I often complain about the “HBO formula” which involves violence, sex and the “titty quota,” a requirement to show a woman topless or naked in virtually every episode. But one thing HBO gets right is the music. Have you ever noticed the impact of a show’s theme song? A good song sets the tone and puts you in the right mood to watch. My favorite theme songs are these…
True Blood. The disturbing video for “Bad Things” by Jace Everett juxtaposes roadkill with sexual and religious imagery. It perfectly complements the lyrics, about a man who meets a woman and feels a strange compulsion to do things he knows he shouldn’t. Before the night is through. With HER. I knew nothing about Jace Everett before hearing this song, but his looks remind me a bit of Ewan McGregor. And he has a very sexy baritone voice with only a slight country twang (for me, limiting the twang is a plus).
The Sopranos. In my opinion this was the best thing about The Sopranos. (I liked the actors too, especially Lorraine Bracco in Season 1.) The song, a hybrid of hip-hop, blues and gospel, is by ironic “acid house” English band Alabama 3. Inspired by a woman who killed her husband after suffering his abuse for two years, the song cleverly reverses some of the misogynist tendencies of traditional blues with lyrics that sound very traditional indeed: Woke up this morning, got yourself a gun… Born under a bad sign…
Game of Thrones. I have mixed feelings about the show, but not about the music, which is spectacular. The main theme is by Iranian-German composer Ramin Djawadi who was given only ten weeks to write the music after Stephen Warbeck left the project. According to a review by Richard Buxton, the title theme “falls agonizingly short” of the possibilities evoked by the computer-animated images of the opening credits. I could not disagree more. The credits are absorbing to watch, with their quasi-organic, quasi-mechanical city models blossoming over the map of Westeros, and that mysterious, burning solar vehicle gliding over the planet’s sky. But it is the music which gives the intro sequence its emotional depth. The first notes sound vaguely like Renaissance music, with the combination of string and drums, but the low pitch of the cello makes them melancholy. Slowly the tune is augmented with layers of orchestration until it becomes a grand processional, the march of history in this mythical place.
Rome. This is my all time favorite intro to a TV show. We know very little about what ancient Greco-Roman music sounded like, and it probably diverged greatly from modern tastes (the “reconstructed” samples I’ve heard do not sound particularly appealing). Composer Jeff Beal (who also did the music for House of Cards) had free rein to do whatever he liked, and to me the Rome theme is sheer genius. Its melody and complex percussion are reminiscent of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, yet accessible and seductive to the modern ear. The music makes it easy to imagine the sights and sounds of an ancient city. In the video, the city “comes to life” in eerie, amusing and unexpected ways. The final, dramatic chorus of male voices sounds like the chanting of pagan priests, with a hint of menace (GoT uses a similar effect). In all, it evokes both the familiarity of ancient Rome, which is ancestral to the modern West, and its utter alienness.
Sylvie G said:
Very good music (I do not have access to these shows, I think). These days, it seems that series make a huge effort to provide good music. It has some sort of hypnotic effect on th audience (on me anyway).
Yes, I think the quality of their music is hypnotic, and also addictive in that we look forward to hearing it again. Sometimes when watching these shows, I enjoy the intro more than the episode itself!
Sylvie G said:
So do I
Thank you for the compilation! I too loved the music from these series, and also thought the intro visuals outstanding, especially in the case of “True Blood”. I’d like to add Bear McCreary’s music for “Outlander” to your list. The intro theme is genius, incorporating Scottish music and R.L. Stevenson’s poetry (somewhat modified), and changing it slightly for the second season to bring in the Parisian aspect of the new season.
Sorry, that’s a STARZ production, isn’t it.
Yes, I like that music too. I didn’t realize it was Stevenson’s poetry!
Agree that the theme/intro songs are generally really great on HBO. One of the college football games recently had the band playing the Game of Thrones intro (though not a very good rendition!) but does go to show how popular it is. I think my favorite intro music at the moment is on (not HBO) Peaky Blinders. Actually, I love the entire anachronistic Peaky soundtrack! =)
Interesting, thanks for the tip! I’ve not seen PB but heard many good things about it.
I have to admit I haven’t thought much about the music at the beginning of shows. Game of Thrones is a bit of an exception (I force my husband to hum one part while I hum/whine another. It’s not something you’d want to hear.) But for most shows, that’s usually when I’m digging around for junk food. I’ll have to listen next time!
Laughing about your forced duet 🙂 It’s that kind of music!
Westworld!!! Great Tv show (remember the 1973 movie with Yul Brynner? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westworld )
I sure do remember Yul Brynner! He made a wonderful villain 🙂
ah i really like the Rome one! it does feel like a bit of the known with a lot of unknown 🙂 I wish i could see that one, especially looking at the cast names!
But they all feel i don’t know a bit aggressive, spiraling, very full on and so do some of the visuals. True Blood certainly seems like it too. There also seem to be trends in the visuals, graphics and animations seem to be all the rage at the moment and ‘bleeding’ images. It’s hard to tell the difference from the credits as everything is flashy. It just makes it difficult to guess/feel the distinctive character of the show from the credits.
There are a lot of beats and bass sounds going round, i guess it is even more expensive to have singers on intros, but i still like them 🙂
Of the flashy ones i really do enjoy the Bond ones with they transforming graphics and the special songs.
Of the understated ones i really liked Dr Foster as they were deceptively tranquil for the show although all the clues were there.
I do like the Peaky Blinders one, but i enjoyed the whole series in spite of myself 🙂
The one which fascinates me currently is the Yong Pope with Jude Law.
I like the whole series as it keeps you off kilter, not knowing what to think of it and at the same time enjoying the fabulous locations, costumes, it’s just so beautiful and shocking at the same time. Ah and i just realised this might come on HBO, it is just their kind of thing i think 🙂
Wow! I didn’t know about the Jude Law series. He’s definitely the best-looking Pope ever, LOL.
As to the HBO songs, it hadn’t occurred to me but they do all have a powerful rhythmic drive. I don’t know if it’s an HBO thing or just the ones that I selected as my faves 🙂
yes, he is indecently gorgeous! Lol because i never used to think like that Of him, definitely got better with age 🙂 But as the people he wears a modern but velvety white tracksuit and all you can look at is his behind! And yet the character has both an innocence and an almost childish vengefulness about him. An amazing character and he is brilliant at it. Hope you will get a chance to watch it 🙂
Oh my. Now I really must see the papal rear end 🙂 But yes, the shots of him in the trailer are breathtakingly beautiful.
visual incentive from the front, need to see if there is the other side too 😉 http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/08/11/09/2B41EBA400000578-3193390-Relaxing_in_Rome_Jude_Law_looked_as_if_he_was_taking_the_rigours-m-28_1439281748410.jpg
White is a good color on him, as the YP trailer shows!
and side 😉 http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/08/06/00/2B21141000000578-0-image-a-50_1438817699380.jpg
I’m loving Diane Keaton as a nun!
i personally like this one, and yes, this pope smokes 🙂 http://www.indiewire.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/screen-shot-2016-06-15-at-9-57-38-am.png
Just because he looks so good doing it 🙂