Best Modern Musical Intros to TV Shows
Not Your Mama's TV Theme Song
It seems like the music that is chosen to introduce a modern TV series is generally more complex than the old jingles that accompanied the TV series I watched in my youth. Remember the intro to "The Brady Bunch" and "The Patty Duke Show?" Even TV theme songs from the more recent past, like "Friends" seem more like jingles than real songs.
Once in a while, I hear a TV intro song that sounds like it can stand on it's own, as music. Here are a few interesting songs that are used as theme songs for modern TV series.
TV Show: "Safe"
The TV show that inspired this article is one that I recently watched on Netflix. The program is called "Safe." It premiered in many countries on 10 May, 2018. It is an eight-episode dramatic series starring American actor Michael C. Hall (of Dexter fame). I must say it was odd hearing him speak with an English accent.
Hall plays Tom Delaney, a widowed father of two teenage daughters. When one of his daughters goes missing Tom ends up uncovering a web of secrets involving many people close to him, including his dead wife.
I liked the show well enough, I did watch all episodes of it. However, it was really the music that introduced the show that caught my attention.
Song: "Glitter and Gold," by Barnes Courtney
The intro music to "Safe" grabbed my attention right away. It sounded vaguely familiar. I just had to look up who played it, and what it was.
Barnes Courtney was born in England, but his family relocated to Seattle, WA when he was a child. He returned to the UK when he was 15. He was the leader of a British indie band called SleeperCell, then later an Indie/Punk band Dive Bella Dive.
In 2015, Courtney released "Glitter & Gold" as a single. It was his first track as a solo artist. It reached #1 on the UK Spotify Viral Chart, and #2 on the iTunes Alternative Chart. However, it didn't hit any of the charts in the US.
Barnes Courtney's single Fire, also released in 2015, was featured in the Bradley Cooper movie, Burn. It went on to receive airplay on American rock radio in 2016. To date, Fire has been streamed more than eight million times on Spotify, while Glitter & Gold has been streamed more than five million times.
I expect that "Glitter and Gold" will get a lot more attention now that it is featured in the intro to Safe.
TV Show: Bosch
Bosch is a web series available on Amazon Prime. It is a detective drama. The first season takes its inspiration from three of Michael Connelly’s novels: City of Bones, Echo Park, and The Concrete Blonde.
Titus Welliver stars as the title character, Los Angeles Police detective Harry Bosch.
There are currently four seasons of the show with a fifth in production.
Song: "Can't Let Go" by Caught A Ghost
It took me a little longer to warm up this song than "Glitter and Gold." However, as I heard it repeatedly, it really grew on me. Its dark energy and film noir feel make it a perfect fit for “Bosch.”
Jesse Nolan wrote and produced the song for his band Caught A Ghost, a self described indie electro soul band from Los Angeles, California created by Jesse Nolan and Stephen Edelstein.
Their first album, Human Nature, was released April 1, 2014. It included the song "Can’t Let Go." Several other songs from the album are also featured in TV and on film.
Nolan says "The song is basically about obsession. The idea for the song originated from feeling like I couldn't free myself from some dark feelings I was wrestling with, and as is always the case, making music is always the only cure for such a condition.”
TV Show: "Justified"
"Justified" is an American crime drama TV series. The series is set in and around Harlan, Kentucky. It premiered on The FX network on March 16, 2010 and went for six seasons, wrapping up in April of 2015.
Based on Elmore Leonard's short story “Fire in the Hole,” “Justified” stars Timothy Olyphant as deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. Walton Goggins is outstanding in the role of Ralyan's nemesis, Boyd Crowder .
Justified received critical acclaim for its acting, directing, art direction and writing. Justified won two Primetime Emmy Awards, one for Margo Martindale's performance as Mags Bennett and one for Jeremy Davies' as Mag's son, Dickie Bennett.
I was personally a big fan of the show, but I found the concluding season disappointing. Still, if you haven't seen this series yet, I do heartily recommend it.
The intro music sounded strange to me at first, but I really grew to love it.
