Everything Sucks! A Master Class in Music Cues

If there’s one thing Netflix knows, it’s nostalgia. The “Most Popular” section is populated by a steady stream of classic sitcoms like The Office, Arrested Development, and FriendsTheir original content has also leaned heavily on viewers’ fondness of yesteryear. Their biggest hit, Stranger Things, hit all the same buttons as 80s mega-hits like E.T. and The Goonies. Their newest coming-of-age dramedy guns hard for 1990s sentimentality–and nails it perfectly.

In the first two minutes of the show, I was transported back to growing up in 90s Suburbia. I walked the same hallways, having the same arguments about the Star Wars prequels, wearing the same style clothes, navigating the same murky waters of adolescent romance. Though twenty years removed from its setting, it somehow captures the ’90s teen experience more accurately than ’90s teen movies like 10 Things I Hate About You or Clueless

It owes most of that success to Tiffany Anders, the Music Supervisor tasked with creating the ultimate ’90s soundtrack. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “The Impression That I Get” kicks down the door before the show even makes it to the title card, and the hits just keep coming.

It’s more than just a great mixtape though: the soundtrack often accompanies important plot points.

Tori Amos plays a huge role in the main character’s personal exploration. The “Wonderwall” video is faithfully recreated by a freshman in an attempt to woo a sophomore–singlehandedly redeeming the song from memesters parodists. “Beautiful Life” by Ace of Base gets stuck on repeat in a bus tape deck. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” scores a tragically un-hip dance by the principal (and main character’s dad) after a date with another student’s mom–a relationship that saw him TPing his first house and smoking his first joint. On school property, no less–let’s hope he knows how to get the smell out before Monday.

But the greatest musical moment in the show–maybe even ever–is in Episode 4 (Mild spoilers ahead).

The two main characters, film-nerd freshman Luke and the principal’s closeted daughter Kate, see their awkward teenage relationship pushed to the next level during a game of spin the bottle. They’re tossed into a closet for Seven Minutes in Heaven. As they fumble their way toward their first kiss, “Pink Triangle” by Weezer starts playing quietly.

They finally make contact. Luke tries to put the awe of his first kiss into words. Kate cuts him off: “I think I’m a lesbian.” The door swings open on a stunned Luke. Cut to credits as Rivers yells, “I’m dumb, she’s a lesbian.”

In my thirty-one years, it’s perhaps the most perfect musical moment I’ve ever witnessed in film or television. It hit every button, matching both the era and the subject matter impeccably. It couldn’t have been better if they had a song specifically commissioned for the scene. For that scene alone, Tiffany Anders deserves whatever the highest award a Music Supervisor can receive. But her work throughout the entire series is absolutely consistent. While the show may be perfectly written, delightfully acted, and impeccably shot, the soundtrack gives the series its bright, beating heart.

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