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Why ‘Master of None’ Leads New Music Supervisor Emmy Race

It's all about dueling playlists for the Emmy-nominated "Better Call Saul," "Big Little Lies," Girls," "Master of None," and "Stranger Things."

Master of None Season 2 Aziz Ansari

“Master of None”

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The new Music Supervisor category this Emmy season finally honors the supervisor’s creative contribution to narrative storytelling and music aesthetic: Licensing songs that are appropriately iconic and emotionally resonant, while touting some of the hottest new talent.

Here are the nominees: Thomas Golubic (“Better Call Saul” — “Sunk Costs”), Susan Jacobs (“Big Little Lies” — “You Get What You Need”), Manish Raval, Jonathan Leahy, Tom Wolfe (“Girls”— “Goodbye Tour”), Zach Cowie, Kerri Drootin (“Master of None” — “Amarsi Un Po”), and Nora Felder (“Stranger Things” — “Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street”).

The results included three female supervisors (Jacobs, Drootin, and Felder) and demonstrated the brand power of HBO (“Big Little Lies,” “Girls”) and Netflix (“Master of None,” “Stranger Things”). But in the end, it came down to a battle of dueling playlists.

“Better Call Saul” — “Sunk Costs”

In the third season of the “Breaking Bad” prequel, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) gets arrested and further becomes enmeshed in grudges and betrayal, while trying to hold it together with Kim (Rhea Seehorn).  For reference, Golubic built playlists for each character, keeping in mind that Jimmy often creates his own obstacles, and that it’s a slower, more methodical vibe than “Breaking Bad.”

Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill - Better Call Saul _ Season 3, Episode 3 - Photo Credit: Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

“Better Call Saul”

Michele K.Short/AMC/Sony Picture

Musical choices shifted from rock to rock en español to Latin American. Highlights included Todd Terje’s energetic”Alfonso Muskedunder,” when Kim works out, Little Richard’s gospel-infused “Hurry Sundown,” when Jimmy gets arrested, and Dave Porter’s beat/synth-driven “Border Crossing” for an elaborate set-up to stop the Salamanca drug cartel at the border.

“Big Little Lies” — “You Get What You Need”

Murder and other mischief invade sleepy Monterey in this Jean-Marc Vallée-directed miniseries, starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. The season finale, wrapped around the Elvis Presley and Audrey Hepburn trivia night, featured an eclectic mix of rock, blues, and soul to heighten the tension and create counterpoint.

“Big Little Lies”

Highlights included Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Helpless” (during an opening beating), Presley’s “It’s Now or Never” (for the Trivia Night entrance) and “Treat Me Nice” (first performance at Trivia Night), “September Song” by Agnes Obel (over a sad series of flashbacks), and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by Ituana (for the mournful, introspective finale).

“Girls”— “Goodbye Tour”

The popular New York dramedy from showrunner/star Lena Dunham came to a close after six seasons. This episode featured looming pregnancy, an important career decision, and the nostalgia of old friendships. And the indie-pop soundtrack has usually emphasized melancholy songs.

“Girls”

Highlights included Bert Jensch’s folksy “Running From Home,” when Hannah (Dunham) walks around town after her interview; Sean Bones’ upbeat “Here Now,” when she arrives at her former friend’s engagement party; Julia Michaels’ somber “How Do We Get Back to Love,” as a party dance montage, which segues into Banks’ hopeful “Crowded Places,” when Hannah moves to upstate New York during the finale.

“Master of None” — “Amarsi Un Po”

Aziz Ansari’s semi-autobiographical comedy series utilizes a very eclectic mix of musical styles, ranging from the familiar to the obscure. For the second season, some of which was shot in Italy, they made use of Italian music. But when co-supervisor Cowie discovered the work of Lucio Battisti, an Italian pop star in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, they had their hook. And Battisti’s disco-tinged ballad, “Amarsi Un Po,” made such an impression on Ansari that he made it the title of his penultimate episode, when Dev (Ansari) played tour guide to Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi) in New York. It became their love song and the episode closed with it.

“Master of None”

Other highlights included the disco version of Marta Acuna’s “Dance, Dance, Dance,” for a dance scene between Dev and Francesca, John Fahey’s waltz-like “Sunflower River Blues,” during their date at Storm King, and David Joseph’s funky “You Can’t Hide (Your Love From Me)” when they’re at a club.

“Stranger Things” — “Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street”

The Duffer Brothers’ nod to ’80s sci-fi and fantasy naturally embraces lots of period pop, rock, and punk, including several covers. In the second episode, with the nightmarish world just around the corner, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) finds secret refuge in the Byers house, as the search for Will (Noah Schnapp) continues.

“Stranger Things”

Highlights included the ferocious “Go Nowhere” by Reagan Youth, when Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) drives and listens to music, “Deck the Halls” from Chicks with Hits, when Joyce (Winona Ryder) drives to town, Trooper’s joyous “Raise a Little Hell,” when Steve opens the door to greet Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Barb (Emmy-nominated Shannon Purser), and The Clash’s iconic “Should I Stay or Should I Go” as a stinging reminder of Will.

Will Win: “Master of None”
Could Win: “Stranger Things”
Should Win: “Master of None”

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