The “Succession” Soundtrack’s Secret Sauce
Beneath every betrayal and backstab, there is one thing in the Max phenomenon series Succession that you can trust. The original score, composed by Nicholas Brittell, has taken the world by storm as it compliments the disgust and beauty found within the dark comedy-drama’s memorable characters. Modeled on the Murdoch family, Succession follows the tumultuous web of relationships surrounding the Roy family, owners of the biggest media conglomerate in the world and in need of a replacement for titan Logan Roy’s throne. The signature, Emmy Award winning melody creeps in behind drama, catapults each episode into the theme song, and speaks louder than words in the Roy children’s moments of thought and panic. Succession may have met its end, but the sweeping piano and chilling strings will resonate with the message of the show far longer.
The recognizable melody made its most lasting mark with the show’s theme song, bringing rich emotional undertones to the fuzzy recollection of the Roy family history. Always cutting to the theme at a gasping moment, the opening notes of piano charge into the frame. It sets a tone that is sophisticated as it is sinister, drawing the audience in helplessly, like the Roy children’s subjection to their father. The show tracks the children’s battle for succeeding the company, as their dad, Logan Roy, played by Brian Cox, ages and considers stepping down. The milky film reel moments of the kids’ upbringing play, reminding the viewers that they are family, but the music hints at chaos, how such delicate power is always at threat of crumbling.
Succession is known for its verbose, vulgar exchanges, igniting drama between characters. Roman Roy, middle child and effortlessly acted by Kieran Culkin, consistently bites at others, insecure about being taken seriously. Especially when he’s talking to his closest siblings, Sioban (Shiv) Roy, mastered by Sarah Snook, and older brother Kendall Roy, played by Jeremy Strong, Roman deflects and attacks with a clever angle. The characters each have a distinct demeanor, emphasized in the off-balance marriage of Shiv and Tom Wamsgans, played by Matthew McFadyen. Brittell’s score finds the perfect place within every interaction between these intense personalities. It reads the room and meets it there, further riling them up while refusing to take away from the show’s consistently tasteful aesthetic. The notes are sharp and decisive, twisting and turning to aid each sibling’s spiral into greed or payback. Even the ridiculous banter between Greg (Nicholas Braun) and Tom is made into triumphant scenes via Brittell’s musical magic.
Finally, the soundtrack astounds in rare moments of quiet, when our characters have found themselves entirely alone with their thoughts, actions, and consequences. The show, as a commentary on a multitude of capitalist issues impacting our nation, hones in on these key moments of self-reflection to humanize the satirical character and let the audience ruminate on the will and senses of self held by the family and those who surround them. When Connor Roy, the eldest son of a different mother, portrayed by Alan Ruck, marries Willa Ferreyra, played by Justine Lupe, with no one there to support them, the music speaks louder than words. His layered melancholy of being disregarded, forgotten even, settles on the watcher as he grasps the one thing he’s been searching for the whole show: love. Bringing the instrumentals to life alongside that forces us to behold the reality of those moments, how the emotions of the circumstances can deeply resonate even though the actions are grandiose and unrealistic. Shiv is often marching away from someone, Kendall always observing some body of water in thought, Roman constantly looking for trouble to blow off some steam. Whatever fictional stomach-knot these characters face may find us viewers in our own lives, too. Silent on the outside, but booming with violent keys and solemn strings within.
Stream all four seasons of the multi-award winning series on Max and listen to the breathtaking soundtrack below.