The Sumptuous Sounds of ‘Westworld’

Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi creates some of the best epic scores in pop culture today. A protégé of Hans Zimmer, Djawadi provided the scores for Blade: Trinity, the theme music for Prison Break and Person of Interest, and the score for HBO’s other massively popular series, Game of Thrones. Djawadi’s uniquely textured, lush instrumentals seemed perfect for Westworld. The soundtrack to the hit series is phenomenal, with new twists on contemporary classics and plenty of original scores. It’s a little old, a little new, just like the show. The entire soundtrack is available to stream, so have a listen and take a look at our (mostly spoiler-free) breakdown of the best tracks.

“Main Title Theme”

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Though perhaps not as ridiculously catchy as Game of Thrones title theme, the Westworld title theme is equally well done. It contains a mixture of traditional instruments and digitally-created sounds, which is perfect given the show’s sci-fi futurism mixed with the Old West. The title track is thematic and moody while still being enjoyable to listen to. (Which is good, since HBO plays the full opening credit sequences before each episode and viewers will be hearing the theme over and over again.) The piano is particularly fun on this track, as is the way the song builds from minimalism to a more lush composition and then back again.

“Paint it Black”

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While Soundgarden‘s “Black Hole Sun” was the first contemporary-classic twist to air on the show via the player piano in the Mariposa saloon, Djawadi’s arrangement of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” was the first to really blow viewers away. The orchestral version of the rock’n’roll classic plays during the climactic shootout in the premiere. The piece swells and fades as the moments in the episode require it to, building up to a booming interpretation of the song’s chorus as Hector and his gang shoot up nearly all of the hosts in the park. It’s a score for a bloodbath, but with a sly wink and a nod. It’s a ballsy move to use a song so well-known, especially in the first episode, but it pays off.

“Pariah”

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“Pariah” is one of the original tracks for the Westworld score. It’s a fun piece with lots of Old West flair. There’s some definite Ennio Morricone inspiration here, with steel guitars in the intro and acoustic guitar throughout. The track is ominous and features occasional high-tech sounds interspersed with the more traditionally Western sound. A buzzing sound common to horror scores appears here and there, creating a sense of high tension. Considering the song’s namesake, it’s no surprise. William and Dolores‘ misadventures in Pariah are terrifying for them both, and the bloody town nearly consumes them.

“Back to Black”

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Djawadi’s staccato rendition of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” appears in episode 8, “Trace Decay“. The song plays around Maeve‘s awakening and testing out her new upgrades. The song’s lyrics offer a variety of insights as well. In the Westworld canon, to be “black hat” or to “go black” is to behave without remorse. It’s been shown dramatically with characters’ actual hats, but since Maeve is hatless, this is a good indication that she’s begun to make the change toward darkness. The line “I died a hundred times” is also particularly poignant, given the fact that Maeve and the other hosts have died hundreds of times. The fuzzy relationship between Hector and Maeve also comes into play in the song’s lyrics, so it’s a great choice and well executed.

“House of the Rising Sun”

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Also debuting in “Trace Decay”, Djawadi’s cover of “House of the Rising Sun” is a good fit for Westworld. Popularized by The Animals, “House of the Rising Sun” is an old folk song that warns against the dangers of drinking and gambling. The house in the song is in itself a good metaphor for the park. The lyrics are spot-on for many of the guests engrossed by Westworld’s games:

“Oh mother, tell your children not to do what I have done
Spend your lives in sin and misery in the House of the Rising Sun
Well, I’ve got one foot on the platform, the other foot on the train
I’m going back to New Orleans, to wear that ball and chain.”

It sounds a lot like the guests who are addicted to the mysteries (and sex and gambling and violence) of the park. This is definitely a song about the guests, perhaps most particularly William.

“Fake Plastic Trees”

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There is a lot of Radiohead on the Westworld soundtrack, and for good reason. The band writes songs that are ruminations on technology, based in science-fiction. They have an album called Paranoid Android, for Asimov’s sake. Showrunner Jonathan Nolan is also a huge Radiohead fan, so they’re featured quite often. One of the best Djawadi interpretations of Radiohead is the cover of “Fake Plastic Trees”, which debuts on the player piano in episode 6. Djawadi keeps this cover simple, using only the piano to convey all of the instruments (and vocals) in the song. The original song’s lyrics are spot-on for Dolores and William’s relationship.

“She looks like the real thing,
She tastes like the real thing
My fake plastic love.”

There’s also a line about “if I could be who you wanted”, which could easily apply to William and Dolores as well. Dolores wants a good guy, she’s programmed to fall in love with Teddy, and William has to try to live up to that. The entire song is about falseness and cheap imitations of reality, so it fits in perfectly on Westworld.

“Violent Delights”

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“Violent Delights” is another original piece on the Westworld soundtrack, and it’s a stark departure from the rest of the score. Most of the songs in the score are understated with a lot of mixing of traditional and electronic sounds. “Violent Delights”, on the other hand, is almost entirely electronic and sounds like the sort of thing that would play while Jason Bourne sneaks into CIA headquarters. The song’s uptempo beat and heady bass propel the song (and the actions onscreen) forward. Like the rest of the soundtrack, this is a song that makes for great background music but also stands on its own. The techno element is great and really helps cement the science-fiction aspects of the show into the score.

“Exit Music (For a Film)”

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Of all the Radiohead covers, “Exit Music (For a Film)” is one of the series’ strongest musical moments. The song is drawn-out and melodic. It’s haunting and painful, featuring long segments of singer Thom Yorke moaning instead of singing lyrics. Djawadi’s cover does away with the lyrics altogether, of course. “Exit Music (For a Film)” is used for the season finale‘s climax, so there isn’t too much to discuss without going into heavy spoiler territory. The song marks a departure from the others chosen by Westworld employees, as Dolores picks the record to play herself.

“I think more than ever, it’s been turned around,” Djawadi said in an interview with Vulture. “They’re picking their songs, rather than the songs picked for them. They’re scoring their own actions. This is what they’re feeling at this moment, and what the future is holding for them. This song is the climax of that.”

Additional Mentions

There are so many incredible song choices in Westworld. In addition to the songs above, Djawadi has included covers of Claude Debussy’s “Reverie”, The Cure’s “A Forest”, Debussy’s famous “Clair de Lune”, and more. The cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Something I Can Never Have” is used brilliantly for a passionless orgy in Pariah. There are several more Radiohead songs (including “No Surprises” and “Motion Picture Soundtrack”). It’s all great, and we here at Fandom can’t wait to see what Djawadi does with season two.

What Could Be In Store for ‘Westworld’ Season Two?


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