What makes a great soundtrack
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 00:09
All of the Emmy buzz last week got me thinking about what makes an absolutely great TV show. Amazing acting? Check. Good set? Check. Perfect writing? Check. Amazing costuming? Check. Comedic elements? Check. These are the questions that usually come to mind when discussing what makes TV shows memorable, but I’ve added my own category: soundtracks. Movies are not the only medium that are allowed to reap the benefits of excellent music selection; TV shows often have better soundtracks due to the sheer volume of situations the music has to represent and the variety of styles the mixer can choose from. For example, in a single series, you can have thousands of distinct situations that call for equally unique backing music.
One of the best soundtracks on TV these days belongs to the CW’s “Vampire Diaries.” Yes, it’s a show about teenagers, vampires, and werewolves, but the plot is addicting and intelligent and the soundtrack is incredible.
The soundtrack always incorporates the music of up and coming artists, alongside underground pop favorites. For example, the second season of the show includes the Birdy version of “Skinny Love” played with pop standard Foster the People’s “Helena Beat” and underground indie rockers The Vaccine’s “Wolf Pack.” The mix of the familiar and new, keeps the show’s soundtracks relatable but also interesting. In this vein, I find that TV shows, like the “Vampire Diaries,” are one of the best places to discover new music before it goes completely mainstream.
“Scrubs” is another TV shows that boasts a memorable soundtrack. The soundtrack does not have as many familiar songs as “The Vampire Diaries” but the music is fitting and interesting nonetheless. “Scrubs” targets a more adult, mature audience and this is reflected in their soundtrack choices of low fi acoustic rock songs such as Eel’s “Fresh Feeling” and “New Slang” by the Shins. While the comedy is still the best part of Scrubs the soundtrack is one of the best features of the series.
Similar to “The Vampire Diaries,” the CW’s “Gossip Girl” has another notable soundtrack. The show, which follows the luxurious lives of Manhattan’s Upper East Siders, has a soundtrack that matches the opulent values and fits the show’s dramatic plotlines. This soundtrack mixes lesser known pop songs by big artists, like Rhianna’s “Shut Up and Drive” alongside tried and true independent pop musicians such as Wolf Gang. The mix, like “The Vampire Diaries,” keeps the show fresh and relatable but also brings new cards to the table.
NBC’s show “Friday Night Lights” has a remarkable soundtrack, but for different reasons than those above. The backing music is provided by Explosions in the Sky, an instrumental, experimental indie band. The group only uses guitar and drums but somehow manages to create ethereal and haunting sound that perfectly backs the sensitivity and drama behind “Friday Night Lights.”