The first-ever Emmy for Best Music Supervision will be given out this year, with either “Better Call Saul,” “Big Little Lies,” “Girls,” “Master of None” or “Stranger Things” getting to make history as the first show to win the prize. The Best Music Supervision category honors the heads of music departments who select the licensed songs to appear on the show and generally oversee all musical aspects. This field has gone unrecognized at the Emmys until this year, despite being one of the more crucial factors for a show’s success.
Each of these TV programs has impeccable soundtracks, making this one of the toughest races to call. So which nominated series has the best chance of becoming the inaugural winner of Best Music Supervision at the 2017 Emmys? Let’s examine each of the submitted episodes in this category.
“Better Call Saul” — Episode: “Sunken Costs” — Thomas Golubic
“Better Call Saul” features the least amount of music in its submitted episode among these five nominees, but the selection of rock tunes are used to great effect. In “Sunken Costs,” music supervisor Thomas Golubic includes Little Richard’s “Hurry Sundown” as Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) is arrested, and Todd Terje’s “Alfonso Muskedunder” when Kim (Rhea Seehorn) prepares for the day.
“Big Little Lies” — Episode: “You Get What You Need” — Susan Jacobs
“Big Little Lies” music supervisor Susan Jacobs chose easy listening throwback vibes to provide the perfect soundtrack to our beloved ladies of Monterey. “You Get What You Need,” the final episode of the season, opens with Neil Young’s “Helpless” as Celeste (Nicole Kidman) deals with yet another beating. Most of the episode’s music comes from the Elvis and Audrey party, with Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now or Never” featured as Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) enters the party, plus covers of “Treat Me Nice,” “Don’t” and “The Wonder of You.” The episode also includes the haunting piano theme “September Song” present throughout the series, and appropriately ends with Ituana’s cover of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
“Girls” — Episode: “Goodbye Tour” — Manish Raval, Jonathan Leahy, Tom Wolfe
The eclectic music choices featured on “Girls” have been so integral to its appeal that there have been three soundtracks released from the show. In “Goodbye Tour,” music supervisors Manish Raval, Jonathan Leahy and Tom Wolfe bring together acoustic vibes like “Running from Home” by Bert Jensch during Hannah’s (Lena Dunham) walk through upper New York, the tender “How Do We Get Back to Love” by Julia Michaels at the engagement party, and “Crowded Places” by Banks as Hannah prepares to move.
“Master of None” — Episode: “Amarsi Un Po” — Zach Cowie and Kerri Drootin
Much like the “Girls” soundtrack, the music of “Master of None” helps set the show’s mood as an indie-feeling comedy about modern romance. In “Amarsi Un Po,” the episode in which Dev (Aziz Ansari) and Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi) continue their doomed courtship in New York, fittingly features romantic Italian style music to reflect Francesca’s culture. Zach Cowie and Kerri Drootin pepper in tracks like “You’re a Song (That I Can’t Sing)” by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons in a montage, Edoardo Vianello’s “Guarda Come Dondolo” during Dev and Francesca’s pajama dance party, and Lucio Battisti’s “Amarsi Un Po” in the closing credits. The episode also makes expert use of “Sunflower River Blues” by John Fahey at the Storm King Art Center and “I Can’t Let It Happen To You” in another montage.
“Stranger Things” — Episode: “Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street” — Nora Felder
“Stranger Things” is well-known for doubling down ‘80s nostalgia, and the music selections are steeped in this era. For “Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street,” music supervisor Nora Felder selected many angsty rock tracks, to fit with the teens at the center of the episode. The most memorable song is the recurring “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash, which brings back memories of Will (Noah Schnapp). Other songs include Trooper’s “Raise a Little Hell” as Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Barb (Shannon Purser) enter the party, Modern English’s “I Melt With You” as the party continues, and The Bangles’ cover of “Hazy Shade of Winter” over the end credits.
So which show will take home the first Music Supervision Emmy? If TV academy voters go for the “most” music supervision, as is often the case with a category like Best Costume Design where the most elaborate costumes win, it is probably down to “Big Little Lies” and “Master of None.” Each submitted episode demonstrates a meticulous ear, with songs that underscore the entire episode from beginning to end, comprising of an eclectic range of sound. Do not count out the other three shows, though, as they each provide memorable sounds of their own.
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