Breaking Bad music vs The Wire: What's better?

Categories: Film and TV


If you think about it, The Wire and Breaking Bad are the Biggie and 2Pac of televised dramas. Equally revered, the two shows have similarities that are obvious, and there's a reason that one always invariably comes up in conversation about the other. What's more striking, through, are the pronounced differences, namely the way each show handles its music cues.

See also: Eight reasons Breaking Bad is the best show ever

On The Wire's DVD commentary, David Simon said, "I hate it when somebody purposely tries to have the lyrics match the visual. It brutalizes the visual in a way to have the lyrics dead on point ... Yet at the same time it can't be totally off point. It has to glance at what you're trying to say."

In sharp contrast, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan is known for meticulously planning and plotting every aspect of everything about his show, leaving clues and easter eggs at every turn. And this is especially true when it comes to the music. Given the blasé approach of Simon to music cues, it's surprising that music on The Wire is so affecting. In so many ways Breaking Bad feels like the natural successor to The Wire. But which show does music better? Let's have a look, shall we?

Theme music is obviously the music that plays on every episode during main titles.

This is an incredibly tough category to determine a winner. The Wire used "Way Down in the Hole," an original song by Tom Waits for its main titles. Interestingly, the Waits version of the song wasn't used until the second season. The darkest interpretation of the song was season four's rendition by DoMaJe, a local Baltimore act. It is also the most striking version. Can you imagine anything else playing after Omar escapes a prison hit?

That darkness of Breaking Bad, on the other hand, is matched note for note with the ominous original song created by the show's composer Dave Porter. Breaking Bad is a tour de force for interstitial music and score cues. Porter and company never disappoint with sonics that make you feel the desperation of everyone in the Breaking Bad universe. Most shows only use about eight bars of the theme song as a coda to the "cold open" events that never disappoint.

Analysis: This category should be a draw, but we'd be remiss for not mentioning "The Fall," an original composition by The Wire's music supervisor, Blake Leyh, which serves as the closing theme for every episode save season and series finales. The range of emotions that can sweep over you as a view as those high hats signal the end of another episode vary from anger, to intense anxiety, to resigned grief.

Believe me, when you hear "The Fall" (the kind of song that would be at home on a John Carpenter movie score) at the end of an episode of The Wire, you've earned it. "The Fall" leaves you immersed in the horror, and simultaneously brings you down from some fucked up experience. Breaking Bad almost always ends with no music, which is equally effective, but not half as haunting. Most Breaking Bad endings are cliffhangers, while Wire endings are slow, long drops to certain death.

Winner: The Wire

Continue on for more Breaking Bad vs The Wire musical analysis

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DISLIKE! BB is about real people breaking bad. The Wire is a bunch of animals killing each other and crooked POELEEZE screwing up No one watch because it is nothing. BB! Say my name! 


you forgot Omar song that he whistles "omar comin'" hardes shit on The WIre

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