9 series with the best soundtracks
Music has a way of reaching way down into our very soul and shaking us up. It’s energy, anger, danger, and emotion in audio form. Think about your first high school love, and how that break-up shook your teenage self to its core. I bet you still can’t listen to this song from Savage Garden without feeling just a little choked up.
Music helps set the tone on screen, and adds to the drama (technical info on how this is done is in this interview with the composer behind M-Net’s Still Breathing).
Some of the best shows not only have an impeccable score, but also amazing soundtracks to help get you through lockdown.
Here are some of our favourites.
The role of music can’t be understated in this sci-fi show, which often uses music to elicit emotional responses in viewers. The use of modern music on a piano player is a subtle reminder that we’re not in the Wild West, and things aren’t quite what they seem. Featuring Radiohead, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, and The Cure, this is a must-listen.
Listen to the soundtrack on Spotify:
Black rhinos, the CIA, diamond smuggling, organised crime, and a terrorist plot all in one epic South African series – could it really get any better? Well, yes – throw in an epic soundtrack and you’ve got a classic. The show’s theme song is a masterpiece composed by Brendan Jury, and features Brenda Mrambo and Israel Makoe Matseke-Zule aka GP-MaOrange.
Listen to the title track here:
Big Little Lies (Showmax)
What started off feeling like a dressed up version of Desperate Housewives quickly became a whole lot more. This show packs murder and intrigue in a compelling story filled with interconnectedness. Each character’s story arc is masterfully woven into the greater piece, with music acting as the connective tissue binding them all together. Songs are artfully chosen not only for their mood, but by what the communicate about each character.
Listen to the soundtrack on Spotify:
Mr Robot (Showmax)
If Rami Malek and Christian Slater aren’t enough of a reason to watch this mind-bending tech-thriller, the story will draw you in. The soundtrack will keep you there like glue in a fly trap. The use of music and the show’s score helps create an unsettling, surreal atmosphere that makes this one of the most beautifully addictive shows in a very long time.
Listen to the soundtrack here:
The Handmaid’s Tale (Showmax)
What makes this series so riveting is the familiar turned unfamiliar. The show, much like the book, shows the dangerous, creeping normalisation of the unordinary. Set in the not-too-distant future, the show plays out in a time and place when women have been stripped of all of their rights. It’s ruthless, often drawing parallels to contemporary politics. The choice of music helps add to that foreboding, unsettling feeling by giving us songs we know and love in a dystopian future.
There are some great songs on this soundtrack:
Bob’s Burgers (Showmax)
More relatable than the Simpsons, with razor-sharp humour, Bob’s Burgers is one of the best shows out there. It tells the tale of a middle-class family going through the economic hardships most of us can relate to. Bob’s also a small business owner, dealing with the pressure of keeping afloat while juggling family responsibilities. The soundtrack is full original gems like Sex Song, Wing Man, and Taffy Butt.
Here’s the soundtrack on Spotify:
American Gods (Prime Video)
There’s a war coming: a war between the old gods and the new. Shadow Moon finds himself caught up in the middle, recruited by a mysterious Mr Wednesday. It’s the magical lurking behind things that seem ordinary, a hallmark of Neil Gaiman. Visually, it’s beautiful. But it’s songs like In the Pines (check out the video below) that add the emotion and nuance that make the series unforgettable, while adding a distinctly American sound.
The series is streaming on Prime Video.
Fall under the spell of the music here:
Altered Carbon (Netflix)
Set in a futuristic dystopian world where humans have developed the technology to save their consciousnesses, this mind-bending series is about a man called Kovacs, brought back online and hired by one of the wealthy elites to solve a murder – his. It’s not light viewing, but is so worth the cognitive investment. With one of the best soundtracks on this list, it’s a must-watch.
Both seasons are on Netflix.
Listen to the music:
I Am Not Okay With This (Netflix)
This coming-of-age comedy is fun, weird and filled with the type of music that’ll make your inner teenager happy. Without a doubt one of Netflix’s most bingeable series at the moment, it explores that strange time that is the teenage years – how love, death, heartbreak and tragedy all leave their mark. Music just isn’t a backdrop, enhancing the mood, but rather, it’s part of the story, connecting characters and plot arcs.
Once you’ve binged it all on Netflix, listen to the soundtrack here: