There’s a reason why 13 Reasons Why has taken off so quickly as the new binge-worthy Netflix series. It tackles hard and hardly talked about topics of teenage suicide, depression, slut-shaming, and sexual assault. While there are some slight variations from the Jay Asher novel it is based on, one thing is for certain — the live-action adaptation is stellar. Its cinematographic decisions and music selection play some key roles in breathing life into the pages.
13 Reasons Why features a 13 song (punny) soundtrack which accompanies Clay Jensen while listening to Hannah Baker’s tapes, revisiting her important locations, and dealing with the repercussions of his peers on Hannah’s list. I’ve got to hand it to the team behind the show, because the music selection is not only rad, but it does a fantastic job of really creating an entire emotional experience that puts the audience in the shoes of Clay.
Here’s the lowdown for the best songs used for the show, both on the soundtrack and not included. And no, we aren’t including the two mediocre pop songs the producer included to promote themselves (I’m looking at you, Selena).
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division (Soundtrack)
This is one of the first songs around the time when Clay presses the play button on the first cassette and hears Hannah’s voice. First off, it’s a great throwback from the late ’70s that totally reminds me of the ’80s era of teen movies (think Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, etc.). It totally fits the angsty, yet vintage teenage feel and ultimately foreshadows the romantic tension between Clay and Hannah. Not to mention, Ian Curtis, the frontman of Joy Division, had a long history of depression and suicidal tendencies that led to his untimely death.
“Into the Black” by Chromatics (Soundtrack)
This Neil Young cover directly links to the legacy one leaves behind. Many of its lyrics can be interpreted as depressing or about death including, “And once you’re gone, you can never come back.” It’s also got some symbolism in looking at the color and moving “into the black.” “Better to burn out than to fade away,” was also a lyric from this song included on Kurt Cobain’s apparent suicide note which further links this song full circle to 13 Reasons Why and Hannah Baker’s struggle.
“The Night We Met” by Lord Huron (Soundtrack)
This could hands down be the most iconic song of the entire show. During the school dance, Clay and Hannah slow dance to this number. She mentions Tony’s good taste in music and it’s got us wondering if he was the one who designed this playlist. “I had all and then most of you, some and now none of you,” as well as “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, haunted by the ghost of you,” are some of the key lyrics in this song. If that’s not what’s going through Clay’s head, then I don’t know what is.
“Killing Moon” by Roman Remains (Soundtrack)
The lyrics of this song play out a symbolic sacrifice of the self to the moon. While it sounds weird, it’s actually pretty brilliant. It talks about being unwilling and wanting or begging to cancel giving yourself up, or rather giving up on yourself. It’s a pretty spot on analogy for anyone who has ever felt so hopeless or trapped in a corner that they have no other choice even if suicide is not what they really want.
“Mess is Mine” by Vance Joy
Not only is this a gorgeous song, but its beauty grows in the context of the story. Clay “sees” Hannah in the hallway when this song plays. Clay is so haunted by the fact that there is nothing he can do about Hannah now that she is gone. I think the idea of “Your mess is mine,” is how Clay wishes he could’ve helped reach out to her before it was too late.
(Featured Image courtesy Netflix)