2020s

Soundtracks of Television: ‘The Chair’ Season 1

The Chair Soundtrack on Netflix - Every Song

The Chair soundtrack features music by Elvis Costello, The Smiths and Vampire Weekend. This info article contains spoilers for Netflix’s 2021 series. Check out more Vague Visages music guides in the Soundtracks of Television section.

In The Chair, Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim (Sandra Oh) becomes the first female leader of Pembroke University’s Literature department. She hopes to inspire students by celebrating diversity but struggles to process the questionable behavior of her friend and colleague Professor Bill Dobson (Jay Duplass). From episode to episode, the featured music — courtesy of supervisor Tiffany Anders (Firefly Lane, Reservation Dogs) — shifts from 80s New Wave to modern pop, allowing for a fresh and steady groove. Here’s every song in The Chair season 1 soundtrack.

The Chair Soundtrack: Every Song in Episode 1 “Brilliant Mistake”

The Chair Soundtrack on Netflix

  • “Gloria in D Major, RV 589” by Antonio Vivaldi (0:00): The Chair season 1 begins with a Pembroke University montage sequence. Ji-Yoon anxiously sits in her car and surveys the scene. The orchestral piece underscores the grandiosity of the moment for Oh’s protagonist, as she’s the first female chair of the English department.
  • “Uncontrollable Urge” by Devo (0:10): Bill runs down a sidewalk. He then steals a moped and crashes violently into a bush. The song complements the character’s need to act upon urges, which creates significant problems for him throughout the series.
  • “Brilliant Mistake” by Elvis Costello (0:28): Bill lectures about Albert Camus and Samuel Beckett. He discusses perseverance in the face of adversity, with the song kicking in when the character reaches a life epiphany. It’s later revealed that Professor Dobson lost his wife one year prior — the core emotional issue that he grapples with from episode to episode.

The Chair Soundtrack: Every Song in Episode 2 “The Faculty Party”

The Chair Soundtrack on Netflix

  • “Do You Dig It?” by Ray Barretto (0:15): Bill goes bowling with Ji-Yoon and Ju Ju (Everly Carganilla). All three character have a good time while forgetting about recent troubles. The song usage displays that Bill just might be the ideal father figure for the rambunctious Ju Ju.
  • “Girlfriend” by Phoenix (0:23): Ji-Yoon wakes up clutching two books. She helps Ju Ju prepare for school as Bill wakes up in the living room. The song includes the lyric “Not a miracle in years,” but Ji-Yoon seems to recognize that she’s on the right path.
  • “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours) ” by Rufus Wainwright (0:25): Bill makes his case to be Ji-Yoon’s boyfriend with “added value.” Unfortunately, students begin rioting outside because of an unflattering video that has emerged of Professor Dobson. The song plays during the end credits as a comedic exclamation point.

The Chair Soundtrack: Every Song in Episode 3 “The Town Hall”

The Chair Soundtrack on Netflix

  • No Featured Songs

The Chair Soundtrack: Every Song in Episode 4 “Don’t Kill Bill”

The Chair Soundtrack on Netflix

  • “Paris Summer” by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood (0:14): Joan arrives at the library wearing a matching scarf and shades. She’s trying to be low-key while meeting with Bob Stephenson’s IT character. The song positions Joan as a secret agent-like individual as she tries to figure out who’s been posting nasty messages about her online.
  • “Deceptacon” by Le Tigre (0:20): Bill chases Ju Ju on the Pembroke campus, even though he’s not allowed to be there. The music cuts out as a student spots the professor and urges him not to back down. Bill wears a Joy Division t-shirt, which further reinforces his rebellious nature as a character.
  • “Cemetry Gates” by The Smiths (0:23): Ji-Yoon and Bill catch Ju Ju and take her to their vehicle. The song plays as Dean Larson (David Morse) watches from afar. As the lyrics imply, “[John] Keats” and “[William Butler] Yeats” (i.e. poetry/literature/education) are on the side of Ji-Yoon and Bill.

The Chair Soundtrack: Every Song in Episode 5 “The Last Bus in Town”

The Chair Soundtrack on Netflix

  • “Stakes Avenue” by Love as Laughter (0:02): After Dean Larson confronts Ji-Yoon about her relationship with Bill, she’s asked to officially declare their relationship. Oh’s character attempts to call Professor Dobson, who listens to “Stakes Avenue” at home with headphones on. The music plays only momentarily but underlines the stakes for both characters.
  • “It’s a Good Day (To Fight the System) ” by Shungudzo (0:03): The song plays over the opening title card. Bill wakes up, crumples a note at his door and pops some pills. The professor experiences a reawakening and decides that it’s time to fight back against Pembroke skeptics.
  • “Backseat Swinging” by Coolhand Jax (0:05): Bill walks down the street. A vehicle stops and a student calls him “Hitler,” due to a video that emerged from the past. Bill reaches into his pocket for more pills — he’s “zooming off.”
  • “Mind of Winter” by David Duchovny (0:15): David plays music in his bedroom. Ji-Yoon walks in and acknowledges his lyrical reference to the poet Wallace Stevens. The song is actually a track from Duchovny’s third studio album, the 2021 release Gestureland.
  • “Claire de Lune” by Claude Debussy (0:20): The iconic composition plays as Bill falls and watches a toddler grasp his pills. In a transitional sequence, Joan worries about getting pushed into retirement. The piece of music aligns with the morose demeanors of the collective characters.
  • “Hell or Highwater” by David Duchovny (0:21): After Ji-Yoon convinces David not to accept a teaching position at Pembroke, she listens to one of his songs in her car. Oh’s protagonist seems impressed by the music, evidenced by her facial expression and slight nod. Ji-Yoon also seems to appreciate the literary-themed lyric “A man of words is a man of lies / But words is all I get.”
  • “Calling All Angels” by Jane Siberry feat. K.D. Lang (0:26): The song plays as Ji-Yoon arrives home and follows a trail of item’s to Ju Ju’s Día de los Muertos exhibit. She’s moved by photos of her late mother and tears up while processing the moment. The experience gives Ji-Yoon the inner peace that she’s been searching for, if only briefly.

The Chair Soundtrack: Every Song in Episode 6 “The Chair”

The Chair Soundtrack on Netflix

  • “Nocturnes, Op. 15: No. 3 In G Minor” by Frédéric Chopin, Arthur Rubinstein (0:03): Ji-Yoon drops Ju Ju off at school. She then walks through campus as students gossip about her. The music captures her frame of mind while lecturing about Audre Lorde, a feminist American writer who once wrote that “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
  • “Oxford Comma” by Vampire Weekend (0:28): Ji-Yoon speaks with Bill and asks him to babysit Ju Ju. The song plays as the series ends. The melody scores the title sequences in each episode of The Chair, while the literary-themed lyrics correlate with the spirit of intellectual and freethinking characters like Ji-Yoon and Bill.

Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.

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