‘Russian Doll’: The Story Behind the Song That’s Probably Stuck in Your Head Right Now

[Editor’s note: The following contains mild spoilers for the Netflix series “Russian Doll.”]

For a show as intricately organized as “Russian Doll,” it’s no accident that Harry Nilsson’s “Gotta Get Up” is the show’s unofficial refrain, playing every time that Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) dies and finds herself in front of that same bathroom mirror.

“All the choices for music were really very important to me, and something that I spent a lot of time trying to make that an enjoyable experience for people,” Lyonne said. “That song is definitely the linchpin that sets it all off.”

Beyond wanting a instantly recognizable song, Lyonne wanted something with thematic resonance.

“I’ve always been a massive Harry Nilsson fan, and that documentary on him is pretty heavy,” Lyonne said. “There’s certain people like Harry Nilsson that kind of knocked on death’s door and often times, sadly, didn’t make it. So I think the strongest contenders for that main track were people playing in that field.”

Leslye Headland, who co-created the series and directed half of the season, said the song was built intothe show.

“That was always in the script, too. Page One, it was like ‘Harry Nielsen’s ‘Gotta Get Up’ plays,’” Headland said. ” I used to joke to Natasha in the room that my goal for the show is that New Yorkers finish watching it, it’s 2 AM, they walk from their house to the deli to get food, and they just feel like, ‘I’m now in the show. I’m walking to the deli. I have that song in my head. I might die.’”

Knowing that people were likely going to binge the eight episodes, the show also needed a song that people wouldn’t mind hearing repeatedly.

“With my director hat on, was like, ‘You need a song that’s not gonna get annoying.’ You’re like, ‘I’m gonna be really happy that ‘Gotta Get Up’ is gonna be in my head for the next two days,’” Headland said.

Of course, Nilsson’s song is just one of many in the series, part of a soundtrack that spans multiple genres and reaches across decades. For every early-’70s pop-rock standard, there’s a track from an experimental New York group or a late-’60s French pop hit or a Beethoven piano concerto.

To immerse yourself in a collection of the other wide-ranging “Russian Doll” needle drops, we’ve assembled a number of them in a playlist below:

“Russian Doll” is now available to stream on Netflix. Additional reporting from Liz Shannon Miller. 

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