Music lights the way on American Horror Story

Why the eerie soundtrack of “American Horror Story: Hotel” makes a world of difference.

Brooks Ginnan, Writer

When it comes to FX’s hit show “American Horror Story,” now in its fifth season “Hotel”, words such as “unsettling” and “disturbing” are no exaggeration. For a show that has decidedly veered away from the elements that made previous seasons “Murder House” and “Asylum” some of the most intriguing, albeit bleak, television in recent years, “Hotel” is a welcomed return to the rather distraught and complex world of co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk.


However, something not being talked about nearly as much as Lady Gaga’s acting debut is this season’s soundtrack. Accompanying the grimy, blood-stained hallways in the art deco-laden Hotel Cortez is an array of songs from some of the most prolific post-punk and gothic acts of the ‘80s.

In episode one alone, the sounds of post-punk pioneers Joy Division echoed through the neon-tinged shadows. Additionally, the oft-overused yet never aging “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus served as an eerie, discordant background to The Countess (played by Lady Gaga) revealing some of the hotel’s darkest secrets contained within the walls and chipping paint — literally. While the show’s score itself plays horrifying tricks on the mind, especially that of “Hotel’s” revamped, grisly title sequence, these legendary songs linger in a certain macabre tone to provide their corresponding scenes with an unease that is not a simple task to shake.


Although on a surface level, these songs have the ability to produce a sinister, uncomfortable feeling in the back of one’s head, there is a purpose that far transcends simple fright. Take Joy Division’s “The Eternal” for example. With lyrics such as, “Try to cry out in the heat of the moment/possessed by a fury that burns from inside/cry like a child, though these years make me older/with children my time is so wastefully spent,” late vocalist/lyricist Ian Curtis conveys the inner workings of a tortured, mourning soul.


For a season dwelling largely on the subject of addiction and the dead-ends that come as a result of trying to satisfy a void that cannot be filled by substances, accomplishments and people, songs like “The Eternal” take on a whole new meaning in this context.

In the darkness of bands such of Joy Division is an uncanny, harrowing connection to the human soul, and on “American Horror Story” this resonates to the utmost extent.

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