Song: Long Hard Times to Come, by Gangstagrass
The band Gangstagrass was formed in 2006. It was founded and led by a Brooklyn producer, Rench. The band combines a seemingly unlikely pairing of bluegrass music and rap into a completely new and unexpected genre of music.
The band's music became more popular when their song, “Long Hard Times to Come,” was selected to be the opening theme song for "Justified."
The song earned Gangstagrass producer Rench and Rapper T.O.N.E.Z an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music for On July 8, 2010.
Gangstagrass released a full length album “Lightning On The Strings, Thunder On The Mic,” in 2010, and another full length album "Rappalachia" in 2012.
The line-up of musicians has evolved, but Rench remains in his role of producer and main contributor.
Rench and his friends have done nothing short of creating a new form of music. Gangstagrass takes two types of music that are opposites and mixes them together brilliantly in a way that is natural and enjoyable."— Elmore Leonard
Vikings is an epic historical drama, written and created by Michael Hirst. It airs on the History channel. The show was filmed in Ireland and premiered in 2013.
Vikings is loosely based on the legend of Ragnar Lothbrok, one of the most famous Norse heroes.
Ragnar (played by Travis Fimmel) begins his tale as a simple farmer. He lives a happy life with his beautiful wife, shield maiden Lagartha (Katheryn Winnick) and their two children.
Ragnar has grand ambitions that take him away from his simple life. He becomes the first Norseman to navigate the open sea, to the shores of England, in order to raid and pillage.
Even then, Ragnar had other dreams beyond what his fellow Vikings were thinking of. He wanted to settle European land and farm the rich soil there.
Eventually Ragnar becomes the king of Scandinavia, but ruling is not the life he was cut out for. His family falls apart, and he ends up in an unhappy marriage. Ragnar goes back across the sea to do battle, leaving his new wife Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) to raise their sons and rule in his place.
The series continues after the horrific death of Ragnar, following the adventures of his former wife and his many sons.
At this writing, the first half of season five has aired, but it is not known when we will see the second half. Vikings has been renewed for a sixth season, but it will probably not be seen until 2019.
I have been a huge fan of Vikings, but I have struggled with the turns it has taken without Ragnar. However, I will continue to watch. Perhaps there are great things to come.
Song: "If I had a Heart," by Fever Ray
"If I Had a Heart" was performed, written, and produced by Swedish recording artist, Fever Ray (Karin Dreijer). It is the lead single from her debut self-titled album, Fever Ray (2009). Fever Ray was her first effort as a solo artist. She was formerly half of an electronic music duo, The Knife, along with her brother Olof Dreijer. She was also the vocalist and guitarist of alternative rock band Honey Is Cool. Her vocal style is noted for both shrill and deep tones. She uses multi-tracked vocals, creating spacy, ethereal effects.
Show: Orange is the New Black
If you haven't been living off-grid for the past few years, you have probably at least heard of “Orange is the New Black.” It is Netflix's most-watched original series. It premiered on July 11, 2013. With fives seasons already aired, the show has been renewed for a sixth and seventh season.
The popular series is loosely based on the memoir of Piper Kerman. The title of the book is “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison.” The first season focuses on Piper, a middle-class, thirty-something white woman whose youthful indiscretions come back to haunt her years later, but the show soon branches out to follow the stories of Piper's fellow prisoners.
Song: "You've Got Time," by Regina Spektor
"You've Got Time" was written and performed by Regina Spektor. She was born in Russia on February 18, 1980. Her family came to the US when she was a child. She was classically trained on the piano since the age of six. Spector self-released three albums before becoming popular in New York' City's music scene. After signing with Sire Records in 2004, she began to receive more mainstream recognition.
Regina Spektor wrote "You've Got Time" specifically for Orange is the New Black. The song deftly captures the spirit of the show. As we get to know these women, it becomes clear that they are more than the crimes that landed them in prison.
The range of Spektor's powerful voice is the perfect instrument for expressing the range of experiences of these very human women. There is good and evil in each of them. The faces shown in the opening montage are all actual female prisoners.
I have shared a few of my favorite new TV theme songs here. I will come back and add more as I find them. Do you have any favorite new TV theme songs that I have not included?
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© 2018 Sherry Hewins