Ever since Crazy Ex-Girlfriend premiered on The CW last October, the show has charmed viewers with its blend of unconventional comedy, romance, and, of course, original songs. More than three dozen songs have been featured throughout the course of the first season, ranging in theme from yoga to self-loathing. “All of the songs come from the plots of the episode, so we can’t really start conceiving a new song until we know what the episode is about,” the star and co-creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rachel Bloom, explains. “When we’re stuck, we don’t look for, what are the funny things in the episode that could be a song, but rather, what are the emotional highs and lows that can be a song and be sung at this moment?” The show has three main songwriters — Bloom, music producer Jack Dolgen, and executive music producer Adam Schlesinger. “What we’re really doing is writing musical sketches,” Bloom says. “It’s about finding that intersection of where a musical-sketch idea meets something that could emotionally come out of a character on the show. Every song has its own little story of how it came to be.” Ahead of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s season-one finale Monday, we talked with Bloom about the stories and inspirations behind eight of her most memorable songs so far.
“The Sexy Getting Ready Song”
“The Sexy Getting Ready Song” was initially conceptualized because of the need for an additional song for the show’s pilot episode, and it evolved into something much different from its initial form. “We had a song in mind that was a pop song: ‘I’m Batshit Crazy For Your Love.’ It was funny, but it was vague, and I didn’t know if that was the theme we wanted to explore,” says Bloom. “So we thought, what’s another emotional high point of the episode? Aline [Brosh McKenna, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s co-creator] was like, ‘When Rebecca’s getting ready for her date with Greg, she’s so excited that she might run into Josh. Maybe we could do a song about her getting ready.’ I was like, oh yeah, there’s definitely a song there. Getting ready for a party is horrifying. The way people fetishize that female process is interesting — powdering oneself, putting on lipstick, waxing.” Bloom says she drew inspiration from “How Lovely to Be a Woman,” a song from the famed stage musical Bye Bye Birdie. “The actress sings about how lovely it is to be a woman, to get your braces off, to put on lipstick, to wear high heels,” she explains. “I remember talking to Aline and being like, that’s so funny, she’s getting ready and all of the horrifying things she’s doing is because of the underlying anxiety of the man she loves.”
Before Bloom writes a song, she pens a few dummy lyrics to help solidify what the main theme and tone should be. “The original dummy lyrics we had were ‘Wax the nipples / shave the puss,’” she laughs. “It’s like, here are the joke ideas of what the song essentially is. Sometimes those dummy lyrics make it into a final song, sometimes they don’t.”
“I Have Friends”
“I had that idea for a while,” Bloom says about the pseudo-pop tune that brings Rebecca and her onscreen younger self together. “I was a very unpopular kid, so that episode is very autobiographical. The idea of putting together a party and searching around for whatever friends can come is extremely stressful, so we chose to ironically turn it into this upbeat Mickey Mouse Club ’90s song. That spoken word thing happens very naturally when you think of the premise. It’s just like, I have friends! But do I? We also thought, why not throw some pizza in their faces while we’re at it?” In post-production, Schlesinger decided to make the “old” and “young” Rebeccas harmonize in the end.
“I’m a Good Person”
“That episode was always about wanting Rebecca to think she was a good person, so this was a natural song choice,” says Bloom. Interestingly, the narrative that surrounded the song was originally much darker. “We actually had a version where she ruins Darryl’s life — he finds out Madison isn’t actually his kid and his wife cheated on him, and Darryl would then get full custody even though he wasn’t Madison’s father. And then Rebecca would triumphantly sing ‘I’m a Good Person,’ despite the fact that she ruined Darryl’s life. We ended up not going with that plot point, but the triumph over having been a ‘good person’ despite other people’s misfortunes continued to be the joke we wanted to pursue.” Schlesinger wrote the first draft of the song, and then the duo fleshed out two unique versions together: a CW-approved version and an explicit version. “The reason why there’s an explicit version is because, truly, the best version of that song is the dirty one,” Bloom explains. “Because she honestly thinks she’s a good person despite calling people ‘pieces of shit’ and saying ‘suck my dick.’ She’s being so aggressive in asserting this, and the most accurate way to do that is threaten to murder someone and kick Girl Scouts in the face. That was really fun to write.” Bloom decided that the song’s template should be something “super upbeat,” and looked at “Happy” by Pharrell and “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift as the main melodic inspirations. “Those were the two triumphant songs we were going for,” she says, “and then Adam really knocked it out of the park with the melody.”
