…songs I didn’t realize I was listening to because of TV:
“Wildfire” by SBTRKT (feat. Little Dragon)
This song was on my “Songs I Like Right Now” playlist for probably a few months, and I just realized that it was also in the first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale:
In case you didn’t know, The Handmaid’s Tale is this super creepy show based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, and it depicts a dystopian future in which the United States – now called “Gilead” – has been taken over by radical conservatives, and all the women have basically been reduced to broodmares.
Sounds fun, I know, but you really should watch it. Season 2 is out on Hulu on Wednesday, April 25.
Anyway, back to my point. I’m pretty sure I first listened to “Wildfire” per Spotify’s recommendation, not realizing that I had actually heard the song before on The Handmaid’s Tale (likely why Spotify recommended it to me in the first place).
In this Vulture article from last year, Handmaid’s music supervisor, Michael Perlmutter, explains the concepts behind his song choices for the show, saying “When you’re in Gilead, you totally forget there was a past, so we slam into the flashbacks with music that’s loud so it jars you out of Gilead to this feeling of, ‘Holy shit, there was another life before this.”
I love that description because it’s definitely the effect that the music in the show achieves. I remember as I was watching, I would forget that the show was supposed to take place in an imagined future for our real world rather than in a world of complete fantasy. Then a loud song that I recognized (or at least recognized as contemporary/familiar) would start playing and I would remember that the main character, June’s past was not so different from my present, successfully making me feel extremely uncomfortable with the (hopefully) alternate reality the show was presenting.
On the choice to use “Wildfire” for that specific scene in Episode 1, Perlmutter says, “When you slam back into that scene from when you’re in the Red Center, when she first sees her friend Moira and she has this recollection of her, it’s pretty drastic. And then when we come back, again to the flashback, there’s this gorgeous sun-kissed shot of June sitting there and the music slams out. So the editing and the mixing are really important to how we hear things and experience the switches back and forth.”
This is one of the best examples of why I would love to work in music for TV someday. Because sure, sometimes the music seems like an afterthought or just something for mood playing in the background, and this certainly can be the case. But then there are certain shows (or certain scenes or certain films) where music and song choice can really make all the difference, and I think The Handmaid’s Tale is one of those shows.
Plus, I like the feeling I get when I’m rewatching one my favorite shows, only to discover that a song I’ve since come to enjoy was actually featured in a scene of that show (this used to happen to me a lot with Grey’s Anatomy). I feel like it makes the whole experience of media consumption that much more personal and even interactive, in that it gives me a way to bring elements of my favorite shows into my real life.
Also, I don’t really know a ton of people who like a lot of the same music I listen to (I know, I should really get some better friends), so when I hear songs I like played in TV shows I like, it makes me feel this weird sense of kinship with the music supervisors/creators of the show. Maybe that sounds a little pathetic, but hey, I love television and I’m not ashamed.
Moral: if you’re ever wondering why a song sounds so familiar to you even though you can’t remember ever hearing it before, chances are you actually watched it on TV. That stuff gets in your head, man…
P.S. This post was inspired by this article on The Spinoff: All the ways you can get hyped for The Handmaid’s Tale season two.
P.P.S. Here’s Hulu’s Spotify playlist of the official soundtrack for Season 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale: