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Not Enough People Are Talking About the Most Nostalgic Soundtrack on TV Right Now

Nat with headphones on in Yellowjackets

A soundtrack can make or break a project. For many of us music kids, we thrive when the soundtrack featured in a movie or television show is a perfect blend of music we know and love mixed with songs that speak to the journey of the characters. It’s why things like James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks really hit with fans. But one soundtrack that has not been talked about nearly enough is the brilliance that is the Yellowjackets soundtrack.

Maybe it’s because Yellowjackets has the advantage of being set during a time in music history that was quite varied and aggressive. I’m talking about the ’90s. It was then that the music scene became a more complicated space to talk about. Granted, I don’t think music is gendered in general and non-binary individuals are also part of the conversation, but there was this debate over what music “boys” liked and what music “girls” liked that still exists today, and it sort of started back then. There was some weird idea in the ’90s about what girls like and what boys like when it comes to music.

Bands like Fleetwood Mac have been labeled as a “girl” band, which feels weird, but the ’90s kicked off a split. Bands like Nirvana were maybe more male-leaning in terms of who listened to them, and it helped to usher in what I’d label “girl rock.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that the lead singer is a woman, but sometimes it is the case.

All this to say that the Yellowjackets soundtrack is one of the best out there because of its use of “girl” rock anthems and bringing back to life the music that defined teenage girls in the ’90s. (And girls in general—I was still a kid but I remember loving these songs growing up.) Let’s talk about the Yellowjackets soundtrack, how unapologetically ’90s it is, and why I feel like it is safe to call it a soundtrack for the ’90s girls.

Radiohead is for the girlies

Survivors of the women's high school soccer team, the Yellowjackets, outside of their tragic plane crash scene

Yellowjackets season 1 featured music from Liz Phair, Hole, Throwing Muses, and a cover of “Never Tear Us Apart” by Paloma Faith—all in the first episode of the series. The first season featured classics like Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” as well as “Dreams” by The Cranberries. But season 1 was significantly more inclusive of bands with female leads, including duos like Salt-N-Pepa. That’s not to say the show didn’t have bands with men fronting them. Jane’s Addiction and the Smashing Pumpkins were featured on the soundtrack as well.

Season 2, however, helped to solidify a thought for me: The music of Yellowjackets is what people would label as “girl” music. And yes, that does mean that Radiohead belongs to the girlies. The season 2 finale for featured songs that confirmed this thinking. The second season featured a cover of the theme song performed by Alanis Morissette, who became the voice for angry girls of the world in the ’90s. And yet what has been so great about this soundtrack is that it challenges the idea of music labeled as “girly” or for women, showing that music is universal and that even if people (particularly men) want to label it with a gender, it doesn’t stick.

Which is why I jokingly say that Radiohead is for the girls, but it is a band that many people associate with the sort of emotions most women go through as teens. Including “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” in an episode with “Zombie” by The Cranberries, as well as two different versions of “The Killing Moon” (originally performed by Echo & the Bunnymen), feels like a challenge to those who want to categorize music with a gender.

It’s why the inclusion of bands like Radiohead from the ’90s mixed with songs by current musicians like St. Vincent (covering Metallica) bring light to the energy of Yellowjackets and recall the power that many of us felt listening to this music—both back in the ’90s and now.

’90s music is the best

Misty and the other girls carry a teammate who's trussed up. We can't see who the dead girl is.

The reason the Yellowjackets soundtrack is so amazing is simple: This isn’t music we still hear day in and day out. Part of the joy of being a fan of classic rock is that it is constantly being played and praised even to this day. You can walk out into the world and hear a song by the Rolling Stones almost anywhere. I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s the case for musicians like The Cranberries, unless you’re only looking to hear “Linger.” Same goes for Radiohead, unless you want to rock out to “Creep.” You’re not going to hear “Fake Plastic Trees” in the wild.

Yellowjackets is bringing that era of music to life and highlighting songs that were deemed as girly music back then. And it feels oddly satisfying and nice to have these songs given attention again because the ’90s music labeled as “for the boys” is still played often in the world today. Even when Jeff is rocking out to Papa Roach’s “Last Resort” in the car (a song I love), I thought, “wow I’ve heard this song a lot more than the rest of this soundtrack in the last 23 years” because it’s just the way of the world.

Things deemed as being for men get more attention, while “girly” things don’t. The music of Yellowjackets is more geared towards women, so this soundtrack just feels so incredibly special to me because it’s music that was mine growing up. Radiohead was my band, not my brothers’ and not my dad’s. The Cranberries helped me emotionally connect to things. To see them back in the spotlight with Yellowjackets is amazing.

We just need people talking about the music of Yellowjackets more. To me, this soundtrack is at the same level as things like Gunn’s Guardians work. It’s just more specifically geared toward the women of the ’90s, and we deserve our time and nostalgia too.

(featured image: Showtime)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.