“I Give Good Parent”
The idea for “I Give Good Parent” had been rolling around in Bloom’s head for a couple of years. “It was based off my mother-in-law liking me so much,” says Bloom. “Originally, it was kind of reversed, a mom singing ‘I’ve got the mom hots for you’ and the idea of when parents really like the person their son or daughter is dating. It’s almost weirdly sexual. I always liked that idea of sucking up to someone’s parents and making it kind of sexual, so that came very naturally for that episode.” When the writers room decided it should be in the style of a Nicki Minaj song, Bloom enlisted Zach Sherwin, a writer for the show, to write “the main part” of the rap. “I only gave him a couple of ideas and he ran with them. He’s the best comedy rapper that I know,” continues Bloom. “It was so fun to perform and rap and add choreography. That version is dirty, too. You’re doing Nicki, who’s an incredibly dirty lyricist — that’s why there are two versions of that song.”
“Sexy French Depression”
“I’ve always had a fascination with how much we fetishize someone like Marilyn Monroe, who basically committed suicide, was a depressed person, but she was so beautiful and sad,” says Bloom of the song, which was shot in black and white. “In general, we fetishize women being sad, and it’s something I’ve been fascinated with for a long time. For a while we were like, okay, we want to do a song about being sexy-sad, and we were looking at Lana Del Rey’s ‘Summertime Sadness’ that had an Instagram-filter coolness to being suicidal. But that’s really not that interesting.” Bloom struggled at first with finding a fresh way to convey these emotions, but the aesthetic of “sexy French sadness in that signature French tradition” finally came up in the writers room.
“You Stupid Bitch”
Bloom was working on set during the filming of Santino Fontana’s “What’ll It Be?” when she had the realization that her character should have a similarly powerful song, too. “I thought, huh, we haven’t really given Rebecca a ballad yet, I want to sing a ballad,” she says. “I was with one of the writers, Elisabeth [Kiernan Averick], and I asked when Rebecca would be hitting the lowest of lows in the season. And we realized it was episode 11 when she was really in the most self-loathing state. She has really ruined it all.” At first, she didn’t know how funny or dramatic “You Stupid Bitch” would be. “When I started writing it, I thought about when I was feeling depressed or anxious and the horrible, horrible things I call myself in my brain that aren’t sexy at all. You’re a piece of fucking garbage. All of the things that are so vulgar that when you think of them you just want to look in a mirror and cry,” Bloom explains. “It’s all self-indulgent sadness. It was scary to write because it was accessing all of the parts of myself that were so fucked up and weird. I honestly didn’t know if anyone was going to relate to them.” When she came up with the first draft of lyrics and a demo melody, she sent them over to Schlesinger. “I was like, here is this song idea I have. I need to know if this is funny” she recalls. “He said, ‘I completely get what you’re going for. This makes total sense, I have a melody in my mind that I think is much more along to lines of what you’re interested in.’ He then busted out this amazing power ballad. I was like, I want this to be Bernadette Peters at Carnegie Hall.”
“This was definitely a collaborative writers room song,” Bloom says about “JAP Battle,” which sees Rebecca go against her archenemy — and fellow Jewish attorney — Audra Levine. “We’re big fans of Hamilton and the idea of Rebecca having a rap battle was really funny to all of us. Originally it was going to be more legalese and a really legal-centric rap battle with her nemesis, but it evolved to a more general life battle,” Bloom explains. “Aline said, ‘Oh, it’s a JAP-off!’ and that stuck. I came up with a couple of the ideas, like the bridge being who’s more cool with black people. Like ‘I Give Good Parent,’ I sent a few ideas to Zach and he knocked it out of the park, as always.” Speaking of Hamilton, don’t be surprised if Lin-Manuel Miranda makes a visit to West Covina in the future. “We’ve thought of him and it’s definitely something we’re kicking around,” she says. “He’s so busy. That would be amazing.”
The idea for an anthem dedicated to large-breasted women predated the show by many years. “Boobs were more of a burden than sexy for me,” says Bloom. “For a long time I was on the wrong birth control and for half of every month my boobs would be swollen and hurt, so the part of the month that I looked the sexiest I was in pain and I couldn’t run or do much exercise. My breasts were such a burden that I finally went off birth control and they stopped hurting. I thought it was funny that some women are bragging about their body parts, and my boobs are heavy and dense and annoying. How funny would it be to sing: ‘I’ve got them heavy boobs / heavy boobs / dense like dying stars.’” Bloom ultimately decided to partially base “Heavy Boobs” off of “Diva” by Beyoncé, which seamlessly blends rapping and singing. “The idea of doing a song and fetishizing my breasts in a realistic way I thought would be great. It manifested itself in me.”