Back to IndieWire

‘The End of the F***ing World’ Soundtrack: The One Song That Helps Make Sense of the Rest of the Series

A quick moment of car dancing says so much about the Netflix series' storytelling through unconventional song choices.

The End of the F***ing World

Netflix

There’s something curious about the new Netflix series “The End of the F***ing World”: the kids want to be adults and adults want to be kids. Alyssa and James, two wayward teens looking for something to rebel against and to hit fast-forward on their adolescence, make for a fascinating run-and-gun team as they encounter the pitfalls of young adulthood and a lot more than they bargained for.

But aside from being an unapologetic example of onscreen teen angst, the show also has an incredible secret weapon in a truly smashing soundtrack, almost entirely populated by rock classics from decades past. By using these songs from a different time, “The End of the F***ing World” shows that the two main characters are not only lost in their own worlds, but looking for a place to belong that maybe isn’t even in their own millennium.

The best example of the show’s soundtrack-as-storytelling approach comes at the opening of Episode 6, after James hotwires the pair’s getaway car. Even after they’re on the run after James kills a sexual predator, the two manage to find momentary solace in the car’s lone functioning CD. Rolling down the open freeway, to listen to the Spencer Davis Group song “Keep on Running” on repeat.

Read More: ‘The End of the F***ing World’ Review: ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ Take Britain in a Gripping, Surprising Netflix Series

It’s a perfect song choice not just because the rhythm of the song is right in line with the hyperactive heartbeat of the show overall. But there’s something about that early mid-’60s rock sound that captures artists trying to figure out what to do with something new and exciting that even themselves they may not understand.

Kudos to whoever involved with the show who made the decision (whether it was writer Charlie Covell, director Lucy Tcherniak, music supervisor Matt Biffa, or someone else) to not go with the standard Spencer Davis Group standby “Gimme Some Lovin’.” “Keep on Running” was the band’s first #1 hit, a cover version reworking of a Jackie Edwards song that had been released earlier that year: It’s an ideal choice to mirror how the show finds new ways to put a spin on the coming-of-age tropes it’s subverting at the same time.

And like nearly everything else about “The End of the F***ing World,” there’s zero preciousness about it. The best, most enlightening part about how the song’s used is that it pops up and is gone in a flash. The process of them realizing how cool the song is to immediately deciding to listen to nothing else and then discard it and never listen to it again happens to span 45 on-screen seconds. The character’s same impulses get them into trouble before and after this, but at least for the parts where they feel free singing and dancing along in the car, there’s another edge to that sword.

Alyssa and James are in such a hurry to find something to believe in that they’re willing to churn through people, vehicles, and even 1965 chart-toppers. (It’s notable that Alyssa doesn’t just turn off the song, she chucks the disc into the backseat without much protesting from James.) With thrills and answers as their guide, even money is dispensable on their bloody, renegade journey. It makes it that much more significant when the two of them realize that the only thing they can’t replace is each other.

Enterprising Spotify user darcie2000 put together an unofficial collection of the tracks used on the show, including this pick and (of course) the Skeeter Davis version of “The End of the World” that plays over the controversial, ambiguous closing credits of the final chapter. (It’s the best use of the song since the 2013 Croatian film “Cowboys.”)

For those who’ve taken the wild eight-episode journey along with Alyssa and James, crank your speakers and get in touch with your inner anarchic self with the rest of the songs from the show.

“The End of the F***ing World” Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix. 

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , ,


Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox

Newswire