Audiences found a lot to drool over in the beefcake bonanza of Magic Mike, but there was one scene in particular that set salivary glands on “firehose.” It’s a scene instantly familiar to anyway who’s
seen experienced the movie, even without mentioning its context or the velocity of Channing Tatum’s gravity-defiant stage-humping. All anyone would ever need to recall the scene is one word: Ginuwine.
Tatum dancing to the R&B crooner’s immortal sex-anthem, “Pony,” is perhaps the most talked-about–and most rewindable–moment in Magic Mike, and its popularity is no mystery. Sure, the star’s moves are almost impossibly fluid and his butt is beyond reproach, but those two points could be made of just about the entire running time. The reason that scene rubbed so many viewers the right way was the marriage of a perfect song with a performer who knew what to do with it. Now that Magic Mike XXL is here, it’s up to the filmmakers to pull off the same trick again. By now, though, they’re confident about what makes a male stripper anthem bang.
“’Pony’ was kind of the signature of the first movie so recalling it in the second one just seemed inevitable,” says Season Kent, music supervisor on the new film. She’s referring to the first teaser trailer for Magic Mike XXL, in which Channing Tatum’s titular character sharpens a blade to the robot-burping rhythm of “Pony.” As for the film itself, though, her job was to help uncover the next “Pony,” or better yet, each character’s own personal “Pony.”
“Any sequel, you try to go bigger,” she says. “In the first movie, it’s basically just one strip club. In this one, they’re on a road trip, going to this convention, and they all have their turn. All of the guys have their own wow moments in the movie.”
The goal for the music in both films is that any novice male-strip-club habitué will walk into the movie and think, “Oh, that sounds about right.” A lot of thought goes into achieving this kind of verisimilitude, though. Obvious perennials like “It’s Raining Men” are present and accounted for, but mainly the soundtrack is populated by strong, lived-in cuts meant to evoke the seductive experience these dancers convey pelvically.
Initially, the director and writer conceptualize each scene and what kind of song they’re looking for, and then they toss ideas around with Kent. Next, the choreographer weighs in, and finally, the actor the scene is built around. It’s a collaborative process that finds Kent rounding up ideas based on everyone’s input, before they all make a decision together. Of course, sometimes the person performing the song makes all the difference.
“The choreographer says that the actors being connected to the song will always help bring out a better performance, and it’s true,” says Kent.
Although she didn’t work on the first movie, Kent got enough of a glimpse at the returning actors’ personalities (among other things) from it to guess what they might connect with this time around. After studying Matt Bomer’s vibe in Magic Mike, she extrapolated what genre would work best for him in XXL, in which he does double-duty singing and dancing.
“He’s kind of the Ken-doll, a pretty boy,” she says. “Because he’s this sensitive sweet guy, we gave him this Bryan Adams song, ‘Heaven,’ to sing. Most strip clubs, they give women what they think women want. Ask women what they do want. Maybe they want to be sung to.”
In order to figure out what women want with some authenticity, Kent had to visit a bananas number of male strip clubs. (“This film was a dream job.”) She and other members of the team sought to find the difference between the typical big clubs, the Dirty South-style clubs in the back woods, and the odd one hosted at somebody’s house. They also tumbled down a rabbithole of wildly NSFW YouTube videos, all in search of different styles to score each of the stops along the characters’ road trip.
Ultimately, Kent found one commonality among all the best jams she encountered.
“The most important thing about a male stripper song is that it’s sexy and that the lyrics have to be from the guy’s perspective,” she says. “It has to be one of those songs where the theme is, ‘I’m gonna tell you, woman, what I can do to you.’ Which is why Jodeci works so great, or any of those ’90s R&B guys, or contemporary ones like Trey Songz–these kind of lover guys.”
Co.Create asked Kent to name five archetypal male stripper anthems and she delivered. Have a look at her responses below, and please sound off in the comments about which songs you personally think are the best for bros to lose their clothes to.