Do you which song is playing as Sydney sits, alone at a table for two, after her father has stood her up? Do you the song playing as Sydney walks down the street in Rome as Julia Thorne? From Danny’s funeral (“Here Comes the Flood”) to Vaughn’s funeral (“Dirty Little Secret”), the music of Alias is as important to the show as the storylines and the characters it supports. "Background" music is added to shows and movies after filming has been completed, and is used to create moods, fill spaces, provide rhythm and link the scene or the show to other cultural texts.
On the DVD audio commentary for season 2 and 3, JJ mentions that he often writes scenes for certain pieces of music. For instance, the parking garage scene in episode 3.15 “Facade,” JJ chose the song “All My Life” by Rosie Thomas. The song begins small, as Sydney enters the parking garage and walks to her car. Vaughn’s car pulls up beside her and she turns, calling to him and then they embrace as the music swells. JJ said he didn’t want the scene to be cheesy, he didn’t want the music to take away from the moment that Sydney and Vaughn were having.
JJ also mentions he has help picking music. Greg Grunberg (Weiss) states he picked the music for the opening season of the Super Bowl episode in which Sydney is clad in lingerie, seducing a man. The song playing is AC/DC “Back in Black.” The song sets the tone for not only the risqué attire, but for the fight that would ensue.
As an avid fan of music myself, I have been impressed by JJ’s ability to piece music to his scenes. It is a “Good Day” (by Luce) for Michael Vaughn when Sydney gives him her middle drawer and “Righteously” by Lucinda Williams has perfect lyrics when Sydney catches Vaughn buying information from an ex-KGB officer in a bar. We can hear these songs on the radio and remember the exact scene, the lines, the actors and the feelings in that moment. With as many poignant and explosive scenes as Alias has, it would be easy for the audience to disregard the music, to focus solely on the words and the actors. But JJ and his crew have done an amazing job of giving these scenes more emotion and maybe even double meaning by pairing it with the right piece of music.
What are you favorite Alias songs? How have the songs changed from season to season? Season 4 didn’t house as much music has the 3 seasons before it, aside from Michael Giacchino’s instrumental pieces, why do you think that is? JJ has carried his love of music over to his series Lost, several songs have been similar. Is it a nod to Alias? I think so!
Some of my favs:
Fade Into You-Mazzy Star (4.04 "Ice" Vaughn as a priest in the bar.)
World on Fire-Sarah McLachlan (4.01 Syd at home, Vaughn shows up to say "That I miss you.")
So Are You To Me- Eastmountainsouth (2.18 "Truth Takes Time" Syd deciphers a code from her mother's earrings.)
Bleed to Love Her- Fleetwood Mac (2.22 "The Telling" Syd and Vaughn play hockey.)
The Wind-Cat Stevens (4.01-2 "APO" Syd cries in the hall, Vaughn comforts her.)
Lay Lady Lay- Bob Dylan (4.22 "Before the Flood" Before the car crash.)
I Shall Believe- Sheryl Crow (2.07 "Counteragent" Vaughn hugs Sydney after she saves him from the bloody finger disease.) I HEART THIS SONG and the look on Vaughn's face at the end of the episode!!
A Place Called Home- Kim Richey (2.06 "Salvation" Vaughn watches Sydney sleep in quarantine.)
Slumber My Darling- Allison Krauss (2.07 "Counteragent" Syd visits Vaughn in the hospital.)
My Sundown-Jimmie eat World (2.15 "Free Agent" The morning after, Syd and Vaughn in bed.) Freedom-David Gray (2.16 "Firebomb" Vaughn sits with Syd who's in the bathtub.)
This Woman's Work-Kate Bush (1.02 Sydney races home from a mission to put Danny's ring back on and then she gets in the tub. Sad Sad Sad! JJ added the tub scene in order to get more of the song on the show. He loves tunes!)
Okay, I have to stop or I will list every song ever on the show!