SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t seen the first two episodes of “Euphoria” Season 2.
In HBO’s “Euphoria,” music isn’t just a supplementary factor to the plot — it’s arguably as important as the characters themselves. For proof, look no further than the titles of the episodes — most are named after songs, like Birdman and Lil Wayne’s “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy” (Season 1 Episode 2), Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s “’03 Bonnie and Clyde” (Season 1 Episode 5) and Bob Dylan’s “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven” (Season 2 Episode 1). But more than anything, the show’s intense cocktail of high school drama, countless drugs, in-your-face violence and unrequited romance lends itself perfectly to a stellar soundtrack.
Complemented by a beautiful original score from Labrinth, music supervisor Jen Malone has expertly selected needle drops from across the musical spectrum to further the characters’ emotions and connect with the show’s audience, from Gen Z to Gen X and beyond. Only in the world of “Euphoria” would “Bubblin” by Anderson .Paak and “Smalltown Boy” by Bronski Beat play — and make sense — in the same Halloween party montage. And one doesn’t have to look far to find the impact of the show’s music — search almost any song on this list on YouTube, and there’s likely a comment from someone saying they’re “Here from ‘Euphoria!’” Thus far, the show’s musical hot streak has continued into its second season, which hit a series high premiere of 2.4 million viewers last week.
From Bobby Womack to Billie Eilish, here are the 10 best music moments from “Euphoria” — so far.
“I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” — Jamie xx ft. Young Thug and Popcaan
Season 1, Episode 1
The first time the audience sees the East Highland crew together is at McKay’s (Algee Smith) party at the end of the pilot, where storylines begin to intertwine. As Rue (Zendaya) arrives to McKay’s house, the intro to Jamie xx’s club banger — which samples The Persuasions’ “Good Times” — plays softly in the background. But when Rue snorts drugs off her keychain, the music comes into focus and becomes the throughline of the scene as the camera swings from character to character. In a stunning show of camera work, Rue defies gravity and appears to stand on the ceiling, exemplifying the effects of the drugs. Meanwhile, on-again-off-again couple Nate (Jacob Elordi) and Maddy (Alexa Demie) attempt to make each other jealous by dancing with other people — but Maddy takes it one step further by having sex in the pool with Tyler (Lukas Gage). The song’s hypnotic beat and rap verses from Young Thug and Popcaan make it the ultimate sync to both offset and highlight the party’s building chaos.
“Fly Me to the Moon” — Bobby Womack
Season 1, Episode 2
When Rue is prompted in public speaking class to recall a specific memory that had an impact on her from the past summer, she begrudgingly speaks about listening to Bobby Womack’s 1968 version of “Fly Me to the Moon” with her family. She flashes back to the day she got out of the hospital after overdosing, as she sings the song in the car with her sister Gia (Storm Reid) and mother (Nika King). “Fly Me to the Moon” then becomes the soundtrack for other memories from that summer, both good and bad. Clips flash by of the three giggling together, but they are soon intercut with Rue taking drugs and getting into violent yelling matches with her mother, ending with her waking up in a hospital bed. The song gives the audience an opportunity to get a closer look at their family dynamic — and how Rue has the power to both hold them together and tear them apart.
“Work” — Charlotte Day Wilson
Season 1, Episode 3
When Jules (Hunter Schafer) unknowingly starts texting Nate after meeting him on a gay dating app under his pseudonym ShyGuy118, a split-screen montage of their internet flirtationship set to “Work” brings a feeling of innocence to an otherwise very explicit show. Although the two aren’t interacting in-person, seeing how each reacts to messages as they pop up on-screen evokes real-life butterflies, especially set to a slow-paced R&B love song. The tenderness of it all shows a sweeter side to Nate, who asks Jules when she started transitioning while getting ready for football practice — though he still tells her that he’s not gay, despite the platform on which they met.
“Champagne Coast” — Blood Orange
Season 1, Episode 3
As Jules and Nate get closer and closer to meeting in-person, Jules plans to entice him by sending some sexy photos. Naturally, she enlists Rue to take them, oblivious to the fact that she is in love with her. Blood Orange’s “Champagne Coast” soundtracks the intimate shoot, and Dev Hynes crooning “come into my bedroom” four times in a row as Rue helps Jules change her bra painfully highlights that though Rue may physically be in Jules’ room, she remains an outsider romantically. The situation is made worse when Jules asks Rue, “Do I look hot? Like, hot enough that you’d wanna fuck me, or like, cute?”
