It's funny how crucial music is to the success of any TV show, given that none of us actually walk around accompanied by mournful strings or a jaunty soundtrack or a hot new pop song. (Or maybe you do, no judgment.) But the songs in the Shots Fired premiere prove how important the right music is when it comes to setting the tone for your series.
Some TV shows create their aural landscapes with beautiful original compositions, like Game Of Thrones; others conjure mood through recognizable pop music, like Big Little Lies; still others use no music at all, like Tell Me You Love Me. Some wear their musical influences on their sleeves — like Legion, which went so far as to name a character after Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett — and some more subtle.
Shots Fired, the new FOX drama about the shooting of an unarmed white teenager by a black police officer in rural North Carolina, features a mélange of these styles. Within its first episode alone, audiences can hear songs by popular modern artists, diegetic music taking place within the show itself (like when a church choir sings a moving spiritual), and even a catchy original composition.
Here are all the songs that are featured in the Shots Fired series premiere:
1. "Rollin' Down The Highway" by Darrin Stout
In the very first moments of the episode, this song by a rockabilly band from Burbank, California, can be heard playing while a truck driver trundles down a small road. As the driver passes a squad car and the vehicle it pulled over, the tone of classic country set by the song is interrupted by four gunshots — just as the lives of every character on the show are interrupted and pushed off-course by the fatal shooting.
2. "Where Do We Go From Here?" by BJ The Chicago Kid & Shiré
Viewers are bound to be curious about the song that plays over the show's provocative title sequence, in which stripes of police tape form the image of the American flag. If it sounds unfamiliar, that's because it's an original tune written by the show's composers and performed by T&B artists BJ The Chicago Kid and Shiré. "Where do we go from here?" the song asks. It's a question that applies equally both to the plot of the show and the state of our nation.
3. "Choices (Yup)" by E-40
This prolific California rapper has produced 25 albums in the past 24 years; "Choices (Yup)" is one of his latest singles, hailing from his 2014 album Sharp On All 4 Corners: Corner 1. The song — which alternates between questions whose answers are "nope" and ones whose answers are "yep" — plays as our protagonists, prosecutor Preston Terry (Stephan James) and investigator Ahse Akino (Sanaa Lathan), are driving through the North Carolina town where the shooting occurred, and noticing the divide between the affluent white part of town and the less affluent black communities.
4. "I Found" by Amber Run
For a change of pace, the show chooses this recent song by English indie pop band Amber Run for a sequence in which Ashe has a painful conversation with her ex-husband about custody of their child. The opening track of their 2015 debut album 5am, the song is a mournful examination of relationships: "I found love where it wasn't supposed to be. Right in front of me, talk some sense to me."
5. "Saved" by Ty Dolla $ign (feat. E-40)
"Saved," a single from Ty$'s first full studio album — 2015's Free TC — plays during a romantic encounter between two characters in a limo.
6. "One Man Can Change The World" by Big Sean (ft. Kanye West & John Legend)
The entire ethos of the show is pretty much summed up by this song that plays over the closing montage of the premiere, as Ashe begins to set up her evidence board and the dead teen's body is prepared for the funeral. "I hope you learn to make it on your own. And if you love yourself just know you'll never be alone," it beseeches. "And when you get it all, just remember one thing. Remember one thing: That one man could change the world."
It's a nice thought that one person could be capable of making the world a better place; but it's clear from the premiere of Shots Fired that it will take more than that to get to the bottom of this police brutality case.