Stranger Things soundtrack entrances viewers, captures mystery of hit show


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Ysabelle Buenavista, Contributing Writer

Stranger Things is a show that we’ve all heard of at one point. The Netflix Original Series has quickly become a staple of pop culture – sure to be a household name for decades to come. It’s a show that’s garnered much-deserved attention, seeing as it hosts some wildly young talent and a twisting storyline that’s sure to capture your attention. However, an aspect of the show which contributes so much but often goes vastly unnoticed is the music. Though it remains in the background – subtly pushing up the climax of a scene or dampening the mood of another – the music in Stranger Things adds detail and emotion that might not have been picked up by viewers otherwise.

Technically, there are two albums labeled as the Stranger Things soundtrack. The first soundtrack is comprised of songs that may be familiar to those who remember the golden years of music (or at least had parents who do) – with classics like “Africa” by Toto and “Whip It” by DEVO. And though these songs serve as an ambience indicator, they also remind us of the context of the show. The first season begins in 1983, when Will Byers mysteriously disappears after a round of D&D with the boys. This context is also enhanced by the music. By using music that’s both historically accurate and easily recognizable to those who possibly weren’t alive when these songs were popular, Stranger Things establishes that it’s more of an experience than simply a money-making scheme. The fact that it became widely popular was simply an added bonus to the fact that the creators had the opportunity to put their mark on the world with the show.

The second soundtrack – composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein – consists of 75 songs, spans across two volumes, and is comprised of songs that are mainly electronic, hinting back at the timestamp of the show – as during the eighties, electronic pop music was widely popular. These songs are generally soft and sweet, usually used in the show as an undertone to the more calm scenes that include more of the dialogue than the scenes with action. For example, “Lay-Z-Boy” – a song featuring a pulsing repeating arpeggio – which plays while Mike is showing Eleven around the house while his mother isn’t home in the first season. This scene is mainly dialogue, as Mike informs Eleven on the wonders of a recliner. During this, the music adds a playful, calm tone – a breath of fresh air in such an action-packed and fast-paced show. Most of the songs lack a bassline or real song structure, aiming instead for a dream-like sound, adding to the air of mystery and intrigue that shadows Stranger Things.

It’s easy to overlook or even forget the music in a show that we’re immersed in, but it’s always a good idea to go back and listen for it – as the music in a show plays a part just as important as the dialogue. Taking away the soundtrack of a show leaves an empty, gaping hole in the climate of each scene, leaving the scenes to crumble into the depths of awkwardness that remain when a component as vital as music is removed. The music of Stranger Things not only provides resurgence of a memory long gone, but it also brings to life that which would not have been present otherwise.

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