At the beginning of 2022, I opened my iPhone to be treated with a surprise: 3 free months of Apple TV+. While that came as a welcome surprise, I didn’t really know what was good on the platform, with the only name I had heard of being “Ted Lasso.” I gave it a shot and was rewarded with a uniquely charming, funny, and engaging show that also had, and this is relevant for WKNC blog readers, a killer soundtrack.
Pop culture references are the language the show is built on, and there are often mentions of artists by the characters such as Elton John and Robbie Williams. It’s definitely populist, often using tracks that it expects the audience to be familiar with. A moment where lifelong fans of soccer team Richmond AFC finally getting to stand on the field has Queen’s “We Are The Champions” playing triumphantly over it, while the titular character enters England to “God Save The Queen” by Sex Pistols. It’s clearly a very expensive show and casually flexing songs from that caliber of artist adds to the production value.
And in my opinion at least it does it well; when a lot of shows use really obvious musical cues it feels like a symptom of poor writing and a cheap emotional play, but “Ted Lasso” strikes this interesting balance where it uses familiar songs as a way to bring everyone to the party in a way. It’s like how when you’re at a club, super popular songs you would never admit to listening to on your own time become danceable bangers just because you’ve heard them before. There’s a particular episode where “Never Gonna Give You Up” is used as a plot point, and how a connection to that song helps a character overcome grief, taking what is a very played out song by this point and adding emotional resonance to it.
One other way I thought songs were used in an obvious but creative way is through very on the nose lyrical choices. The line “strangers to friends, friends into lovers” is sung over a quasi-montage of two characters going through that exact arc, while Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” plays over, naturally, a character being alone again. This is a technique that always results in cringe, and yet although it’s maybe one of the weaker elements of the show, it genuinely works with “Ted Lasso” in a way I rarely see. Maybe it’s because those songs are often slow and subtle so it’s not very in your face, but I think it’s more of a tonal phenomenon: the show is wholesome in a way where obvious gestures add to the appeal. That’s why I wanted to talk about it today, it’s a wholly unique experience even at the sonic level and I’m really glad it’s been seeing the awards success and viewership that it has been getting. Season 3 is set to start filming soon and it’s probably my most anticipated show right now. And of course I can’t wait to hear it as well, with inspired song choices and musical motifs being such a cornerstone of the experience.