The emotional mastery of the ‘Black Mirror’ soundtrack

Unravelling the emotional mastery of the ‘Black Mirror’ soundtrack

(Credits: Far Out / Netflix)


The highly-anticipated return of Black Mirror graced our screens last month with its sixth instalment. At its core, Charlie Brooker’s anthology series fearlessly delves into the perils and repercussions of modern-day technology. Renowned for its intricate storytelling and poignant portrayal of the trials we encounter in our increasingly digital-centric society, the show has captivated audiences with its thought-provoking complexities.

Season six proved to be a polarising chapter of Black Mirror, sparking debates about whether the series had strayed too far from its primary message. However, even when the digital age takes a backseat in terms of plot and character development, the latest episodes remain deeply rooted in situations and societies ravaged by the adverse consequences of just that. Take, for instance, ‘Mazey Day’, which, despite much criticism, ultimately unveils itself as quintessentially Black Mirror. While in an alternate reality she might have met an equally unfortunate fate, the overarching takeaway lies in the chilling implications of today’s morally compromised celebrity and paparazzi culture.

Just as deeply entrenched in tragedy and ‘bad tech’ is the music that sits at its cornerstones, underpinning moments in deeply beautiful and emotionally evocative ways. For instance, perhaps in the most awe-inspiring plot twist that remains etched in the annals of the show’s history, the episode ‘Shut Up and Dance’ succeeds in its desire to astound with Radiohead’s ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’ accompanying the story’s conclusive revelation. 

The song was originally written for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Its lyrics, then, focus on Romeo’s intent to run away with Juliet before her father finds out, but in sensing no way to do so, they opt for suicide instead of escape (“Today we escape, we escape”). 19-year-old Kenny is the central character in the Black Mirror piece, and we’re almost made to root for him as a victim of online blackmail. That is, until the end, when we’re faced with a reveal so disturbing that no other song to accompany the unravelling would seem so fitting. Kenny’s story, much like the fate of Romeo and Juliet at the end of the film, shows the fatality of no way out at the mercy of the music score.

The show’s soundtrack doesn’t always signpost tragedy or trauma, though. In fact, many of the tracks are used as a tool for victory or relief. One of the more uplifting episodes – ‘Hang the DJ’ – pulls in The Smiths right at the very end when our two loved main characters effectively escape the technological confines surrounding them and opt for making their own fate. “Hang the DJ, hang the DJ” from the iconic song ‘Panic’ is played as the couple gazes at each other across a crowded bar, familiarity and new beginnings coming together in one perfect moment of a destiny fulfilled. 

The absence of music would significantly diminish the impact of the climactic sections in every episode of Black Mirror. It is the music that unveils hidden depths, transporting you to distinct moments in time. In season six, the episode ‘Demon79’ masterfully employs Boney M, particularly lead singer Bobby Farrell, as a powerful device to amplify the episode’s anti-Conservative message.

With the inclusion of tracks like ‘Rasputin’ and ‘Ma Baker’, the music intertwines with Farrell’s portrayal of a demonic figure, creating a potent fusion that adds an extra layer of intensity and comedy. On top of that, ‘Rasputin’ specifically references a leader who was pertinent for his political manipulation; perfect, you might say, for a story about the insidiousness of political leaders in a right-wing, xenophobic society. 

Delving into each and every song used in Black Mirror would take a while, so let us, for now, enjoy some of its most notable songs accompanied by the soundtrack in full below.

Top picks from the Black Mirror soundtrack:

  • ‘Rasputin’ – Boney M
  • ‘Ma Baker’ – Boney M
  • ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ – Muse
  • ‘Panic’ – The Smiths
  • ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ – The Smiths
  • ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’ – Radiohead
  • ‘La Mer’ – Charles Trenet
  • ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’ – Belinda Carlisle
  • ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ – Frankie Valli
  • ‘Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)’ – Irma Thomas

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