Music of Stranger Things

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The Stranger Things original soundtracks are composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of the electronic band Survive.[1] They make extensive use of synthesizers in homage to 1980s artists and film composers including Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Goblin, John Carpenter, Giorgio Moroder, and Fabio Frizzi.[2]


The Duffer Brothers were first made aware of Dixon and Stein's music while watching the 2014 thriller film The Guest, which featured music produced and performed by their band Survive.[3] While creating a mock trailer that that was later used to sell the show to Netflix, the Duffers decided to use Survive's song "Dirge" to serve as the trailer's soundtrack.[1][4] Once the show was green-lit, the Duffers contacted Survive around July 2015 to ask if the group was still together and available to potentially score the season; in turn, Dixon and Stein provided the production team with dozens of unreleased songs from their band's past, which aided them in their bid for the job.[1] The Duffers were ecstatic after listening to the material provided, and they implored the duo to quit their day jobs to produce music for the show full-time.[5] They obliged, and once they were aboard the production, the two worked with producers to select some of their older music to rework for the show while simultaneously developing new music which was to chiefly serve as character motifs.[4] The tracks produced by the duo were sent during filming to The Duffers, who later labelled the demos as "sketches" due to Dixon and Stein's odd title choices (“Jupiter 8 Spirit Winds,” “Soakers Forum 3,” and “Lighting Candles and Eggy Pizza" are among the most unique of the batch).[5] A "sketch" that was originally titled "Prophecy" was later developed into the show's theme. In all, just under 14 hours of music was produced for the show over the course of one year.[5] Dixon and Stein had been hired before the casting process, so their motif demos were used and played over the actors' audition tapes, aiding in the casting selection.[4][6]


The show's theme is based on an unused piece Stein composed much earlier that ended up in a library of work that was available for potential commercial licensing.[1] The duo shared a "loose" version of the potential demo with the production staff, who thought that with some reworking it would be good for the opening credits.[7][8] Dixon and Stein proceeded to retool the demo, and on the staff's suggestion, made it "bigger, bolder and kind of build to a climax," a goal that was ultimately achieved with the inclusion of Prophet V, Roland SH-2, and Mellotron synthesizers, coupled with the usage of various filters.[9] They also produced additional versions that varied in length, so as to ease the integration of the theme into the as-of-then uncompleted, tentative opening sequence.[7]

After the release of the show's first season and its meteoric rise in popularity that followed, Dixon and Stein's composition quickly gained a large amount of popularity as well. Various musical entertainers such as the band Blink-182 have used the song in their live productions, and a number of amateur musicians have posted cover versions to YouTube.[10] The song also won the award for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music at the 69th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards.[11]



Year Title Composer(s)
2016 Stranger Things, Vol. 1 Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
Stranger Things, Vol. 2
2017 Stranger Things 2
2019 Stranger Things 3


Year Title Artist(s)
2017 Stranger Things: Music from the Netflix Original Series Various
2018 Stranger Things: Halloween Sounds from the Upside Down Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
2019 Stranger Things: Music from the Netflix Original Series, Season 3 Various

Other music[edit]

In addition to original music, Stranger Things features period music from artists including The Clash, Joy Division, Toto, New Order, The Bangles, Foreigner, Echo and the Bunnymen, Queen, Peter Gabriel, and Corey Hart, as well as excerpts from Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter, and Vangelis.[12][13] In particular, a number of famous popular songs from the 1970s and 1980s play an important role in the narrative and/or marketing of the show.

"The NeverEnding Story"[edit]

Of note in the third season was the use of "The NeverEnding Story", the theme to the 1984 film of the same name, which is used in the final episode when Suzie refuses to provide the critical code until Dustin sings it to her. The Duffers had wanted to introduce Suzie into the show's narrative in some dramatic fashion while giving Matarazzo, who has sung on Broadway before, a chance to show off his own vocals. Initially, they were planning to use "The Ent and the Entwife" song from The Lord of the Rings, but aware that Amazon Studios were developing its own Lord of the Rings series, decided to change direction. The Duffers credit writer Curtis Gwinn for using "The NeverEnding Story" as the replacement.[14] Matarazzo and Gabriella Pizzolo, the actress playing Suzie and also a seasoned singer on Broadway, were on sets near each other when they sang the song together and were able to harmonize the song as well without the backing music.[15] As their characters were not meant to be in that much synchronization due to being in two different places, the song's backing track and some autotuning were used to blend their singing to their respective settings and the tone of the soundtrack.[16] According to the cast and to composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, the song became an earworm for many of the cast on the day that scene was filmed.[15] Later in the episode, Lucas and Max, played by Caleb McLaughlin and Sadie Sink, sing the song in duet back to Dustin to mock him; both McLaughlin and Sink also have had experience in Broadway musicals.[15] As a result of its appearance in the series, "The NeverEnding Story" drew an 800% increase in viewership and streaming requests on YouTube and Spotify over the days after initial broadcast, putting Limahl, the song's artist, briefly back in the spotlight.[17][18]

"Should I Stay or Should I Go"[edit]

