The Umbrella Academy’s Soundtrack Taps Nostalgia and Fun

The Umbrella Academy, the latest Netflix mega-hit, jumped quickly to dominate Tunefind’s Top Song Charts and hasn’t budged since. Tunefind users are loving The Umbrella Academy’s soundtrack, which features over 50 songs and a haunting original score.

The masterminds behind the music? That’s a creative collaboration between Executive Producer Steve Blackman, Music Supervisor Maggie Phillips, and Composer Jeff Russo. The trio have worked together previously on Fargo, Legion, and Altered Carbon – three other Tunefind fan favorites.

Russo wrote the original instrumental score, which heavily features Vanya’s beloved violin (with many cues released on The Umbrella Academy official soundtrack album). But the licensed music is a wild romp through some nostalgic favorites and some deeper cuts you might not expect to hear in your standard issue supernatural-superhero drama. Of course, The Umbrella Academy is anything but standard issue.

While Blackman will sometimes write song ideas right into scripts, Music Supervisor Maggie Phillips had the challenge of ultimately finding and licensing the perfect song, for the right price. And Maggie had a blast working on The Umbrella Academy.

“[Steve said] ‘Be nostalgic, go big, and give the people what they want!” recalls Phillips. “I ran with that and had a lot of fun listening while doing so.”

The Umbrella Academy simultaneous dance sequence, episode 1.
Credit: Netflix

Featuring a wide range of artists and eras, one particular song really helped define the sound of the series. You guessed it: Tiffany’s iconic ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ from the infamous dancing scene in the first episode. The actors have shared how they were given free rein improvise here, and dance how they felt their character would have – leading to that priceless collection of smooth(ish) moves, and accidentally punching props. But the song was a crucial element of what made the scene so memorable.

It was the first song that Steve and I spoke about. It was his idea and he asked for my thoughts,” said Phillips. “I was thrilled. It is a very nostalgic song for me. I still remember the dance I choreographed with my cousins to that song, back in 1987, when it came out. I was 13. I probably had a side ponytail and a huge bow in my hair. It immediately brought me back and made me happy. I knew it would do the same for some of the audience.”

Even those of us who weren’t rocking anything other than our cradles can enjoy the fun of the Tiffany hit (originally recorded by Tommy James & the Shondells) and feel inspired to get up and dance. Phillips added, “It’s just a great song, so [I knew] it would still be a hit with the younger audience.” Tunefind users agree, making it one of the most popular songs from the series. 

Mary J. Blige as time-traveling assassin Cha-Cha.

Then there are those outrageously fun action scenes, where the music is often underscoring a bloody fight. And sometimes featuring assassins Hazel and Cha-Cha (played by Cameron Britton and Mary J. Blige, whose cover of ‘Stay With Me’ is featured in the show) in their cartoon animal masks. So no run-of-the-mill, expected choices will work here.

We wanted to play against the action/violence,” Phillips explains. “It’s a fun graphic novel, these are kids and superheroes – we didn’t want the scenes to feel too bad ass or serious in tone and the songs helped with that.” 

Phillips kicked this off with a bang in the very first episode, where Number 5 battles it out with his would-be captors to the boppy tune of ‘Istanbul’ by They Might Be Giants.

“I came up with They Might Be Giants for the first big fight scene in the pilot. Another song that is super nostalgic for me,” says Phillips. “It’s a great song. It’s a song some people might not admit to liking. It’s not ‘cool.’ But, it’s f**king fun. And it made that scene really f**king fun.” 

With all the buzz, we’re still seeing tons of viewers working their way through The Umbrella Academy, and discovering the music of the series. Helpfully, Maggie and her team have verified all of the songs from The Umbrella Academy on Tunefind. But here’s a look at some of the most popular songs so far. We’ll kick things off with Tunefind’s Top TV Song for several weeks running, ‘Phantom of the Opera Medley’ by Lindsey Stirling.

 

I Think We're Alone Now

by Tiffany

from Season 1 · Episode 1 · We Only See Each Other at Weddings and Funerals

Luther puts a record on while the other siblings l…

Istanbul

by They Might Be Giants

from Season 1 · Episode 1 · We Only See Each Other at Weddings and Funerals

Number 5 battles soldiers at the donut shop.

Run Boy Run

by Woodkid

from Season 1 · Episode 2 · Run Boy Run

Five rushes outside the Academy and travels throug…

Picture Book (Stereo Mix)

by The Kinks

from Season 1 · Episode 1 · We Only See Each Other at Weddings and Funerals

Hargreeves walks as seven nannies push baby carria…

Never Tear Us Apart

by Paloma Faith

from Season 1 · Episode 2 · Run Boy Run

Luther and Allison offer to help Five. Flashforwar…

This Year's Love

by David Gray

from Season 1 · Episode 4 · Man on the Moon

Al tells Diego about Patch's message. Diego finds…

We're Through

by The Hollies

from Season 1 · Episode 3 · Extra Ordinary

Klaus listens to headphones and smokes a joint whi…

Blood Like Lemonade

by Morcheeba

from Season 1 · Episode 4 · Man on the Moon

In a flashback, adult Luther lies down shirtless….

 

Season 1 of The Umbrella Academy was released on Netflix on February 15th. The series is based on the award-winning Dark Horse Comics graphic novels of the same name, created by Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance) and illustrated by Gabriel Ba.

The story follows the “children” of Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), a billionaire industrialist who adopted 7 (of 43) miracle children born all on the same day to women who were not previously pregnant. Hargreeves cultivates the children’s supernatural powers with an iron will and strict discipline, attempting to build his own superhero crew. But he cultivates family dysfunction and animosity instead. The siblings – Luther (Tom Hopper), Diego (David Castañeda), Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Klaus (Robert Sheehan), Vanya (Ellen Page), and Number Five (Aidan Gallagher) – are reunited by their father’s funeral, and the impending apocalypse. They need to move past their family drama in order to save the world.

Gerard Way channeled the growing dysfunction and discord of his bandmates into six issues of The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite. My Chemical Romance was feeling the pressures of fame, which Way reflected in some of the same issues the characters experience in both the comic and tv show. Underneath the talking chimps and lethal children, the story is about the damage families can inflict on one another and how to move on from the pain.

With the initial success of the series – and several doors left wide open in the finale – here’s hoping The Umbrella Academy will be back for future seasons so we can enjoy the action and the music. There are 36 more of these kids out there somewhere…

More

〉Full list of songs featured in the The Umbrella Academy soundtrack

The Music of FX’s Legion: Q&A with Music Supervisor Maggie Phillips

Jeff Russo’s Score Invites Us Into the Delusion on Legion