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Star Tunes: A Look at the Music of SGU

Tuesday - September 7, 2010
Category: OPINION | Tags:

Observation Deck 2

Until recently, lyrical music in the Stargate franchise was something almost unknown to fans — that is, until Stargate Universe premiered and ended its 3-part opener, “Air,” with Alexi Murdoch’s song “Breath.” After the struggle to find something that would help replenish the Destiny‘s air supply comes to a close, Murdoch’s song is strategically placed at the end of the episode to remind the new crew to re-gather themselves and take a deep breath.

Music with lyrics has up to this point been scarce in the sci-fi genre, left to weekly dramas like Friday Night Lights or One Tree Hill. Ron Moore’s re-imagined Battlestar Galactica took a stab at lyrical music with Bear McCreary’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” quite successfully. While this is yet another new step in trying to branch SGU out to a wider audience, bringing songs into the world of Stargate has come as a pleasant surprise.

Unlike a lot of television programs on the air today that randomly throw a song in the middle or end of a show, the tunes that have been featured on SGU are all strategically put into place — like the aforementioned “Breath” — each having something relevant to do with what is going on during an episode.

Take another Alexi Murdoch song, “All My Days,” featured in the episode “Faith.” This particular song was played in a few different points during the course of the episode, contrasting the members of the crew who are left on this beautiful planet for a month and the ones left to tend to daily duties aboard the Destiny. “All My Days” becomes both a song of joy and of sorrow, but in the end brings the crew back together as they feast over newly-found food.

In “Human,” Dr. Rush interfaces with the Ancient chair device aboard Destiny and is stuck in this very lucid dream like state as he tries to figure out just how to unlock control of the ship. The song featured in “Human” is a piece by English rock band The Jam titled “English Rose.” Without even listening to the lyrics, the title of this song is already connected to Rush with his Scottish background. But more than that, the lyrics tell the story of exactly what Rush is trying to accomplish.

A portion of the lyrics go like this:

I’ve been to ancient worlds
I’ve scoured the whole universe
And caught the first train home
To be at her side.

This portion of the song is inserted perfectly into the scene it is played in, as Rush desperately tries to figure out how to unlock the ship’s systems and get control of Destiny … while also painfully reliving the death of his wife. These are not just random songs thrown into the show last minute, but music that helps tell the story of the episode.

For some, music in a sci-fi drama like SGU might take some getting used to. But if you listen carefully, you might be surprised at how much of a story these lyrics can tell. Hopefully, this will be something that is continued as the series goes on. Maybe SGU is a way for other sci-fi series to breakout and start putting songs into their episodes. If there is one thing in the world everyone can relate with, it’s music. Music can sometimes tell whole stories about peoples lives or events in history and so far, it is as much a character in Stargate Universe as the Destiny herself.

The songs mentioned here — “Breath” and “All My Days” by Alexi Murdoch and “English Rose” by The Jam — are available on iTunes.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julian Landau Brown is a GateWorld contributor and a former writer for Lunch.com. He lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife and fellow Stargate fan, Karyn. (More)


COMMENTS (26):Rules | Report Comment | Trackback

  • “Music with lyrics has up to this point been scarce in the sci-fi genre,…”

    And I am very glad that this is so! The music montages are one of the worst aspects of SGU.

  • And Rod Stewart’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” in the SG-1 series finale “Unending?”

    You’d think that that, being the very first time it was done in the franchise, would merit a mention…

  • @psw – I 100% completely agree. I find the music (at least the way they use it in SGU) distracting and unpleasant. While I understand what they are trying to do, I don’t feel it is implemented well in SGU at all.

    The music montages really need to go in my humble opinion.

  • I liked how they used popular music in the SGA episode Vegas, but that was because it was so novel. I don’t think I’d want to see it frequently, a bit too emo, IMO.

  • IIRC the first was “Who Am I” at the end of “Fragile Balance” (SG-1 Season Seven).

    And … Rod Stewart? Really? ;) That’s CCR.

  • Thank you for this. I’ve loved all the music choices in SGU so far and a few times I’ve even googled the lyrics to find the artist. I’d love to see more articles here spotlighting the great music on SGU.

  • i couldn’t believe it when they used Brand New’s you wont know. i love that song. yes it was risky but it was a good song choice as that whole album is dark and about what the people on destiny are going through. and i love the stuff by Alexi.

  • Music montages are extremely overused in SGU. One or two in a whole season are still ok, but not one or more in every episode!

  • The use of songs with lyrics in science fiction doens’t bother me. What really bothered me in SGU was the blaring, grating MTV music video in the beginning of Divided when Chloe has her nightmare (after being abducted by aliens). I was pretty pleased after seeing Space, but that scene kind of killed Space’s momentum for me. I consider that scene a low-point in the series (directly following one of the high points).

  • The only use of music I didn’t like was in the episode, I believe, Earth, where they are in the club. Mainly because I didn’t see how that artist performing really fit into the show.

