Every aspect of Breaking Bad is perfectly crafted, and the soundtrack is no exception. From The Association’s 'Windy' playing over a day-in-the-life scene of a sex worker called Wendy, to the original Narcocorrido song 'The Ballad of Heisenberg', to Badfinger’s 'Baby Blue' blasting as (spoiler alert) the police finally close in on blue meth mastermind Walter White at the very end of the show, each selection is a gem.
I May Destroy You
Michaela Coel is the powerhouse behind the critically acclaimed 2020 series I May Destroy You, having created, starred in, written, co-directed and executively produced the show. Exploring an incredible breadth of themes such as the Black British experience, sexuality, gender, rape culture and mental health, the soundtrack was as carefully constructed as the storyline. Perhaps most notable is the inclusion of distinctively British artists such as Little Simz, Greentea Peng, Arlo Parks and Young T & Bugsey to name a few, introducing the (once) rising stars to a wider audience.
A warm hug from the screen, Schitt’s Creek is the uplifting and equally hilarious Canadian comedy series brought to us by dynamic father-son duo Dan and Eugene Levy. If you haven’t seen it yet, drop what you’re doing and prepare to spend the next couple of weeks binge watching this gem. The soundtrack features all the golden oldies, including tracks from the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Everly Brothers, Elton John and many more.
Orange Is The New Black
This beloved series nestled in a bunch of earworms we still can’t shake; the frustratingly catchy theme tune by Regina Spektor, the gravelly voice of Tom Waits, the cheeky euphemisms of Kelis, the buttery harmonies of Moses Sumney… It may be three years on since the final season aired but the songs on the soundtrack still make it to our annual Spotify Wrapped.
The Twin Peaks soundtrack is just as iconic as the show itself. Composer Angelo Badalamenti created an eerie, quirky score with guidance from director David Lynch which penetrated pop culture for years to come; Moby catapulted his career by mixing the theme tune into his track 'Go', Bastille dropped 'Laura Palmer' (a song named after one of the central characters), and there’s even a popular band called Twin Peaks, as well as countless other nods to this cult classic. Channel your inner Audrey Horne and pretend to be the mysterious girl you’ve always wanted to be, dancing alone in the middle of every room you enter with this soundtrack playing in the background.
My So Called Life
Despite not being renewed for a second season (we're still outraged), this teen drama remains a cult classic that launched the careers of Claire Danes, Jared Leto and Wilson Cruz. Expect heaps of 1990s angst in both the storyline and soundtrack, which features the likes of The Cranberries, Sonic Youth, Divinyls, Violent Femmes and many more zeitgeisty hits.
The comedy-drama Atlanta was created by the legend that is Donald Glover – need we say more about why the soundtrack is so good? Next to songs from the legend that is Childish Gambino (Glover's stage name) himself are tracks from Atlanta rappers Rich The Kid, OJ da Juiceman, Young Thug and Outkast, as well as classic bangers from Funkadelic to Sam Cooke.
We should be feeling like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day every time those first few chords of Harry Nilson’s Gotta Get Up restart in this show, yet we’re somehow still tempted to set it as our alarm – a catchy song for a binge-worthy series. Not only did this show get us through lockdown, perhaps partly because we sympathised with our fiery protagonist (played by Natasha Lyonne) living the same day over and over, but it also introduced us to some truly phenomenal tracks. Our faves are 'I Go To Sleep' from the queen of cover songs Anika, the delicate vocals of ALA.NI in 'Cherry Blossom', and the haunting 'Alone Again Or' by the psychedelic rock band Love.
Ahead of the show's season two release, we've been listening to the first season's soundtrack given its vast range of genres and moods. American composer Nicholas Britell is the mastermind behind both seasons' soundtracks including its intro, what with its slightly off kilter piano, strings and drums. Other songs on the soundtrack include The Token's 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' and P!nk's 'Get the Party Started'.
