13 Reasons Why: Music is Central to the Story

When the eagerly anticipated 13 Reasons Why went up on Netflix March 31st, binge-watching ensued. Fans have been racing through the series’ 13 episodes.  One of the draws is the show’s music and Tunefind has seen a surge of users searching for tracks they hear on screen. We connected with Music Supervisor Season Kent to learn more about the music used in the show.

Based on the popular young adult novel by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why grapples with the aftermath of a young woman’s suicide as her friends piece together her motives thanks to cassette tapes she left behind. Touching on tough subjects like grief, bullying, sexual assault, and teen suicide, the show’s soundtrack has proven integral to its exploration of these complex and challenging issues.

The songs themselves needed to have dual responsibility – playing the scene whether in sweet emotion that turns haunting (i.e., the use of ‘The Night We Met’ by Lord Huron) or songs that put you as a viewer in that exact space where Clay, Hannah or any of the kids on the tapes are feeling at that exact moment,” says music supervisor Season Kent. “The music itself helped to become a character and also to heighten the emotional impact.”

Season, whose work includes The Fault In Our Stars, Magic Mike XXL, Suicide Squad, Marvel’s Luke Cage and The Flash (among many others), points to her collaboration with showrunner Brian Yorkey in how she approached selecting music for the show.  “Brian really had a vision for the music. He’s a musical guy, with great taste, which always makes my job even more fun,” recalls Season. “Basically, we just nerded out about bands we loved!”

The featured music covers a wide spectrum of artists and decades, including a song by series executive producer Selena Gomez, but the central device of these cassette tape recordings left behind by Hannah helped inform some of the musical choices. “We loved the idea of using 80s songs within this analog tape world we were living in and also exploring current bands with that throwback 80s vibe,” says Season.

The sound of 13 Reasons Why adds a powerful layer of sentiment and storytelling that was integral to the series. “Several of the songs in the first episode were written into the script – ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division, ‘Mess Is Mine’ by Vance Joy and ‘More Than Gravity’ by Colin & Caroline,” Season shares. “Lyrics are very important to Brian (as a Tony Award winning lyricist) and to the show – a song can help tell the story, a moment, a feeling – when you are reading someone’s face on-screen without them talking.  We set out to do that with each character, each situation. Overall a song played a particular situation whether it was lyrically or tonally or both.”

Music is so central that two companion soundtracks were released: the emotionally charged original score by ESKMO, also the composer for Billions, and the licensed music overseen by Season Kent.

“I’m a big fan of ESKMO – Brendan – and after meeting to discuss the tone of the show with Brian, Brendan was someone I had in mind for the show,” recalls Season. “His music is haunting, extremely interesting and stays with you.  Plus he’s a sweetheart of a guy and I really felt he would be able to immerse himself in this world.  He and Brian met, instantly connected and we were off to the races.  Releasing Brendan’s score was a no-brainer. It is the show.”

But those two albums only tell part of the music story, and the passionate fans of the show have been tracking over 70 songs used across 13 Reasons Why, all listed on Tunefind.

The relationship between Hannah and Clay is central to the storyline and a key theme in the music featured on the show.  “We have great moments for their relationship – a few that are trending on Tunefind – which goes to show the audience is connecting to them and their relationship,” says Season. “Some of my favorites there are ‘The Night We Met’ by Lord Huron, ‘The Only Boy Awake’ by Meadows, and ‘1,000 Times’ by Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam.”

“The Night We Met” by Lord Huron was clearly a fan favorite on Tunefind. Playing during a moving scene in episode 5 where Hannah and Clay dance, this song shot to the top of Tunefind’s popular song chart. 

“Giving all the credit to Brian Yorkey for that [song choice] – the lyrics and tone said it all!” says Season. “I’ve been a long time Lord Huron fan and have used them several times in the past – so I was extremely excited to include them in this show!  It’s a really magical yet haunting moment the song gives to this episode.”

Asked to share her favorite song choices from the season, Season replies, “Too many!  But one I’ll mention is in episode 113 with ‘Windows’ by Angel Olsen. Jessica finally letting go of her fear and telling the truth to her father about what Bryce did to her. The quiet and haunting vocals that Angel has captures Jessica’s vulnerability, her fear and ultimately her release of this huge secret that she has tried to bury, tried to forget about and brush off as if it wasn’t a crime.  This song and this moment crushes me and makes me feel so deeply for so many women who have experienced exactly what she has.”

Want to explore more of the music of 13 Reasons Why? Check out the full list of tracks on Tunefind, and the most popular songs, listed below.

