Regina Spektor’s “You’ve Got Time” serves as the opening credits song for the Netflix hit “Orange is the New Black,” and the combo of a frantic guitar riff and lyrics suggesting animals trapped in a cage is a perfect fit for the show. But as it turns out, the show’s closing credit songs also expertly mesh with plot points or themes from each episode. Except for episode 11, “Little Mustachioed Shit,” which uses an original instrumental from show composers Brandon Jay and Gwendolyn Sanford, each episode’s closing credits features a popular or classic song that perfectly encapsulates what we’ve just watched.
Here’s the music that “Orange is the New Black” producers chose to close each episode of Season 2, and our thoughts on why they fit so perfectly.
[Spoilers for all of Season 2 below.]
Episode 1, “Thirsty Bird”
Song: “Love Bug Blues” by Charles Bradley
The season two premiere’s combo of insects and love bites is perfectly capped by the American soul singer’s 2013 “Love Bug Blues.” Piper (Taylor Schilling) thinks she’s been shipped to a maximum security facility in Chicago because she’s killed Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning), but really she and Alex (Laura Prepon) are there to testify against Kubra, leader of Alex’s trafficking ring. After Piper accidentally squishes her cellmates’ cigarette smuggling cockroach, she’s ordered to find a replacement. But her real trouble is that while Alex insists that they lie about knowing Kubra, Piper refuses to perjure herself and swears to tell the truth. But in a final twist, Alex is the one who confesses in exchange for a plea deal, while Piper lies on the stand in order to placate her lover and is sent back to Lichfield. Piper’s been bitten bad and she’s let herself be manipulated by Alex once again. “I’ve been bitten by a love bug,”Bradley sings. “What are you gonna do? When love get a hold, a hold on you? There ain’t nothing you can do. But burn.”
Episode 2, “Looks Blue, Tastes Red”
Song: Cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” by Italian artist Discover
Season two explored much of Taystee’s (Danielle Brooks) backstory and relationship with mother figure Vee Parker (Lorraine Toussant). As a child, Taystee meets Vee at an adoption fair where she sings Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” in an effort to convince potential parents to take her home. In the present day at the prison, Taystee sets herself the goal of winning the job fair, and naturally knocks it out of the park. But just as Taystee is doing her best to climb her way out of that place and make a life for herself outside of Lichfield, her past came back to haunt her, as did this haunting rendition of Aguilera’s ballad. The song is about individual empowerment, and though Taystee’s confidence and abilities blossom throughout the episode, her reunion with Vee is just enough to lure her back into self-doubt and reliance on others.
Episode 3, “Hugs Can Be Deceiving”
Song: “Crazy Eyes for You” by Bobby Hamilton
Though Bobby Hamilton’s 1958 song literally addresses having crazy eyes, its use at the end of an episode focusing on Uzo Aduba’s character, Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, actually offers a bit of insight into her mental illness. Episode 3 dove into Suzanne’s childhood: Her white, adoptive parents certainly loved her and defended her when chided by other parents, but they also had a tendency to push her into situations which made her uncomfortable. The repetitive nature of Hamilton’s song and the overly worshipping lyrics (“I’ve got crazy eyes for you. Because I love you oh so true.”) not only reflects Suzanne’s tendency to attach herself to people (like Piper in Season 1), it also shows that when a person like Vee gives her any iota of attention, she immediately latches onto them. And her devotion can turn into an obsession.
Episode 4, “A Whole Other Hole”
Song: “Almost Paradise” by Mike Reno & Ann WIlson (from the “Footloose” soundtrack)
We knew that Lorna Morello (Yael Stone) was a hopeless romantic by the way she spoke so lovingly about her fiance and wedding plans. But Episode 4 exposed not just Morello’s infatuation with all things sentimental, including glamorous magazine cutouts, the word “Love” plastered all over her walls and her obsession with romance sagas like “Twilight” and “West Side Story,” but also the fact that her engagement to Christopher was total bullshit and she’s actually his stalker. The episode ends with a melodramatic ballad from the movie “Footloose,” proving that despite facing the truth about the man she loves, Morello’s convinced herself that she lives inside a great love story.
Episode 5, “Low Self Esteem City”
Song: Quantic cover of Sideboob’s “Workers in the Mine”
Episode 5 introduced us to Gloria’s (Selenis Leyva) Santeria practice as well as Caputo’s (Nick Sandow) side band, titled Sideboob. Gloria’s backstory revealed that she was a victim of domestic violence and locked up for fraud over a food stamp scam run out of her bodega. The episode closes with a Latin cover of the Sideboob song “Workers in the Mine,” which, though literally telling the story of a plight of male miners with few choices, touches on some of the same themes facing women of Gloria’s socio-economic status. “There’s workers in the mine. You don’t know them well, but they’re red-blooded American boys trapped in a cold black hell. There’s workers in the mine, they could be your son.” Gloria could be anyone’s daughter in Spanish Harlem; one whose unfortunate circumstance lead her to make rash choices that land her in hell. (Sadly, the awesome Latin cover of this song is not online, but you can check out more Sideboob here.)
Episode 6, “You Also Have a Pizza”
Song: “Valentine” by Jessie Ware and Sampha
Aside from the obvious connection between the song title and the holiday presented in this episode, Jessie Ware and Sampha’s “Valentine” reflects the uncertainty all of the characters face when locked away from those they love. Thanks to Piper’s infatuation with Alex, Morello’s stalking of Christopher and Poussey’s lost German girlfriend and unreturned affection for Taystee, the inmates of Litchfield have plenty of love problems, most of them stemming from doubts and mistrust of their significant others outside the system. “So will you never be my lover or my Valentine, never be a friend of mine, never see my better side. Maybe you’d be terrified of all the secrets you were wishing you won’t ever find is deep inside me,” Ware sings. Piper said that love is like going home after a long trip, and none of these girls get to go home for quite some time.