"Should I Stay or Should I Go" by the English punk rock band the Clash was specifically picked to play at pivotal moments of the first season, such as when Will is trying to communicate with Joyce from the Upside Down.[13] According to Bill Desowitz of Indiewire, the song's subject - a tumultuous end to a relationship - sees a new light in the context of the series, where it "becomes a way of calming Will when he sings it in the Upside Down, and a way of reminding Joyce and Jonathan that he’s still alive, lifting their spirits as well."[19] The Duffers found this song of particular importance to the main narrative, though The Clash were reluctant to lend their song to show they perceived to be about "monsters from an alternative world" that may denigrate its original cultural significance and meaning.[20] The brothers left it up to the show's music supervisor, the Grammy-winning Nora Felder, to obtain the rights to use the song.[19][20] She convinced the band to lend the narrative their song after downplaying the role of the monster, explaining that the show is more about the "bonds between family."[19][20] After the song's usage was approved, Felder made an effort to "protect [the band]" from being trivialized, specifically with the context of the song's use in conjunction with the happenings on-screen.[19] The Duffers weren't made aware of the struggle to obtain the rights to the song's usage until Felder spoke about the process during an event held by Variety magazine.[19][20]


Year Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
2016 Hollywood Music in Media Awards Best Main Title – TV Show/Digital Streaming Series Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein Nominated [21][22]
Best Original Score – TV Show/Miniseries Nominated
Outstanding Music Supervision – Television Nora Felder Won
2017 Grammy Awards Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media Stranger Things, Vol. 1 Nominated [23]
Stranger Things, Vol. 2 Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein Won [24]
2018 Grammy Awards Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media Stranger Things: Music from the Netflix Original Series Nominated [25]


  1. ^ a b c d Kaufman, Gil (August 29, 2016). "Stranger Things Co-Composer Shares the Story Behind 2016's Most Unlikely Musical Sensation". Billboard. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  2. ^ "Stranger Things: 10 eerie electronic gems to hear if you loved the Netflix show". FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  3. ^ Gruttadaro, Andrew (August 2, 2016). "How the Duffer Brothers Picked the Perfect Music for 'Stranger Things'". Complex. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Weingarten, Christopher (August 1, 2016). "'Stranger Things': Meet the Band Behind Show's Creepy, Nostalgic Score". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c The Duffer Brothers (July 19, 2016). "Stranger Things episode 5: The Duffer Brothers explain the show's soundtrack". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  6. ^ Thomas, Helen. "An Interview With S U R V I V E: The Mysterious Band Behind The Epic 'Stranger Things' Score". NME. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Nguyen, Hanh. "'Stranger Things' Composers Interview: Duo Discusses Soundtrack, That Haunting Theme Song and More". IndieWire. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  8. ^ Jones, Damian. "'Stranger Things' composers reveal how they made title-track for Netflix series". NME. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  9. ^ Welsh, April Clare. "Stranger Things composers break down theme music on Song Exploder". Fact Magazine. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  10. ^ Rich, Katey. "Even the Guys Who Wrote the Stranger Things Theme Can't Believe How Popular It's Become". Vanity Fair. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  11. ^ Sodomsky, Sam. "Emmys 2017: "Stranger Things" Wins Outstanding Theme Music Award". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  12. ^ Mylnar, Phillip (July 25, 2016). "Unpacking the '80s nostalgia of the 'Stranger Things' soundtrack". Mashable. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Minsker, Evan (August 10, 2016). "Netflix's Stranger Things Soundtrack Detailed". Pitchfork. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  14. ^ Stack, Tim (July 9, 2019). "The NeverEnding Story moment in Stranger Things 3 almost didn't happen". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on July 9, 2019. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  15. ^ a b c Wigler, Josh (July 6, 2019). "How 'Stranger Things' Pulled Off Its Most Ambitious Music Moment Yet". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  16. ^ Hurley, Laura (July 4, 2019). "How Stranger Things' Hilarious Season 3 Musical Scene And Iconic Opening Theme Came Together". Cinema Blend. Archived from the original on July 9, 2019. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  17. ^ Codero, Rosy (July 9, 2019). "The NeverEnding Story theme singer Limahl celebrates newfound interest thanks to 'Stranger Things'". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on July 10, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  18. ^ Kaufman, Gil (July 18, 2019). "Limahl 'Gobsmacked' by Explosion of Interest in 'Neverending Story' Thanks to 'Stranger Things'". Billboard. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  19. ^ a b c d e Desowitz, Bill (August 18, 2017). "How The Clash Became an Integral Part of the 'Stranger Things' Musical Emmy Nomination". IndieWire. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  20. ^ a b c d Lussier, Germain (August 18, 2017). "Stranger Things Had To Hide the Monsters To Get the Rights To 'Should I Stay or Should I Go'". Gizmodo. Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  21. ^ "2016 Music In Visual Media Nominees – Hollywood Music In Media Awards - HMMA". Hollywood Music in Media Awards.
  22. ^ "HMMA Winners – Hollywood Music In Media Awards - HMMA". Hollywood Music in Media Awards.
  23. ^ "59th Annual GRAMMY Awards Winners & Nominees". The Recording Academy. Archived from the original on February 13, 2017. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  24. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (September 10, 2017). "Creative Arts Emmy Winners: 'Stranger Things,' 'Westworld,' 'Big Little Lies' Win Big — Complete List". Variety. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  25. ^ "2019 Grammy Awards: The Full List Of Winners". NPR. February 10, 2019. Retrieved February 11, 2019.