If you’ve enjoyed the first two seasons of The Umbrella Academy on Netflix, chances are you’ve thought to yourself once or twice (or 50 times), “Wow, that’s a cool song.” That’s because, without a doubt, The Umbrella Academy soundtrack is one of the most compelling aspects of the show.
The series, based on the Dark Horse comics by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, makes music an integral part of its storylines. Whether it’s the entire Hargreeve clan bopping to Tiffany’s rendition of “I Think We’re Alone Now” in season 1, or Klaus, Allison, and Vanya letting off steam by “Twistin’ The Night Away” to Sam Cooke’s classic in season 2, music underscores the inner and outer conflicts of this superhero family.
We here at Book Riot love a good soundtrack, so if you enjoyed The Umbrella Academy‘s soundtrack as much as we did, here are some things you might not have previously known about it.
Consider this your warning that minor spoilers for both seasons of The Umbrella Academy follow!
The Music Comes First
Who are we to thank for all of the awesome tunes on The Umbrella Academy soundtrack? That would be the series showrunner, Steve Blackman. In a 2020 interview with Polygon, Blackman admitted that he often hears a song and then writes a scene to it, rather than the other way around.
“I sometimes will be listening to a song and then I imagine a scene,” Blackman says. “Very early on, I’m thinking, ‘I want to put this song over a fight scene,’ and I work that into the script — which is often backward. A lot of people add music after the fact. I work the opposite way.'”
This explains why so much of the music on the show works so well with its scenes. How else do you get an opening set piece like the Umbrella Academy attempting to avert the apocalypse to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”?
The Songs Are Often Closely Related To What’s Happening On The Screen
Sometimes, the music in a scene is just fun, as in, “wouldn’t it be cool to stage our heroes stopping a bank robbery to ‘The Walker’ by Fitz and the Tantrums?”
But other times, there’s a clever tie-in to the action, in a way that makes you think, “Hah! That’s clever.” For instance, Five escapes the assassination attempt from Hazel and Cha-Cha, zipping in and out of time, to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” in season one. And who can forget the time that he fought an older version of himself to — what else? — “Dancing With Myself” by Billy Idol?
The Comic Creator Didn’t Have Much Say In Musical Choices
Despite being a singer and songwriter himself (Gerard Way is the lead vocalist and co-founder of the rock band My Chemical Romance), the creator is not responsible for the The Umbrella Academy soundtrack — that’s all Blackman. When the first season came out on Netflix, Way told The New York Times that one area he didn’t have a lot of say in the adaptation was the soundtrack.
“‘Steve has a very distinct vision of the songs he wants in the show. He actually writes the songs in the script,’ Way says.”
Honestly, that might be for the best. Way also admits that he would have preferred more “underground” songs on the soundtrack. While we love a good indie song we’ve never heard before, missing out on Allison beating up some Swedish thugs set to the Backstreet Boys? No, thanks!
Some Songs Are Last Minute Additions
Speaking of “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” that song was a late-night addition after Blackman had had a few cocktails. Despite the fact that he often tries to write scenes with music already in mind, sometimes it doesn’t always work out that way.
Blackman was forced to rewrite that scene and had to change the song. The Backstreet Boys song came up. It seemed to work, and it stayed in the final cut as one of the most memorable scenes from season two.
Usually There’s One Or Two Surprises
As much as Blackman loves to lean into popular music, there are often a few songs each season that catch you by surprise.
One of the most delightful of these surprises occurs in season 2, when the Swedes send off their fallen brother to the mournful chords of Adele’s “Hello.” The familiar music begins, but when the vocals start, it’s clear that it’s not Adele, but a cover by Swedish band My Kullsvik. Considering the circumstances, their version sets the tone perfectly.
If you want to stream some of the music featured on the show, check out this playlist on Spotify.
And have you taken our quiz to see which Umbrella Academy character you are yet?