We’re just a few days away from the series finale of Mad Men (sob!), and while everyone’s swapping theories about how things will wind up for Don Draper—will he jump out of a window, or turn into D.B. Cooper? Probably neither!—here at Paste HQ, we’re speculating on what song will close out the show.
Few shows have used music as expertly as Mad Men (see some of our favorite musical moments from the show here), so there’s no doubt that whatever final image Matt Weiner leaves us with will be backed by an insanely fitting song. Will it be as memorable as The Sopranos’s use of Journey, or Breaking Bad’s “Baby Blue”? We decided to revisit Billboard’s Top 10 songs from 1970 and look at how likely they are to close the show.
Note: As last week’s use of “Everyday” by Buddy Holly reminded us, the show won’t necessarily end with a song from 1970, but that’s the assumption we’re working under here.
Stop reading here if you’re not all caught up on Mad Men. Spoilers ahead.
Shane: Okay Bonnie, let’s start with our old friend Freda. I will freely admit that I had to listen to this one on YouTube, and my verdict is: OH MY GOD, THIS COULD TOTALLY BE IT! My instinct coming into this post was that Weiner and company would use a song that was upbeat, but with a hint of loss in the lyrics, and this song is absolutely perfect. First lyrics: “Now that you’re gone, all that’s left is a band of gold. All that’s left of the dreams I hold is a band of gold and the memories of what love could be.” Just close your eyes and picture Don staring off into the distance with a little smile as the drums kick in, and then credits come up just as Freda’s voice hits. It also has a very ‘60s vibe, and with it that deep sense of nostalgia. This is completely plausible, right??
Bonnie: The broken marriage theme here would make this one particularly fitting if we wind up ending on something Betty-related, which, given last week’s big cancer reveal, seems totally possible. Maybe Don will find out about her diagnosis—or if we skip a few months ahead, maybe her death—make that classic “angsty Don” face as he gazes off into the distance, and leave us as this plays in the background. I agree, surprisingly plausible.
Chances: 18 percent.
Bonnie: This would be the perfect choice if the show hadn’t already used a Beatles song (“Tomorrow Never Knows”) a few seasons ago. This was the final Beatles single to be released before their breakup was official (the Let It Be album came out after it was already announced), so there’s a fitting sense of finality here, as well as a general “farewell to the ‘60s” vibe that would be really fitting for Mad Men. And in a lot of ways, the show has been about these characters learning to (or failing to learn to) “let it be” by dialing back their ruthless ambition just enough to allow themselves to feel happy or satisfied with their lives. The only reason I don’t think this one is super likely is that I suspect the show has already blown its Beatles budget with “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Remember how crazy we all thought it was that we were hearing a Beatles song on TV? Imagine if it happened a second time. That just doesn’t feel like something that most shows—even one as popular as Mad Men—can manage to swing.
Shane: See, for me, I don’t get a very Mad Men vibe from “Let It Be.” It’s slightly too…sentimental, I think. Or, to put it differently, it’s too much Paul, not enough John. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is a different story entirely—it’s cool, subversive, and just interesting. It fits the aesthetic in a way that I’m just not seeing from “Let It Be.”
Chances: 12 percent
Shane: On the surface, it semi-qualifies under my earlier criteria, because it brings the energy. Also, can’t you just see Weiner being hugely self-satisfied that he went out with the ‘70s version of this song rather than the more popular Temptations original? Like, as some kind of metaphor of how things have changed since the ‘50s, but also remained the same, or something? On the other hand, something about the guy’s voice is too rough around the edges, somehow. It feels a little too rock-y, in some way. And I don’t know why, but I get the feeling we’re going to be getting a female vocalist—I haven’t kept track, but doesn’t it seem like there are more female-driven songs on Mad Men? As a white male, do you think I should confront Weiner about this on Twitter?
Bonnie: Hahah, yes, because if anyone has been victimized in the Mad Men universe, it’s straight white men. In all seriousness though, the only way I see this one happening is if we end on something positive signaling some kind of new beginning—maybe Peggy walking into a meeting with Coca-Cola or Joan stomping into court to sue all the sexist McCann bastards—because “get ready, here I come” seems too confident or triumphant to take us out of Mad Men. I have a feeling we’re going to end on something more bittersweet than this.
Chances: 2 percent.
