There's no sense in beating a dead horse so I'll spare you yet another angsty minority rant about how unfair it is that Lena Dunham, the creator and star of the hit series Girls, has the audacity to even pretend that there are only white people in her romanticized little Brooklyn bubble. Just FYI Ms. Dunham, it would be nice to have someone to relate to with some melanin other than a pizza delivery man or that guy your character hooked up with for like two episodes last season, but forgive me...I digress. At first listen the Girls soundtrack is pretty good, but similar to its plot, it's pretty monotonous. I enjoy artists like Fleet Foxes and Santigold just as much as the next person, but in a show where not all that much is happening Girls is getting a little exploitative with their soundtrack. Music can be an invaluable tool when it comes to setting the mood, and with such a self-involved plot, these great songs are often shed of their own sense of individual importance. A once great Toro y Moi song is forever subconsciously remembered in the context of Dunham's uninspiring whines.
Spoon - "Trouble Comes Running" S01E01
Some modern television dramas, however, manage to sufficiently and seamlessly mesh the music with their plots, while strengthening the songs' original context. Here are a few examples.
This show...where do I even begin? There's nothing like the feeling of overwhelming second-hand embarrassment to unwind from a stressful day of flippin' burgers (I am speaking solely from personal experience). It can be incredibly cathartic to watch highly dysfunctional people like ourselves, doing things we could only dream of in the wildest of unbridled fantasies.
Spoon's music as a whole has a way of putting some pep in your step and "Trouble Comes Running" is no exception to this. With a style slightly reminiscent of early British rock, the hectic, feel good energy of this track parallels the energy of the show brilliantly. "Trouble Comes Running" is the perfect backdrop to all of the shenanigans that went down in the pilot; Ian's gay, Frank is shit-faced, and there's an adorable black baby bopping around like he's in a Lil' Wayne music video.
Scanners - "Baby Blue" S01E06
This New Wave rock track mixes poetic lyrics with sweetly satisfying harmonies. I mean seriously, at the end of episode six when that bitch Monica came to take baby Jesus (aka Liam) away and the sweet crooning of Scanners' "Baby Blue" eased in, I lost my shit. Dunham take note; this is an example of a real problem, something that might actually WARRANT a breakdown.
2. True Blood
When this show first aired I was ABSOLUTELY hooked, but somewhere around Season 3 shit started getting a little freaky for my taste and I fell off the wagon. Never the less, True Blood rarely disappoints in the music department. It can't be easy to make viewers feel sexy, Southern, and vampiric all at the same time.
Cobra Verde - "Play with Fire" S01E07
It's hard to think of anything that sounds sexier than sultry vocals paired with some subtle sitar action. Lucky for us, this track has both! If any guys out there are looking for a song that might make your lady of the hour actually want to take her pants off...this might be just what you've been looking for. After all, if it can make the "modest" Sookie drop it like it's hot all over Bill's essentially soulless body, than it must be good, right? Having sex with a vampire...here's yet another example of something that might actually call for an overwhelming emotional response Ms. Dunham.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Phenomena" S02 Trailer
I can't be the only one out there who had a massive girl-crush on Karen O. Whether it's her boundless confidence or the aggression with which she attacks a song, you can go ahead and sign me up for just about anything having to do with the vivacious frontwoman of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and although this isn't my favorite song of theirs, in the context of the Season 2 trailer it's a nice contrast to their usual style.
3. Sons of Anarchy
Okay, so let's be real, this show gives me the creeps and even after watching a full season I'm still not exactly sure how biker gangs are relevant enough to warrant an entire television series. And how the hell do they commit so many crimes during the day? But none the less, everyone loves some good ole' Americana every now and again.
The Lions - "Girl From the North Country" S02E01
Fans of Bob Dylan are always slightly apprehensive when it comes to hearing overly ambitious of covers of his music because it's rarely as inspiring as the original. That being said, we're all about The Lions' cover of "Girl From the North Country Fair". No one does expansive folk like Bob Dylan, but their cover successfully amps up the energy and sends the song more in a pastoral rock direction. A nice vibe to set the tone for the opening of the second season.
Curtis Stigers & The Forest Rangers - "John the Revelator" S06E06
This gospel blues song written and originally performed by Blind Willie Johnson, has been covered by countless artists throughout the years, but this version has to be one of the finest. It's not very often that a gospel song harnesses a power that makes you feel like a slutty, biker chick who may or may not be packing a semi-automatic. But when Jax is perusing the wreckage of their clubhouse and this sick tune is playing you KNOW someone is about to get their shit ALLLL kinds of torn up.
Kerry Washington is one of the finest females on T.V., and after watching her character (Olivia Pope) continually kick-ass for the past three seasons, there's no wondering why. Imagine a world where: A) the President was that hot, and B) he made a habit of having quickies in the Oval Office with women other than the first lady...again...SIGN ME UP! Not to mention, it's about time we had a major network drama with a female lead of color that has of both strength and sex appeal. Olivia Pope gives us more than enough of both!
The Staple Singers (RAC Remix) - "Respect Yourself" S01E01
A soul classic is turned into an infectious neo-soul groove in this sassy RAC remix. I can't think of a song that says kiss my ass better than this gem. Abby is straight up struttin' through a crime scene in stilettos (Louboutins, no doubt).
The Album Leaf - "The Light" S01E05
On a slightly more depressing note, this track has become the Anthem for Olivia and Fitz's both liberating and toxic relationship. "The Light" is a nice sappy instrumental that will no doubt bring back all of the wonder and heartbreak associated with the first loves that crushed our souls and filled our hearts with battery acid. I'm either psychic or they just play this song so damn much, and at the perfect moment every time because I can FEEL it coming. It's usually right after Fitz does something to piss off Olivia and she has a quasi-ghetto albeit justified out-burst and right as they're about to have some steamy make up sex...cue the music. Oh and Lena, if you're taking notes you might want to jot this one down. Acceptable reasons to be admitted to the hospital: being shot. Unacceptable reasons to be admitted to the hospital: because your late onset OCD becomes so "overwhelming" that you have to purposely use a Q-tip to rupture your ear drum.
5. House of Lies
It's not everyone's favorite show, but the combo of Don Cheadle's dramatic prowess with the comedic appeal of Kristen Bell and sketch comics like Ben Schwartz rarely disappoints. Songs on this soundtrack will have even the most stoic toes a-tappin', and they are seamlessly woven into the dramatic action on the screen, especially during Marty Kaan's Zach Morris-styled time-outs. It also doesn't hurt that T.I. is guest starring in the current season...that's relevant.
Nikolaj Grandjean - "Shift to Reverse" S02E08
This track is bursting at the seams with some seriously mellow vibes; think tropical elevator music with a soulful twist.
Jensen Reed "Do Your Thing" S01E02
Ok, so this in one of those rap songs that seems a little cheesy at first, but gets 20 times more "legit" after you've had few. Enjoy.