    @psw I know you’re entitled to your opinion, but I’ve seen you on several threads now, and would prefer to see a positive comment here and there, I personally don’t get where you are coming from, and it seems like you’re posting just to be negative.
    Generally speaking I don’t mind it, I’ve loved the use of Alexi Murdock and when they used Flogging Molly’s “Worst Day Since Yesterday”

    @psw I’ve seen you on several threads now.

  • Previous post of mine, if approved should be ignored… cursor mishape

    The only use of music I didn’t like was in the episode, I believe, Earth, where they are in the club. Mainly because I didn’t see how that artist performing really fit into the show.

    Generally speaking I don’t mind it, I’ve loved the use of Alexi Murdock and when they used Flogging Molly’s “Worst Day Since Yesterday”

    @psw I know you’re entitled to your opinion, but I’ve seen you on several threads now, and would prefer to see a positive comment here and there, I personally don’t get where you are coming from, and it seems like you’re posting just to be negative.

  • I guess I am in the minority here, but I really enjoy the montages and the music. Even more after I re-watched the episodes on DVD.

  • I think that having this type of music is a good way to help people relate to the show. They don’t use random bits of songs, they use music that can connect anyone watching the show to what the characters are going through. My favorite was in “Life”, when “Worst Day Since Yesterday”, by Flogging Molly, was used. At first I laughed, then I realized it fit the situation completely. I say GOOD JOB!!!

  • Yes, I totally did a facepalm to the Chloe MTV video, it was hard to watch.
    I’m not a fan of SGU using contemporary music.
    1. I can’t understand 75% of the words being sung in Rock music anyway, so to “strategically place” the music to compliment a scene, this usually goes over my head.
    2. I would rather they use the 2-3 minutes it takes to do a video montage, to instead explain the plot deeper, with words.
    3. Stargate is taken from a movie, thus it should have a cinematic feel to it with classic movie music, not a music video feel.
    But, if I have to sacrifice annoying music to keep a modern version of Stargate on the air, then so be it.

  • I don’t mind the montages if it helps keep SGU on the air. I’d prefer they used *better* music, but whatever. That’s nothing new to me. Actually I’ve made a game of what music I’d replace them with.

  • Stargate Universe – Music.

    I have read many comments about it some like it some don’t. I note careful consideration of the Music was NOT taken lightly or randomly, to all those who are against SG-Us music.

    I say this from what I have heard in the New Stargate Universe I like it not simply because I like any particular track or that the music fills the show out, but because for me the selection of music approproiately included, has for me REAL meaning that I can relate to – the Music in Faith, Human and Air III and Divided etc by Alexi Murdoch, The Jam and Julian Plenti.

    I can relate to Dr Rush’s Character because I too have and still am suffering loss – Natalie A Maranian – Gone Too Soon Website. Anyone who would criticise the music of SG-U who has NOT been through such Trauma cannot really understand, unless it has happened to them!

    Hence the Music has Great Personal Meaning. As does the Stargate Universe show. Which as of today 8th Sept 2010 I shall be purchasing the DVD boxset.

    Michael

  • I like the musical additiona, and if chosen appropriately the music and lyrics can get across a lot of emotion reveal things about characters that could be clumsy in expository dialog. I loved the inclusion of Floggin Mollys – The Worst Day Sine Yesterday

  • meh -I don’t like the montages. They are going to date this show. I would be happier with less of them.

  • I’m not a big fan of those montage.
    There where parts where it somewhat works but that was not always the case and at moments took me out of the moment… .
    Think it could be better if it wasn’t so much in your face.
    I strongly remember that had this feeling with a scene that would have worked so much better with some joel goldsmith music.
    It was still great though.

    This is based on what I felt the first time I saw the episodes…waiting for the complete season blu-ray release so will see what it gives if I watch the episodes again.
    Perhaps it just takes some getting used to… .

  • I love the music they have included. It gives it a more human feel to the show. Helps to emphasize the drama and the struggle they are facing.

  • I think some of the montages work better than others, and sometimes it depends on how its used. I loved the montage with “Breathe” in Air pt. III. I didn’t like the Flogging Molly’s song (“Worst Day Since Yesterday”?) the first time it was used in Life, but when it was used again at the end of the episode it really had an emotional impact. While I don’t want to see it done too often, I really don’t have any problem with the use of contemporary music in the show. Sometimes it really works and helps set SGU apart from the previous Stargate shows.

  • Fragile Balence was BG music, it wasn’t a music montage. But yes, it was the first time outside music was brought in. Music montages to me was rare and special. I liked ‘breathe’ but after that when they had one in every episode it lost its uniqueness to me. I did not like the music in the opening for Pain.

  • I don’t think lyrics are what anyone is angry about. It’s the music itself. It’s bad.

    That being said, I’m still a fan of the show, fo sho.


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