Succession soundtrack: Here’s why the HBO show’s theme tune is stuck in your head

20 September 2021, 10:53 | Updated: 20 September 2021, 13:25

Season 3 of HBO’s Succession has been announced for Autumn 2021.
Season 3 of HBO’s Succession has been announced for Autumn 2021. Picture: HBO

By Rosie Pentreath

As ‘Succession’ teases its return to our screens with Season 3 this Autumn, we remind ourselves of the ingenious theme music, and unpack why it’s just so darn good.

Succession is hands down some of the sharpest, most compulsive, and most gratifying TV viewing there is.

The American satirical comedy-drama landed on our screens with a Logan-sized thud in 2018. The addictive plot follows the offensively wealthy Roy family in New York, as they navigate the succession of the family’s dominating media empire from furious patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox), down to squabbling siblings Shiv (Sarah Snook), Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin).

And the slickness on screen, slated to return in Season 3 this Autumn, is accompanied by a soundtrack that’s equally masterly.

Read more: All the classical music featured in The Handmaid’s Tale soundtrack

Who composed the Succession theme music, and why is it so catchy?

Nicholas Britell composed the immediately iconic theme music and score for Succession.

Britell, an American composer, pianist, and film producer said, “I think it’s important to always follow things from that almost physical emotional place, as opposed to being too intellectual,” when he spoke to Variety about the music for the show.

And almost physical and emotional it really is. The Succession theme is incredible catchy and memorable, all jangling piano and stabbing strings that directly reflects the shaky alliances and stabs in the back on screen.

What instruments are used in the Succession theme music?

The theme is orchestrated for piano, strings and drumkit, and has a distorted bass line that makes things sound a bit off – but so, so right. Basically like the characters’ plots and dalliances on screen.

A honky-tonk-feeling piano is ushered in by a laborious drumbeat, and it clinks into an undulating, tuneful melody that’s just very slightly off pitch-wise (hear it in the video above).

Powerful string chords respond to the first phrase, then the upper strings take on the melody and develop it into a compelling tune that evokes marvellously the Roy family’s trials and tribulations – always set against a backdrop of power, greed and somehow-unescapable buffoonery.

The chug of the strings in tandem with that stubborn drumbeat keep the theme music churning in all its supreme glory. It’s ingeniously catchy and addictive, so when it crops up during the action, it’s even more satisfying.

Brilliant. We can’t wait to have the hideous, glorious Roy empire back in our lives.

Season 3 of Succession premieres in Autumn 2021.