The Music of Breaking Bad
by Cade Schreger on September 29, 2013
Posted in: Uncategorized
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers from seasons 1-5 of Breaking Bad
Well, this is it…..the end of Breaking Bad. While I know people cringe at the thought of any show – or anything, ever – surpassing “The Wire” or “The Sopranos”, I can’t lie when I say that Breaking Bad is without a doubt my favorite show to ever air on television. Therefore, I could make this article about the quickly rising pile of tear-saturated tissues in my room due to the impending finale, but I won’t. Instead I want to talk about something near and dear to me – the music of Breaking Bad.
Despite the flawless acting, the stunning cinematography, and the brilliant writing/directing (yes, I am a fan), the aspect of the show that has always separated it for me against all others is the music – not just the haunting, beautiful score by Dave Porter, but even more so the songs chosen to be played in the episodes. These songs can not only enhance the already palpable moods and emotions put forth by a scene, but also prompt the viewer to analyze each moment featuring the music at a deeper level, for – like most things Breaking Bad – there is always something more to be found in one of these scenes. Although this list could be essentially endless due to the sheer number of incredible songs used in the show, I’ve attempted to narrow it down to my 6 favorite songs utilized to make an unstoppable force such as BrBa into an even greater monster.
So, here goes:
Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily consider these to be the 6 “best” songs played in Breaking Bad, but rather the 6 that add most to their scenes and make them unforgettable.
6. Who’s Gonna Save My Soul – Gnarls Barkley: Oh, that top hat. For me, the ultimate symbol of Walt’s transformation into Heisenberg. Also, a really cool hat. Regardless, this scene introduces a theme that will be played out time and time again throughout the show: Walt thinking he’s the ultimate boss…only to realize there’s a far crazier, more murderous antagonist standing in his path – A sentiment echoed perfectly by deep bass and pained lyrics of Gnarls Barkley.
5. Crystal Blue Persuasion – Tommy James & The Shondells: C’mon, it’s called “Crystal Blue Persuasion”. Have you seen this show?
4. Crapa Pelada – Quartetto Cetra: Gale, Gale, Gale. Perhaps the nicest character the show has ever seen, in usual Breaking Bad fashion, met one of the more unfortunate ends doled out to its characters. However, this moment reminds us of the light-hearted, friendly, and genuinely kind man who got into the game a bit too far – a nice (and rare) reprieve from the consistently dark universe of BrBa.
3. Take My True Love By The Hand – The Limeliters: Although this melancholy little melody is placed subtly in the middle of perhaps the most emotional, saddening, and fast-paced episode of the entire series…well, suffice to say that it fits perfectly.
2. 1977 – Ana Tijoux: The montage of Mike and Jesse burying money would be beautiful and hectic enough on its own, but Ms. Tijoux’s “1977” escalates the speed of the scene to all new levels.
1. Breaking Bad Theme (Extended Version) – Dave Porter: For 5 seasons, Dave Porter’s original score to Breaking Bad has made me feel sad, happy, thoughtful, amused – all at the same time. His music not only complements the scenes perfectly, but adds a whole new level of emotional tension and resonance to every frame that it’s used in. This effect comes into play with full force at the finale of the penultimate episode “Granite State”. Creator/director/writer Vince Gilligan always described his intention for the genre of his masterpiece as a Western – something that I’ve agreed with as well as disagreed with over the years – but this scene leaves no doubt in the viewer’s mind that Mr. Gilligan intends to at least end it that way. This scene transforms the humble, defeated Walter White back into that despicable, vengeful, yet oddly lovable bada** named Heisenberg who we couldn’t turn our eyes away from for 62 episodes. (Go to 1:30 in video….heck, just watch it all, the scene rocks).