Tiana Major9’s 2019 collaboration with Earthgang, “Collide,” entered 2021 with two major milestones under its belt: it was the love theme for the 2019 Daniel Kaluuya drama “Queen & Slim,” and one of five 2020 Grammy nominees for Best R&B Song (which Robert Glasper ended up taking home last weekend). Not too shabby for the UK R&B singer’s first song with a major label (she’s signed to Motown Records).
So when music supervisor Madonna Wade-Reed first thought about featuring the song as the soundtrack to two pivotal scenes in back-to-back episodes of The CW drama “All American,” she wasn’t even sure if she could. “It’s a very tricky thing for a supervisor when you know a song has a very significant history, particularly when it’s tied to someone else’s quote unquote picture. It has to be a really careful choice.”
Wade-Reed had been to an early screening of “Queen & Slim” in 2019 and the signature line from “Collide”’s chorus, “When we collide / It’s a beautiful disaster,” always stuck with her as the perfect backdrop for the seasons-in-the-works, potentially doomed romance between “All American” characters Spencer (Daniel Ezra) and Olivia (Samantha Logan). “It’s a wordless scene where friendship blossoms into love, and he looks at her and realizes that’s where his heart belongs, so I loved that ‘beautiful disaster’ line because it communicates that there’s a fallout coming,” Wade-Reed says. “I don’t often touch music from a film, but this was one of those moments where I thought we could do this.”
The approach paid off. A clip of the song’s use in the show has been viewed more than 72,000 times on Twitter, and streaming activity for the song doubled over the two-episode window. Daily streams of “Collide” lifted 50% (from 60,000 to 90,000) after the first episode aired, and saw an additional 33% boost (from 90,000 to 120,000) after the following week’s episode featured a 2-minute musical callback of the song.
“It just goes to show that you can still make an emotional connection between music and story and people will want to find out what that song was that they connected with in the scene,” says Jenny Swiatowy, vice president – head of creative sync licensing at Capitol Music Group, who cites Freya Ridings’ power ballad “Lost Without You” as the closest recent parallel she’s seen of a song that’s been synched for multiple high-profile projects back-to-back. “Don’t get me wrong, one sync use is a win any day. But two is yet another impactful opportunity to catch new fans and create familiarity with an untapped audience.”
Ironically, perhaps the only person who hasn’t been able to experience “Collide”’s sync-fueled second life firsthand is Tiana Major9, who is unable to broadcast or stream the current season of “All American” from London where she’s waiting out the quarantine. “I never knew about the show before, so a lot of my fans were at-ing me on Twitter saying ‘It was showed twice and I loved the episode!’ and how it made them fall in love with the song again. I’m so grateful that the song is still so strong and has legs even coming up on two years.”
“Collide” is the only song Tiana didn’t cowrite on her debut EP “At Sixes & Sevens,” which was released last summer and will get the remix treatment on April 2. The first preview of the project is a remix of the single “Same Space?” featuring Sir that was released today (March 18). Other guests set to be featured on the EP include Lucky Daye, Vince Staples, Jvck James and Haile from the UK R&B group Wstrn.
“Same Space?” was also the song that caught the attention of Adele, who gave the song a rare shoutout on her Instagram last August for reasons that still aren’t totally clear to Tiana. “It came as a shock, I don’t know how she found me,” Tiana recalls. “Somebody told me that she was on New Music Friday and she was in the kitchen and it came on, and she literally just decided to post it. That was an affirmation that I’m going in the right direction, I just need to carry on and keep working hard.”
Has the co-sign led to a proper chat or talks of a collab? “I haven’t had the chance to speak to her. It’s OK, she’s Adele. I DM’d her, but she hasn’t seen it yet.”
As for “Collide,” Wade-Reed’s just happy the song has found another home and another entrypoint into Tiana’s catalog. “It deserved to live in more than one place,” she says. “Love is messy. Thank you, Tiana.”
Songs for Screens is a Variety column sponsored by Anzie Blue, a wellness company and café based in Nashville. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column highlights noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as film and TV. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ahampp.
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