Forget lists about the top TV shows of 2015, I know what you’re all screaming out for. “Chris,” you plead, “tell us what the best TV theme songs of 2015 were. The year can’t end properly unless you do!”
Well, I’m not a man who takes such requests lightly. It is a momentous task you ask of me, and one I must treat with the requisite seriousness. The art of the TV theme song has changed over the years, as opening credits have been slowly stripped down to make room for more actual acting. Gone are the days of The Facts of Life or Laverne and Shirley, where zany songs were overlaid with the wacky hijinks of a show’s characters. These days TV themes are all about mood, prepping you for the next forty minutes of very serious people doing serious things.
So as long as you’re looking suitably serious, let’s get started. We’re looking for gravitas here. I expect a sombre expression throughout.
5. Black Sails
A show all about brutal backstabbing pirates, Black Sails is the kind of show Captain Jack Sparrow would be lucky to survive an episode of. There’s no nobility in piracy here, just survival by any means necessary. That’s why Black Sails needs a theme song that evokes danger; the kind of moody song that a pirate might listen to while getting pumped up to do some pillaging.
That’s what modern TV theme songs are all about. When Black Sails‘ music hits, you know the next hour isn’t going to involve Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom trading wisecracks while running away from the British navy. It’s going to be Toby Stephens beating the shit out of someone for trying to steal the dregs of his ale tankard.
In Daredevil, people get the living crap kicked out of them all the time, including and especially the show’s hero. He’s one man going up against a vast criminal conspiracy in Hell’s Kitchen. The theme song isn’t particularly bombastic, and feels stripped back a little, but that just fits the show perfectly. You can tell something’s not quite right, especially if you watch all the CGI blood dripping over New York landmarks. That’s a dead giveaway.
Once you’ve listened to the Daredevil theme song you know that no one in the episode is safe. Kingpin might show up and bash someone’s head off with a car door. Daredevil might drop a Russian thug off a roof. Anything’s fair game, and we’re ready for it because the theme song told us to be.
What’s the first thing you need to know about Outlander? It’s in Scotland. What’s the second thing you need to know? There’s weird time travel magic going on, which is why Claire Beauchamp is stuck back in the 18th century hiding from red coats and making googly eyes at that one guy.
When you listen to Outlander‘s theme song you know all this before the episode even starts. There’s bagpipes, epic instrumentals that evoke windswept hills and a lady going on about stuff that sounds like it’s to do with magic and mysticism. Everything you need to know about the show right there. Not even the Happy Days theme can top that.
2. The Man in the High Castle
Feeling chipper about your life? Going through a good spell with you family and friends, that warm feeling in your heart? The Man in the High Castle can fix that. No theme song this year will yank you from happiness into despair quicker than this one. Pulled from The Sound of Music of all places, the theme song drags you into the kind of melancholy you’d have every day if the bloody Nazis had won World War Two.
It’s like the show wants you to cry before you’ve even seen any of the brutal repression and casual murder it has to offer. The theme song is critical here, because otherwise you might end up with the false impression that something good could happen to one of the characters in the episode. Better that you know what you’re in for from the start.
There’s really no competition here: the best, most atmosphere-setting, theme song of 2015 goes to Galavant. A moody fantasy story set in a fictional kingdom about a hero out for revenge, Galavant‘s theme song sets up everything perfectly. You feel the dark grittiness of the world, the simmering tension between the king and the hero and the sacrifices to come on the hero’s journey.
If 2015 was the year of the moody theme song, Galavant will be the one tune everyone will still remember in ten years. Truly, no opening credits gave us a more vivid picture of the show to come than Galavant did, painting rich characters and a complex plot in a crisp, brooding theme. Let’s all celebrate Galavant for the best song of 2015. Galavant.
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