Music of 'Lost': Where Have All the Pop Songs Gone?

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Varese Sarabande

In the lead-up to Lost's Sunday finale, I glanced at this week's New Yorker piece about its score composer, Michael Giacchino. I probably shouldn't have, because I love to hate the guy.

Too often, I mock the show's original score, notorious for telegraphing Lost's emotions. When lead character Jack Shephard wells up with his trademark tears, a soft, "awwww" piano line always breezes in as his metaphorical tissue. Disagreements and moments of tension have their hands held by spooky, minor-key plinking of a kitchen sink of instruments. The score's condescension reminds me of the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, whose lead character scores the campy, fake TV show Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime with comedic melodrama.

Giacchino's feature story, sadly, helps me empathize with his treatment of the show, particularly that he only gets 2 to 3 days of lead time to score episodes that confuse him as much as the rest of us. And the New Yorker's followup video—a breakdown of the score's many recognizable elements—reminds us that the show has staked out a trademark sound without annoying gimmicks (though I do love the admission that the signature spooky sound effect comes from rubbing a rubber, bouncy ball on a gong).

Still, in its last season, Lost has lost its knack for pop songs. Season Six started right by using Iggy & The Stooges' "Search and Destroy" to punctuate a few appearances of "The Man in Black," the show's seemingly final villain; considering what Lost has revealed this year, calling him "the world's forgotten boy" was a pretty good call.

Otherwise, this season has been Giacchino's to narrate, and the show's innate undercurrent of fun has suffered for it. We've lost the repeated refrains from Patsy Cline, a show favorite. When ghost whisperer Hurley has a vision, Lost's creators are no longer poking fun with a Cheap Trick lyric like "The dream police, they live inside of my head." Heck, couldn't someone have paid tribute to another mysterious character this season by squeezing in The National's "Song for Jacob"?

Lost's music choices sometimes pin a scene to a moment in time, and this facet got plenty of play in seasons past as the timeline weaved through the '70s. That time-placement trick was less relevant this year. But the more interesting musical cues called out themes and asked questions about the connections of seemingly disparate characters, which has been the show's greatest strength since its first season. Musical cues will play a factor for connecting those long-lingering dots as the show bows; in regards to the show's most famous, repreating refrain, we'll catch a falling star and put it in our pocket one more time on Sunday.

Has music taken a backseat this year because of a rush to tie loose plot ends together? Because Jacob was born in a long-ago era before Walkmans or—perish the thought—lutes were in style? Because the producers weren't ready to immerse this season's "sideways world" timeline in the nostalgic pop hits of 2004? Hopefully, Sunday's finish will pour on the pop to make up for lost time; the sideways world, after all, is heading to a climax at a concert hall, which bodes well (but I don't predict a Driveshaft reunion there). While I wait, I am off to nerd out at the local musical instrument store with a rubber, bouncy ball.

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Sam Machkovech is a freelance arts and tech writer based in Seattle, WA. More

Sam Machkovech is a freelance arts and tech writer based in Seattle. He began his career in high school as a nationally syndicated video games critic at the Dallas Morning News, eventually taking up the mantle of music section editor at Dallas weekly paper the Dallas Observer. His writing has since appeared in Seattle weekly The Stranger, in-flight magazine American Way, now-defunct music magazine HARP, gaming blog The Escapist, and Dallas business monthly Dallas CEO. He currently serves as a games and tech columnist for Seattle web site, as well as a volunteer tutor at the all-ages writing advocacy group 826 Seattle.

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