If you have Netflix, and even if you don’t, there’s no doubt you’ll have heard of the new binge sensation that is 13 Reasons Why.
Adapted from Jay Asher’s 2007 novel, the thirteen part series shows just how fast life can head downhill when your mental health is suffering and the odds appear to constantly be stacked against you.
Although the cast of 13 Reasons Why have shown their outstanding ability to act and portray such a sensitive subject with ease, the soundtrack deserves credit where it’s due. Now, you may have watched the show’s first episode and upon hearing the familiar opening strums of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ thought to yourself ‘Oh wow, how original.’ But, come on. Who hasn’t listened to the beautifully morbid slurs of Ian Curtis and found themselves centre stage in their very own teenage drama. The song was written in 1979 and was swiftly followed by the suicide of Curtis in 1980; it’s an aching ballad for those who have loved and suffered and surely that’s one of the biggest roots that 13 Reasons Why stems from. The anthem is aptly foreshadowing one of the most crucial factors which lead towards Hannah’s suicide. Indeed, it was love that tore her apart – in particular, the lack of it.
Fast forward to mid-way through the series and we’re presented with the night Hannah attends the school dance after her parents surprise her with a new, swanky family car. As with the majority of US high school dances depicted on TV, everyone is having the best of times. Everyone except Hannah and Clay it seems; cue awkward shall-we-dance glances across the hall. They finally meet and one of the sweetest songs I’ve heard in a long time sounds out across the crowd of young party goers. Taken from their 2015 album Strange Trails, ‘The Night We Met’ by Lord Huron is the chosen slow-dance anthem and, I’m often opposed to admitting something like this, but it was perfect. If you’re unfamiliar with the song, I’d go and listen to it right now. It’s beautiful and intimate and, similar to Joy Division, appears to stir the love-lamenting teen inside of you.
The soundtrack for 13 Reasons Why could have easily been crammed with cringey, cliche tracks which wouldn’t have done the on-screen drama any justice. With such sensitive topics such as rape, self harm and depression, you can’t really afford to add anything gimmicky. Even when Hannah has made her decision to end her life, the music brings out so much more. In these scenes, Roman Remains’ cover of Echo & The Bunnymen’s ‘The Killing Moon’ can be heard and it’s honestly haunting. For those who have seen the cult classic Donnie Darko, you’ll know just how amazingly fitting the original track was then. This instance is no different; the song’s true sinister undertones are disturbing and captivating. The cover is brilliant and its part in such a pivotal point in the series is ideal.
Throughout the rest of the series, we’re blessed with tracks from an array of outstanding artists. ‘Cool Blue’ by the softly sublime band The Japanese House is featured and touches on the nerve already made raw by Hannah’s trauma. The synth harmonies are just gentle enough to give a more upbeat interlude amongst the drama, whilst maintaining a melancholic vibe.
You’ll find when watching the series that remembering the music that was played during a particular scene is hard with everything else going on. I had to re-watch scenes to pick up on the track purely because I was too engrossed in what was unfolding, which is something I’d highly recommend when you’re done.
The music is never overbearing or badly placed. With such tense topics at hand, there was always the risk of normalising or downplaying their severity. This being said, I’m a firm believe that the show’s soundtrack adds the familiarity and relatability needed for viewers to immerse themselves in each character’s journey.
Words by Claudia Knight