Short

What would your theme song say about you?

When confronted with this question: these are your options

A colleague once asked me what the theme tune to my life would be. I didn’t know him that well, I’d only been at the job a few weeks, and this felt like the zany sort of question that had potential to position me socially in what had so far been a pretty lonely and intimidating office experience. Before I could answer him, he proclaimed that his theme tune would be ‘The Loving Kind’ by Girls Aloud. I replied that I loved that song and it was actually one of the most underrated pop songs ever, which was a weird response and a downright lie, although I have found some Girls Aloud fan pages that will corroborate me. 

What do you answer to that sort of question? I am horribly critical of theme tunes because I find their self-consciousness, the fact that they point to some attribute the producers want to be most central to the show’s personality, a bit cringe. Sitcoms are the greatest offenders in this regard, using them as a musical sort of surgery that rips open the proverbial torso to reveal HERE. HERE IS THE SHOW’S HEART. RIGHT HERE, IN CASE YOU MISS IT. ‘I’ll Be There For You’ by The Rembrandts in Friends is intent on reminding its audience just how friendly these friends are. Full House (a certain breed of ’90s sitcom that feels almost militant in its feel-goodness) starts with Jesse Frederick’s ‘Everywhere You Look’, a theme which feels more like an instruction to its audience than anything else: Everywhere you look when watching this show, you WILL find a heart. Even if we have to tear it from you. 

Possible option one response to colleague: “My life’s theme tune would have to be ‘Happy’ by Pharrell because I would like to enforce that every person that comes into contact with me MUST be happy. If they’re not happy or if they don’t understand why they should be happy, they can just listen to the canned laughter I have following me.”

I can’t help feeling too that theme tunes are a little aggrandising by nature, especially the ones that centre a particular character. Just take New Girl’s ‘Hey Girl’, sung by the show’s creator and star Zooey Deschanel, with her faux-vintage twang. The entire opening credit sequence is a parodic homage to her quirkiness; it’s both self-aware and part of the ‘bit’, and to this end, I suppose I’m envious of her confidence in asserting her brand. I can’t even commit to having a fringe full-time, whereas Deschanel has maintained the same iconic haircut and image for years. And of course, character centric theme tunes can’t be discussed without referencing Will Smith’s ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’. I maintain that I’m critical of most theme tunes, but this one is impossible to hate, though even more impossible to imitate. Just imagine.

Possible option two response to colleague: “Can I come back to you on the theme tune? I actually want it to have a very specific set of lyrics that narrate my life up to now. I’ll write it for you tonight. Also, I’m going to fully commit to a fringe, so I’ll need to book that hair appointment before I can perform it to you.”

I do like the idea of an instrumental theme tune, like The Simpsons, Doctor Who or Game of Thrones. The lack of lyrics gives them a sense of grandeur and timelessness; they feel expansive and cinematic.

Possible option three response to colleague: “I would have to commission an orchestra to compose something suitably atmospheric for me. It would need to simultaneously capture the panic I feel remembering our boss’s salad order but also the overriding determination I have to eventually own a dog and lead a more wholesome life.”

Really, it would have been ideal to have not had to answer my colleague’s question at all. Not least because I couldn’t think of a single song that served every purpose, that was as simultaneously funny and self-aware as it was feel good and timeless. What I needed was a sort of bootstrap song, the sort that eclipses the theme tune. An accidental theme tune. Take Money Heist’s ‘Bella Ciao’, originally an Italian protest folk song that is introduced to the series as an anti-capitalist rallying cry, sung by the characters to demonstrate their acknowledgement of the past and their hopes to successfully rinse the Spanish mint in the future. It feels authentic, unassuming and rebellious, the more successful younger sibling of the show’s actual theme tune, ‘My Life is Going On’ by Cecilia Krull. So in fact, in the option four response, my colleague would democratically select a relevant song for me.

“Actually your theme tune would definitely be ‘Do You Think of Me’ by Misha B, because I’ll never forget that time you started playing it in the office without plugging your headphones in. You thought it was embarrassing but we all thought it was incredibly authentic.” 

What I actually said to my colleague was something like this: “I don’t think I would have a theme tune. Maybe just like, a quick beat in the opening where the screen goes black and then, I don’t know, Emily’s Life appears in capitals before we get straight into the action. You know, like Fleabag?”. Thank god I no longer work there. 

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