Warning: This column contains spoilers for Stranger Things 4
It’s hard to believe that season one of Stranger Things came out almost six years ago, on July 15, 2016. The disappearance of Will Byers’ (Noah Schnapp) and the appearance of a young girl with telekinetic powers hooked audiences everywhere and made the show a global phenomenon. However, the Duffer Brothers’ soundtrack selections have consistently been an additional point of obsession for fans.
“Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash, a favorite song of Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton), becomes a crucial part of the show, as the latter of the Byers brothers hums it to himself as a means of surviving in the Upside Down. In season two, Jonathan plays the song as he, Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) and Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) attempt to snap the Mind Flayer-possessed Will back to reality. We find out in season four that music can reach parts of the brain that words can’t, which provides confirmation that Will’s repetition of the song while he was hiding from the demogorgon, is a huge reason that he was able to stay alive.
This is one of the most important examples of how crucial music has been to the series via the Duffer Brothers’ creative process. Additional iconic songs of the ‘80s era such as “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, “Runaway” by Bon Jovi, “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker, “Material Girl” by Madonna and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! have found their places in the series.
As the release of season four approached, many started to wonder what the soundtrack to 1986 Hawkins, Indiana, and Lenora Hills, California, might be. With tracks like “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth, “California Dreamin’” by The Beach Boys, “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads, the Bryce Miller/Alloy Track Remix of “Separate Ways” by Journey and “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” by Kate Bush, they were not disappointed.
The Duffer Brothers are great at planning out the storylines for the show while leaving just enough wiggle room for the right things to change. The same philosophy applies to the soundtrack.
The background music, composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein since season one, goes a step beyond the typical experience of watching a show or movie. There is, of course, the iconic theme song that plays at the beginning of each episode, but the background of the two composers is essential to packing an extra punch of emotion into scenes.
Dixon and Stein are members of the electronic band Survive. I believe you can hear that through the eerily sinister yet very ‘80s vibe that comes through in every scene. The electronic synth tones heard in the theme song seep into the rest of the music and act as a reminder of the era as the plot evolves and audiences are sucked into the characters’ misadventures.
There are poignant moments of well-known songs, of course. Even then, it took until my latest rewatch of the series to notice “Bargain Store” by Dolly Parton playing in the background of season one, episode six as Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan purchase weapons to trap the demogorgon in the woods.
If “Running Up That Hill” gaining a “whole new lease of life” after skyrocketing to no. 2 on Spotify’s top 50 U.S. songs chart is any indication, it is very clear that the music of Stranger Things is very powerful. Each song has a purpose, and fans pick up on it and appreciate it. Younger audiences with parents who grew up listening to the music of the ‘80s can connect with an era they lived through over 40 years ago and the younger audiences find more great music to connect with. While the Duffer Brothers may have forgotten Will’s birthday, nothing about the series’ soundtrack is accidental.
Tate Raub is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Tate know by tweeting her @tatertot1310.