Hive Five: Our daily listicle of musical musings
With AMC’s New Mexican masterpiece Breaking Bad winding down this weekend, it seems with each passing episode like anti-hero Walter White, the former chemistry teacher/cancer survivor turned undisputed meth kingpin of the southwest, is inching closer to a seriously violent denouement. Earlier this summer, we caught up with music supervisor Thomas Golubić, where he told us the ins and outs of how music gets paired with certain scenes. As the season coming to a close this Sunday evening, we chose our five favorite musical moments from its five stellar seasons.
1. Stay Out of My Territory (TV on the Radio, “DLZ”)
Walter’s journey from chemistry teacher to bad-ass cartel head didn’t happen overnight, and this chilling sequence from season two proved to be a pivotal step in that transformation. After Walter had temporarily given up the meth game, he crosses paths with two opportunistic young men at a Home Depot-esque store as they gather materials for an RV cook operation. Suddenly, Heisenberg takes over, and Walter grimly orders the two would-be cooks to vacate his little corner of the ABQ. This scene wouldn’t have be nearly as memorable without TV on the Radio’s harrowing slow burn “DLZ” acting as the soundtrack, complete with lyrics that give Walter a catchy second nickname: “Never you mind, death professor … eyes could be diamonds confused with who’s next.”
2. “The Ballad of Heisenberg” (La Cuates DeSinaloa,“NegroyAzul: The Ballad of Heisenberg”)
After Walter and Jesse embarked on version 2.0 of their meth cooking operation, and their reputation quickly grew thanks to Jesse accidentally dropping an ATM machine on some lowly tweaker’s head, it only made sense that the legend of Heisenberg would become immortalized in a “narcocorrido,” or Mexican drug ballad, by the La Cuates De Sinaloa. Featured in a whirlwind cold open in late season two, “Nego y Azul” is equal parts catchy folk song and foreboding prophecy, poetically telling the tale of Heisenberg before concluding in the final moments “But, that homie’s dead … he just doesn’t know it yet.”
3. Walter and Gale, Partners (Vince Guaraldi, “GinzaSamba”)
While most people agree Gale’s version of “Major Tom” is his most memorable musical moment from Breaking Bad, we enjoyed the hell out of his inaugural cook with Walter in Gus Fring’s superlab. Cut to the jaunty piano of Vince Guaraldi’s “Ginza Samba,” the whole sequence seems like it’s taken from a Breaking Bad spin-off where Walter and Gale are obliviously happy as lab partners playing chess, doing chemistry things in unison, making weird coffee in Gale’s Rube Goldberg device, and churning out the best crystal meth in the world. We’ve seen a lot of cooking montages on Breaking Bad, but this one takes the cake. Also, props for associating Guaraldi with something other than Peanuts cartoons.
4. Walter White’s Drive in the Desert (America, “Horse With No Name”)
We all know Walter White was stunned by his son’s ignorance regarding the genius of Steely Dan and Bozz Scaggs, so it makes sense he can only find peace during the frantic beginning of the third season by listening to a ’70s soft-rock masterpiece, America’s “Horse With No Name,” while driving down an empty desert highway. It’s a quiet, gorgeous moment Walter has to himself (a reprieve from Skyler’s divorce request, Jesse’s rehab stint, and the aftermath of the Flight 723 explosion) before he indignantly blows up at a state trooper for citing his Aztec’s broken windshield. Soon, Walter’s maced, cuffed and thrown into the back of a cruiser before the song can even finish.
5. Wendy’s Theme (The Association, “Windy”)
Showrunner Vince Gilligan has no problem saving his best music cues for cold opens (“The Ballad of Heisenberg” and “A Horse With No Name” among them) but using the Association’s unrepentantly cheery “Windy” as a soundtrack to a beautifully shot, day-in-the-life sequence for everyone’s favorite hooker-cum-meth addict, Wendy, was truly arresting. When the bridges pops with the booming lyrics “And Windy has stooormy eyes!” just as she takes a hit from a meth pipe after a long day of blowjobs, the audience doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Wendy’s sisyphean, root beer soaked struggles to get her next fix never seemed so poignant.