Most Popular Songs of 13 Reasons Why


Lord Huron - The Night We Met
The Night We Met

by Lord Huron

from Episode 5 · Tape 3, Side A
Hannah and Clay dance together

Meadows - The Only Boy Awake
The Only Boy Awake

by Meadows

from Episode 3 · Tape 2, Side A
Clay and Hannah sitting on the roof watching the moon

Vance Joy - Mess Is MineMess Is Mine
by Vance Joy

from Episode 1 · Tape 1, Side A
Clay sees Justin leaving the counselor’s office and thinks he sees Hannah in the crowd.

Selena Gomez - Only You
Only You

by Selena Gomez

from Episode 13 · Tape 7, Side A
Clay walks out of the guidance office after talking to Mr. Porter.

The Moth & The Flame - Young & Unafraid
Young & Unafraid

by The Moth & The Flame

from Episode 1 · Tape 1, Side A
Clay has trouble falling asleep so he listens to the cassette tape.

Roman Remains - The Killing Moon, from the 13 Reasons Why Soundtrack
The Killing Moon

by Roman Remains

from Episode 12 · Tape 6, Side B
Hannah comes home from Bryce’s party and begins her list.

Lost Under Heaven - The Great LongingThe Great Longing
by Lost Under Heaven

from Episode 6 · Tape 3, Side B
Zach comes back to Hannah in the diner to sit with her. Her Dad brings flowers for her mom.

Miya Folick - Talking With StrangersTalking With Strangers
by Miya Folick

from Episode 11 · Tape 6, Side A
Ending sequence with Clay talking to his mother about the lawsuit and Jessica crying in her bed.

Woodkid - Run Boy Run
Run Boy Run

by Woodkid

from Episode 2 · Tape 1, Side B
As Tony’s car passes by Clay’s bicycle and Tony meets up with Hannah’s mom.

Chromatics - Into the Black
Into the Black

by Chromatics

from Episode 3 · Tape 2, Side A
Alex falls into the pool.

Colin & Caroline - More Than Gravity
More Than Gravity

by Colin & Caroline

from Episode 1 · Tape 1, Side A
Hannah begins her narration; Clay stares at her locker.

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
Love Will Tear Us Apart

by Joy Division

from Episode 1 · Tape 1, Side A
Clay gets a ride home with Tony. Repeats during the final scenes of the episode.

Hamilton Leithauser + RostamIn a Black Out
by Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam

from Episode 6 · Tape 3, Side B
Tony at the tombstone; Hannah and Clay in bed.

 

HUNGER - Amused
Amused

by HUNGER

from Episode 5 · Tape 3, Side A
During the Winter Formal.

Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
A 1,000 Times

by Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam

from Episode 11 · Tape 6, Side A
Hannah and Clay in the bedroom.

Eskmo - Riding
Riding

by Eskmo

from Episode 1 · Tape 1, Side A
Clay rides his bike to Tony’s house; Clay falls off the bike.

Husbands - You, Me, Cellphones
You, Me, Cellphones

by Husbands

from Episode 1 · Tape 1, Side A
Kat, Hannah, Clay and Bryce talking at the party.

The Kills - Doing It to DeathDoing It to Death
by The Kills

from Episode 3 · Tape 2, Side A
Jessica leaves after asking about Justin’s whereabouts; Hannah continues to talk about the butterfly effect.

The Japanese House - Cool BlueCool Blue
by The Japanese House

from Episode 1 · Tape 1, Side A
Justin and Hannah chat on the bus. She jumps off the bus and it leaves with Justin on it.

JR JR - SkeletonsSkeletons
by JR JR

from Episode 4 · Tape 2, Side B
Clay rides down the street among trick or treaters before seeing kids toilet papering Hannah’s house.

Elliott Smith - Thirteen
Thirteen

by Elliott Smith

from Episode 5 · Tape 3, Side A
Clay is showering; end credits.

Angel Olsen - Windows
Windows

by Angel Olsen

from Episode 13 · Tape 7, Side A
Jessica tells her father what happened with Bryce.

CTZNSHP - Everything Always
Everything Always

by CTZNSHP

from Episode 4 · Tape 2, Side B
End credits.

SPringtime Carnivore - Under the Spell
Under the Spell

by Springtime Carnivore

from Episode 9 · Tape 5, Side A
Hannah wonders if she should go to Jessica’s party; Clay getting dressed.

Check out the full list of songs from 13 Reasons Why on Tunefind.