It's no secret that music takes any television scene to the next level, whether it be an original score, a track written specifically for the show or the song of an established or up-and-coming artist. Since the 2014 Emmy Nominations came out today, we think it's fitting to pick the best musical moments from this year's batch of Outstanding Drama nominees, because without these melodic elements, so much of the magic would be missing. WARNING, this list may contain some spoilers.
6. Breaking Bad — "Pick Yourself Up" Nat King Cole
In Episode 8 of Breaking Bad
's epic final season, Walt continues his downward spiral towards inhumanity by having the nine members of Gus Fring's empire, who are all in prison, killed in a matter of minutes by members of a neo-Nazi group. The violent, unsettling scene is made even more disturbing by the incongruity between Nat King Cole's pleasant voice and the blunt violence occurring on screen. The music is just loud enough so it's at the forefront of the scene, yet quiet enough so the audience can hear the sounds of bodies being mangled and each prisoner's screams.
5. Game of Thrones — "Lets Kill Some Crows" Ramin Djawadi
Game of Thrones
has a tradition of epic and significant penultimate episodes, and the writers did not disappoint with Season Four. At the beginning of Episode 9's massive battle scene, Djawadi's score swelled with deep and dark drums and horns in this song. The music helped make the scene impossibly gripping, and proved what most people already know: Game of Thrones
is like no other program on television, and has the production value to match most blockbuster movies. Fun fact: HBO commissioned a rap album to broaden the audience of the show, so if musical scores are not your thing, you can check out Catch the Throne
4. Downton Abbey — "The Suite" John Lunn
has a soft and beautiful soundtrack, but the clear standout is "The Suite," the show's theme song. The song has the most overwhelming and robust sounds, and adds even more drama to the soap opera-like show. A notable example of such drama is at the end of Episode 8, which is the last episode before the Christmas Special. "The Suite" plays right after Mary learns that the valet Green has been killed and after Anna discovers that her husband is keeping a secret from her. The placement of the song at such a moment adds an extra element of suspense to the cliffhanger ending.
3. Mad Men — "My Way" Frank Sinatra
Part of what entices viewers to keep coming back for more of Mad Men
is that it completely immerses audiences in the 1960s, and its great soundtrack plays a major role in doing so. The AMC show is overflowing with upsetting scenes, where we see characters betray, attack and fight with others and themselves. In a rare touching and intimate scene, Don and Peggy share a dance, and Frank Sinatra's 1969 release not only signals that the 1970s are approaching, and massive changes are coming with it, but it also reminds us that these characters have redeemable qualities, though they are usually covered up by ambition and excessive alcohol.
2. House of Cards — "Mr. President" Jeff Beal
Although much of the greatness of House of Cards
comes from it's minimal, slow burning qualities that are made all the more haunting by the utter quietness caused by a lack of soundtrack, Beal's score adds an eerie, cinematic layer at all the right moments. One such scene is in the last episode, when the series long build up is complete, and Frank Underwood is sworn in as President. With pretty, ethereal notes mixed in with low, suspenseful ones, "Mr. President" adds to the audience's confusion, as we don't know whether or not we should be rooting for the country's charismatic yet completely manipulative and malicious new president.
1. True Detective — "Every Man Needs A Companion" Father John Misty
We were one of the many contributors to the multi-month investigatory craze that surrounded the premiere season of HBO's True Detective
. Soundtrack supervisor and music legend T Bone Burnett's song choices were so lyrically poignant to the show's intoxicating narrative, that they had to have contained hidden clues regarding Marty and Rust's resolution. Although our speculation drew few leads, the study of his work painted a remarkable portrait of Burnett's genius. Aside from the show's haunting opening theme, written and performed by The Handsome Family (who we interviewed
), T Bone's finest moment came when he tracked Father John Misty's "Every Man Needs a Companion" as we begrudgingly watched Marty's adulterous decision.