NBC hit This Is Us returned on September 24th, revealing all new cast members and story lines for the Pearsons. A dramatic cast performance closing out the episode nabbed the top spot on our weekly chart of the most popular TV music.
With previous on-screen performances by Rebecca Pearson (played by Mandy Moore) and Kate Pearson (played by Chrissy Metz and Hannah Zeile), it’s no surprise that the musical talent continues in the family. But similar to the series premiere 3 years ago, this episode ended with a twist that had everyone talking. (Spoiler alert: Stop reading now if you haven’t yet watched!)
A main focus of the season 4 premiere is a flash forward to various moments in the life of a young blind musician. Viewers have no idea who he is until the final minutes of the episode, when he’s revealed to be the adult son of Kate Pearson (played by Chrissy Metz) and Toby Damon (played by Chris Sullivan). Newcomer Jack Damon (played by Blake Stadnik) performs ‘Memorized’ during a concert throughout the episode’s end montage. Jack demonstrates that he’s a successful musician playing to big crowds – just like his grandmother and mother have dreamed of in previous seasons.
The new song was co-written by This Is Us composer Siddhartha Khosla and Taylor Goldsmith of American folk rock band Dawes, and recorded by Stadnik. They realized this would be a big moment for the series, but none of them could have anticipated the fan reaction.
‘Memorized’ entered the Top 20 in the U.S. iTunes sales chart and is currently No. 14 on the chart for all-genre song sales. The single was released the day after the premiere and quickly climbed to the top of Tunefind’s popular music chart.
Blake Stadnik shared a view inside the recording studio via social media after the episode aired:
Siddhartha Khosla shared with Tunefind, “We are so excited that fans of This Is Us and music fans in general are loving ‘Memorized.’ The song appeared in a huge moment in the life of our show, Blake Stadnik sang his heart out, and he’s now got a hit in the charts.”
This was the second time Taylor Goldsmith’s songwriting talents were tapped for the show. Married to Mandy Moore, Goldsmith previously worked with Khosla on ‘Invisible Ink’ for Rebecca’s demo in the middle of season 3.
“I was thrilled to have Sidd invite me to get on board with a song for the show again,” said Goldsmith. “All of the great music in the structure of the melody and progression was in the original demo that Sidd sent me. Between that and the script, I got inspired to give it a first draft of lyrics. After that Sidd and I edited and re-edited to make sure it fit the scene and the story of this character the way it needed to.”
The role of Jack Damon is Blake Stadnik’s first television acting credit, but he is no stranger to performing. The 27-year old Stadnik is a successful theater actor. After receiving his BFA in Musical Theatre from Penn State University, he appeared in Sweeney Todd, Les Miserables, Newsies and played one of the lead roles on the national tour of 42nd Street.
The New York-based actor first discovered acting after losing the majority of his eyesight from Stargardt’s disease – a degeneration of the macula, the small area in the retina responsible for sharp, straight-on vision. Stadnik is a vocal advocate for disabled artists.
Also during this premiere, fans learn that baby Jack’s vision is impaired following his premature birth last season. When it came time to cast the part of young Jack, This Is Us showrunner Dan Fogelman was adamant they find an actor who was also blind.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Fogelman explained, “[It] was important to us to not cast a sighted actor here. It was also very important to us that we have somebody who can hold the screen and sing, and Blake just checked a tremendous amount of boxes. I found myself increasingly proud of him. He’s a young man who was put into an atmosphere—regardless of vision, just in terms of acting experience—that was pretty new to him.”
Stadnik’s casting was kept under wraps prior to the premiere, setting up that big set of twists at the end of the episode and revealing him as the newest member of the family.
Fogelman has revealed that the series will return to the more familiar storylines over the next several episodes, but hinted that the show will circle back to young Jack’s story later in the season.
Khosla gave no spoilers on the music ahead for the show’s newly-minted rock star, though, “As to whether or not there will be more original songs for Jack in the future, as with anything on This Is Us you never know.”
Fans will just have to stay tuned.
〉Listen now: Memorized by Blake Stadnik
〉More music by Blake Stadnik
〉More music by Siddhartha Khosla
〉More music by Taylor Goldsmith
〉More music by Dawes
〉Full list of songs featured in the This Is Us soundtrack