As season two of the incredible HBO series Westworld wraps this Sunday, we’re taking a look back at the cover songs that have played an important role in setting the tone for this new and frightening world. Ramin Djawadi is the genius behind the scores for both seasons, relying heavily on unlikely covers of pop hits with lyrics that (subconsciously, given that the covers are instrumental) mirror the goings-on in the park.
Here are our five favorite Westworld covers:
5. “Heart Shaped Box” by Nirvana
Transformed into a haunting piano and orchestra cover, “Heart Shaped Box” feels cinematic and sorrowful. “It’s an epic song that deserves an epic treatment,” Djawadi told Rolling Stone. “Even without lyrics and just the melody and how recognizable the piece is, it’s actually quite incredible how it holds up in an orchestral setting like this. The core and the feeling of it, it’s all there.”
4. “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes
As Season 2, Episode 3 opens, we find ourselves in yet another world within the park…a sort of New India called Raj World. Along with the bright colors onscreen (in stark contrast to all of the darkness up to this point), we are transported aurally via sitar playing “Seven Nation Army.” This version makes the upbeat rock song far more mysterious and sinister, foreshadowing the jaw-dropping events to follow.
3. “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead
Radiohead is featured heavily in Westworld. “Exit Music (for a film)”, “No Surprises”, and “Motion Picture Soundtrack” can also be found in the show, making Radiohead the most prominent soundtrack for the twisted narrative. Perhaps it’s their poetic lyrics, melancholic tones, or brutally emotional melodies. Whatever the reason director Jonathan Nolan had for choosing so many of their songs, they work very well in a stripped down, player-piano style.
2. “Paint It, Black” by The Rolling Stones
The first incarnation of “Paint it Black” occurs in Season 1 on the player piano, “Paint It, Black” quickly becomes a luscious orchestral arrangement befitting the epic, slow-motion gun fight it accompanies. When we encounter the song again in Season 2, we are in a completely different world within the park called Shogun World. However, the events playing out on screen are exactly the same as in Westworld. Instead of the player piano, the song now features Japanese instruments.
1. “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden
Introduced in Season 1 when the park begins its unraveling due to a recent update, this is the first cover we experience on the player piano – which continues to play an important role throughout the show. The song is completely stripped from its grunge roots, however still very effective due to the powerful melody line.
As season two comes to a close, we can’t wait to experience more of Djawadi’s covers in season three. The music of Westworld provides its own running narrative throughout the show if one listens closely enough.
Get the Westworld: Season 1 soundtrack here. We’re sure Season 2’s will come soon after Sunday’s finale.