Top Ten Songs for Game of Thrones

In 2011, TV fans became enthralled with the HBO hit series, Game of Thrones. Since the show features mostly a score, I thought it’d be interesting to compile a playlist of songs that contain themes portrayed in the series (and no, this list does not include parodies or any songs by Snoop Dogg.) So here is a top ten list, or my personal unofficial soundtrack, for Game of Thrones (with hopefully more to come.)

Number Ten: “First it Giveth” by Queens of the Stone Age. “First it Giveth” is a song by Queens of the Stone Age, off of their 2002 album, Songs for the Deaf. I feel like the lyrics of this song can apply to all the characters, especially those who’ve been wronged under the rule of the Iron Throne. It begins with, “I’m in you / you’re in me / I can’t tell / you’re so cruel / more than me / it is true / Loyal to / only you / Up your sleeve.” These lyrics could be seen from the point of view of Tyrion Lannister towards his father and his sister Cersei, who both have claimed several times that Tyrion is not of their blood and who blame him for killing his mother when he was born. The lyrics continue, “I’m no fool / time goes by / tables turn / now I know / first it giveth / then it taketh away.” Personally, these lyrics remind me of the death of King Joffrey; how arrogant he was when he was in power but how quickly his demise came about. This song can be applied to the whole show, as it’s essentially about karma and how quickly the throne can be overturned.

Number Nine: “Amendment” by Flaw. “Amendment” is a song by Flaw, off of their 2001 album, Through the Eyes. Again, I picture Tyrion as I listen to this song, head-banging to the thought of all the wrong his family has done to him and others. Lyrics that reflect this include, “try to perceive the lie / all caught up in your own high opinions of yourself / we’ve been consumed by apathy.” Additional lyrics include, “I’ve had to stop all of my emotions / why / bittering faith escapes again / just look at what we have done / will you look at who we’ve become / priorities astray / goes on and on each day / we’ve wrecked their only try / and still we wonder why / we’re recipients of hate.” The best part of this song is the ending, however, which could describe the Lannister’s overall moral compass: “With your five second morals and your three second smile.” The chorus, despite the title of the TV show, says, “a generation with fate all tied / this ain’t a game / we don’t enjoy this ride.” Although some of the characters on the show like to play dirty games in order to achieve power, other more noble characters (like Tyrion, Brienne, Jon and recently, Jaime) take no pleasure in the pursuit of power (or could care less about it.)

Number Eight: “Setting Sun” by Howling Bells. “Setting Sun” is a song by Howling Bells, off of their self-titled, debut album (2006.) Here are the lyrics from the first two verses: “Mother will look with me / Father will pray for me / Religion will wait for me / nobody waits for this long can’t you see” and “Doers will do for me / what sinners could never dream / Science is in your head / nobody hurts themselves but themselves can’t you tell?” Personally, the first verse reminds me of Arya, who while on a quest to avenge her family, surely is keeping her dead parents alive in her heart. The last line of the second verse describes a central theme of the show; even when lives were taken at the hands of others, it was often pride, arrogance or the search for justice that caused the downfall of many characters (like King Joffrey or Ned Stark.) The chorus describes the ongoing battles going on within each character in each kingdom: “One more day is not enough to change the world / But we’ll rise and fall just like the setting sun.” Even the mood of this song captures the dark and light qualities of both the despised and venerated characters.

Number Seven:  “So Cold” by Breaking Benjamin (Acoustic Version). “So Cold” is a song by Breaking Benjamin, off of their 2004 album, We Are Not Alone. Personally, I prefer the acoustic version. Lyrics like “hollow heroes separate as they run” and “wise men wonder while strong men die” reflect the show’s themes of deceit and death. The lyrics, “if you find your family / don’t you cry / in this land of make-believe / dead and dry,” I feel could apply to Arya and Sansa, while the lyric in the chorus, “satisfied and empty inside,” reflects many of the characters in the show who have taken lives to satisfy their thirst for blood but who probably are left with empty souls as a result. The title and the lyrics (“you’re so cold / keep your hand in mind,”) could reflect Ygritte and Jon Snow’s love/hate relationship in season three. I wonder if some of the key power players in the show will show us how ‘defenseless’ they really are in time.

Number Six: “Firebreather” by Thrice. “Firebreather” is a song by Thrice, off of their album, The Alchemy Index (Volume 1.) I feel this song could easily describe how Khaleesi’s loyal followers and advisors feel about her, as well as the song being a narrative for Daenerys herself. The lyrics begin with, “tell me are you free / in word or thought or deed / tell me are you free / while the gallows stand.” The lyrics continue, “tell me are you free / when the fear falls on you.” If you watched the first episode of season five, you probably noticed that, for the first time, the show portrayed Khaleesi as vulnerable and unsure of the future. The following lyrics in the song could easily display what Khaleesi is thinking: “And bullets lance the bravest lungs / will I fold my hands or hold my tongue / or let the flames lick at my feet / or breathe in fire and know I’m free.” Of course, Khaleesi can’t be burnt by fire, and as a leader she must start making crucial decisions regarding the fate of the lands she rules over. She must make the difficult choice whether to be known as peaceful and submissive (“fold my hands / hold my tongue”) or aggressive and respected (“breathe in fire and know I’m free.”)

