There is a lot to dazzle a viewer on Netflix’s new series ‘The Umbrella Academy’, including beautiful cinematography, astounding fight choreography, and a mind-bending time travel storyline. But perhaps one of the most amazing elements is its use of pop songs, which don’t just play in the background but exist almost like a separate character in the show. Similarly to projects like James Gunn’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movies, Edgar Wright’s ‘Baby Driver’, and Noah Hawley’s ‘Fargo’ TV series, ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is peppered with classic tracks from everyone from The Doors to Fitz & the Tantrums to Nina Simone to The Bay City Rollers, not to mention costar Mary J. Blige, who provides a cover of Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me” (used to score one of her own scenes, no less!).
But what else would one expect from a series based on a comic book written by a rock star, My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way?
But Way is quick to deflect any credit for the sublime soundtrack, instead giving that honor to series creator/showrunner Steve Blackman. While speaking to music site Indie Wire, Way said, “Steve writes [songs] into the scripts. He has a very distinct idea of what he wants, which is why he puts them in the scripts and he encourages his writers to do the same thing.”
That doesn’t mean that Way’s music isn’t present. While there are no My Chemical Romance tracks, Way and his bandmate Ray Toro covered Simon and Garfunkle’s (by way of The Bangles) ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’ and The Turtles’ ‘Happy Together’ especially for the show. His solo song, “One” is also used in an episode that explores the past of the show’s Big Bad.
Blackman discussed his musical choices, saying:
“Music had to be its own character for the show, and I wanted to use it to sort of counterpoint things, like using ‘Istanbul’ in the pilot when little Five is shooting all the people around him. I thought it was important to find a way to counterpoint violence and to do music in a different way, to live within the scene, as something of a character in itself.
“Music is important, and we wanted the show to really have not only its own soundtrack, but its own style, and part of that style was having great music with it. We had Gerard and we thought we got to do it all, you know? ‘Cause who better to do it with?”
(You can read the entire Indie Wire article to get a commentary on the use of specific songs, including the extended dance sequence in the pilot set to Tiffany’s 1980s mall pop anthem ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’.)
Just in case you don’t want to wear out your fingers and phone from hitting Shazam every few minutes, Screen Rant has compiled a listing of the entire soundtrack to Season One:
EPISODE 1: “WE ONLY SEE EACH OTHER AT WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS”
The Kinks – “Picture Book”
Fitz and the Tantrums – “The Walker”
Tiffany – “I Think We’re Alone Now”
They Might Be Giants – “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”
EPISODE 2: “RUN BOY RUN”
Woodkid – “Run Boy Run”
Adam Ant – “Goody Two Shoes”
Queen – “Don’t Stop Me Now”
Paloma Faith – “Never Tear Us Apart”
EPISODE 3: “EXTRA ORDINARY”
The Yardbirds – “Lost Woman”
The Hollies – “We’re Through”
Nina Simone – “Sinnerman”
EPISODE 4: “MAN ON THE MOON”
Morcheeba – “Blood Like Lemonade”
Tom Swoon – “Shingaling”
David Gray – “This Year’s Love”
EPISODE 5: NUMBER FIVE
Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds – “In The Heat of the Moment”
Big Thief – “Mary”
Don McGinnis – “Memory Bound”
The Turtles – “Happy Together”
EPISODE 6: “THE DAY THAT WASN’T”
The Doors – “Soul Kitchen”
Toploader – “Dancing in the Moonlight”
Gin Wigmore – “Kill of the Night”
EPISODE 7: “THE DAY THAT WAS”
Gerard Way – “One”
Radiohead – “Exit Music (For a Film)”
EPISODE 8: “I HEARD A RUMOR”
Lena Thorne – “Stormy Weather”
Mary J. Blige – “Stay With Me”
Hooverphonic – “Mad About You”
EPISODE 9: “CHANGES”
Traditional French Children’s Song – “Lundi Matin”
Lesley Gore – “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows”
Smith Westerns – “All Die Young”
EPISODE 10: “THE WHITE VIOLIN”
Heart – “Barracuda”
Bay City Rollers – “Saturday Night”
Gerard Way (feat. Ray Toro) – “Hazy Shade of Winter”
Well, I’m off to make a playlist.
The first season of ‘The Umbrella Academy’ is available to stream on Netflix.
What did you think of ‘The Umbrella Academy’ Season One? Which elements stood out to you?