Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’ Lead Songwriter Guides Us Through All the Original Songs

The ambition of Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies goes beyond capturing the spirit of the 1978 film — it’s also a full-fledged musical series packed with original tunes, crafted by prolific songwriter and former Semi Precious Weapons lead singer Justin Tranter, who has written for artists including Selena Gomez, Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Imagine Dragons, and Miley Cyrus.

Tranter tells Consequence that Rise of the Pink Ladies was a project they fought to be involved with. “I had heard that [the show] was looking for an executive music producer and lead songwriter to take on this huge undertaking of 30 original songs. I said, ‘That sounds terrifying. Sign me up.’ I harassed everyone I possibly could to get me an interview with Annabel Oakes, the showrunner. I chased it down myself.”

The reason for that passion, they say, is that the original Grease was an obsession. “Movie musicals are the reason why I even understood that music was a thing, that I was ever interested in music. Of course, my parents are listening to rock and roll at all times. But it was movie musicals that made my brain go, ‘Oh, music is fucking awesome.’ So Grease was for sure one of those movies, and it was the Pink Ladies that made me really obsessed. So to know that there was going to be a show that was about the origin story of the Pink Ladies is why I got so excited about this.”

Tranter primarily co-wrote the first season’s 30 songs with two people: Brandon Colbein and Brittany Campbell. “I wanted to be so specific about these characters and took it to a place where I even chose my co-writers based on the characters. Brandon Colbein does most of the Jane songs — Brandon has very big sweeping melodies that just come very naturally to him as a writer, on the brighter side of things, very bright sweeping melodies. So I felt like that felt really perfect for Jane.” Tranter also notes that Colbein sang the demos for the songs featuring male characters.

Campbell, meanwhile, “is obsessed with riot girl and alternative R&B, but she comes from a theatre background, she’s been in Broadway shows since she was a kid. She’s also queer, so I felt like she’d be so great for Cynthia and then also so great for Olivia, who’s from this sexier side of the musical theater world.” Songwriters Daniel Crean and Eren Cannata also contributed to the soundtrack.

Tranter initially got guidance for each song from the show’s scripts: “By the time I was told to start writing songs, I would say the scripts for at least five episodes were for the most part done. So it was ‘Song here about this, to feel like this. Here are some temp lyrics. This is what we want the story to say and this is where the story starts and where the story ends.’ I don’t want to say it’s work-for-hire, but it’s very much like, ‘Here’s your song. It’s about this. It should feel like this, go.’”