Number Five: “Winterlong” by Smashing Pumpkins. This is probably the most introspective song on this list, but I felt the lyrics could be Jon Snow’s theme song. Lyrics like, “some come to harm, others to grace / so let my friends fly under these wings” and “some feel movement, others stand still / so let the moment become my will,” portray Snow’s outlook on love and war- he had a romantic relationship with a Wildling, he is the unspoken leader of the Night’s Watch, and he knows when it’s appropriate to show mercy. Lyrics like, “sometimes it seems so long / since you had a chance to refuse” and “why does it take so long / to find out who is who,” describe Snow’s choice to join the Night’s Watch and his inner battle of trying to judge people based on their character and not what region they’re from. Perhaps the most telling lyrics are the following: “We built a fire, winterlong / transform to iron, winterlong / I was the first one / I was the last one to be strong.” This reflects Snow’s time spent at the Wall with the Night’s Watch, while the lines about “fire” transforming into “iron” could reflect how both sides (fire and ice) are ultimately fighting small battles to win the big victory: the Iron Throne. (This Smashing Pumpkins song came from their 2001 b-sides album, Judas O.)

Number Four: “Climbing Up the Walls” by Radiohead. “Climbing Up the Walls” is a song by Radiohead, off of their 1997 album, OK Computer. For some reason, this song reminds of me of two of the show’s key, skilled manipulators: Littlefinger and the Spider. These are the men behind the scenes who control and command networks across the lands. The song opens up with lyrics like, “I am the key to the lock in your house / that keeps your toys in the basement / and if you get too far inside / you’ll only see my reflection” (this verse especially reminds me of Littlefinger’s somewhat creepy relationship and power over Sansa Stark.) The second verse goes, “It’s always best when the candle’s out / I am the pick in the ice / do not cry out or hit the alarm / you know we’re friends ‘til we die.” This could describe how both Littlefinger and the Spider do their dirty work in the shadows, always evading suspicion, while also describing how they both hold political sway and power over others, treating them like “friends” when they could be easily deceiving them. The chorus is the following: “And either way you turn / I’ll be there / open up your skull / I’ll be there / climbing up the walls.” Fans of the show may have noticed that both the Spider and Littlefinger will appear out of nowhere sometimes, only to reveal that major deaths or events occurred, because they were pulling the strings in the background. They are always “climbing up the walls” of the minds of both their allies and enemies.

Number Three: “Dragon Queen” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. “Dragon Queen” is a song by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, off of their 2009 album, It’s Blitz!. While many speculate this song is about heroin addiction, I’m choosing to apply it to the dragon queen herself: Khaleesi. The first verse goes, “my mouth is touching / your mouth is running / no loving, for nothing / nobody, knock my body out.” This could describe Khaleesi’s strong public speaking skills, her willingness to listen to others but also her strong conviction that she is a leader, and she’s not going to let anybody “knock (her) body out” of the game. The chorus is the following: “How are you not going to show no scar? / How are you not going to get high, high?” This could easily be the voice of the people who hear of Khaleesi’s victories throughout the lands (like Varys); they are both amazed at her ability to tame dragons and not be burnt by fire (“show no scar,”) while also knowing it’s a matter of time before she will get her chance to rule the kingdoms (“get high.”)  

Number Two: “Your Skull is Red” by Team Sleep. “Your Skull is Red” is a song by Team Sleep, off of their self-titled 2005 album. The lyrics are pretty simple, beginning with, “your skull is red / fingernail red / your bones are red / and it feels gold” and ending with, “your lungs are red / fingernails red / your clothes are red / and it feels gold.” I feel this song perfectly describes the Lannister family; not only is their crest gold and red, but when they commit bloodshed (red,) it feels good to them like (gold.) In addition, the song starts off with the toll of a bell before the music crescendos, which could be seen as the death knell.

Number One: “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin. I felt this list wouldn’t be complete without including a song by a band who often sung about medieval themes and legends. “Immigrant Song” is a track by Led Zeppelin, off of their 1970 album,Led Zeppelin III. I feel the song as a whole describes how fans of Game of Thrones hope the show will end; this is portrayed in the brilliant, ending lyrics, “So now you’d better stop / and rebuild all your ruins / for peace and trust can win the day / despite of all your losing.” The lyrics in the beginning, “we come from the land of the ice and snow / from the midnight sun where the hot springs flow,” could describe how residents of all regions are looking for a piece of glory (Valhalla is a place of honor where the noble slain in battle go, according to Norse mythology.)