logo_smlIt has been awhile since the last edition of The Justice Files but I refuse to write if I don’t have something that I am passionate about. Recently, a topic jumped into my brain and I just have that itch to jot it down on digital paper. Most of my previous columns have focused on either an artist or an album, this one is going to be a little different. I want to talk about the use of music in other media, specifically television shows. After the break, I’m going to get into the meat of this but now I’ll tease that I want to talk about a couple shows that I think use music to be awesome.

Supernatural Season 2 - SoundtrackSupernatural does music right. Eric Kripke, the creator of the series, wrote in an early draft of the Pilot episode:

CUE MUSIC And you can take your anemic alternative pop and shove it up your ass. Dean plays bass thumping, pile driving Zeppelin, and he plays it loud.

From the start of the show he knew what he wanted for the music. He wrote it into the show. Blatantly. He wrote it into character’s dialog in the first episode.

Sam: Well for one they are cassette tapes, and two— {Pulls out a few cassette tapes} Black Sabbath? Motorhead? Metallica? It’s the greatest hits of mullet rock.
Dean: {Grabs a cassette from Sam and pops it in the player} House rules, Sammy. Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cake hole.

If you watch Supernatural, just shut our eyes and try to imagine The Killers playing instead of AC/DC. Hell, try picturing KansasCarry On Wayward Son being replaced with Audioslave‘s Cochise? You’re going to get a totally different feeling from the show. The music they use has become iconic for them. The show doesn’t have a theme song but when fans get together its Carry On Wayward Son that’s being sung at karaoke.

It isn’t just in the background either. Supernatural uses music to enhance the overall visual presentation. In one episode they deal with a reaper. There is a fantastic scene where a reaper chases a girl through the woods set to Blue Oyster Cult‘s classic Don’t Fear (The Reaper). It stands out in my mind as easily one of the best scene from the entire series. Not because the scene was good (it was, but that isn’t the main reason) but because the music really pulled me into the moment.

Oh, lets not forget the scene of Jensen lip-syncing to Eye of the Tiger. Yeah, music is a huge part of this show.

ilmsonsofanarchySupernatural also does great montages set to fantastic classic rock songs. A lot of the montages that re-count the story or foreshadow the upcoming season are set to the same classic rock as the rest of the show. All this is done heavily in the other show I want to talk about here, Sons of Anarchy. Kurt Sutter, the creator of that series, wrote once in his blog;

Part of our musical signature on Sons is to use obscure songs from little known bands and to do covers of classic 60’s and 70’s tunes.

Sons of Anarchy’s montage moments build the show up in such a monumental way that unless you see it in action its hare to explain. The scene where Curtis Stigers‘ version of John The Revelator plays is breath-taking. I can’t explain it without you having seen the series. The show makes use of opening and closing music featuring scenes where the music itself it the foreground while everything else takes a background. Not quite a montage but not quite normal acting.

Reading over the music list for Sons is going to result in a lot of “Who the hell are these guys?” but that’s the whole point. Its not about “Hey, its the Rolling Stones” for this show. It’s all about how well that song fits that scene. Its a radically different approach to how Supernatural uses music but its one that works just as well. Sons even used Murder by Death in one episode so you know what wins brownie points in my book.

Unlike Supernatural, Sons of Anarchy has a theme song.  It’s less then a minute long but it tells you all you need to know about the show’s vibe. Every week the opening credits drag me right back into the proper mindset for viewing. While Supernatural gets right to the point of the show, I think Sons really benefits for the thirty seconds it takes to remind you about the series. It is one of the few intros I sit through every week and don’t just tune out.

I know that I’ve only talked about a couple shows here and that these aren’t the end-all of great music on television. I’m sure I could list a dozen shows but that wasn’t the point. These are the two that really jump out to me. The ones that don’t just use music as background. The ones that make music PART of the total experience. The ones that without their iconic sound just wouldn’t be the same.

I like that.