So here are my picks for “Gotham,” none of which have ever been featured on the show, but sometimes music and songs just capture the feel of a place or the inner machinations of a character (or characters). Therefore, I bring to your listening pleasure my “Gotham” mixtape and why I felt each song fit. At least in my head. You’re free to think what you wish, including that I am utterly bonkers for doing this. (Though you should know that, as a writer, I do have playlists for each manuscript I work on. Then again maybe that doesn’t really help my case…) But, at the very least, maybe you might have discovered some cool tracks to jam to.
Consider this my Christmas gift to all of my fellow Gothamites!
This is a good theme song for the city of Gotham itself as its underlying power struggles between darkness and light, good and evil, compassion and cruelty, are very much like “sitting on a ticking bomb.” On the surface, the lyrics here sound hopeless but they actually deliver a warning – no one is safe from the consequences of sin because “it don’t care what side you’re on.”
2. “Bloodstained Sonnet” – Neulore
This song captures the overall poetic yet tragic story of the city itself regarding the various storylines and characters’ lives, especially Bruce Wayne’s narrative, whose parents’ deaths set a literal bloodstained stage. Gotham itself seems to possess a certain cold disregard for human life, justice, and truth yet very often the same people causing all of the trouble end up making their own. (“Did you climb just to cut the vine?” as the song inquires, meaning did one get to a higher station in life just to prevent others from improving their lot.) Either way you view it, I thought this track serves as a haunting summary of what’s transpired thus far.
3. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Lorde
While the original version by Tears for Fears is classic 80’s pop, Lorde’s cover here gives the song a far more sinister quality with minimalist instrumentation that breaks into a full orchestra and, of course, carries the weight of her signature vocals. This track, for me, sums up the mindsets of the power-holders and power-grabbers in Gotham, from the politicians, to the mobsters, to the up-and-coming crime lords like Oswald Cobblepot. (No worries – he gets a few tracks dedicated to his character below!) Everybody in Gotham, it seems, wants to rule their respective world.
4. “Burn My Shadow” – UNKLE
I think this song perfectly sums up the character of Jim Gordon and his numerous moral conflicts. He strives to do what’s right but sometimes this proves difficult, if not downright impossible at times. Early on, he enters Gotham with a slightly rosier outlook than what the city really deserves. Regardless, he’s unafraid to face down his “destroyers,” confront untruth, and strives to rise when he falls, morally-speaking, as he still feels a duty to the city. Plus, the overall chaotic, circular arrangement of this track, cycling from full-throttle energy to subdued near-silence, is a great metaphor for the ups and downs of life in Gotham.
5. “Shout at the Moon” – Mallory Knox
While I thought this song could apply to Jim and Barbara’s turbulent relationship (where I sense he cares more for her than she for him), it fits with some other characters’ tempestuous lives as well. To some degree, most of the characters, from Jim Gordon to Bruce Wayne, to Oswald Cobblepot, to Selena Kyle, to even Ed Nygma and Harvey Dent, are searching for some sort of ideal – whether it’s a person or a desire (such as the attainment of respect or power) – however realistic or grandiose it might be. It’s a quest for something bigger than themselves, wondering if there is a purpose out there that seems attainable but lies just out of reach, very much like trying to reach for the moon.
6. “Can’t Go Back” – Phil Beaudreau
Robin Lord Taylor actually has this song on a personal playlist that sums up aspects of Oswald Cobblepot’s character. I can certainly see how the lyrics fit here, charting Oswald’s journey from an underling to a rising power holder. Likewise, the words sum up the overall atmosphere of Gotham itself – it can’t go back to a better or simpler time because it has changed too much, but everything, both the good and the bad, comes in cycles.
7. “Walk the Line” – Iggy Azalea
I know how odd this choice might seem but its aggressive bragging perfectly sums up Oswald Cobblepot’s mental state to me, akin to how he might view himself as a force to be reckoned with yet knows he’s the only one who is going to pave the way to make something of himself. And let’s face it – the hip-hop swagger embodies his subdued bravado. As the song states, “Everything ain’t the way I planned it/But when the smoke clears I’m the last standing.” Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to his story arc.
8. “Avalanche” – Michelle Chamuel & Arjun Singh
This is another song that made me think of Oswald but it takes on a more poetic meaning. In short, this song is a hybrid love song/revenge song, both sentiments I think drive Oswald regarding his feelings towards Gotham. He has admitted that Gotham is his “home,” that it is his “destiny,” and that he is the city’s hope. Yet the city hasn’t proven too kind to him, which, in my mind, produces a love-hate relationship between Oswald and Gotham (“Now you can’t deny that I’ve been burned/You’re finally gonna get what you deserve/’Cause everything in my heart beats for you). He loves the city since it’s the only home he’s ever known but he despises the fact it’s treated him cruely at times. In the end, Oswald plans to come in like an unstoppable force, very much like an avalanche, and take over. (And you thought I picked this because an avalanche has to do with snow, which relates to penguins! Hah! Got you!)
9. “How You Loved Me” – 3LAU featuring Bright Lights
This is another track that I feel embodies the dual side of various characters – everyone in Gotham is capable of doing both good and bad, even down to the worst of the lot like Fish Mooney. On the other hand, the city of Gotham is a bit, shall I say, two-faced and it makes total sense that it would house characters who are equally that way. As the song states, “Nobody’s perfect, I’ll never try/But I promise I’m worth it if you just open up your eyes,” hence Gotham is still worth saving if one looks past its morally unattractive underbelly.
10. “Empty Gold” – Halsey
I feel this track is the city’s anthem – if Gotham could speak, this is what it might say, an argument between its light side and its darker nature, as it were. I imagine the city is chatting it up with its devious, deceitful twin, insisting it wants to be redeemed, to rise above its darkened state. The bridge in this song, for me, speaks of the city’s “underdogs” and “alley cats” (and how can you not think of Selena Kyle when you hear that?) who seek a purpose beyond themselves. But the ultimate plea is for redemption from the trappings of bad choices, corrupted power, and materialism: “If the morning light don’t steal our soul/We will walk away from empty gold.”