There’s a lot to love about Yellowjackets, but one of my absolute favorite features of the show is its soundtrack. The Showtime series is a bit like Lord of the Flies by way of Lost, telling the mysterious story of a 1996 high school girl’s soccer team struggling to survive after their plane crashes in the wilderness, and the present-day stories of the women who made it out of the woods. It features tons of great ‘90s music—we’re talking artists like Alanis, Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins, and Mazzy Star.
The show doesn’t just sprinkle on the hits like confetti, though. Its needle drops are well-executed pairings of music and storytelling that also often happen to provide instant hits of nostalgia. If you’ve watched the series, you’ve got to have a favorite musical moment. For Jasmin Savoy Brown, who plays Taissa in the show’s ‘96 timeline, that moment comes in episode two, when a quick-thinking/bloodthirsty Misty amputates coach Ben’s leg right as the howling chorus of Tracy Bonham’s “Mother Mother” drops. “I screamed,” she told Jezebel. “I think that’s one of the most brilliant transitions, cuts, music drops I’ve ever seen in my life.”
If you’ve ever wanted to hear all the music from the show, including its theme tune, all in one place, Showtime has heeded your call and dropped the full collection of songs as a Spotify playlist. It’s embedded below, but first—a few of my personal favorites.
When will the winds of ‘90s celebrity redemption turn towards Courtney Love? Hole was by far one of the best bands of the decade. Love used to tell the press that her band’s name was taken from a passage in Euripedes’s Medea, and while the line she cited didn’t actually appear in the text, the connection felt apt nonetheless. She was drawing a line straight from the most wrathful woman of ancient myth, who murdered her own children to spite her unfaithful husband, right to herself, who famously vowed in her lyrics that, “Some day you will ache like I ache.” If there’s any artist whose music and persona works perfectly for the vicious, messy, and intensely compelling world of Yellowjackets, it’s Love. In another sign of aesthetic kinship, Yellowjackets is executive produced by Karyn Kusama, director of Jennifer’s Body, which takes its name from a different Hole song.
This track plays in the pilot, against one of our few glimpses of the Yellowjackets’ “dinner party”—their feral and very possibly cannibalistic barbecue. There couldn’t be a better song to soundtrack it than this creepy classic, in which Harvey tells a story of a woman who drowns her own daughter. And while declaring different women songwriters of the ‘90s to each be the perfect standard bearer of the Yellowjackets spirit could easily emerge as a theme on this list, PJ Harvey is a very solid competitor for Love’s title. Wouldn’t “Rid of Me” be a perfect song for the season two soundtrack?
Not all the songs featured on the show are from the ‘90s—not even all the songs used in the ‘96 timeline. While Taissa cuts off her hair in episode seven, this 2017 track from R’n’B singer-songwriter Amber Mark plays. With its hand-clap beat and droning harmonies, the song is a creepy, catchy earworm.
This song gets featured in a lot of movies, TV shows, commercials, and sporting events, and it never ever feels played out. Whenever I hear it, I’m transported to a nightclub scene from a late-’90s movie, surrounded by kids with needle-thin eyebrows and low-rise leather jeans. On Yellowjackets, this song doesn’t soundtrack a scene taking place in 1996, but one set in the present. In it, Shauna and her fling, the ever-mysterious Adam, jump off a bridge into a body of water and then make out in his van. That’s how good this song feels.
There are so many things Mark Wahlberg could choose to be ashamed of, and yet it’s his Marky Mark past that seems to embarrass him. Why? Sure, the fact that this song is a bop has a lot more to do with Loleatta Holloway’s vocals than it does with his contributions, but it’s a bop nonetheless.
Yellowjackets’ opening credits song may sound like another 30-year-old classic taken out of the archives, but it’s actually an original composition for the show. The reason it sounds so authentic is that the musicians who wrote and performed it, Anna Waronker and Craig Wedren, are real-life ‘90s rock band alums, members of That Dog and Shudder to Think, respectively. Writing the Yellowjackets theme, Wedrob told Pitchfork, “was such a treat because it was really asking us to do the original thing that we both did for many years. It wasn’t hard to dip back into that.” (Waronker also wrote a few of the songs on the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack, which already places her on the Mount Rushmore of film and TV composers, in my opinion.) The resulting theme tune, which buries Waronker’s voice under layers of distortion, is just perfect.