The first episode of HBO's Big Little Lies delivers exactly what you'd expect from the latest prestige drama: Big performances, sweeping shots of cliffs, and the suggestion that everything you think you know will be upended by the end of the series, when a surprise twist ending will change everything. And the Big Little Lies soundtrack is also already adding a lot to the series, from the credits sequence instrumentals to the songs that play during pivotal scenes during the rest of the episode. The music helps to build some of the mood of the series, which combines murder-mystery tropes with a hyper-competitive coastal California school district.
There are actually some sophisticated needle drops, most of them courtesy of Madeline's six year-old daughter, Chloe, who has the very advanced sense of music befitting a kid who wants to eventually own her own label. Like, this kid wryly mentions to a classmate named Ziggy that he must listen to David Bowie with a tone that suggests that listening to his namesake is total kid stuff. And with an official Big Little Lies soundtrack still MIA, here's a rundown of all the songs that appeared in the premiere episode, in case you're curious about the music behind your favorite scene.
"Cold Little Heart," Michael Kiwanuka
Looks like, at least for the pilot, the series' theme is the same as the music that scored the show's first few trailers.
"The Wind," PJ Harvey
While driving Chloe to her first day of school, Madeline lets her daughter choose the soundtrack for the ride. And while this song only plays for a minute, it shows immediately that Chloe has some precocious musical taste. And the song returns to play more fully over the show's closing credits.
"Super Rich Kids," Frank Ocean
While texting and driving their way to school, Abagail's friends are listening to a little Channel Orange.
"Victim Of Love," Charles Bradley
This song is used to introduce Celeste, who, of course, is a victim of domestic violence, even if her life seems perfectly happy at this point.
"Bloody Motherf**ing Ass**le," Martha Wrainwright
Jane listens to this song while running, and while memories of what happened to her on that beach run through her mind, suggesting that the person who left those shoeprints behind might just be the title of this song.
"King Kong," Babe Ruth
And another Chloe pick, this somewhat unknown record from 1972 is her choice for the McKenzie family dinner.
"Call On Me," Janis Joplin
Briefly, this plays as Madeline reconnects with her husband.
"September Song," Agnes Obel
This melancholy piano piece scores the final few moments of the episode, as the three protagonists all end their days and head off to sleep while, in the show's future timeline, the police evaluate all of the information about the mysterious homicide that's taken place at the school fundraiser.
With such a musical start to the series, you can tell the soundtrack and the plot will continue to interact with each other throughout the season, and I can't wait to hear more.