The show Breaking Bad is one the best ever on television for so many reasons, whether it’s because of the magnificent cinematography, the incredible world building, or for featuring one of the most acclaimed TV antiheroes. But one thing that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves compared to those is the musical choices that soundtrack some of the most iconic scenes in TV history.
Between indie music, ’60s pop, and even dubstep, the show uses music to highlight what’s currently happening, foreshadow what will happen, and simply to suit a moment on perfectly.
All of the colorful characters crawling around Albuquerque is one of the ways Breaking Bad has the best criminal underworld in television, and that’s no more clear on the show than at the beginning of “Half-Measures.”
Wendy, a sex worker who lives out of a motel, is given a whole montage in which she dips in and out of cars to give her services to passersby, and the ingenious song choice of “Windy” by The Association makes the montage brilliant. The song’s title doubles as sounding like the name Wendy.
“Out Of Time Man”
Mick Harvey’s “Out of Time Man” is one of the very first songs fans ever heard on Breaking Bad, as it soundtracks the final scene in the first episode.
It’s one of the greatest tracks to feature on the series and it foreshadows what’s to come. It’s even more profound given that the song plays whilst Walt is drying all of his money in a tumble dryer, telling the audience that the clock is ticking and that Walt’s racing against the cancer.
In “Over,” the final scene sees Walt in a store as he spots somebody buying products with the clear intention of putting together a meth lab, and it’s home to one of the most iconic lines of dialogue, as Walt tells him, “stay out of my territory.”
Soundtracking the scene is “DLZ” by the incredible indie band TV On The Radio. Though the track is originally politically motivated, the lyrics are surprisingly apt for what’s going on in the show, as one phrase is chanted over and over in the song, “death professor.”
In what is possibly the most ridiculous two minutes of the entire series, Walter sells his family car for $50, then buys himself a Chrysler and Walt Jr. a Mustang. They both pull up to the driveway, and what follows are completely self-indulgent shots of beautiful cars.
Rain Johnson, who directed “Fifty-One,” was clearly having tons of fun, as the revving of the engines and the quick cuts of the shiny new vehicles totally match with the dubstep track created by Knife Party.
Breaking Bad is known for its deep use of foreshadowing, and it doesn’t end when it comes to the titles of the songs either. For those who knew about Apparat’s “Goodbye” before it appeared in “Face Off,” it may have revealed to them what was about to happen in the following scene.
“Goodbye” is a haunting track that plays as Gustavo Fring enters the old people’s home, where he was brutally murdered by a bomb in one of the most satisfying deaths in the show.
Being another track where the title is a comment on what the audience is seeing, “Black,” by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, plays at the end of the season four finale just as it’s revealed that it was actually Walter who really did poison Brock.
Out of every show there has ever been and any show there ever will be, only Breaking Bad could zoom in on a plant and leave the audience completely speechless, and “Black” is the most perfectly melancholy track to go with it.
“Pick Yourself Up”
It isn’t clear exactly who is the person behind the genius music picks, whether there’s somebody in a role specifically for that or if Vince Gilligan chooses some of them himself, but whoever chose the Nat King Cole track “Pick Yourself Up” was having some fun.
“Gliding Over All” is one of the most disturbing episodes due to the very scene that this song features in, as it’s a montage of 12 prison inmates getting horrifically killed all within a timespan of two minutes. The upbeat song creepily contrasts with the visuals, and the ironic song title is genius.
There isn’t necessarily any reading between the lines with “Freestyle,” and the song name isn’t any kind of allegory for what’s going on, but it is simply a fine piece of music that soundtracks on of the coolest sequences at the end of season four in the finale, “Face Off.”
After two seasons working in the state of the art meth lab hidden in the laundry house, Walt and Jesse wiped all of their fingerprints from the place and set the place alight, and Taalbi Brothers’ “Freestyle” had the wild chord changes that fit perfectly.
“Crystal Blue Persuasion”
There are a lot of reasons the final season was a letdown, but the musical cues are not one of them. Vince Gilligan and his crew must have been sitting on this one for so long. It must have been hard to resist temptation by using it early in the series, as using this track in the back end of season five was so satisfying.
With the crystal meth that Walt cooks in the show being blue, the song is a perfect fit, and it of course is the soundtrack to one of the meth cooking montages in show, and it’s easily the best.
“My Baby Blue”
Right after Jesse’s final line in the series, Walt wanders in to the Meth Lab built by the Neo-Nazis, and the scene is rather ambiguous and could be read by fans in many different ways, but it looks like the former Heisenberg is looking at the lab with nostalgic fondness. As he rubs one of the giant pieces of equipment like Gollum would rub his ring, the cancer hits him, and Walt collapses to the floor just as the DEA storm the area, and the song that plays as the final credits roll must have been planned for years.
Again referring to the blue crystal meth, using Badfinger’s “My Baby Blue” is obviously regarding the empire that Heisenberg built, and though it’s clearly a love song, it could just as easily be from the perspective of Heisenberg.