The Music in TV: How Songs Affect Shows

In recent Netflix shows, I have noticed the music choice has become more and more significant to the plot of the show and becoming an iconic bop. Let’s dive into the significance of music in shows.

Music has defined many decades. One of the main reasons the music is so great is because it sets the scene- through the song choices, we get a feeling of the time period we are in and the tone that the show is trying to convey. At a panel during Soundcheck: A Netflix Film and Series Music Showcase, Netflix supervisor Nora Felder talks about how “For Stranger Things, for the first episode, it was really important right away that we establish that it was 1985… Not only did [“Never Surrender”] serve to establish that this was 1985, and Corey was king in 1985 — he could wear those sunglasses at night and he was the coolest ever — but also to show our characters were growing up, [and] they were in another place [in their lives]”. The soundtrack of “Stranger Things”’ features a lot of iconic 80s sounds that help the audience use more than one of their senses to understand the universe the show takes place in. 


Music doesn’t just define the era, but the titles of the song also help further one’s understanding of the show’s plot. In “The Umbrella Academy”, when the siblings return to their childhood home for their father’s funeral, there’s a dance scene to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now”, signifying the happiness the siblings feel after their emotionally distant father passes away. It’s a gloriously horrifying moment- dancing to a parent’s passing. While this may be tragic, it also reveals how the main characters felt about their father and gives the audience a better understanding of the characters’ pasts. (Other examples may include “A less obvious example is “Laughing on the Outside, Crying on the Inside” from “The End of the F**king World”. It’s a slow tempoed, legato song that emphasizes the simple yet complex characters who barely portray emotion in the beginning to going on a rollercoaster of adventures- most likely with straight faces. While the title and lyrics don’t give away the mood as obvious as “I Think We’re Alone Now”, it still portrays deeper meanings to the characters.

There are also some songs from shows that are just iconic to that show. “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys was ‘performed’ in the cold opening of the sitcom “Brooklyn 99”, making it one of the most iconic cold opens of the show- it’s even the only part of the show that people know! In Netflix’s recent show “I Am Not Okay With This”, songs like “King of Rock and Roll” by Prefab Sprout and the band Bloodwitch are part of well-known scenes. Musical shows like “Glee” and “The Politician” feature their own original soundtracks that capture the full mood of the show.

Music adds a lot to a show, from establishing the setting to more character insight. Find TV Wasteland’s favorite TV Tracks soon!


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