How Music Shapes Good Omens

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Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is a fantastical flight of fancy that has a distinctly whimsical voice. This whimsy poses a unique challenge for a television show to get across. Sure, you could CGI some mushrooms and whip up some special effects. But what if your whimsical tale is set in a very real England? Amazon’s Good Omens music uses an auditory path to achieve this aura. Composer David Arnold creates a dichotomous duet that marries Aziraphel and Crowley’s dueling personalities.

Queen In Good Omens

Any time Crowley is in his Bentley, a Queen song is usually featured. This is a nod to the Terry Pratchett quote that “All tapes left in a car for more than about a fortnight metamorphose into Best of Queen albums,” This mirrors moments in the novel that contain Queen songs as background music. Finding Queen songs that match the right scenes in the show is not hard. The band’s vibe closely matches Crowley’s rebellious but ultimately sensitive spirit.

Crowley and his Bentley in Good Omens
Credit: BBC/Amazon 2019

Bohemian Rhapsody is featured in a multitude of episodes. The song perfectly captures Crowley’s intensity, while the higher vocals still showcase the story’s (here it is again) whimsy. The rock grounds viewers as the show brings them on a ride from hell, to heaven, to the English Countryside, and into a flaming Bentley onto an airforce base.

Good Omens‘ Theme

The Good Omens’ theme is a blend of macabre and classically based melodies. In an interview with Classic FM, Arnold specifies that his approach to representing both heaven, hell, and the earth in between was that

“Anything that sounded good I also wanted to sound bad.”

Good Omens' Aziraphel and Crowley.
Credit: BBC 2019

Another unique way music shapes Good Omens is Arnold’s customization of each episode’s ending theme. The same melody rewritten with the specific episode in mind brings a new level to a normally visual-heavy medium. The percussive elements of the theme are jarring against the string heavy melody. However, this mirrors the conflict the show is exploring between forces from heaven and hell. The theme’s instrumentals infiltrate other songs in the soundtrack as well.

The opening scene from the series.
Credit: BBC/Amazon 2019

During “Three Card Switch,” which plays as Crowley delivers the Anti-Christ to the nuns, the harpsichords and percussive elements of the theme can be heard, reminding viewers of the overarching conflict between heaven and hell. Additionally, in “Ineffable Plan,” we hear the theme’s melody near the end of the spaghetti western stylized song.

Good Omens Music Sets The Scenes

The music surrounding each setting such as London, the English countryside, heaven, and hell all have a distinct voice. Visually, heaven and hell are dynamically different places. However, Arnold joins the modern, clean heaven aesthetic and the dingy, basement of hell of Good Omens in auditory matrimony.

Adam and his friends in Good Omens
Credit: BBC — Amazon (2019)

Often, the “heavenly” sounds of string or vocal solos are matched with grating tonalities or nontraditional sounds. Arnold’s attention to detail and keen ear brings viewers on a journey that involves more than just the visual sense. Here are some of the most memorable musical themes that shape the show.

Music Of The Characters

The track representing Adam (the Anti-Christ) is delightfully upbeat but still holds an edge. This reminds us of Adam’s power and ultimate destiny in the “ineffable plan.” The songs keep to the whimsy of a fairytale while the apocalypse looms. Hell Hound uses the classically spooky organ and thunderclaps against a more modern hard rock beat. It blends two musical styles that represent darkness and pits them with the visuals of Adam’s spunky terrier named dog.

Anathema and Newton from the series.
Credit: BBC/Amazon 2019

This presents an auditory joke of sorts that the audience subconsciously absorbs. This further shows Arnold and the showrunner’s brilliance in bringing comedy and horror together. Anathema’s theme is a mix of country blues that turns into a mystical power ballad filled with chorals. It mirrors Newt’s theme, signifying their partnership that Agnes Nutter foresaw. The songs surrounding the angels Gabriel and Michael are light and upbeat but hold a hint of darkness. Lilting into a minor key or having an electric guitar punch into the main acoustic melody makes us wonder who is truly on the right or wrong side.

Musical Juxtaposition

Even when truly dark moments happen in the show, such as the delivery of world-ending packages to their recipients, the music turns the show on its head with toe-tapping country tunes turning into foreboding orchestral sequences. Arnold’s talent for finding unlikely pairings of musical genres and scenes gives the entire soundtrack an irresistible aura that pulls one into the show.

Beyond Good Omens Music

Even casual Good Omens fans can enjoy the musical depth that the Good Omens soundtrack presents. The story itself chronicles the conflict between good and evil in the world and how hope and humanity can win out against ineffable odds. The music reflects this classic struggle through its intricate melodies and mismatched harmonies.

At times, people can categorize music into “good” and “bad.” Often, this places classical music in the “good” column and more modern or rock type tunes in the “bad.” Just as Good Omens strives to point out the light and dark in everyone, the music of Good Omens proves that these musical separations are arbitrary. The show’s music does more than just complement and enhances the series. It is an active voice in the telling and shaping of the story itself.

Listening to the soundtrack for Good Omens brings you on a journey through time, morality and worlds all with a touch of whimsy and grace.

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