Driving in Fast Cars with Boys: Euphoria's Sophomore Return, In Music
Heart-renderingly ceremonial and emo, jarring and discombobulating. Here’s a TV show dramatically thematic, with a soundtrack to match.
Orville Peck (Photo: Pony artwork)
When Euphoria’s notoriously sizzling, addictive nature is largely governed by gratuitous millennial sex, drugs and violence (consider the show television’s freed nipple, a censorless version of Instagram, including its all-star actor-influencer cast of Zendaya, Barbie Ferreira, Hunter Schafer et al), it may come as a surprise that season two’s enormously-anticipated opening episode also features a lot of soft rock’n’roll - not exactly the sound du jour in an era where hip-hop overrides all.
Usually more aligned with Labrinth’s soaring electronics (‘You Still Don’t Know My Name’ remains seared on the brain of any Euphoria fan)and a generous dose of trap, (check out our long read on trap, hip-hop's saddest subgenre, linked at the bottom), your average episode of Sam Levison’s hit show has prided itself on its hyper self conscious stylistic choices - from its refreshingly diverse cast to the head-spinning cinematography. So what kind of drama sought the gentler side of music this time round; does this mean our rebellious teens are growing up?
The opening sequence sees a strange throwback in motel country: stripclubs, murders, child labor and other delights. That's not to say the strip scenes are still slightly resemblent of Rihanna's ‘Pour It Up’ video.’ From a show that manages to straddle the line between sexy and harrowing from scene to scene, this season’s opener was a nice reminder that Euphoria isn’t all sensational shockers and youngsters annihilating themselves in a fictional town. There are some sweet and tender moments between the brutal ones, and music to fit. Albeit there are not many. This show is hardly a laugh or swoon a minute.
On the other hand, some of the most horrifically violent and disturbing scenes - ergo shootings, drug hustles, heroin abuse and subsequent overdoses - feature music that totally contrasts with what the scene is playing out visually. A deeply grim sequence in a drug baron’s home is complemented with soft 80s rock such as Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Right Down The Line’ and Steely Dan’s -’Dirty Work.’ Elsewhere in the episode the crooning three-decades old cheese continues with Cutting Crew – ‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms’ and even Poison’s ‘I Want Action.’
Dead of night
A standout scene comes a third into the episode when titular vulnerable princess Cassie finds herself trembling, trapped and terrified in a bathtub. There’s an element of Gaspar Noe or Michael Haneke to the tension. The lead up to this scene is also intensely cinematic; recalling the likes of Tony Scott’s True Romance or Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Betty Blue.
Orville Peck’s ‘Dead of Night’ is the dreamy, devastating choice for a red-blooded heartbeat of a scene - for me, the highlight of the episode - where Nate speeds dangerously down a dark tunnel towards the party, whilst Cassie seductively writhes in the passenger seat, eventually leaning her half-naked torso out of the window. Peck’s drawl and the road-movie drama of his Pony debut’s opener perfectly captures the sad speed of teenage doom in Euphoria’s universe. Explore our deep-dive on the masked ballerina-cowboy at the end of this article, after checking out his moves in his epicly gorgeous videos.
The NYE party that plays backdrop to a series of not-so-micro aggressions including a wildly illicit bathroom tryst followed by a bloody fight gives the chance for some light musical relief, more in the vein of what viewers usually expect from Euphoria: tons of rap (The Notorious B.I.G’s. ‘Hypnotize’, DMX ‘Party Up’), some more recent trap courtesy of Tarik Banzi and some quintessential Labrinth from the original 2019 show soundtrack, in all its menacing, ominous, organ-heavy glory. As Nate (plus the central character Rue and co) continue to be juvenile and unlessoned as ever, ‘Nate Growing Up’ by Labrinth plays out.
Enjoy this playlist of S2 E1’s full tracklist; may your mood be as turbulent and unpredictable as it will be watching the show.
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