Of the many things Silicon Valley does well—brutal satire, the ideal mixture of highbrow and lowbrow comedy, literally everything Zach Woods does as Jared—perhaps its most underappreciated quality is its use of music to shepherd episodes off into the sunset. Granted, by the time the credits roll, you aren’t expected to be paying much attention (you’re either binging forward to the next episode or prepping for Veep). But if you’re engaged all the way through to the end, you’re gifted a cherry atop each episode sundae, courtesy of Mike Judge and his team of music supervisors.
The songs you’ll find at the close of Silicon Valley episodes run the gamut of genres—from breezy Hawaiian ukulele to hard-hitting raps from Danny Brown or Run the Jewels—but they share a single common trait: no matter what has just happened in the preceding 30 minutes, the song that follows their exploits makes the situation funnier.
Every worthwhile modern sitcom has some trace amount of darkness and drama, but this is especially important for Silicon Valley. For this show, the ability to roast its titular location depends upon the self-seriousness of its characters within such an absurd world. Without real tension and disappointment and joy emanating from Richard Hendricks and his colleagues, SV would just be a nihilist shitshow devoid of any commentative power. After all, even though the idealism of these young computer geeks begins to die from the moment they enter the tech industry, their idealism is still inspiring, and we as viewers are supposed to mourn its demise.
Still, a half-hour comedy can’t end on a dark note, which why the music in the end credits is so important. Ominous scenarios are made ridiculous by virtue of juxtaposition, and characters’ happy moments are foreshadowed as fleeting—surely gone by the midpoint of the next episode.
As we prepare for Silicon Valley’s fourth season, which hits HBO on Sunday at 10 p.m. EST, it’s a great time to rank the series’ end credits songs, all 26 of them. Note that coming in last here is like coming in last at the Olympic Marathon—you’re still pretty great.
26. “Hey Lover,” Blake Mills
Episode: “Articles of Incorporation”
Erlich has just returned from the mushroom trip of all mushroom trips in the desert to find that things actually aren’t going too badly for the team. The folksy Tom Petty vibe of “Hey Lover” serves as a nice comedown for the madman of the Pied Piper braintrust, but on the whole, this is one of Silicon Valley’s least remarkable end credits songs.
25. “Raw,” San Holo
Episode: “To Build a Better Beta”
This one’s a straight-up countdown to the launch of Pied Piper’s first beta, perhaps the greatest actual success the young startup has had in its first three seasons. The hype is there, they’ve put in the work and all that’s left to do is watch this baby purr. “Raw” provides them with actual, unironic swagger, sending them off into an exciting new era that will inevitably go horribly and comically wrong, because this is Silicon Valley.
24. “Pain,” Pusha T feat. Future
Episode: “Maleant Data Systems Solutions”
Future has mastered the art of expressing drug-induced haze that clouds coherent emotion. Not that the Pied Piper gang is on drugs at this point, but the sentiment matches Richard’s confusion when Jack Barker is fired and he’s not immediately reinstated to run his own company. There’s serious pain inflicted in Laurie Bream’s casual, callous rejection of the brain behind Pied Piper (although it’s hard to feel too bad for Richard).
23. “Don’t Wanna Fight,” Alabama Shakes
Episode: “Server Space”
It’s pretty rare for Mike Judge and company to use a song this well-known to end an episode of Silicon Valley (either this or “Blockbuster Night Part 1” wins as the most mainstream song used so far). However, “Don’t Wanna Fight” is well-suited to the infighting that is tearing apart Nucleus, the Hooli-run rival to Pied Piper. The departure from hardcore rap also suggests a change of place: this is the first episode that doesn’t end with someone from the Pied Piper team.
22. “Chaghaybou,” Tinariwen
Episode: “Daily Active Users”
This one isn’t so much about the music as it is about what follows: the sound of thousands of click-farm workers typing on computers, creating bogus accounts that will be the lifeblood of Pied Piper’s Series B funding. “Chaghaybou” has a certain strut to it, but it’s an uneasy gait. It’s as if the the song mirrors the precarious, fraudulent ground upon which the company now stands…but it’s really just there to give way to the click-clack of keyboards. The skin of the company has been stripped away.
21. “Phantom (Redux),” Shirt
Episode: “Bad Money”
Bighead’s about to become a crucial player in the Hooli-Pied Piper litigation, and Shirt raps quickly and confidently over a jaunty beat fitting for someone who should have just realized he’s an incredibly important person. But this is Bighead, and with Bighead being Bighead, he’s totally clueless with regards to the situation. This is a solid example of SV’s use of irony through music, but the beth are forthcoming.
20. “Lost in the Crowd,” Bassnectar feat. Fashawn and Zion
Episode: “White Hat/Black Hat”
When you accidentally destroy a third of your client’s content, there’s not much you can say to remedy the situation. That’s the disastrous result of Pied Piper’s contest with Endframe, but Endframe hasn’t won, either. So, to some extent, Richard and Erlich and Monica can still swagger out of the room to Bassnectar’s crushing beat—not as victors, but at least as badass survivors.
19. “Changing of the Guards,” Pusha T feat. Diddy
Episode: “Two Days of the Condor”
“Changing of the Guards” is probably the most blatantly obvious song in the Silicon Valley end credits repertoire because it accompanies two simultaneous, symbolic changings of the guard—Pied Piper’s reinstitution as a legitimate startup clear of legal dangers, and Richard’s dismissal as CEO of his own company. Pusha T and Diddy rap with grandiosity to match the significance of Pied Piper’s victory, but the comparatively sad beat behind them showcases the anxiety and disappointment of Richard’s new situation.
18. “Minority,” Green Day
Episodes: “Minimum Viable Product” and “Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency”
“Minority” bookends the show’s first season, playing its only unequivocally joyful endings—the birth of Pied Piper and the team’s victory at Disrupt—through to their conclusion. The song’s lyrics befit the idealism of Richard Hendricks’ early days, and there’s just enough punk edge to supplement the guys drinking at Erlich’s house and Richard anxiety-vomiting in a dumpster equally well.
17. “Jugadoras, Jugadores,” Mala Rodriguez
Episode: “The Empty Chair”
This is another entry in the vein of “Phantom (Redux),” but this time, it’s Richard and not Bighead who is the incompetent one. Richard’s got the CEO chair now, but the fact that he can’t even work it properly is a symbol for how unprepared he still is to run this company. “Jugadoras, Jugadores” is, at least at its start, more about the thudding, bass-heavy synth beat than about its softly spoken lyrics, which befits a moment of physical comedy.
16. “Rise Up,” Cypress Hill feat. Tom Morello
Episode: “The Uptick”
Here we are, at the end of the third season of Silicon Valley: Pied Piper has returned to square one for what seems like the umpteenth time, with a destroyed reputation to rebuild. But at least it’s the original team all back together, doing things the way they’d like to do them. “Rise Up” sounds almost prophetic in this context: it’s got attitude and aspiration for sure, but it also has a cynical feel to it, perhaps from the guitar of Tom Morello. The song’s tension foreshadows the plot line that Pied Piper’s idealistic feeling may be sacrificed on this round of rebirth.