Emmy nominee Janet Lopez, the music supervisor for “The White Lotus,” notes that show creator Mike White didn’t script any songs.
The idea was to establish the location, which led her to listen to some beautiful and important music from Hawaii, which she found by researching the music available from publishers and record labels in the area. .
Lopez’s goal was to string together a musical journey that resonated with the characters while enhancing the show’s exotic location. “We wanted the music to travel with the emotion of the scene, instead of feeling like pure needle drops on it,” she says.
To achieve this, it was up to the show’s editors to tie these moments together. Lopez says, “It allowed flexibility to explore a variety of songs and pursue authentic leads that were special to Mike.”
Lopez explored some key musical selections from the show’s first season for Variety.
“He Hawai’i Au” from Sunday Manoa
“Like so many songs on ‘The White Lotus’, this song was one of Mike White’s favorites. … Everything about this song and the Sunday Manoa is authentic, so playing it beautifully on a new day in Hawaii as our characters awaken to the possibilities was perfect, it was so organic that we let it simmer and play as the source in the lobby.
“Hawai’i Aloha” by the Rose Ensemble
“The end of this episode marks the first use of a song by the Rose Ensemble. Their thoughtful, soulful sound is heard often throughout the season, and playing them about Armond’s inner conflict in Quinn’s (Fred Hechinger) first pure appreciation of nature felt honest and real.
“Their songs just worked and by the end of the season, they too felt like a kind of theme that we were grateful for.”
Hukia Mai by APM Music
“A common misconception about production library music is that it’s affordable and therefore worthless. It is simply not true.
“APM Music is a perfect example of the importance and credibility of library songs. Kapono Beamer is a beloved and respected, Grammy-nominated and 12-time winner of the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award (Hawaii’s premier music award), and with Mac Prindy and Grahame Roy Maclean, he co-authored the song ‘Hukia Mai. ‘
“‘Hukia Mai’ was not an alternative to a more expensive song, but rather a proud first choice for what worked best in the scene.”
“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (aka “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147: X. Jesu bleibet meine Freude”) by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra
“Mike White loved this particular arrangement of Bach’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’. And while it was vastly different from anything we had heard in the season, it was also 100% right.
“In any other show it could have been a standout moment, but Mike’s vision was spot on and we used that recording along with a beautiful version of the Dominican Sisters over various sequences of Armond coming undone.
“Mike’s openness and exploration for what works is part of the magic and fun of music.”
“Island Style” by John Cruz
“This song plays over the end credits of the final episode and was an important song for Mike. His performance by Grammy and Nā Hōkū Hanohano award winner John Cruz is authentic and a beautiful ending callback to our show.