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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s another glorious ending on the Pied Piper team, this time as they realize the colossal magnitude of Richard’s biggest fuck-up to date—writing down the secret to middle-out compression for a rival VC firm to steal. There are no words to describe how badly he may have just tanked his own company. Accordingly, “Bandz” offers none, just giving us a sparse, bass-heavy beat that portends the doom of incoming opposing forces.
Episode: “Founder Friendly”
The title of the song lines up perfectly with the situation. Without ever explicitly imploring Richard to do so, new Pied Piper CEO Jack Barker has convinced the ousted founder to return to the fold as CTO. But what really works about this song selection is the juxtaposition of Run the Jewels’ effortless verbal strutting with the image of Richard reversing his car all the way back up Barker’s driveway, the opposite of the high-roller image and just an awkward way to enter a situation.
Episode: “Binding Arbitration”
The binding arbitration hearing to determine the fate of Pied Piper—whether its IP assets are to be the property of Richard Hendricks or Gavin Belson—doesn’t appear to be going well. But there are more important things in the world, like a zoo employee caught in a 127 Hours situation on Pied Piper’s live video feed. The ethereal vibes of Portugal. the Man mesh well with Gilfoyle and Dinesh’s morbid fascination, while Danny Brown’s typically brutal rap reminds us that if Pied Piper goes down, so does this video feed.
Episodes: “The Cap Table” and “Third Party Insourcing”
The show’s second episode ends with an indication of precisely how difficult this venture will be for a bunch of coders with zero business experience—Hendricks can’t even use Pied Piper’s seed money because he doesn’t have a corporate bank account. Ratatat, longtime kings of instrumental hip-hop-infused rock, put a dark spin on Biggie Smalls’ classic, which takes on some bad-drugs vibes that mirror the direction the Pied Piper party is going (or, in the case of “Third Party Insourcing,” the literal direction of Jared out into the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a barge).
Episode: “Two in the Box”
Jack Barker has introduced the new plan for Pied Piper—a data storage box. So practical and marketable, if not sexy. Richard doesn’t have custody over this child anymore, and even though the sales and marketing people are ecstatic about this new phase, the original team can’t even adequately fake their enthusiasm. Enter the cheerful, cheesy synth-reggae of The Pioneers, whose song captures the essence of putting on a happy face.
Episode: “The Lady”
The bad news is that the Pied Piper dudes just had one of their prized coding recruits turn them down for a rival company. The good news, however, is that their promotional gear has arrived—including foam fingers! Dizzee Rascal effortlessly cuts to the heart of this absurd imbalance in fortune, flaunting Pied Piper’s ability to show off their brand even as the substance behind it goes to shit. “I Don’t Need A Reason” has one of the hardest-bumping beats of any song on the soundtrack, befitting the lack of fucks it gives.
Episode: “Signaling Risk”
One of Silicon Valley’s best examples of seamlessly sewing disgusting shit into the fabric of a brilliant comedy is Chuy Ramirez’s disturbingly graphic mural of a Native American taking the Statue of Liberty doggie-style. This should just be gross—especially when Chuy replaces the subjects’ faces with those of Dinesh and Erlich—but nope, it’s so over-the-top that we can’t help but laugh. And as befits Chuy’s street cred and the irreverence of the scene, Pueblo Café bangs us through to the conclusion with a brash, Spanish-language rap.
Episode: “Sand Hill Shuffle”
Run the Jewels sets the standard for ferocity in modern mainstream rap, just as Gavin Belson does so in Silicon Valley’s world. The fact that he can simultaneously give a tearful farewell to his deceased frenemy Peter Gregory and fire off an ice-cold lawsuit at Pied Piper shows precisely how ruthless the show’s villain can be. In case it wasn’t already clear, he is a threat to be taken seriously, just like EL-P and Killer Mike.
Episode: “Adult Content”
The situation from “Homicide” hasn’t turned out to be nearly as that end credit music would’ve had us predict. Instead, Pied Piper will have the chance to beat its new competitors from Endframe head-to-head in a compression contest for a porn website. The thudding blues-rock of ZZ Top sounds like the type of thing you’d hear before the puck drops at a hockey game or the opening bell at an MMA fight, building up momentum toward the next episode’s showdown.
Episode: “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack”
The only reason “Poison” works so well here is because of the moment that immediately precedes it: the gangster rap that accompanies the original Pied Piper squad as they walk through the halls of their company offices with plans to sabotage Jack Barker’s plans for the box. But because this is Silicon Valley, a Richard trips on a hose and the plan is revealed before it’s set into motion. No moment could be better suited to the rap equivalent of The Benny Hill Show theme.
Episode: “Fiduciary Duties”
Here’s a classic example of Silicon Valley’s irony, the pounding, geeky-gangster aesthetic that has made the show’s music supervision succeed. Richard and Erlich have just made up after a fight (they’re always fighting, aren’t they?) over a board position that might have trashed Pied Piper before it got up. The moment is tender. These two guys, so different in demeanor, might actually care about each other. And then there’s the vomit. Richard can’t strut that off, not with his puke all over Erlich’s shirt, so it’s left to Tobacco to swagger out of the episode.
Episode: “Runaway Devaluation”
This is one of the few examples in which the end credits song is diegetic. We’re on the verge of discovering whether Richard, under the existential threat of Gavin Belson’s lawsuit, will sell Pied Piper to the Machiavellian Hooli CEO when the scene is rudely interrupted by a mariachi band. A cliffhanger of this proportion deserves the most ridiculous possible music, and though mariachi is not inherently ridiculous, its sheer joy and flamboyance cuts through the tension of the situation like a rick-rolling en español.
Episode: “Bachman’s Earning’s Over-Ride”
If the Hawaiian music to accompany Erlich’s bankruptcy is gleefully dissonant, “The Pied Piper” to accompany the destruction of his reputation is flat-out cruel. Fearful that blogger CJ Cantwell had some dirt on Pied Piper, Erlich just admitted all of his fiscal irresponsibility only to find out that the dirt she had was about the company’s ugly jackets. Dinesh dorking out and awkwardly singing along to the karaoke track of “The Pied Piper” show precisely how stupid Erlich’s decision was.
Episode: “Proof of Concept”
“Smokin and Drinkin” is probably the musical highlight of Silicon Valley’s first season. Danny Brown goes hard on this heavy, sparse, nihilistic beat that is the perfect public revenge soundtrack for the the Disrupt judge. All Richard and his buddies can do is watch as their hopes for Pied Piper’s success seem to go down in Brown’s flames.
Episode: “Bachmanity Insanity”
Erlich Bachman is the best bullshitter on Silicon Valley, but that’s always been premised on two things—having better situational knowledge than the nerds around him and backing that up with just enough resources. All of a sudden, the latter is no longer available, as he’s bankrupted himself with his lavish luau. There’s really no way for anyone to respond to that bomb, so Israel Kamakawiwo’ole fills in the silence with the perfect end credits song—a soothing ukulele tune that clashes beautifully with Erlich’s life falling apart.
Zach Blumenfeld can’t wait to bomb his law school finals. Follow him on Twitter.