Big Little Lies
David E. Kelley’sBig Little Lies was not only fantastic viewing but became one of the most streamed playlists on our Spotify when it first hit screens in 2017.
When the opening titles rolled with Michael Kiwanuka’s 'Cold Little Heart', we knew this was one to watch. And, when Madeline’s (Reese Witherspoon) daughter Chloe had better music taste than us, as a six-year-old, it was a done deal. Leon Bridges, Sade, Charles Bradley, Elvis, Otis Redding, Frank Ocean… need we go on?
This Is Us
Not only does this series make us want to weep into a pillow, but the soundtrack is seriously good. You can expect to hear tunes from the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Nina Simone, Lizzo, The Rolling Stones and more. Better yet, you can hear all of the songs on Spotify, broken down season by season. And give how many episodes The Is Us has, you can be sure it'll keep you very busy.
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With a soundtrack as eclectic as Chuck Bass’s fashion sense, Gossip Girl knew how to highlight a moment via music. The very opening scene made the soundtrack instantly exemplary, with Serena’s return to NYC marked by Peter Bjorn and John’s 'Young Folks'.
Who could forget the gorgeous Gare du Nord scene when Blair rescues a lost Chuck from Paris, heightened thanks to Sia’s 'I’m In Here'. Or Sohodoll’s 'Stripper' when the pop-culture famous couple first got together during a night out.
Intertwined with addictive drama was song after song: The XX, Lana Del Ray, Janelle Monae, Goyte, Sum 41, Robyn… and, of course, the show also housed music from their very own Jenny Humphrey, aka Taylor Momsen’s band The Pretty Reckless.
Though the groundbreaking show has been praised for actually delivering sex education, championing diversity, portraying realistic sex and relationships and tackling hard-hitting storylines another reason to praise it is its darn good soundtrack.
There are a range of overtly sexual songs; Salt-N-Pepa’s 'Push It', Rod Stewart’s 'Do Ya Think I’m Sexy', Tommy James & The Shondells’ 'Hanky Panky', and everything else you’d cringe at if it came on the radio in earshot of your parents, mixed in with Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Fleetwood Mac, T. Rex, The Velvet Underground and more. Delightful.
A show about a kickass lawyer (Kerry Washington) whose two main loves are red wine and the President (Tony Goldwyn), in that order. Olivia Pope became our addiction from the very first moment, as did her music taste whenever she turned the volume up – which, luckily for us, was frequent. The show featured the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Edwin Starr, James Brown, Chaka Khan, The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye and Johnny Nash.
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Starting with a that oh-so familiar title song by Carole King - 'Where You Lead' - it feels like we all grew up with Rory and Lorelai's distinctive music taste. Slumber Party, Sam Phillips, David Bowie, Yoko Ono or PJ Harvey - the seven-series show was peppered with music and cultural references.
A show with a heart-wrenchingly honest depiction of a wonderfully complicated Mother-Daughter relationship and a song list just as complex, this one is a classic.
As mentioned, this list is judged on the soundtrack alone, so we can ignore the questionably cheesy territory that Tom Kapinos’ Lucifer falls into.
The whole soundtrack is, if you excuse the pun here, devilish. Florence + The Machine, Royal Deluxe, Edwyn Collins, The Clash, The Black Keys, Elle King and so many more solidify this soundtrack as epic. The hero song has to be Bryce Fox’s 'Horns'. Pair that with Maze's (Lesley-Ann Brandt) demonic outfits and you’re in for some serious watching.
We’re still genuinely amazed that so many people have skipped this series, because it’s truly one of Netflix’s greatest. Not only does it include the prowess of Úrsula Corberó, this soundtrack deserves to be included based on the opening title alone: 'My Life Is Going On' by Cecille Krull.
This is one opening sequence you won't want to skip, and we give it just three episodes before you’re singing along. From then on it’s littered with Spanish classics, as well as the likes of Damien Rice, Arcade Fire, The Prodigy and Van Morrison.
