Welcome to The Playlist Project, where we’ll be posing musical questions to Paste staff, interns and writers and then compiling their responses into a handy playlist before opening it up for discussion in our comments section.
We’re obviously big TV fans here at Paste. We’ve got our dramas, sitcoms, rom-coms, comedies, and more (and the best of 2015 so far is conveniently ranked over here). But if we were to star in any of those kinds of shows, we’d obviously need killer theme songs to introduce these pilots to the world. So, this week’s Playlist Project prompt is…
Jay-Z, “Big Pimpin’”/Richard Swift, “Lady Luck”
My friend Beca and I once determined that if we ever had our own show, the opening credits would be us dancing to “Big Pimpin’” while holding IPAs and wheels of cheese. I’m standing by that, but assuming in this scenario I’ve gotten my own spinoff or something, I’d probably go with “Lady Luck” by Richard Swift. That driving beat and those piano chords are perfect for flashing names up during a credits sequence, but as a whole it’s laid-back enough to properly set the tone for a show that would probably include episodes like “The One Where Bonnie Orders a Pizza and Watches Netflix.”
“Weird Al” Yankovic, “White & Nerdy”
Let’s just get this straight: I should never be the star of a television show. So let’s instead envision an animated kids’ sitcom starring my overly personified, 2006 Toyota Prius to which I have a probably unreasonably emotional attachment. She’s bulbous and white like a marshmallow and super nerdy because she’s such a technologically progressive hybrid vehicle. Maria the Prius could roll around (using only the electric motor, obviously) saving the world from all the evil, environmentally destructive villains. It’d be like Disney Pixar’s Cars meets The Magic School Bus with a little bit of Dexter’s Laboratory thrown in for spunk.
Brendan Benson, “A Whole Lot Better”
The theme to my TV show would be Brendan Benson’s “A Whole Lot Better,” starting with the guitar riff at 26 seconds in. Its high-energy power pop would work alongside clips of me and my girlfriend arguing and getting into hijinks, as I’m assuming that my TV show would be like a 21st century version of Mad About You for reasons I can’t fully understand. But the song would be layered over clips of her like, jumping out to surprise me and me throwing a comically huge bowl of milk and cereal up into the air, which lands on my head. If this idea doesn’t sound like an appealing show, I’ll be forced to pitch the alternate one where I’m one half of a ‘70s cop duo who go through a time portal into the ‘80s and then just shrug their shoulders and keep on solving mysteries while wearing slightly outdated fashions.
Lil Kim, “The Jump Off”
So, my pick for this would be “The Jump Off” by Lil Kim. And rather than try to explain why or how the intro to my own TV show would look, I present this:
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Gorillaz, “Glitter Freeze”
I’ve always told people who don’t care that my theme song, especially when entering any room, would be Gorillaz’s “Glitter Freeze.” It builds at precisely the same pace in which my full presence should become apparent to all who inhabit the room. And, it reaches such sublimely slapstick levels that I can simultaneously imagine a futuristic, John-Woo-esque bullet ballet shootout erupting—wherein I’m leaping behind crates brandishing a laser blaster and taking out some alien scum—as well as I can imagine ordering a beer and it being so refreshing I down it in two gulps, and then all my friends (which would be the whole bar) taking turns to clap me on the back for being so good at drinking beer. So, in other words, this is the theme song to my hypothetical greatness, no matter what form that takes.
Elliott Fisher, “Theme from Our Man Flint”
Since I don’t watch much television, I’d be a terrible person to have a television show. When I do watch, usually it ends with me snoozing on the couch halfway into the episode. So if I were to have a show—sketch comedy, drama, cooking, whatever—I’d need a really snazzy theme song to keep me (and what Mister Rogers would have called my “television friends”) alert. What better than a somewhat forgotten previously existing theme song: that from the James Bond parody movie series Our Man Flint, starring James Coburn as a dashing secret agent. Jerry Goldsmith composed the original theme, but the 1960s saw many covers of it, and the one I like best is by Elliot Fisher. It startles you with tension and mystery before lifting you up with intrigue and passion. And if anyone falls asleep before the actual meat of the show begins, they’ll already have caught the best part.
