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'Better Call Saul' and its five best music moments

A one-of-a-kind show and atop the list of crazy popular spinoffs, Better Call Saul is based on the life of ‘the bad lawyer’ from Breaking Bad. As its name suggests, the show highlights Saul Goodman’s life (Bob Odenkirk). Previously known as Jimmy McGill, Goodman was a struggling public defendant in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is before he became Walter White’s criminal lawyer. With his roots set in being a hustler and a con artist, Jimmy struggled to find a real job.

With his brother, Chuck (Michael McKean), being a popular lawyer and having his own firm, Jimmy was reliant on him to get him out of trouble every time he fell into the darker pits of law. However, Chuck had had enough of Jimmy and asked him to get a real job. This inspired Jimmy to get an online law degree and start practising in an underrated and low-paying field of public defence.

However, in spite of genuine efforts on Jimmy’s side, his brother refuses to believe that he has improved as an individual and lets him down. Saul, who had once become the caretaker for his psychosomatically affected brother, decided to stop taking care of him. This is because Chuck always tried to push him down no matter how hard he tried. Jimmy now was pushed back into the field of hustling. Now within the boundaries of law led to several misadventures.

Let’s keep what’s to come a bit of a mystery, so you do not give up on watching this marvel of a show. The series follows a chain of tragedies in Jimmy’s life that indeed transforms him into his alter ego of attorney Saul Goodman who is rather morally challenged when it comes to his work. 

Like any other part of post-production elements, the music department helps set the tone of a show or a film. When the film/series is ready visually, music is added as motifs to help lift the plot and enhance scenes. These motifs help set the general tone of a scene and help the audience get a feel of what is to come on screen. Almost like a foreshadowing element. Like Sherlock’s or Game of Throne’s beginning motifs. In the case of Better Call Saul, music supervisor Thomas Golubić made sure to use perfectly suited music to emphasise the challenges Jimmy faced in his life. 

Here’s a curated list of the five best music moments that help us navigate the challenges in Jimmy’s life. How did these music moments add snippets of thematic material into this audiovisual marvel? Find out more here! 

The five best music moments in ‘Better Call Saul’

5. ‘Uno’- Season 1, Episode 1 

One of the most iconic soundtracks- Ink Spots, “Address Unknown”- is used in the backdrop of Better Call Saul’s screenplay. In this episode, we see how Saul Goodman struggles to begin a new life after Breaking Bad. He does so by posing as a manager of a Cinnabon in Nebraska. Along with these struggles, we get several other flashbacks of him struggling. Like Jimmy McGill, back in his hustling days.

The beauty of the music of this nature adds a piece of non-diegetic brilliance to the scene. Certainly, the scenes do not add the appropriate feelings to the song on screen. However, often we see in film or television shows how music with different tones is added to the background to emphasise the irony. The irony is that Saul was stuck in a loop to escape his very own ghosts from the past.  

4. ‘Coushatta’ – Season 4, Episode 8 

Welcome to the jazz of the late 1960s and a beautiful number from Les McCann, titled, ‘Burnin’ Coal’. What is beautiful about jazz is that it is an improvised brilliance.

Better Call Saul’s creators used this piece as a magnificent addition to adding to the uncertainty of the situation on screen. Exactly narrating and adding a tone to the uncertain path Jimmy is on travelling from New Mexico to Louisiana while writing letters. The screenplay is spontaneous and full of energy, yet we are always in the dark about what’s to come next. The sheer brilliance of jazz adds to Jimmy’s personality of never giving up. 

3. ‘Mabel’- Season 3, Episode 1

In the season 3 premiere, Mike (Jonathan Banks) is found dismantling his car to look for a bug that might have been planted there. BadBadNotGood, ‘Can’t Leave the Night’ is a song Golubić mentions, “That was one where we just kept looking at that scene until something really matched. We work with incredibly talented music editors. Jason Newman and his team are just tremendously talented.

Jason always finds ways of making things seem invisible. You don’t know why an eight-minute song became two and a half minutes, but it feels so satisfying.” He adds how he wants the music to portray a real sense of attachment to the characters besides adding excitement to the screen. 

2. ‘Something Stupid’- Season 4, Episode 7 

Burl Ives’ ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’ is yet another catchy choice to add to the irony of the show. Thomas, the music supervisor, specifies what makes Breaking Bad different from Better Call Saul is how the later original pieces are used in their full glory. But they ensure that the song does not push the boundaries with the scene that is on.

Even for this song, it feels that the light and breezy nature of the song is carried over to the screen by the engineers. However, just as the creators wanted to indicate, the lyrics, along with the diegetic silence within the episode, whisper how something is not quite right at the lab. 

1.  ‘Bali Ha’i’- Season 2, Episode 6

This part of the show is all about Jimmy feeling frustrated. He is not appointed to the job he wants to do. He doesn’t like the life he is living. He feels rather trapped. We can see his frustration level once he chooses a cupholder that Kim had set for him in his car to put his coffee there. The scene is implicit chaos, waiting to burst out. Very similar to the flamboyant song itself.

‘Henna Henna’ by Bombay Royale is a rather different but oddly fitting song for the scene that was initially supposed to be silent. In the beginning, when the creator was testing the scene, they said, “Is this a mistake? This can’t be right.” However, eventually, the resonance of the song wall felt within the scene of Jimmy leaving, making it what the creators claimed, “perfect”.