While it may be better known now for its associations with Meghan Markle, let’s not forget that Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht)’s music taste was nothing short of brilliant.
Bouncing from bluesy classics on his Dad’s record collection to overhead rock-indie track, Suits included Bo Diddley, Freddie King, Charles Bradley, The Blue Stones, B.B. King, Etta James, Henry Ford, Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone and too many more to mention. This isn't forgetting either the catchy, soulful theme song, 'Greenback Boogie'.
Sex And The City
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While we can look back at shows like SATC with hindsight over some of the more questionable aspects of the show, the soundtrack is something that needs no further scrutiny.
We heard the likes of Donna Summer, Otis Redding, Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald and more.
The Marvellous Mrs Maisel
Not only is the plot of the hit show impressively unique with many twists and turns, the soundtrack weaves in 1950/60s classics amid a newer era. There is Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone beautifully intertwined with Shy Baldwin’s original songs created just for our Midge.
Clearly for Amy Sherman-Palladino - who created both this show and Gilmore Girls - the soundtrack is central to any successful series.
Is it cheating if almost the entire soundtrack is original? We think not.
Rayna James (Connie Britton) and Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) star as rival country-music stars, so it's only satisfactory that the characters have a back catalogue of his to support their arc. Not forgetting the darker hues of Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) and the harmonic duets of Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) and Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio).
Highlights have to be 'Sanctuary', 'Black Roses', 'A Life That’s Good', 'Fade Into You' and the addictively beautiful 'No One Will Ever Love You'.
The Vampire Diaries
While Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley and Nina Dobrev were enough to entice you to watch this cult show, the soundtrack is another reason on its own.
Sometimes filthy, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes loving, yet always truly dangerous, highlights included tracks by The Fray, Jet, Gabriella Cilmi, OneRepublic, MGMT and Green Day.
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Though 'I'll Be There For You' is a theme song we will never forget the words to, the significance of other songs in the iconic sitcom can be overlooked.
Remember the series most famed proposal between Chandler and Monica to Eric Clapton’s 'Wonderful Tonight'? Or Rachel and Ross’ unofficial theme song, U2’s 'With Or Without You' or even Marcel the monkey’s penchant for The Tokens 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight'?
Newer than many on our list, Empire has officially earned its place.
Taraji P. Henson nails the role Cookie Lyon, while music industry tycoon Lucius Lyon (Terrence Howard) fights for the future of his company by pitting his sons against each other. Murder. Stand offs. Fraud. Illegitimate children. All so very dramatic.
Collaborations are at the centre of this one, and original songs, with Jennifer Hudson, Yazz, Courtney Love, Bozeman, Mary J. Blige and Juicy J all give the soundtrack edge, as does featured musical performances from the likes of Snoop Dogg.
Consistently heralded as must-see television thanks to its portrayal of the advertising world in the 1960s, Jon Hamm’s character development of Don Draper and beloved characters like Joan and Peggy, the show's soundtrack also deserves kudos.
Mad Men brings us back to the Sixties with Roy Orbinson, Skeeter Davis, Dusty Springfield, Nancy Sinatra, Doris Day, Miles Davis, and Brigette Bardot. Not forgetting Megan Draper's live and intimate (yet very public) rendition of French classic 'Zou Bisou Bisou'.
Set in a small Indiana town in 1983, the nostalgic soundtrack helps to take us back in time.
Stranger Things features Eighties classic after classic including The Police, The Bangles, Bon Jovi, Duran Duran, and even every family's favourite 'Africa' by Toto.
One Tree Hill
Starting from the very first episode with Peyton’s CD collection taking centre stage, we could immediately tell this was going to be music heaven.
While watching the feud between half-brothers Nathan and Lucas lessen as they bonded over basketball, and our teens settled into adult life, the soundtrack accompanied the storyline.
There was Jimmy Eat World, Foo Fighters, Tegan and Sara, Sheryl Crow, Keane and not to mention the never-skippable title track: Gavin DeGraw’s 'I Don’t Want To Be'.