Very Specific Playlists is a recurring feature in which Jezebel staffers make very specific Spotify playlists based on their weird proclivities.
Some evenings, as I’m leaving my office for the subway, I like to pretend that I’m in the the closing montage of a watershed episode of a prestige drama about my workplace. Don’t you?
In this scenario, my coworkers and I live in a fictionalized universe in which our pains are complex, our endeavors virtuous, and our soundtrack put together by someone who has sort of puzzling musical tastes. We work at, oh, I don’t know, maybe a website for news and gossip based in New York City. The series is sentimental and not particularly good. It’s the kind of show you wouldn’t necessarily want your cooler friends to know that you watch. Like The Newsroom or late Grey’s Anatomy.
These are songs that play in the minute or two before the credits roll, when the episode is neatly summed up through meaningful looks between characters and shots of other people throwing their reading glasses down on a file of documents to show how weighed down they are by the demands of their job—which is, of course, misunderstood by all but their coworkers.
1. “Good For You” by Selena Gomez
This plays at the end of an episode where the main character—who is presented as a complicated saint whose fatal flaw is caring too much—has just wrapped a story on a major sexual harassment scandal at a rival media company. She goes home to her loving, feminist boyfriend who is named something like Stephen to have sex with him. She looks at herself in the mirror and puts on lipstick before meeting him in the bedroom. This is the kind of subtle commentary you can expect from this show.
2. “Cheap Thrills” by Sia
The character who is most devoted to her job, a dogged reporter who wants the truth, damn it dramatically meets a source in the rain, at night. Across town, her less hardworking pals from work are at a bar doing lines of coke. We see a shot of a text message that reads “you coming?” She ignores it.
3. “Just One of the Guys” by Jenny Lewis
At the end of this episode, in which a mostly supporting character who is sweet but boy oh boy has a lot to learn experiences the frustrations of workplace sexism, shots of the men in her office on their way to a fancy dinner in their honor are juxtaposed with shots of the women in her office, still at work as the sun sets. The supporting character takes the subway home and sighs audibly as the doors close in front of her. As you watch this ending montage, you may think to yourself, “this song choice is too on the nose,” but you will enjoy it anyway.
4. “Take Me To Church” by Hozier
It doesn’t matter what happens in this episode. Probably something pretty dramatic and religion-related. Maybe the characters had some big argument at the office about how to cover a story about priests or something. You’ll skip to the next episode before the credits are done rolling because this song is so terrible.
5. “I Love You, Honeybear” by Father John Misty
In this episode, a character has meaningless sex with a coworker, probably standing up. It is meant to be an ironic musical choice.
6. “Keep Lying” by Donna Missal
One of the main characters just knows that in one of these government documents, she’ll find evidence to prove that the corruption goes all the way to the top. In this closing montage, the camera zooms out to show her alone in the office, highlighter in hand, burning the midnight oil with, for some reason, only her desk light on.
7. “Wash.” by Bon Iver
In this episode, someone dies. It’s a prestige drama so someone has to die.
8. “This is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris and Rihanna
This is for the rape on campus episode. One of the main characters visits a college campus for a panel or a career fair or something and learns a valuable lesson about America’s youth. Wow, he thinks, I came her to teach them, but they ended up teaching me. The function of this episode is to make the gruff, male main character realize that young women have real problems, after all. In the closing shot, this song plays over b-roll of a frat party, as the gruff male character gets on the train back to the city.
9. “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” by Wet
This is for the episode when a semi-main character who we never expected would get promoted from assistant editor quits her job for a bigger and better gig at a rival website. This song plays as she’s packing up her desk and notices something poignant buried in the back of her drawer. What is that? A post-it note to herself from her first day on the job? “You can do it!” it reads. She bites her lip, holds back tears, crumples it up into a ball, and walks out of the office for the last time. Closing shot: dark office.
10. “Don’t be Cruel” by Elvis Presley
In this episode, a male main character gets divorced. The pep of the song underscores his pain.
11. “Run Away With Me” by Carly Rae Jepsen
The cast has a party at their workplace. They deserve it after all they’ve been through this season. Expect plenty of slow-mo dancing in this montage, in which in an ordinarily buttoned-up character finally lets her hair down.
12. “6 Inch” by Beyoncé, featuring The Weeknd
This is for the promo video for THE FINAL SEASON. A billionaire is going to bankrupt the company this season, the main characters will have all kinds of drama in their home lives, and there’s a presidential election. It all starts September 10 at 8pm. Only on Showtime.