Mad Men's Six Best Music Moments
In the fifth season premiere of Mad Men, Jessica Paré as Megan Draper forced a roomful of jaws to drop with an unexpected performance of "Zou Bisou Bisou." The scene took place at Don Draper's apartment during his surprise birthday party; his young wife, Megan, turned the shock quotient up to 11 when she grabbed the mic from the singer of the band she'd hired and launched into a confection of a '60s pop song that Sophia Loren had previously lent her voice to. Megan Draper stopped both the characters on the show and its viewers dead in their tracks at the beginning of that season, and that moment--one that broke the fourth wall with its perfection as both a plot vehicle and a period-appropriate musical choice--forced the issue when it came to recognizing Mad Men as one of the most musically savvy shows on television. Any show with an RJD2 track for its theme song has to be, anyway.
"Zou Bisou Bisou" isn't the only instance that stopped time with its downbeat: Roger Sterling donning blackface for an appalling (and appallingly character-appropriate) rendition of "My Old Kentucky Home" in Season 3; Joan revealing her secret life as an accordion pro in the same episode; Don and Harry Crane failing to sneak backstage at a Rolling Stones concert in order to talk them into participating in a Heinz Baked Beans campaign in Season 5, etc. The show made history when it licensed The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" (and only a portion of it, at that) in its fifth season for a hefty sum, making Mad Men the first television program to secure a Beatles master. Mad Men follows the triumphs and tribulations of a New York advertising agency, and though it closely sticks to the business, Draper and his colleagues, accordions, impromptu serenades, adventures at Shea Stadium and the most perfect sonic pairings have played such a huge part in framing historical context and humanizing the characters that tune in.
For Mad Men music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, "Tomorrow Never Knows" isn't the only feather in the show's cap. "I think that music has always been really essential," she says. Together with Matthew Weiner, Mad Men's creator and executive producer, Patsavas works to perfect the sounds of the show's scenes--especially the ones that tell a story without relying on dialogue. "[Weiner] has always intended that music play an important role. He selects the key songs, and I think he has them in mind for some time. Sometimes, things are written into the scripts; sometimes he selects them after the episodes have been shot. But music has always been key. Every season has had some interesting and unexpected choices that he selected that really comment on what happened in the episode." (Of all the show's characters, she thinks Sally Draper would make for the best DJ: "I think Sally might be growing into a fabulous DJ. She's grown up in a wondrous time and is probably hearing a lot of great music at home and at school, and from Don and Magen, too.")
Mad Men's about to kick off its seventh and final season Sunday, the most poignant and pivotal moments of the show are coming to the forefront, and their soundtracks aren't playing second fiddle. Patsavas couldn't divulge any spoiler regarding the final season--"You can look forward to some meaningful and unexpected choices!"--but if any of these great musical moments from the shows past are any indication, there's a lot to look forward to.