Best HBO Theme Songs
True Blood – “Bad Things”
This theme, by Jace Everett, is admittedly my favourite. Combined with depressing and frankly sickening images, the song drags you into the messed-up world of the deep South and vampires. From the opening dark twangy notes, you’re sucked in. Then enter Everett’s growly voice singing “when you came in, the air went out” along with the image of dilapidated mansions and naked bodies. By the end, the song and images meet in a manic crescendo. The twisted picture is painted.
The Leftovers – “Let the Mystery Be”
The mystery/drama series is about 140 million people suddenly vanishing without a trace, so season 2’s opening song is fitting. The perky Iris DeMent song is mixed with happy family photos, each with a person cut out of them. The quirky country/folk song seems to contrast the show, but that’s the point. Hearing the upbeat tune and happy pictures, while wondering what happened to the missing, makes it all the more disturbing- and intriguing. The 1st season had a dark tone for the intro, which was good, but this song is pleasingly unexpected.
True Detective – “Far From Any Road” and “Nevermind”
Season 1 saw the campy yet creepy “Far From Any Road” by The Handsome Family. Season 2 replaced the theme with none other than a snarling Leonard Cohen with “Nevermind.” Both theme songs prepared the viewers for the disturbing stuff they were about to watch, but season 1’s song had a little more flair and season 2’s a little more depression. “Nevermind” is based on a poem Cohen wrote, and paints a bleak portrait of life that suits a show with similar themes (kind of like a certain album with the same name…). Plus, the added visuals are really cool.
Vinyl – “Sugar Daddy”
In a show about the rock n’ roll era of the 70’s (created by Mick Jagger and Martin Scorcese), choosing a theme song by a psychedelic country artist seems like a perfectly trippy choice. The bluesy, electric guitar fueled song by Sturgill Simpson is fittingly weird and dark. Rolling Stone describes it well; “Simpson slips into Howlin’ Wolf mode, wailing with agitated lust over a crunchy riff and stinging electric leads. The track continually mutates, ratcheting up the intensity until its explosive finish.”
Game of Thrones
The man behind the beloved theme, Ramin Djawadi, was already Grammy nominated for his ominous score in Iron Man when he orchestrated the theme for Game of Thrones. Not everyone is a fan. Some people (I’m looking at you, dad) even fast forward through it! Though the theme lasts longer than others on TV, the slow intense burn of the opening sets the tone for the show like nothing else could.
And, if you want to watch some crazy amazing covers of the theme, watch these videos (Everything from a Country and Western version to a Heavy Metal rendition!)
And one non-HBO title sequence (Showtime) I have to throw in here. It’s worth a second look and listen, and seems to have been inspired by series openings HBO has, including some of the above.
The intro might not be a great listen on it’s own, but mixed with the whispered quotes, presidential speeches, and assorted weird sounds, the opening is a confusing masterpiece much like the show. Sean Callery composed the Emmy-nominated theme, and though some people, Claire Danes included, aren’t into it- and some critics hate it, I disagree. The mish-mashed music creates a sense of paranoia and mania that CIA agent Carrie feels as she struggles with international corruption and her own bipolar disorder.