Bonnie: There are certain songs that you can just picture credits rolling to, and this is one of them. It’s got the perfect tempo for slow-rolling text, but beyond that, it’s got a reassuring message of love. Weirdly, though, that’s exactly why I don’t think it’ll end Mad Men. Can you imagine a shot of Don while “where there is love, I’ll be there” plays? Not likely. Unless we end on some sort of Tom Joad-esque speech from Don to Sally, an “I’ll always be with you in spirit” kind of farewell, in which case it’d be perfect.
Shane: Yeah, I’m not buying this one—like “Let It Be,” I’m getting too much of a sentimental vibe, and this one is even worse. It’s a nice song, but it would feel really effing weird at the end of Mad Men...or the beginning, or the middle. I think you put it perfectly above—we’re going to get some bittersweet, and this is just saccharine.
Chances: 8 percent.
Shane: At this point, I wonder if I’m just too enthusiastic about too many songs, because I’m loving this one too. The one downside is that it’s a little too iconic, and so unlike “Band of Gold,” it won’t come as an interesting little surprise. This is the 1970 remake of Marvin Gaye’s ‘67 original, and it would make for a kickass triumphant finish to the show. On the other hand, forgetting its fame, it might be a little too ebullient for Weiner’s taste. Yup, I’ve talked myself out of it, Bonnie. You’ve just watched a dude contradict himself and come out the other side—too recognizable, too overt. But wait! Isn’t there a hint of irony there that Weiner might like? What if the Diana Ross spoken part starting around 3:45 plays over a closing montage, and then the chorus? Gahhh maybe. But I’m still a soft “no” on this one.
Bonnie: Holy shit, how incredible would this be if it actually happened though? That spoken word part is perfect, and I think this would be the song for if we end with something particularly dark. Last week we ended on Betty’s farewell note to Sally, then Don aimless at a bus stop, then “Everyday” by Buddy Holly, which is normally really cheery-sounding, but when paired with what transpired in the episode, it seemed really eerie, like some kind of surreal warning. I think the most likely scenario for this song would be something like that. We end on something big and grim, and then we cut to Diana Ross saying “if you should fall short of your desires, remember life holds for you one guarantee: you’ll always have me” and then we swell into the chorus. Ho-ly shit.
Chances: 7 percent.
Bonnie: This seems like one of the few songs on this list we can pretty much rule out right off the bat. Unless we end on Glen in Vietnam for some reason, I think this one’s a definite no. Its subject matter is too specific, and as much as I’d love for Mad Men to go out with an emphatic “huh! Good God, y’all,” I highly doubt it’ll happen.
Shane:s Hahaha yes, no chance at all. For that reason, it would easily be the most hilarious choice (besides the two songs you and I discussed on g-chat: “Enter Sandman” by Metallica and “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus). Can you imagine how angry everyone would be if they chose an emphatic protest song that had absolutely no thematic relevance? That would be Weiner’s “cut to black” Sopranos moment, but fans would be even angrier.
Chances: 0.5 percent.
Shane: Gosh, this one is just perfect, because it has that sense of lightness that I’m convinced we’ll go out on, plus the shrugging sense of fatalism that comes off with a soft touch. Can’t you see Bert Cooper’s ghost coming back and dancing to this one? All it lacks is a female vocalist. The problem is that “Raindrops” has already been used in one of history’s most famous music-in-movie scenes in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In fact, it was written for that film, and won Best Original Song at the Oscars. Weiner wouldn’t be comfortable duplicating the reference, right? That’s what I’m telling myself, because otherwise it just sounds right.
Bonnie: This one almost seems a little too on-the-nose. Mad Men hasn’t exactly clung to subtlety with the songs it chooses to end its episodes, but its lyrics seem a little too obvious for me. Although I’m all for it if it means we get to see Ghost Bert one more time.
Chances: 5 percent.
Bonnie: I could actually see this one happening if we end on a feminist note—not necessarily a triumph, but something Peggy or Joan-centric for sure. Mad Men’s always been as much of Peggy’s story as it has been Don’s, and we start the pilot with her first day at Sterling Cooper, so it would bring things full-circle to end on her. I can picture her getting offered a creative director position somewhere and accepting it as we fade to black and bid farewell to this amazing American woman.
Shane: You know what? I was ready to argue violently against this, but in the scenario you described, it kind of makes perfect sense. The one thing I would say is that it feels unlikely that they’ll end just with the women, and leave Don out of it. Still, it would be a pretty emphatic exit. You make a good argument.