Episode 7, “Comic Sans”
Song: “Into the Unknown” by Blackchords
While episode seven’s backstory focuses on Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) and the daughter she’s left behind to be raised by her own mother, the real purpose of the episode was to expose the phenomenon known as compassionate release. In a way, it’s better that Black Cindy’s flashbacks to her TSA agent antics were so comical, because the discarding of the elderly, Alzheimer’s inflicted Jimmy (Pat Squire) was heartbreakingly sad. For many inmates, compassionate release is indeed a compassionate act, wherein prisoners with medical or humanitarian reasons are allowed to go free. In Jimmy’s case, her Alzheimer’s was something that the DOC just didn’t want to deal with. The Blackchords’ haunting song “Into the Unknown”plays over Jimmy’s final moments among her fellow inmates. “When your final days they come, like a child you will walk into the unknown,” the song goes. For Jimmy, her future was unknown and her release anything but compassionate.
Episode 8, “Appropriately Sized Pots”
Song: “Bitchin’ Camaro” by The Dead Milkmen
Prison must be hell for Miss Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat). An obvious adrenaline junky, she long ago traded in her years of robbing banks and seducing men for a stint in prison, where she’s had to stay put for years. Though young Rosa (Stephanie Andjur) drove what looks like a ’77 Chrysler, her need for speed is evident when she finally breaks free in the season finale (we’ll get to that episode in a bit). But the real speed demon comes at the end of the episode, when Pablo Schreiber’s Pornstache plows through the driveway in a Chevy Camaro, kicking up dust along the way. The Dead Milkmen’s “Bitchin’ Camaro” plays over this episode’s credits; the satirical punk band shouting, “I ran over some old lady one night at the county fair. And I didn’t get arrested because my dad’s the mayor.” The childish lyrics and speedy punk riff reflect Pornstache’s sense of entitlement and his deranged power trip.
Episode 9 “40 OZ of Furlough”
Song: “Bad Bad Daddy” by Atmosphere
Bennett (Matt McGory) has had a rough Season 2. The woman he loves is pregnant and in jail, her friends have blackmailed him into smuggling contraband, and the boss is cracking down on the guards’ lax security. He finally breaks after finding a cigarette butt on the floor and goes nuts on the inmates’ bunks trying to weed out the culprit. But does his outburst mean that he’s putting a foot down and refusing to take any more shit from the other inmates, or has he adopted some of the criminal personality traits of the prisoners with whom he spends his days? Daya’s (Dascha Polanco) hint that she feels sorry for Pornstache leads to Bennett telling Caputo that Daya is pregnant with Pornstache’s baby. “You can find me over at the bar. You ain’t even gotta ask I don’t know where they are. I’m a bad bad daddy,” Atmopshere raps. And, Bennet? You might turn out to be one too.
Episode 11, “Take a Break from Your Values”
Song: “Where Have all the Flowers Gone” by Joan Baez
Brook Soso (Kimiko Glenn) might engage in a little bit of unruly activism, but even with all of her sleeping in trees and Kumbaya crap, she’s no match for the true combatant bad-assery of Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler). Joining up with Soso’s hunger strike brings Sister Ingalls back to her roots as a conscientiously objecting, power plant trespassing, 1960s devotee of all things hippie. As it turns out, Sister Ingalls has been sort of a bad nun, getting her fellow sisters in trouble and even being excommunicated from the church. But her faithfulness to advocacy and doing the right thing goes far beyond what Soso has in mind, and her devotion to the hunger strike lands her in the medical ward, being force fed through a tube. As she fights the authorities who want to feed her, Joan Baez’s 60s peace anthem liltingly plays over her shouts; a sharp juxtaposition to the freedom fighters of that era.
Episode 12, “It Was the Change”
Song: “Cellophane” by Sara Jackson-Hollman
Another episode with a closer song title that has a literal connection to the episode, though Sara Jackson-Holman’s “Cellophane” also suggests keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. Earlier flashbacks showed us some of Vee and Red’s (Kate Mulgrew)tumultuous history, but in the penultimate episode Red tried to settle the issue by strangling Vee with a rope of plastic cellophane. Vee taps out, Red let’s her go, and we think the issue is settled, but we know by now that Vee isn’t one to let anyone beat her, as proved in a flashback to her orchestrating the assassination of a protege-turned-competitor. At the end of the ep, Red goes down from a clock to the head and the song comes up. “Wrap my heart in cellophane. Keep it dry when it rains. And maybe that way I’ll keep it safe from you.” Sounds like a plan that was bound to fail; cellophane isn’t as strong as a padlock.
Episode 13, “We Have Manners, We’re Polite”
Song: “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult
Talk about perfection. Finishing season two by watching Miss Rosa drive off to freedom as Blue Oyster Cult’s 1976 hit blasted over the stereo was the best mash-up of the entire season. After learning that the chemotherapy hasn’t worked and she has three to six weeks left to live, Morello helps Miss Rosa take advantage of a prison-wide panic. Why Mis Rosa wasn’t eligible for compassionate release, we’ll never know; she didn’t really stick around long enough to find out. As she drove off, she rammed into a certain Season 2 villain named Vee, essentially bidding farewell to the character. As the visual of Miss Rosa morphed into her younger, 1970s-self, Buck Dharma sings, “Baby take my hand, don’t fear the reaper. We’ll be able to fly, don’t fear the reaper.” Something tells me that Miss Rosa has nothing to fear.