Appreciating the Best TV Show Soundtrack in Years

Season two of USA’s hacking-inspired hit Mr. Robot starts tonight.

USA Networks

Editor’s Note: For the past month and a half, Culture Editor Chris Wright and Culture Writer J. Travis Smith have been chatting about the good and bad of each week’s episode of Mr. Robot. This week they are out of the office, making the most of August while it’s still around. So instead of the usual discussion, enjoy a breakdown of Mr. Robot‘s biggest draw: the soundtrack.

Mr. Robot is a thing of TV beauty for many reasons — many of which have zero to do with the substance of the show itself. Yes, it’s entertaining as hell. And its focus on hacking in the post- Target-breaching, Snowden-leaking, Bitcoin-stealing, Facebook-newsfeed-gaming age couldn’t have come at a better moment in America. Throw in its laser-guided targeting of the alarming growth in wealth disparity as the world’s greatest villain, and you’ve got the source code for a cultural event that could define a decade of TV for an entire generation — a la M.A.S.H. in the ’70s, or Seinfeld in the ’90s.

But Mr. Robot is also easily one of the most cunningly executed shows ever, putting stunts like the Mad Men Yourself” internet avatar bullshit to shame. From the individual episode titles, whose labels perfectly mirror the format found on pirated video material, to expertly “leaking” the season two premiere a few days early on various online channels, the creators have drilled so deeply inside the heads of their target audience that they might was well throw up an Airbnb listing from our cerebral cortexes.

This immersive approach naturally extends to another critical, largely overlooked element: the show’s sound. The music from season one is one of the most on-point soundtracks to ever to grace the medium, blending everything from aggressive indie hip-hop from ScHoolboy Q, to classic Neil Diamond love ballads, ambient vibes from Tangerine Dream, an ’80s club hit and a piano-only rendition of the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind” into one frenetic playlist befitting an era where music of any style and generation is just a tap away. And that’s before even getting to songs from Nancy Sinatra, Sonic Youth, ODB, Alabama Shakes, Mos Def, Just Water and MSTRKRFT.

In short, it’s the perfect creative hack to break you out of your current musical rut. Throw it on your Spotify queue and enjoy the ensuing aural gymnastics until season two premieres tonight starting at 10:00 p.m. eastern / 9:00 p.m. central. We’ll certainly be watching, and listening.

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