Chances: 10 percent.
Shane: Here, we have the “Raindrops Keep Fallin’” problem—on the surface, it sounds like it could qualify, despite being a little sentimental, on the virtue of its airy, melodic quality. But again, we’ve heard this song in films and TV over and over and over, to the point that it would feel like a cliche if it came up with the credits in the series finale on Sunday. (My favorite reference on the Wikipedia “in popular culture” section: “There is an achievement in the 2014 game Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty! entitled “Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear…?” which is an obvious nod to the line from the song. The achievement can be earned by dying in 15 different ways.”) I just can’t imagine anyone in La Famille Weiner considering this for more than two seconds, and then letting it go with a sort of wistful regret. And I have to say, I’m okay with that…it’s a nice song, but a little downbeat for a big finish.
Bonnie: I agree that this song is too sleepy to end the show—I could see it closing a regular episode, but the series finale? Nah. And, like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” it wouldn’t be subtle at all. The (lack of) closeness between Don and his family—especially Sally—has been one of the show’s biggest themes, and if the show ended with Don returning from his road trip to pick up Sally and help her in her time of grief while “I long to be close to you” played, it’d just seem way too obvious.
Chances: 4 percent.
Bonnie: So, I had an elaborate fantasy that we’d end on everyone’s last day at Sterling Cooper while this played behind a montage of everyone packing up their offices and palling around with each other. It’s mournful and comforting at the same time, and that “work family as real family” theme has been pushed hard on Mad Men, so it seemed fitting, but everyone’s already starting to go their separate ways and we’re already months into the McCann era, so this one seems less likely now. But “your time has come to shine, all your dreams are on their way” are good words for Sally to hear, especially now that she’s being thrust into adulthood and she’ll be the woman of the house once Betty passes away. Maybe we end on her, looking to the future as Mad Men characters are so wont to do?
Shane: Gosh, I’m going to have to disagree again. First, let me say that I love this song, like I love most Simon and Garfunkel songs. But again, it’s too overtly emotional—I just have a strong feeling we’re going to get something that’s more about mood, and less about the suitability of the lyrics. This is a grand, swelling, tear-jerker of a song, and it would come on like a tidal wave with the closing credits. I don’t think they want a tidal wave, do they? I think it’s just a little too much—”Bridge” is such a powerhouse that it would overwhelm the show. (PS, this paragraph guarantees that they’ll absolutely use this song, and you’ll have ammunition to use against me forever.)
Chances: 16 percent.
Bonnie’s top five alternate guesses:
1. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) by Sly & The Family Stone – Identity has been such a huge part of Don’s story, and as of now, it looks like he’s considering ditching the Draper identity and disappearing into a new start. Whether he does that or returns to his kids when they need him most, the idea that he’d give thanks for “letting me be myself again” just works.
2. Ooh Child by The Five Stairsteps – Okay, so this is a really on-the-nose choice for a potential Sally ending, but I just want her to know that things will get brighter and easier.
3. Easy Come, Easy Go by Bobby Sherman – Deceptively cheery sound? Check. Don-applicable lines like “whatever made me think that I was number one?” You bet. Don’s already talking about his advertising in the past tense, and he conned his way into it in the first place, so no one knows better than he does just how “easy come, easy go” it is. The singer’s even “just thinking about the chump I’ve been.” It’s basically the Don Draper theme song.
4. Reflections of My Life by Marmalade – A little overwrought, but if Don’s able to gain a little perspective, he’ll probably be doing some reflecting in the last episode. As the song says, “I’m changing everything.”
5. Without Love (There is Nothing) by Tom Jones – Pretty in-line with the message of the entire show. “To live for today and love for tomorrow is the wisdom of a fool.” Preach, Tom.
Shane’s top five alternate guesses:
1. “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry — Especially if Don goes to California.
2. “My Baby Loves Lovin’” by White Plains – Just has the perfect aesthetic to me.
3. “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” by Melanie — Only if Weiner wants to go really energetic at the death.
4. “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse — Absolutely my top “male singer” pick. It also has that perfect initial riff that could play over the last shot and segue into the credits as the vocals come up.
5. “Venus” by Shocking Blue — This is my sleeper pick. It may be a little too psychedelic, a little too dark-sounding, maybe even a little too cliche…a little too everything, but I don’t care—it’s a dark horse if I’ve ever seen one.