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Beyond the screen: listen to the music of TV

What 'Little Things', 'Sex Education', 'Mad Men' and 'Stranger Things' have in common

Vedant Karia | Published 29.10.21, 03:03 PM

Credit: Shutterstock

While acting, direction and cinematography go a long way in creating engaging television, a good soundtrack can often go overlooked. Not only can it elevate the impact of a particular scene, it can also add a layer that dialogues or actions cannot. Here’s a look at some shows with the most iconic soundtracks. 

Apart from the central duo and fresh premise, one of the reasons Little Things became such a big phenomenon was the unique soundtrack, which was very different from what found favour on mainstream television at the time. Kolkata boy Neel Adhikari, found the perfect sound to depict the imperfections in modern relationships with his compositions for this Netflix show. With contributions from great indie artists, Adhikari preserved a distinctly Indian flavour within something that seemed very Western, and compiled a playlist led by I Forgive You that feels like a warm hug and a lazy afternoon nap at the same time. 

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Aspirants is one of the newest Indian shows to take the OTT world by storm. As a background to an immensely real and relatable plot, the soundtrack leaves an indelible mark, making singer and composer Nilotpal Bora, a household name. His tracks, Dhaaga and De mauka zindagi traverse the journey from a dream shattering to it taking flight again. 

Credit: Amazon Prime

A number of Egyptian-Arabic artists have collaborated on the music of Ramy, where the protagonist battles the conflict of being Islamic-American. The soundtrack ranges from fast-paced electric tunes to sombre hymns, adding another layer to the multifaceted representation of American Muslims. 

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Two teenagers chart their wild journey across The End of the F***ing World, which has a nostalgic playlist comprising soulful melodies from the 50s, 60s and 70s. The music lends the show its note of irony as solemn numbers serenade triumphant scenes and cheerful songs are belted out during disturbing events. The inclusion of Laughing on the Outside by Bernedette Caroll is perhaps the most prominent of these. 

Created by Childish Gambino, Atlanta navigates its eponymous city’s rap scene, with catchy beats and great performances. The dramedy is a celebration of black artists and serves as a good introduction to rap music. Paper Boi, performed by Gambino’s brother (whose rap name is Steve G. Lover), deserves a special mention for anchoring the central characters and stealing the show every time it is played.

Credit: Netflix

Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein have woven nothing short of magic with their compositions for Stranger Things. The ambient tracks not only capture the various moods of the fictional town of Hawkins perfectly, but are also extremely calming to listen to in isolation. The soundtrack is a sequence of build-ups and payoffs, so be prepared for moments of alternative exhilaration and introspection. 

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Musician and songwriter, Ezra Furman’s genius is evident in Sex Education¸ a show about the pangs of teenage love and lust. There’s a distinct 80s grunge-esque vibe to the songs, which speak about everything from the rush of attraction to failed expeditions in bed. The innuendo in many of the titles is the icing on the cake. Every Feeling, written during one of Furman’s ‘depression days’ deserves a special mention, for the lyrics hit right where it hurts.

Credit: YouTube

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel carries its commitment to recreating the 50s-60s into the music, featuring classics from the era that transport viewers back in time immediately. With a healthy mix of jazz, and rock-and-roll, the show has introduced a new generation to the brilliance of Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee.  

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Credit: IMDb

The soundtrack of Master of None is a unique melting pot of diverse tastes and times, with everything from retro 70s New York, to contemporary lesser-known artists, to Italian disco. Music supervisor Zach Cowie’s understanding of the script is evident in how there is a melancholic undertone to the punchier scenes, supporting the subtle writing in equally subtle ways. 

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The advertising drama Mad Men, features the best of the 60s in terms of production as well as music. The soundtrack boasts of tunes that may not be the most mainstream representations of the decade, but intelligently tie into the show’s larger narrative, and effectively represent the turmoil of the decade. Composer David Carbonara’s instrumentals are pure gold, adding another layer to the already rich universe the show created.

Last updated on 29.10.21, 03:19 PM
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