Design by Reid Graham

“Euphoria,” the hit HBO A24 collaboration that has taken the entire world (and my TikTok “For You” page) by storm, has become extremely influential since it first aired in 2019. From Euphoria-themed parties where everyone dresses like Maddie, one of the main characters, who is both stylish and confrontational, to every social media platform blowing up on Sunday when new episodes air, the popularity of this show is intergenerational and leaves a mark on most people who watch it. The show, despite being very mainstream, tackles countless serious topics like drug addiction, abuse and mental illness. Part of what makes this show linger is how unsettling its content is. While there is plenty of discourse on whether or not every scene is necessary, they all definitely leave us thinking.

Regardless of what you think of the show, director Sam Levinson (“Malcom & Marie”) has created a beast that only gets wilder the more popular it becomes. A notable marker of its popularity is the soundtrack’s increased internet presence. Starting most notably with the first season, Labrinth (“Malcom & Marie”), the show’s composer, created an entire album, the tracks from which almost all became popular sounds on TikTok for various trends. The music can only be described as euphoric, and the airy, psychedelic sound that Labrinth composed has become a staple of Euphoria’s soundtrack.

Surprisingly, the second season brings a resurgence of older music gaining popularity after appearances in the show. In the first episode of season two, Steely Dan’s classic song “Dirty Work” plays during the opening scene. Immediately following this, the song began trending on TikTok. While some were happy to discover the piece or were excited about its return to popularity with a younger generation, there were plenty of contrarians who felt that Steely Dan, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, were no longer their little secret.

While I understand that it’s strange to see a new group of people connect with music from a while ago, I’ve been fascinated and impressed by the show’s ability to engage younger people with music old and new. I find something beautiful in the show’s capability to bring people from all walks of life together with the same songs and sounds. I also applaud the show for choosing music that elicits the perfect feelings for each setting. In one particular scene in episode four of season two, Cal Jacobs (Eric Dane, “X-Men: The Last Stand”), a dad who grew up in the ’80s, and Cassie Howard (Sydney Sweeney, “The Handmaid’s Tale”), a high school student, are seen singing along to Sinead O’Connor’s “Drink Before The War” in two separate settings. To me, this scene flawlessly encapsulates what the show has done in real life, bridging the gap between generations with music that makes us all feel something. Seeing older songs in new settings creates a beautiful contrast that gives new meaning to music that has been around for decades. 

I think the range of music within the show, from Baby Keem’s “trademark usa” to Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” is part of the most accurate representation of teenagers I’ve seen on television. Whereas most media depicting teenagers use a baseline sound of poppy dance music that plays in the background of every scene, “Euphoria” uses music not only as a background but as the center of a scene. Rue (Zendaya, “Spider-Man: No Way Home”) sings Tupac in the car, and Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi, “The Kissing Booth”) plays Orville Peck to impress Cassie. The music is realistic to what some teenagers might listen to, and it doesn’t just package the adolescent experience under one cheap shot at a soundtrack.

Daily Arts Writer Gigi Ciulla can be reached at gigishea@umich.edu.