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The music of Breaking Bad

Posted on 30 September 2013

I’ve always been a fan of music in movies. I especially like it when it can add new dimensions to both the song and whatever you’re watching. Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch are all masters at this sort of thing. But I’ve never seen a TV show pull if off as well as Breaking Bad has.

Led by music supervisor Thomas Golubic, there have been some brilliant song selections, interspersed with the original score by Dave Porter. There’s the obvious montage scenes and climatic endings but what’s more impressive is the subtle background things that go into setting the location, the character- and still comment on the storyline. Take, for example, one of the first songs playing in the background in episode one: “Have Your Next Affair With Me” by Stonewall Jackson. At first it just seems like an innocuous honky tonk song that you might find at a party in the American southwest, but if these lyrics don’t set the stage for what comes next, I’m not sure what does:

“So your last affair turned out to be a loser
And you turned out to be used instead of user”

Or this line from another background track, this one in season four-  “Flyentology” by the rapper El-P and Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor:

“There are no scientists on the way down
Just a working example of faith versus physics”

There are dozens of these moments that you can find listening to the song lists found at the Breaking Bad music wiki, a meticulously-kept tracker of all the tunes found in the series. Most of those songs can be found in this Rdio playlist, as well.

In the lead-up to yesterday’s series finale, I’ve been taking select songs from this nine-hour playlist and whittling it down to about half-an-hour of music from each season. And, as Golubic used to do, I’ve added dialogue from the series as well. I have to finish off season five (some great musical moments in the final episode), but the first four can be found here.

The Breaking Bad Mixtape Series on Mixcloud

Breaking Bad was a great TV show, and it’s given me a whole new musical landscape to explore, as well. I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I did.

Further Reading:

Vice Magazine: We Interviewed the Music Supervisor for Breaking Bad

PopMatters: Thomas Golubic: The Master of the Scene

Slant Magazine: An Interview with Breaking Bad music supervisor Thomas Golubic

 

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