SOME SPOILERS AHEAD
Visually, The Americans is a thing of beauty. Its actors, appealing, the sets and costumes are well thought of. However, to those who carefully listen to the show’s soundtrack, the background music also adds tremendous appeal to the spy program.
Take for example Elizabeth Jenning’s lover, Gregory. He was offered to leave America and live in Russia as a hero but he refused. He became a wanted man, walked the streets proud, and got into a gun fight with the police. But we didn’t hear sounds of guns firing or bullets hitting the covers. What we heard was Roberta Flack’s To Love Somebody.
The man responsible was P.J. Bloom, a music industry veteran. In the TV world, he is known as a music supervisor, whose purpose is to combine visual media with music and produce a marriage not only pleasing to the eyes but also to the ears. He has worked in various TV shows like Glee, CSI: Miama, American Horror Story, and even Baywatch.
“One of the things I love to do as a music supervisor–and producers have to be really willing to embrace this concept–is use music completely against the action,” says PJ Bloom, “It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it makes an incredible soundtrack moment. And I know there was a lot of talk about this particular song moment in the show.”
The show is generating buzz from being included in a lot of top ten dramas from the past year. Diehard fans of the show know that The Americans is infamous for its wigs and its costumes. People appreciate the fine acting, while others are crazy about Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys chemistry. But among the reasons why the FX show is a hit, the moments that made the show special were made that way thanks to the contributions of Bloom and his supervising colleagues Heather Guibert and Janice Ginsberg.
One of Bloom’s favorite moments was Flack firefight in season 1, the love ballad that accompanied the scene turned from a somewhat routine street death to an act of emotional significance.
The musical choices also helped differentiate the show from spy pop icons like Mission Impossible and Get Smart. From where as Tom Cruise might handle high pressured situation with the famous M.I. theme song, Philip and Elizabeth disposes a body while Phil Collins play In the Air Tonight.
“I think the producers [Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg] wanted it to be real,” Bloom says. “They really make you feel like you were there in 1980s D.C. These are real people with real families fighting for a real cause–that kind of show doesn’t lend itself to big John Barry-type scoring moments.”
“In contemporary shows, you’re battling being hip and new music and people’s tastes–what’s cool and what’s not. When you get into period pieces, you have the history of music culture and its relevance already written,” Bloom says. “You can really look at 1,000 songs by huge artists, you can look at deeper tracks from those seminal artists, and you can look at things that existed in that time but for some reason didn’t hit. It’s a fun way to explore building a soundtrack.”
“It’s not one of those time periods like ’77-’78 with disco, or ’85-’86 and hair metal,” says Bloom. “But I think that adds to the fun of The Americans. You really get to pepper this show with a soundtrack flavor that the audience wouldn’t normally go to.”