“You Should See Me in a Crown” — Billie Eilish
Season 1, Episode 5
After Kat (Barbie Ferreira) starts making serious money as a camgirl, she leans into her newfound confidence by going somewhere that always used to scare her: the mall. As she struts down the plaza in a red sheer top and leather harness, “You Should See Me in a Crown’s” rattling bass and empowering lyrics add to the scene’s message of body positivity. Instead of people whispering about her as she feared, Kat turns heads as men and women alike stare at her in awe. “I spent my whole life afraid people were going to find out I was fat,” Kat says. “But honestly, who gives a shit? There’s nothing more powerful than a fat girl who doesn’t give a fuck.”
“Smalltown Boy” — Bronski Beat
Season 1, Episode 6
Going down as one of the more unexpected syncs of the show, the British synth-pop trio’s hit “Smalltown Boy” sets an ethereal tone at the Halloween party as a very intoxicated Jules dances, Rue cries in the bathroom, Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) almost cheats on McKay and Kat has a messy hookup with Ethan (Austin Abrams). With everyone in costume and the party doused in blue and purple light, the song’s beat becomes the pulse of the scene and the repeating lyrics of “Runaway, turn away” underline what many of the characters are doing — or thinking of doing.
“My Body Is a Cage” — Arcade Fire
Season 1, Episode 8
In perhaps the most powerful sync of the show thus far, Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is a Cage” soundtracks a particularly intense and emotional scene in the Season 1 finale in which Cassie has an abortion. The song starts as the abortion begins with the doctor warning Cassie of “a little pinch,” and she soon enters a fantasy in which she is ice skating, one of her lost passions. The song’s apt lyrics and the beautifully-shot skating routine form a stunning portrayal of the complicated feelings behind the subject — an overwhelming mixture of both loss and freedom.
“Liability” — Lorde
Special Episode Part 2
Lorde’s ballad about being a burden has an especially poignant effect when used at the beginning of Jules’ special episode, as she sits down at a therapy appointment. “Why’d you run away?” the doctor asks, and instead of answering, a close-up of Jules’ eye reveals all of the things she cannot say. Reflected in her pupil, images of her and Rue flash by as “Liability” begins to play. The audience literally sees the events of the past season through Jules’ eyes, and Lorde’s lyricism of being “too much” for the people she loves perfectly matches the moment. Though it’s a scene that seems as though it could grow boring, the combination of the song’s emotion with the incessant images and a tear slowly forming in Jules’ eye makes it impossible to look away. As the cherry on top of a beautiful scene, the title card slowly fades to black as Lorde sings, “You’re gonna watch me disappear into the sun.”
“Dead of Night” — Orville Peck
Season 2, Episode 1
Though Season 2 starts off incredibly strong music-wise with syncs from Tupac, Gerry Rafferty, Steely Dan and Notorious B.I.G., the show’s use of Orville Peck’s “Dead of Night” takes the cake. When Nate offers to give Cassie a ride to the New Year’s Eve party after she gets into a fight with her sister Lexi (Maude Apatow), the two share a very intense moment as Nate pounds back beers and drives faster and faster while they make eye contact. The song’s twangy guitar tones and Peck’s low, brooding voice give the moment a sultry yet unsettling feel as the two establish the tension between them, all while hinting at the possibility of Nate’s suppressed sexuality with the lyrics: “See the boys as they walk on by/ It’s enough to make a young man…”
“She Brings the Rain” — Can
Season 2, Episode 2
It’s also quite unexpected to hear Krautrock band Can in an episode of “Euphoria,” but “She Brings the Rain” brings even more secrecy to the dark, rainy night when Nate and Cassie decide to meet up in secret — or so they think. The scene begins with Rue biking to the song’s intro and spotting Cassie running to Nate’s car parked across the street, to which she says, “What the fuck?” As the two drive, Maddy tries to Facetime Nate and then Cassie, making her reasonably suspicious. All the while, the tune’s tumbling bass line gives the scene a sense of foreboding, like a dark sky before a thunderstorm.