Are you scared? If you’ve been keeping up with American Horror Story over the past three seasons, then the answer is probably yes. The FX anthology horror show has gained an obsessive following for its unique characters and gruesome storylines. But one of the coolest things about the show is its music. With the highly-anticipated fourth season, Freak Show, nearing its debut on October 8th, it’s a great time to look back on some of the best songs in the series.
The Theme Song (All Seasons):
Many fans have said the opening credit sequence of American Horror Story is often scarier than the show itself. The theme song is likely a huge part of that. Composed by Cesar Davila-Irizarry and former Nine Inch Nails member Charlie Clouser, this gripping theme isn’t just scary – it truly sounds evil. Each blaring impact drops when you least expect it to, and much like the show, wastes no time with conventional buildups. The entire song feels like that moment when you are ascending a dark staircase and you take an extra step that isn’t there, the floor suddenly ripping out from underneath you. The sinister whispers add to the eeriness, and have been interpreted as many different phrases, most notably, “no escape,” and “are you scared?”
Tonight You Belong to Me (Season 1: Murder House):
A popular trick in the horror genre is to use a lighthearted song to create unsettling discordance in the scene. American Horror Story couldn’t have picked a better one. This cheery 50s love song by Patience & Prudence is both the first and last song we hear in Season 1, which is beyond cool. The tune becomes insanely spooky in the context of the show. When you consider the many subplots of Murder House, the words “Tonight You Belong to Me” are especially haunting.
Twisted Nerve (Season 1: Murder House):
I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but you can probably guess that Murder House is going to have a few murders. Bernard Herrman’s “Twisted Nerve” is used during an especially frightening killing spree. It’s pretty daring to use a song that is so closely associated with another work (Kill Bill), but they really pulled it off. The tense yet sinuous whistling makes us feel like we are trapped inside the killer’s mind as he calmly executes his victims.
Dominique (Season 2: Asylum):
Much like “Tonight You Belong to Me” in Season 1, the chipper “Dominique” by Singing Nun creates a creepy contrast in Season 2. The song is actually a fixture of the asylum, as the nuns demand that it is played nonstop to calm the patients. The unnerving French sing-along makes an appearance in every episode of Season 2, and does anything but calm you down. (I linked the 12-hour version for your enjoyment.)
Name Game (Season 2: Asylum):
Here it is, the be-all and end-all of American Horror Story songs, “Name Game” by Shirley Ellis. This scene was deliciously unexpected and also an excellent breather, as the season had become very dark by this point. In response to the question, “Do you know your name?” actress Jessica Lange bursts into a colorful, 1960s dance sequence with a groovy costume to match. As she belts out an amazing performance of the doo-wop hit (what a babe) and gets all the patients dancing, the pure insanity of it is a perfect illustration of the disorder in the asylum.