HBO's Succession soundtrack: what makes the theme tune music so catchy?

HBOs Succession soundtrack what makes the theme tune music so catchy  Sonatica Blog

Succession Season 4, the last installment of the popular TV series, made its highly anticipated return this Spring. As we delve into the brilliance of the show's theme music, we explore why it is undeniably remarkable.

Succession undoubtedly offers some of the most intelligent, captivating, and satisfying television viewing available. This American satirical comedy-drama made a resounding impact when it premiered in 2018, captivating audiences with its addictive storyline. The plot revolves around the outrageously wealthy Roy family in New York, as they navigate the tumultuous succession of their media empire from the domineering patriarch, Logan Roy (portrayed by Brian Cox), to the squabbling siblings Shiv (played by Sarah Snook), Kendall (played by Jeremy Strong), and Roman (played by Kieran Culkin).

The impeccable production quality of the show, which has returned for its final season this Spring, is complemented by an equally masterful soundtrack. HBO's Succession concluded on May 28, 2023, after four seasons filled with awards, scathing insults, nihilistic humor, and desperate power struggles.

What sets this series apart, as many critics have noted, is its exceptional soundtrack, which matches the complexity and intensity of the drama it accompanies. The show's clever sound design, combined with a darkly delightful score, demonstrates an unparalleled level of emotional sophistication on television.

Who composed the Succession theme music and why is it such an 'earbug'?:

The instantly iconic theme music and score for Succession were composed by Nicholas Britell, an American composer, pianist, and film producer. In discussing the music for the show, Britell emphasized the importance of following a visceral emotional approach rather than an overly intellectual one, as he spoke to Variety.

Indeed, the Succession theme music is both physically and emotionally evocative. With its jangling piano and piercing strings, it captures the shifting alliances and backstabbing dynamics portrayed on screen. Britell described his final contribution to the TV soundtrack, stating, "The score for Season 4 represents the culmination of my musical vision for Succession. With its depths of pathos and its simultaneous capacity for comic absurdity, Succession has presented me with a truly extraordinary story to underscore. The 25 pieces on this album are a final summary of my music and of the sound I've created for the show," as he shared with Variety.

What instruments are used in the Succession theme music?:

The Succession theme music features an orchestration of piano, strings, and drumkit, with a distorted bass line that adds an intriguing twist. It mirrors the convoluted plots and indiscretions of the characters on screen. A honky-tonk-style piano emerges accompanied by a deliberate drumbeat, leading into an undulating and slightly dissonant melody. Powerful string chords respond to the initial phrase, and the upper strings take on the melody, developing it into a compelling tune that brilliantly encapsulates the trials and tribulations of the Roy family. The persistent chug of the strings, combined with the unwavering drumbeat, sustains the theme music in all its grandeur. Its ingenious catchiness and addictive nature make its appearances during the action even more gratifying.

What influences the soundtrack of Succession?:

The Succession soundtrack draws influences from various sources. In Season 3, released in Autumn 2021, Britell turned to Italian classical music for inspiration, as the final episodes took place in Tuscany, deviating from the show's usual American setting. To immerse himself in the music of Italy, the three-time Oscar-nominated composer traveled to Tuscany while composing the score for Season 3.

Britell likened each season of Succession to a different movement of a symphony, reflecting the tonal shifts in his score. In an interview with The Credits in 2022, he described Season 1 as the "Allegro" first movement and Season 2 as the "adagio" second movement. For Season 3, Britell saw it as a "scherzo" movement, drawing from the Italian word for "joke" and the off-kilter quality it brings.

One of the remarkable aspects of Britell's score is its inspiration from late Classical composers like Beethoven and Schubert, according to Matthew McDonald, an associate professor of music at Northeastern University. McDonald notes that Britell even references a phrase from Beethoven's "Pathétique" Sonata in the iconic opening solo piano line. In Season 3's score, there are hints of Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony. Both compositions are in the key of C minor, a key associated with heroic struggle, giving the story and narrative a grand stage.

In February 2023, Jesse Armstrong, the director of Succession, revealed that Season 4 would mark the end of the acclaimed series, leaving fans eagerly awaiting the final tales of the captivating and abhorrent yet intriguing Roy family empire.

As we bid farewell to Succession, we anticipate the symphonic techniques and musical brilliance that Britell will bring to his future scores. The music of Succession, particularly its unforgettable theme, has left an indelible mark on viewers, serving as a perfect accompaniment to the show's compelling narrative and complex characters. It's a testament to the power of music to enhance storytelling and evoke emotions, making Succession a truly exceptional television experience.