Belle & Sebastian, “Act of the Apostle Part 2”
I’m choosing to read this question not as how I’d score the opening of the Shane Ryan Show (grown man crying alone on the floor of a hotel room for three minutes to “The Turtles’ “So Happy Together), but rather which song I’d choose if I got to make a TV show on the topic of my choosing. In which case I’m going to rewind to Shane Ryan, age 22, with no clue about his future, working as a host at a 4-star restaurant in Lake Placid, NY. That Shane Ryan wrote a sitcom pilot about life at the restaurant, and his closing song was “Act of the Apostle II” by Belle & Sebastian. The vision was that as the last scene in the show played out, we’d hit the rising piano part that begins at 2:45. We’d stick with the action for a minute or so, no dialogue, and we’d time the credits to hit right at 3:40 for the chorus. I don’t remember whether the script was any good, or even what happened, but I still like this idea.
I might have picked a song from Neutral Milk Hotel’s ;In The Aeroplane Over the Sea because that’s likely the album that has defined my adult life the most, however, there’s so much lyrically that doesn’t really work as a theme song for anybody, unless you’re Anne Frank. But this song from U2’s second album reached for the same wide-eyed “how strange it is to be anything at all” euphoria that Neutral Milk Hotel would later grasp. The existential excitement is so well encapsulated by the only lyric in the song: “Rejoice!” With its tribal drums and high bass line, the music is kind of like Joy Division, but with actual joy. I have no idea why the song is titled “Scarlet,” and the scarcity of lyrics feels like the band were in an “uh-oh, we need more songs for the album!” bind when they included this one, but that simplicity is what always spoke to me.
The Knife, “Heartbeats”
Cause I’d want my TV show to be kinda like The Wonder Years, but more new school and super indie. It’s a timeless song that sings about young love, and my Winnie Cooper would be Drew Barrymore (hoping she’s down to do TV!) I know she likes indie rock, so “Heartbeats” would be totally chill with her.
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Nothin’”
In light of the True Detective hole I’ve crawled into, enter Madison Rozakos with weary sensibility and a penchant for leather, featuring Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ cover of “Nothin’” by Townes Van Zandt.
I’m on a motorcycle, priding my moral graininess between my shoulder blades with a patch that reads “Your Future Organ Donor,” while kicking up rock almost as quickly as your mother’s disapproval. I dump the clutch, the sun tumbles over the Bonneville Salt Flats and a honey-dipped fiddle wails in contempt like an incurable malady. I’ve a nickname and it’s something hard like Virginia or Val. I’ve got pain, and it ain’t singular. The pale of my skin’s “Nothin’” but a controlled violence. It looks good in the darkness—kind of like the one I’m pushing now.
Beck, “Loser,” Swans, “Jim,” or Grandaddy, “A.M. 180”
I’d have to go with either “Loser” by Beck, for the comedy series where I’m a bumbling but lovable buffoon, or “Jim” by Swans, for my dark, True Detective-style drama where I’m a dirty cop with a mean streak. But assuming that the show’s based on my actual life, I’ll go with “A.M. 180” by Grandaddy.
The Dirty Projectors, “Dance for You”
The thing that first came to mind was that “Oh Yeah” song from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but that would probably just make everyone uncomfortable and not want to watch the show (except for me, I would watch the hell out of any show that did that).
Part of me wants to pick a really ominous, intense song to accompany the tough-lady detective who jumps off of rooftops TV show I’ve created in my head and cast myself as the lead in, but I keep coming back to The Dirty Projectors’ “Dance for You.” Sweet, simple lines like “There is an answer/ I haven’t found it/ But I will keep dancing ‘til I do” really resonate with me as a certified youngin’ just trying to figure out life. And I suppose that is what the show would be about.
OK, your turn. Let us know what your personal theme song would be in the comments below.