The Edit

YELLOWJACKETS SOUNDTRACK & REVIEW

yellowjackets

 

Photo Credit: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/

A gender-flipped Lord of the Flies-meets-Lost with elements of the supernatural, psychological horror, thrillers, coming-of-age drama and even some pitch-black comedy, plus a stunning cast and a soundtrack full of absolute bangers?

If you haven’t binged Showtime/Now’s word-of-mouth hit Yellowjackets yet, then you are in for a real treat.

And if you have, why not indulge yourself with a re-watch, to pick up on all the clues you missed the first time round.

Yellowjackets has one of the best cold opens seen in TV – literally.

A girl, barefoot and wearing what looks like a white nightdress, is running frantically through a snowy forest.

There are Blair Witch-style symbols carved into the trees and eerie noises off-screen. The gasp you’ll let out as she suddenly plunges into a hidden pit and is impaled on wooden spikes – not to mention the ‘ceremony’ that you see taking place later – gives you an idea of the spooky, mysterious atmosphere Yellowjackets has in store.

But how did the girl get there, and who’s hunting her? The show focuses on a New Jersey girls’ high school football team (the titular Yellowjackets), whose private plane crashes in a forest in the middle of nowhere when they’re headed to the Nationals in 1996.

The storyline flips between their struggle to survive for 19 months in the wilderness, and the present day (2021), which follows some of the survivors, who are now middle-aged and still battling their demons, having tried to piece their lives back together.  

On the face of it, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) is a suburban mum, with an ordinary life. But when a reporter turns up, eager to ‘tell her side of the story’, Shauna reveals a core of steely determination to shut down any investigation.

Add in a blackmail plot, and off-the-rails Nat (Juliette Lewis), Taissa (Tawny Cypress) who’s running for State Senator, and gleefully unhinged, but ultimately tragic, care-worker Misty (Christina Ricci) are reunited with Shauna – for better or worse.

We love how writers Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson (Narcos) and producer Jonathan Lisco (Halt and Catch Fire) have matched the present-day women with the new faces playing their teen selves.

Samantha Hanratty deserves a special shout out for perfectly capturing Misty’s blend of can-do practicality and sociopathy (Christina Ricci describes her as ‘a villainous golden retriever.’) And that’s before we even get to the show’s brilliant soundtrack, which we guarantee you’ll have on heavy rotation.

So who are the music supervisors behind Yellowjackets’ expert blend of 90s tracks, arcane 80s numbers (Kim Wilde’s ‘Cambodia’, anyone?) and current classics?

Jen Malone and Whitney Pilzer, who have also had a hand in creating the soundscapes for Euphoria, Zola and Atlanta.

Malone told HarpersBazaar.com that she actually grew up in New Jersey in the 90s, enabling her to walk down memory lane, picking through the music she grew up on (‘We’re literally working off of one of my personal playlists. Our library was our favourite songs from our youth.’)

Plus, the teen characters are also listening to older and alternative music. Thus, the tracks include everything from The Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Today’ to ‘Informer’ by Snow, ‘Hold On’ by Wilson Phillips to Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’.

An early scene shows the team bonding as they sing along to Salt-n-Pepa’s ‘Shoop’ in the locker room, but there’s also some Andrew Lloyd Webber (Phantom of the Opera and Cats) and a brilliantly used ‘Firestarter’ by The Prodigy which accompanies a chase sequence in the 2021 storyline.

There can’t be many shows which would throw everything from Enya and Editors, Ultravox, Bill Withers and Peaches, to Dinosaur Jr and Divinyls into the mix and make it sound totally right, but Yellowjackets pulls it off.

And you’re guaranteed to be transported back in time when the girls sing ‘Kiss from a Rose’ together at their makeshift wilderness prom in episode nine, ‘Doomcoming’.

Yellowjackets makes another bold choice – for the first two episodes, there’s no title sequence.

But when it appears at the start of episode three, you’ll be Googling, ‘What is the Yellowjackets theme song?’ within seconds.

A mash-up of Hammond organ and thrashing guitars, with a female vocal howled over the top, it sounds like Hole being played at a party at 3am when everyone is absolutely wasted.

Paired with glitchy, old skool VHS home video-style visuals, it’s up there with Succession as the perfect blend of title sequence and soundtrack.

It may sound like an authentic 90s track, but ‘No Return’ is actually an original composition, written for the show by Anna Waronker (That Dog) and Craig Wedren (Shudder to Think).

Both have worked as film and TV composers on everything from Josie and the Pussycats to School of Rock and GLOW, before first teaming up on Hulu’s Shrill in 2019.

The pair said they, ‘aimed to channel our off-kilter 90s roots into something that felt like “then”, but could only have been made now, just like the show,’ with Anna rediscovering her angsty, teenage self to deliver the rebellious vocals.

And the best news if you’re desperate for more? Yellowjackets season two is go, with music supervisors Jen and Whitney saying, ‘there are at least another 40, 50 songs that we could put into this show,’ including artists such as Tori Amos, Björk and Garbage (and more showtunes for Misty).

Plus, of course, we may finally find out who ‘Pit Girl’ is, and are there survivors that we haven’t seen yet in the present-day plot? Plus there’s still the key question: what really happened out there…?

The showrunners say they’ve sketched out a five-series arc, so there’s clearly plenty to explore, both in terms of the dark forces in those snowy woods, and in the characterisations of survivors.

For a deep-dive into the show and how the actresses worked together to create their dual time-frame characters, check out this panel from Vulture Festival:

Get inspired by other great TV soundtracks, including Peaky Blinders, Atlanta and Sex Education, and if you’re looking for 90s sounds to license for your TV project, then we have just the thing.

Plus, as Yellowjackets covers so many different genres, if you don’t have the luxury of a budget for a killer original theme tune, then check out our selection covering everything from drama to comedy and historical.

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