How ‘P-Valley’ Creator Landed Beyoncé’s ‘7/11’ for Season 2: ‘Katori Hall Wrote a Beautiful Letter to the Queen’

Katori Hall’s “P-Valley,” a show about the female dancers at The Pynk, a popular strip club in Mississippi, uses music to shine a spotlight on southern female rappers and artists.

In putting together the soundtrack for the series, music supervisors Sarah Bromberg and Stephanie Diaz-Matos turned to the show’s stars, J. Alphonse Nicholson and Loretta Devine, as well as Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion, to curate the anthems for Brandee Evans’ Mercedes, Elarica Johnson’s Autumn Night and Nicco Annan’s Uncle Clifford.

Here, Bromberg and Diaz-Matos break down how they landed Beyoncé and other needle drops for the show’s second season.

“Way Back” by Enchanting

Bromberg: “Way Back” by Enchanting started as “Dance Song 4,” a brief for an original song written by producer Ian Olympio and showrunner and music supervisor Katori Hall. Katori and Ian write these incredible briefs for our original music with extraordinary detail and background, and this brief was about a fairytale gone wrong. Cinderella finds her Prince Charming and he turns out to be a monster, so she says “F him I’m doing it on my own.”

This is the story of Keyshawn in Episode 5, which is approached as a fairytale. While the brief was being written, Katori had received a beat from producer Hitkidd that perfectly encapsulated the surreal fairytale story of Keyshawn. We sent the beat out with the brief to Atlantic hoping Kehlani might hop on. Kristy Gibson at Atlantic came back to let us know while Kehlani was not available to hop on, they had this dope upcoming rapper just signed to Gucci Mane’s label: Enchanting. We are always open to hearing new voices on “P-Valley” so we said go for it.

Enchanting absolutely killed the brief. She hit all the story points with the lyrics — if you read them you see Keyshawn’s story play out in a song. It really spoke to the moment. The texture of her voice also worked really well for the track. We all loved it pretty much immediately and sent it to our amazing choreographer Jamaica Craft to get to work setting Miss Mississippi’s dance. The way it all comes together is truly a special moment in the way only “P-Valley” can create.

“7/11” by Beyoncé

Bromberg: “7/11” was a song written into the script by Katori.

Early on in the season, this is a pivotal moment for Mercedes as she dances. Her shoulder gives out and, during a spectacular dance, we see her fall from the pole. Both rhythmically and lyrically, this song was just right. It has the kind of movement that works well for our dance numbers and, lyrically, she talks about her body, including her shoulder, which foreshadows what’s to come. It also ended up perfectly bookending our final performance number, “Seven Pounds of Pressure,” where Mercedes makes her triumphant return to the pole after her fall.

The song was so well suited for the moment that, from the very early stages of Season 2, we knew we had to get it into the show. We had attempted to clear a Beyoncé song for Season 1. It’s so hard to clear major artists for a show that has not been established; there is no purview on the quality of the content when it’s boiled down to a logline and a scene description. Ultimately, on Season 1 we were unable to clear the Beyoncé song.

The caliber of the show is now known to the world. The show had been incredibly well received. We went in for another Beyoncé approval, and this time we were coming back with a yes. Katori wrote a beautiful letter to the Queen, giving the context for this scene and the importance of this song for the moment, and we all held our breath for a few weeks until that approval came through.

“Seven Pounds of Pressure” by Lil Murda

Diaz-Matos: “Seven Pounds of Pressure” was a song that was going to wrap up the story arc of Lil Murda (J. Alphonse Nicholson) and debut in the final episode, directed by Katori Hall. This song was intended to be part confessional, part social commentary and a club banger. At first, when Katori brought us the concept, it seemed impossible to accomplish all of this in one song. We had to carefully brief it out, being aware that in order to get the best song possible we were sharing top-secret story points.

Thankfully, Nikki Marshall connected us with the producer and songwriter team who gave us a solid first pass. We sat with this song for just shy of a year, tweaking things, adding a bridge and bringing in Antoine Moore, who is one of our key collaborators in getting the lyrics written to sound authentically like Murda’s voice. Collectively, we all felt a huge responsibility to get this song right, and I remember the night of the premiere of the episode texting with Katori. We were essentially fingers crossed, breath held, hoping people would respond positively to it. It was so satisfying to watch the Twitter-verse go off, and really get all the layers of what we were saying in the song — and the whole sequence that Katori so artfully put together and that Murda and Mercedes slayed in their performance.

“Until You Come Back to Me” by Ernestine

Diaz-Matos: Episode 7 opens with Ernestine (Loretta Devine) as she performs onstage through the decades. We see the club evolve around her from the 1960s through the 1980s and end up in the present day by the song’s end. This version of “Until You Come Back to Me” — performed by Aretha Franklin, but written by Stevie Wonder — was always written into the script. Though we struggled for weeks to clear it, it was a must-have for Katori and the episode’s writers, Ian Olympio and Nina Stiefel.

We easily considered over 50 other songs for this spot as we got closer to shooting the highly choreographed three-day scene. But none of them told the same story of unwavering devotion in the same way. We are nothing if not tenacious on “P-Valley,” and we left no stone unturned to get to Stevie. Ian called an agent friend at CAA, who he worked with back in his mailroom days almost a decade ago, for a connection to Stevie’s team. She happened to know a manager who is friends with Stevie’s ex-wife, who loved the show and amplified our ask. Stevie read a personal letter from Katori and watched the show, becoming a fan and giving his personal blessing with only two days to spare before Loretta went into the booth.

Matthew Head, our composer, produced the vocal and the backing track, subtly mirroring the shift in the instrumental. The final track was performed at 1.5x speed by Loretta and filmed in slow-motion to give the scene a dreamy feeling.

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