Believe it or not, it is possible to hear good – even great – music on television in 2014. MTV isn’t really what it used to be, but music channels are the last place you should be looking for decent music these days.
Some of the great TV shows that we’ve been blessed with over the last few years have had incredible soundtracks, whether they’ve used original music or well-chosen pop songs. If you’ve found yourself annoying everyone else in the room by tapping your foot to tunes coming from the TV, you may have been watching some of the following shows:
One of the many ground-breaking aspects of The Sopranos was the fact that it was one of the first American shows not to feature any original music, giving extra depth to the performances on screen. The only soundtrack is the music which the characters are hearing in the show, on the radio, car stereo or television.
And what music! Tony Soprano is apparently a man with great taste in tunes. Expect everything from Pink Floyd to the Kinks via Bruce Springsteen, with a bit of haunting Italian folk thrown in.
Boardwalk Empire follows the tradition of The Sopranos in that there is no original soundtrack, which makes the drama more engaging. Whereas The Sopranos had a wealth of music to choose from, Boardwalk Empire chooses its music from the 1890s to 1920s, the tunes of the Prohibition era.
You’ll hear the dulcet tones of Regina Spektor, Martha Wainwright, Catherine Russell, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks Orchestra, recreating the music of the day. The soundtrack won the Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media at the 54th Grammy Awards in 2012.
Justified, the modern-day western about US Marshal Raylan Givens and his own brand of justice, has a great blend of original theme music and existing songs. One would expect them to be mostly country or bluegrass, but the show is far more creative than that.
Expect bluegrass blended with rap, some funk-rock from Bill Champlin and Steve Porcaro, blues ballads from Lynda Kay, as well as some swamp, slide-guitar blues from Robert J. Walsh.
Eastbound and Down
One of the many ways in which Eastbound and Down surprised audiences was through its colourful, vibrant soundtrack. You can never tell what you’re going to hear next on this show. The first season has a good selection of power-ballads, cheesy 80s inspirational pop, whilst the second season has a range of Mexican hip-hop and psychedelic rock.
Breaking Bad’s original score is something special. Strange, creepy and tense, it is composed by Dave Porter, while also drawing on the work of other artists like Thomas Golubić. Bucking the trend of American TV series that don’t feature original music, the composers have a lot of fun with the soundtrack, utilising ambient electronic music to great effect.
These TV show soundtracks are nearly as popular as the shows themselves: fans eagerly await the release of the soundtracks every time a season concludes. If you find that the official releases lack a couple of your favourite songs, you can always go on YouTube to track them down on a playlist. Chances are, someone else will have heard that song on the show and love it as much as you.