News

HOW A ONE-HIT WONDER BECAME ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL TO ‘EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE’

Hear the exclusive covers that set the mood for multiverse madness.
By Kristy Puchko

Some one-hit wonders are so much more than an earworm that get stuck in our heads for days at a time. Some truly are wonders, that nestle in our brains, waiting for the perfect moment to stretch out and once more become a vital bit of our very busy lives. For Dan Kwan, that song was “Absolutely (Story of A Girl)”, a 2000 hit from the band Nine Days that became a crucial element of his latest action-comedy, Everything Everywhere All At Once

You know the song. Its infectious brand of power pop blended guitar, drums, keyboard, and emo-edged lyrics, with the lightly grumbling delivery that was omnipresent in this era. It was a “story of a girl, who cried a river and drowned the whole world,” and yet we absolutely loved it when the lead singer sang, “smiles!” Naturally, it popped up in hip shows like Daria and Dawson’s Creek. But how did it become an audio thread in Everything Everywhere All At Once? It all began with a lyric, remembered yet unplaced.

Following the success of their critically acclaimed debut film Swiss Army Man, writing-directing duo Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (aka Daniels) were reworking a pivotal exposition scene for their joint follow-up. In Everything Everywhere All At Once, laundromat owner Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is flabbergasted to learn that multiverses exist — and she has been chosen to save them all from the threat of a ferocious and fashion-forward tyrant called Jobu (Stephanie Hsu).

How to communicate to the audience that Evelyn knows this circumstance is outrageous, but also that deep down she knows it’s true? While rewriting a scene in an office hallway where an alternate version of Evelyn’s husband (Ke Huy Quan) must explain the impossible, Kwan tapped into two lines that fit perfectly.

“The words just came out of my fingers, not knowing where they come from,” Kwan told Mashable in a Zoom interview with Scheinert. “The muses were filling my body. And I wrote, ‘Your clothes never wear as well the next day, your hair never falls quite the same way.’ And I was like, ‘Ooh, that feels good. But I definitely stole that from somewhere, and I don’t remember where.’ And so I Googled it, and I was like, ‘Oh shit.'”

“Nine Days was the muse,” Scheinert said.

“This is the story of a girl,” Kwan sang briefly, before admitting, “I was like, I’m going to leave that in there because I can’t think of anything else, for now.”

“It was that way [in the script] for years, we could never beat it,” Scheinert said, noting that even on the day of the hallway scene’s shoot, they wondered if they should cut the line or change it. “Then instead of replacing it, the joke became, maybe we can just put the song in the movie, and it’ll become part of it?”

“For some reason, it makes sense in the multiverse,” Kwan concurred. “And then it just kind of grew from there.”

The filmmakers reached out to Nine Days’ lead singer, John Hampson, who Scheinert said was “enthusiastically supportive.” Now a teacher with teen sons who “love the multiverse” idea in the script, Hampson did Daniels one better than allowing them use of the quoted lines.

“Not only are the lyrics in the movie,” Scheinert explained, “the song itself is in the movie three different times, and they’re all actually custom covers that he created for us.”

Enter the Lyrical Multiverse

Keep an ear out for “Absolutely (Story of A Girl)” four ways. The first is in the aforementioned hallway scene, in which Ke Huy Quan delivers the lyrics without a wink. The actor’s sincerity comes from Daniels not mentioning that he was quoting a song: They didn’t want him to mimic the cadence, but rather to make it his own. The effect is that audience’s minds might itch with slight recognition that grows as the song keeps popping up.

Next, in an RV in a near-parallel universe, an alternate version plays on the radio as Evelyn and her husband Waymond discuss divorce. “He did a country ballad [version for that scene],” Scheinert explained. The melancholy rendition reflects the pain Evelyn is experiencing as she reckons with the end of her marriage.

Later, Evelyn snaps into a universe where she’s a hibachi chef with a fearsome work rivalry. In the background of the restaurant scene, you’ll hear diegetic music play a version that sings, “This is the story of a chef,” complete with lyrics that include slight spoilers.

The final custom cover plays on the radio when Evelyn is working at a BDSM club (where keen-eyed fans can spot Scheinert in a kinky cameo).

In our interview, Scheinert sang these altered lyrics with enthusiasm:

“This is the story of a dom
She ties me up so good, but it’s wrong
And while she’ll post uncensored photographs
I absolutely love it
My safeword’s ‘smile.”

Though Daniels sketched out ideas of what the lyrics might be for different universes, they credit Hampson for “fleshing them out” to the quirky versions in the final film.

Through these clever covers, “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)” becomes like the movie’s characters, who live in varied but recognizable forms across their multiverse. The song is also thematically appropriate, as the lyrics are about a girl, “who cried a river and drowned the whole world” — a description that suits the wounded and ruinous Jobu. Is this song singing of her pain across these realities?

“It’s little things like that push us over the edge,” Kwan said with a smile. “Because I think there was probably a moment where we’re like, ‘Let’s just cut [the lines] out. Let’s try something else.” But then, we’re like, ‘But look at the lyrics. It’s about [her]. She’s so sad [that] she’s going to destroy the world.’ Come on!”

as published on Mashable.com on April 6, 2022

Recent Posts

REACH THE BAND

If you are interested in booking the band for your venue, festival, or tour… or have media inquiries, our booking and management teams are here to help.

BOOKINGS

INQUIRIES

Listen to Nine Days!

on your preferred music service

Listen to Nine Days!

on your preferred music service

Listen to Nine Days!

on your preferred music service

Listen to Nine Days!

on your preferred music service

Listen to Nine Days!

on your preferred music service

Listen to Nine Days!

on your preferred music service

Listen to Nine Days!

on your preferred music service

Listen to Nine Days!

on your preferred music service

Listen to Nine Days!

on your preferred music service

Listen to Nine Days!

on your preferred music service