Billie Eilish and Finneas wrote songs for ‘Turning Red’ boy band 4*TOWN
Sorry to BTS, who I love dearly, but the mega-popular South Korean boy band is no longer the biggest boy band in the world. They were dethroned by 4*TOWN, the fictional five-member group from Pixar’s absolutely delightful series turn redand just like Mei and her 13-year-old friends, I’d give an arm and a leg to see them perform the entire three songs from their discography: the hit “Nobody Like U,” the whimsical ballad “1 True L’amour” and the pump jam”You know what’s going on.”
4*TOWN is the platonic ideal of a 2002 boy band created in 2022, a swoon-worthy and diverse quintet of teen idols, each with a crafted backstory with boy band archetypes clearly at play. ‘spirit. There is Robaire, the principal, who will surely have a bigger solo career than the others; Jesse, the eldest with two unspoken children who is also the oldest; Cute, young, animal-loving Tae Young who fans assumed was inspired by Jimin from BTS; and the other two, who are of the Just There type: Aaron Z., the sportsman, and Aaron T., the funny. (According to the official 4*CITY site which already exists, the boys’ fans are called 4*Townies.)
Although getting to the 4*TOWN concert is “the stakes of the film,” as director Domee Shi told Thrillist, the group’s inclusion came from writing a joke in turn red—”Why do they call it 4*TOWN if there are five of them?” Sandra Oh’s Ming asks her daughter, who presented her parents with a very insightful slideshow on why they should let her attend their show. “It was such a funny joke that justified us keeping the boy band in the movie.” And thank goodness Shi did. 4*TOWN recreates the fervor of late 90s and early 2000s boy bands so perfectly that I succumbed to my obsessive tendencies to listen to their little EP over and over, panicking over the lyrics and find out as much as I possibly can about them.
First, I needed to know exactly who wrote these time capsule bangers that would easily slip into the radio Top 40 next The millennium era Backstreet Boys and No strings attached *NSYNC. (“It’s Gonna Be Me” is partially the soundtrack to the trailer.) It turns out to be none other than Billie Eilish and her producer/co-writer brother Finneas O’Connell (stage name simply FINNEAS, which recently published a dark cover of Bon Iver’s “Flume”), who also plays 4*TOWN alum Jesse. “Writing these songs was literally the most fun thing we’ve had writing,” Eilish says in a behind the scenes featurette. “It’s really catchy melody, harmonies, claps and choreography,” adds O’Connell.
The Grammy-winning siblings absolutely nailed it, right down to the nostalgic production of the songs and the exactly ridiculous lyrics. In “1 True Love”, there’s “I walked past your house 29 times today / No one else could make me feel this way”. In “Nobody Like U”, it’s “I had friends and I had buddies / but they don’t turn my stomach like you”, and the last line of the chorus is so unintelligible that even the group super fan friends all sing something different in an early scene. And “U Know What’s Up” doesn’t make sense beyond a bunch of chained-up hype-up lines, but it sounds vaguely too suggestive for a teenage girl to scream, which Shi worked into the premise of 4* TOWN. In the Thrilist interview, she refers to Toronto band b4-4: “One of their songs is called ‘Go down‘, and literally the chorus is, ‘If you blame me, I’m gonna blame you.’ I just remember saying that and my mom was like, ‘What are you saying?’ »
Then I had to find the real-life boys who could deliver the vocal leads, high notes, and rounded harmonies that 4*TOWN needed. Jesse is FINNEAS, of course, but Robaire also has a remarkable voice behind him: Jordan Fisher, who starred in TV musicals Grease: live and Rent: Living and was To all the boys: PS I still love youJake Taylor, the key-thrower idol. Voicing Aaron Z. is Josh Levi, finalist for season 3 on The X Factor who toured with Aaron Carter and had a recurring role on the show Friday night lights. Aaron T. is Topher Ngo, a voice-over actor and artist with the perfect bass range for Orville Peck songs. Finally, Tae Young is Grayson Villanueva, who entered The CW’s reality singing competition. Christmas carol challenge.
Not enough time has passed to know if boy band bops will become Encanto-phenomenon-like freaks, topping the Billboard charts for weeks, but it’s certainly possible. All turn red score—written by Grammy- and Oscar-winning Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson, who has composed music for millions of projects, including Black Panther and The Mandalorian– is amazing, especially its jazzy flute-driven songs that perfectly mimic the kind of tunes you’d hear in slice-of-life anime scenes, but 4*TOWN seals it all together. Mei’s infatuation with them is “so specific to what it feels like to be that kind of fan,” Eilish aptly says in the Pixar featurette. Lifetime boy band follower or not, good luck trying to get “Nobody Like U” out of your head in the days following your viewing. turn red.
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Leanne Butkovic is Entertainment Editor at Thrillist.