TV Writer Rani Jadfa covers her top five TV soundtracks, bringing attention to a much overlooked aspect of the story-telling medium
I am a massive nerd when it comes to soundtracks, and I’m not talking about songs written for musicals or the Guardians of the Galaxy mixtape. I mean the real deal; the music played throughout TV and cinema elevating every aspect of the images themselves. Television soundtracks are often overlooked by critics due to the bigger names appearing in movies, so I created a list of five scores and composers that deserve to be brought into the light.
Loki – Natalie Holt
The hit Marvel TV show combines the Norwegian origins of its titular character with the sci-fi genre of superpowers and time travel. Holt’s balance between classical orchestra and electronic music represents this mix perfectly, especially with the use of the theremin. Its eerie quality emulates both tradition and the sound of the future. The show’s main theme (‘Loki Green Theme’) is widely considered to be one of the best Marvel themes, perfectly representing the thin line between villainy and heroism Loki so gracefully struts down. Personally, I prefer the slightly groovier pieces: ‘DB Cooper’ in season one shows a mischievous side quest with a beat that will get your hips swaying. Season two has also just dropped a ‘70s banger (‘Zaniac’) that jazzifies the main theme.
Only Murders in the Building – Siddhartha Khosla
Khosla creates mystery, intrigue, and humour in the soundtrack for the new whodunnit show that everyone is talking about. Season three has just been released and with that another beautiful soundtrack. What I love about Khosla and this show is that they have found their tone and are leaning into the weird and meta. Of course, it remains classical with soft, moving piano pieces but this is layered with jokes that break the fourth wall and quirky tracks like the ‘White Room’. My favourite piece is a trio of songs that blend perfectly in season two: ‘Mabel’s Dream’, ‘Puzzled’ and ‘Flashback’. The raw emotions in this scene are captured in the drama of the piano and the softness of the flutes as Mabel (Selena Gomez) recalls the night of the murder.
Ms. Marvel – Laura Karpman
As an avid South Asian Marvel fan, this show meant the world to me with its representation of a teenage brown girl obsessed with superheroes (sounds like someone I know). But the soundtrack elevated it to a level I did not expect. Karpman intertangles traditional Asian instruments (dhol, tabla, sursringar and more) with a youthful take on a Marvel superhero theme in the ‘Ms. Marvel Suite’. Episode five centres around the partition of India in the 1940s; a sequence that brought me to tears. The classical Asian sounds are very prominent, enhancing the chaos and tragedy of the historical event, especially with the incorporation of chants in the Urdu language. ‘The Last Train’ is my favourite piece from the show and reflects the intensity of this sequence, building to a beautifully stretched crescendo filled with emotion and trauma.
Normal People – Stephen Rennicks
This is one of the most emotional soundtracks I have ever heard, and it reflects the essence of the show perfectly. Those who have seen Normal People will know of its heavy content and melancholy tone. Rennicks captures this through his music, allowing it to mature with the age of the characters as they move from school to university. He creates sounds that showcase the hope of young crushes but also the inner turmoil that comes with the gravity of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. In particular, ‘Funeral Dark’ is a moving track that reflects the true grief of losing a loved one; the fact that such heavy human emotions can be crystalised in music reminds me why I love this form of art.
Doctor Who – Murray Gold and Segun Akinola
I will end with a slightly happier and more well-known soundtrack: Doctor Who. Of course, the opening theme is practically the UK’s national anthem with almost five million streams on Spotify. Nevertheless, this is a soundtrack that contains a huge range – from the dark emotion of ‘Doomsday’ to the hilarity of ‘A Noble Girl About Town’. It’s challenging to choose a favourite due to the sheer number of songs but ‘A Dazzling End’ and ‘Sonic Screwdriver’ probably take the top spots for me. All Whovians will recall the bitter-sweet ‘End’ of season four, but nothing can take away from the joyous moment of all the companions in the Tardis together. Finally, everyone has their own opinions about the latest era of Doctor Who, but I found Akinola’s ‘Sonic’ theme enticingly hopeful. And that’s what the Doctor has represented across every generation: a glowing light in the darkness.
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