to win an Emmy for Season 1 (alongside Zendaya and the show’s makeup team), taking home the Outstanding Music and Lyrics trophy for his song “All For Us.” The musician has earned another two noms in the same category this year: one for “I’m Tired,” which he shares with Zendaya and series creator Sam Levinson, as well as a nod for “Elliot’s Song,” shared with Zendaya and Labrinth’s wife, Muzhda Zemar-McKenzie.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty</div>
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty

While “I’m Tired” was well-received by fans of the show—especially considering Lab had a cameo in the scene—the latter tune faced quite a bit of controversy. Airing amid a tense finale, “Elliot’s Song” was raked over the coals for stealing quite a handful of minutes away from the real action (like Cassie and Maddy’s big fight and the raid on Fezco). But Labrinth won’t take any of the memes ragging on the song to heart.

“I just think it was super funny,” he tells me over a recent Zoom call, with a cheerful smile. “The audience will always let you know when they have an opinion.”

The resounding opinion of his scores and original music for the series have usually been positive, so the backlash was a bit of a twist for Lab. Still, “Elliot’s Song” was nominated for an Emmy, so how terrible can it really be?

The musician, who is currently waiting on news about Euphoria Season 3 and working on his upcoming solo album in the meantime, sat down with The Daily Beast to talk about both of his Emmy-nominated tracks, the wildest demand from Sam Levinson, and his new single “Lift Off.”

Congrats on your two new Emmy noms! What was your reaction when they were announced?

My reaction was like, “Ugh, again?!” No, I’m just kidding. Imagine [if I was] just like, “Really?” No, I was really happy, and I was excited this time because my wife was also nominated with me on one of those noms. I love doing it with family. Then, also, Zendaya is an incredible talent and we love working with her as well. It just feels like a family affair.

What was it like to work with your wife on a song?

It was really wonderful. It was emotional. We love writing stuff together. We haven’t done a lot together, but my family’s pretty creative. My two kids—I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old—they love to jump on my songs as well. Even if they’re not welcome! I’ll be singing and just all of a sudden, my daughter’s like, “Give me the mic.”

She’ll be the next Emmy-nominated member of your family.

She’s the one.

Can you walk me through the production process on the first of your Emmy-nominated songs, “I’m Tired”?

“I’m Tired” is inspired by gospel, of course. Two sides of gospel: Catholic and Pentecostal styles. Choral energy. Organs. I wanted to have that energy going on in the records. It’d be like Kirk Franklin with ancient Gregorian chants. Ancient choral music, that’s what I had in my head. Then, I had Queen in my head, Nat King Cole, and Kanye.

It was a mix of loads of different people. The concept of the song was based on what was going on inside [of Rue’s head]. Then you see what’s happening in the story. She’s getting to the breaking point, “I need to do something about this, otherwise, I’m not going to make it to tomorrow.” That’s what we got to. Zendaya sat in the studio with me and we tried to map out what needs to be said for Rue’s experience.

You also had a cameo in the “I’m Tired” scene, which I loved.

I photo-bombed! There I am in the background.

How do you think that affected the way that song played for audiences?

It was wild. Especially a lot of people who were fans of me and fans of the show from the first season, they were like, “I know this guy!” People really knew my face. It was bridging those worlds. You’ve got Sam filming me and Zendaya embracing each other, us singing a song that we all wrote—it was pretty emotional and poetic, in terms of us being all creators involved in the show.

And how about the production on “Elliot’s Song”?

We’ve got Dominic Fike’s character singing to Rue saying, “I’m so sorry that I had to ruin our relationship. But I hope it was worth it. That it makes you the person you need to become.”

The scene in the finale got some backlash online.

It was so funny.

What are your thoughts on that negative reception?

Sometimes, you can’t take yourself too seriously. I don’t choose how long the songs are played [for] in the show. That’s what they chose to do. Working behind the scenes, especially on a show like Euphoria, is intense. Decisions have to be made. Sam, literally, this guy was in every room at the same time. I don’t know how somebody can do that. I think he made all the decisions he could make in the time that he had.

Some people felt [the scene] was too long. I was just like, “Okay, cool!” I love the recorded version of the song, because I felt like Dominic sounds incredible on it. Zendaya and Dominic both sound really lovely together. I just really enjoyed putting the song together for that moment.

And it’s now Emmy-nominated, so clearly that audience reaction doesn’t matter too much.

I guess it wasn’t too long.

There was one song that didn’t get nominated that I still love, “Yeh I Fuckin’ Did It.”

Dude, that’s my tune!

This ‘Euphoria’ Song Is the Year’s Most Egregious Emmy Snub

How did production on that one go?

Because I’m from the UK, I love Massive Attack, I love Pet Shop Boys and Prodigy. Just mad production. You know these guys will do wild stuff. For me, a lot of the production was inspired by them guys, alongside hip hop and trap. I kind of wanted to mix those vibes together. I just wanted to write a mad record for Euphoria, because I know it’s the place where I can do it. Sam was very inspired by that gospel stuff. Sometimes I get crazy ideas.

In past interviews about Euphoria, you’ve said that Sam has asked for “the weirdest shit in your hard drive.” Is there anything that’s too wild for Euphoria?

I’ve tried. It’s really hard. Sam gave me this challenge, he played me this Nine Inch Nails record, which was mad crazy. Tear your face off crazy, which I love. I was trying to get something that could be it, or something that could stand up next to it, but it was just too incredible to get a sample in. It was “Mr. Self Destruct.” I love the record. That one was too crazy in a short space of time. I’m going to have to practice that one.

Speaking on Euphoria in general, how did you react to all the reception for Season 2?

It was super wild, man. I thought fans of Euphoria were going to be like, “Yeah, we love it.” It’s nice to see that people will show you when they like something, especially in this day and age when we’ve got social media. They’ll also, uh, remind you when they don’t. That’s the reason to stay off social media.

There are reasons to steer clear.

They’ll be like, “I hate this scene.” And you’re like, “Do you know how long it took us to put this thing together? Try doing it yourself.”

What goals do you have heading into Season 3?

I have no goals. I don’t know. Honestly, I have no idea. I’m just having fun writing this album, and I’ve been creating music. I’m doing stuff with other films and shows. When Sam gives me the call—if he does—I’ll see what we’ve got for the show. This is my coffee break.

Tell me a little bit about your new album.

It’s me and my wife’s relationship exaggerated into a graphic novel. “Lift Off” is the first single, and it’s basically Natural Born Killers in space. That’s what inspired the record, so that’s literally what the album is.

I love seeing who else you’ve worked with—like Beyoncé! Is there anyone else you’d love to work with? Or any other new ventures you want to try?

I’m going to get into everything. I want to score music for a game, a computer game. I want to score and write music for Disney, and I want to do something for Marvel. Those would be fun.

Oh, Marvel would be fun.

Eh, when I see you next time and I’m crying, “I got that Marvel project. It was too hard!” Be careful what you wish for.

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