Song Sung Crew

I find many things curious about HBO’s labyrinthine website for The Wire, but perhaps no strange feature or unasked-for exclusive has struck me as so odd and so adorable as the playlists compiled by some of the actors playing the kids this season. You can choose from Dukie, (Jermaine Crawford), Namond (Julito McCullum), or Randy (Maestro Harrell), and the handy-dandy world of cross-marketing makes buying each track from iTunes a snap.

Of course, you might want to wait before snapping up all of those tracks. Perhaps the best part of looking at these playlists is realizing that these kids are just kids, and while they have preternatural acting skills, they have the odd, corny taste of teenagers. So you have all three rocking Lil’ Wayne, Death Cab for Cutie, Kanye, T.I., Justin Timberlake and even a little N.W.A. and Coldplay from Harrell, whose choices are broadest in genre. But you’ve also got head-scratchers (Andrew Boccelli, John Mayer) and a few fist-biters (Moby, Elton John). Of course they’re just kids and I’m a crank and this is fun and why don’t I know how to have fun? I dunno, but perhaps there’s something illuminating about these funny lists too. In the same way Namond wants to skip out on hustling to watch his friends trying to catch pigeons, the teens that play these kids aren’t afraid of liking corny songs, or weird songs, or songs that just make them happy.

Better still, as a kind of supplement to these playlists, HBO provides notes on the music that accompanies each episode, so you can go check out Elephant Man, the Chi-Lites, Mobb Deep and the lovely Dead Meadow now that you know. I’m going to keep my ears open for future playlists and more hidden gems in the soundtrack.

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23 Comments on “Song Sung Crew”

  1. Shoals Says:

    when the dead meadow came on, my watching partner asked if that was to inform us that whites were around.

    well-known gossip alert: their inclusion is especially fitting, considering their regional roots and at least one’s major junk problem. maybe that was them in a cameo. or supposed to be them in the car.

  2. jetsetjunta Says:

    I’ll be interested to see if HBO has the audacity to try to cash in on this cross-marketing, which given the precedents (The O.C. being the first that jumps to mind, but tons of big name shows now feature their own exclusive tracks or at least call out songs) would seem like a no-brainer. Of course since the audience for the show is so unpredictable and, until this season (if more people actually start watching), scarce, it might be hard to actually sell any units, whether we’re talking about iTunes or physical CDs. Plus with a show that is so satisfying for its quality but can be just as gut-wrenching for its tragedy, would anyone really want to re-live it all the time by getting a soundtrack album? Probably not. This whole issue also makes me think about Homicide, Life on the Street, which had such impeccable soundtracking years before The Sopranos dreamed of upping the dramatic ante with a little Springsteen or, in one of the best choices, Johnny Thunders.

  3. Shoals Says:

    the wire doesn’t exactly have the best track record with hip-hop selections, esppecially in the first season. i thnk there was an akrobatik song on at one point.

  4. Murky Says:

    There were, in fact, two Akrobatik songs, both in Season 2.

    Why, what’s wrong with Akrobatik?

  5. Shoals Says:

    isn’t the whole thing that all music is supposed to be naturally-occurring, possibly coming the scene being filled and not added soundtrack, etc?

  6. ReverendDrGladhands Says:

    I chalk Season One’s poor musical selection to their limited budget.

  7. Murky Says:

    Yeah, the only place I can remember that rule breaking is in one ep from s1, when Avon, Stringer & Stinkum come strutting into the pit. Slow-mo, theme music, the whole bit.

    Every other time there’s been music (aside from the end montages) they’ve always shown it coming from some in-scene source.

  8. Shoals Says:

    this probably deserves its own post; anyway, in the comments someone reveals that it’s been 2 akrobatik joints and 1 coup d’etat–neither of which, last i checked, were likely to be listened to by run-of-the-mill street dealers.

    like i said, though, they’ve improved a bunch since then

  9. trackMark Says:

    Every other time there’s been music (aside from the end montages) they’ve always shown it coming from some in-scene source.


    I think I remember some non-diegetic music in season two, such as the crazy-awesome Greek song ( I think it’s by Stelios Kazantzidis and titled “Ena Sidero Anameno” – if anyone has an MP3 of it it would be much appreciated!) . But maybe that’s one of those end-montages you’re taking about.

  10. Murky Says:

    Oh, no, you’re right–I forgot about that bit. Probably because I was screaming at the top of my lungs, “DON’T GO, FRANK!!”

  11. trackMark Says:

    Poor Frank. Season two is undoubtedly the best season.

  12. Shoals Says:

    steve earle’s song at the end of his cameo episode is another exception

  13. hardtokill Says:


  14. Shoals Says:

    wait, end montages. is that what the steve earle song came during? have i just never noticed these before?

  15. Murky Says:

    Yeah, every season ends with a montage set to a song. I think I read somewhere that it’s the only time Simon et al. allow a song’s lyrics to comment on the scene.

    I have to say, it hurts when so many critics dismiss season 2 as a “detour,” or “slow,” or even — God forbid, but I’ve seen it once –“weaker.” Sobotka was one of the all-time great tragic characters.

  16. Shoals Says:

    oh yeah, season. i thought you meant episode.

    then what i said about the steve earle song in season 1 stands.

  17. hardtokill Says:

    I never romanced a container ship yard like I romanced that container shipyard.

  18. Shoals Says:

    in that NYT article, simon says something about how frustrated he was that the hip-hop might not be authentic. . .since it wasn’t from baltimore. personally, i think they could’ve helped things a lot just by having things remotely in the ballpark, style-wise, but it seems like he’s hooked up with b-more talent and fixed things for this season.

  19. noz Says:

    i’m pretty sure there’s a d-stroy poster hanging in the club cutty goes to in season 3.

    i think it’s shameful that the hbo site doesn’t list the artist names for the b-more rap cuts. i guess because you can’t buy them on itunes. you’d think hbo could try to cash in from the digital distribution angle at the very least. would it be too much to set up a music from the wire section in the itunes store?

  20. willing Says:

    In more whiteboy music news, Nicky Sobotka has on his walls posters for both Will Oldham and Guided By Voices. Very incongruous.

  21. mkr Says:

    so does anyone know the name of montage song at the end of season two when Nick is walking around by himself?

  22. metaclam Says:

    i think the kazantzidis song is efige efige:

    i am not sure where the idea that it’s called “ena…” something or other originated.

  23. seaworthyset Says:

    Ha, I noticed the GBV poster in Nicky’s room, too. Especially incongruous when there’s a Filter poster on the other wall, which I think does ring true for the character.

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