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August 9, 2022

A midseason look into the music of Euphoria

By JULIA ALUMBRO | February 6, 2022

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MICHELE LF/CC BY 4.0

Alumbro reviews the soundtrack of the hit show Euphoria midway through its second season.

It’s no surprise that the second season of Euphoria has nearly doubled its viewership from when it first premiered in June 2019. Presented with an alluring cast, the show has had a magnetizing effect on its target audience of young adults. The attractive cast, alongside some of the most iconic cosmetic choices, contributes to our fondness for the show. However, there’s one emblematic component that effectively captures its theme of transcendence: music.

Spearheaded by Labrinth’s musical acuity, the first season is scattered with appreciable melodic and electronic staccatos from its title soundtrack. The lines “Still don’t know my name” and “I’m livin’ for the thrill, formula” carry an essence of the show that makes it recognizable to casual music listeners. The top-three streamed songs of the soundtrack (“Still Don’t Know My Name,” “Forever” and “Formula”) all reached over 100 million streams, and it was revealed that the show’s album ranked ninth for Spotify’s most-played TV soundtracks.

With such high praise over season one’s impressive music choices, there were a lot of expectations for Euphoria to uphold its musical feat. And while we’ve only reached the halfway mark of the season (the last episode premieres on Feb. 27), the released episodes have already proven that season two takes music to another level.

Here are some of my favorite musical features of Euphoria season two:

“Don’t Be Cruel” by Billy Swan

Billy Swan’s cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” was perfect for the opening scene of season two. The song follows the solo narration — “Fezco’s grandma was a motherfuckin’ G” — and continues to play as Fez’s grandma walks through a strip club. The scene follows a sequence of erotic images, eventually leading to Fez’s grandma shooting his father at the back of the club. The mellow structure of the song makes the scene ironic yet effortlessly cool.

“Dead of Night” by Orville Peck

Nate plays “Dead of Night” for Cassie when they embark on their drive to the New Year’s party. Viewers can sense the tension between the two from the opening line: “The sun goes down, another dreamless night / You’re right by my side.” The song foreshadows Nate and Cassie’s relationship while tugging on our nostalgia for late-night drives. The song is celebratory, despite the immorality of their relationship.

“Haunted” by Laura Les

This season, the showrunner decided to give Lexi more screen time, dedicating a romantic subplot for her and Fez. She listens to “Haunted” by Laura Les as she excitedly bikes to Fez’s store. Leading up to this scene, we understood Lexi’s character to be the innocent girl next door, which is why it’s so surprising for us to hear her listening to hyperpop. The song gives her confidence and calms her nerves, making for a good segue into something fun and lighthearted which made us love her character even more.

“It Ain't Over 'til It's Over” by Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz’s “It Ain't Over 'til It's Over” captures the romantic tension between young Cal and Derek. The lyrics “So many tears I’ve cried / So much pain inside / But baby, it ain’t over 'til it’s over” perfectly describe their queer young love story as they both try to navigate their feelings for each other. The song brings happiness and reminds me of new beginnings.

“Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS

It’s their last night together, and Cal and Derek decide to go out and commemorate the end of high school. They celebrate by going to a bar and dancing to “Never Tear Us Apart.” Naturally, they gravitate towards each other, stealing longing glances and smiling their happiest smiles. The lyrics “Don’t ask me / What you know is true / Don’t have to tell you / I love your precious heart” hint at their mutual attraction. This will become a moment that they’d remember for the rest of their lives. It’s sad but beautiful to watch them fall in love.

“I’ll Be Here in the Morning” by Townes Van Zandt

I was tremendously amused when I heard Townes Van Zandt play in episode four of Euphoria. The song “I’ll Be Here in the Morning” strangely makes its way in the episode when Rue fantasizes about her and Jules falling in love as different characters. The scene is purposefully confusing, but Van Zandt’s coolness and acoustic rhythm create a seamless transition from the fantasy to the real world.

“I’m Tired” by Labrinth

This song debuts on the show when Labrinth, playing a priest, enters the scene and sings to Rue. The lyrics “Let it take me / I’ll be on my way / How long can I stay in a place that cannot contain me?” document Rue’s inner thoughts and struggle with substance abuse. At its core, the song is a gospel ballad, and its conclusive nature leaves us with uncertainty.

The use of music in Euphoria is clearly well thought out and significant. Each song, old or new, is curated in a way to support a character, theme or plot. Moreover, it exposes us to genres of music that we may not have cared to listen to. As for the final four episodes, I’m interested to hear what the musical directors have in store for us.

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