Music of Billions Season 2

Compared to Season 1, this season of Billions, for whatever reason, used a bit less music, fewer seminal tracks to accompany its richly crafted scenes. Music was still important this season, but somewhat less so than last. In my review of last year’s music, you’ll count 36 tracks. Here, the major songs in all episodes amounted to 20. Interesting revelation from this exercise is that they seem to follow a certain pattern in genres from one season to the next. That is to say, the aural landscape of this season seemed to contain the same proportion of arena metal, 70’s funk, contemporary alternative, live ballad, perennial classics, and lovely alt-country. All the tracks they chose, regardless of number, hit all the marks.

Let’s follow along with Season 2’s playlist, shall we?

2.01: “Risk Management”

Oliver Dake enters the canvas, bespectacled in throwback horn rims, loaded up with briefcases gliding up the escalator in Penn Station to the tune of Harry Nilsson’s “Jump into the Fire” from 1971. Found that this song was also used in the Dumbo drop scene in Goodfellas. It also closes out the episode.

2.02: “Dead Cat Bounce”

Ryan Bingham’s “Top Shelf Drug” accompanies the entry of new (and short-lived) performance coach Gus to Axe Capital. We hear the song as Gus clears out Wendy’s detritus, making room for his own.

As Chuck is spreading word that he’s not investigating Lawrence Boyd, by which, of course, he means he IS, we hear the aptly chosen “Fill in the Blank” by Car Seat Headrest. We’re still holding our breath as the episode closes.

2.03: “Optimal Play”

Accompaniment to Bobby walking into The Alpha Cup poker tournament is Keith Richards, “Trouble.”

At that tournament, we get a montage of a bunch of guys walking away from tables after they’ve reached their losing limits set to Beach Slang, “Atom Bomb.”

Stephanie tells Axe that buying up all the Churchill books everywhere will be expensive. He replies:

Then it’s a good thing I’m a rich fucking man.

This potent quotable cues the cranking up guitar riff lead-in to R.E.M.’s “Begin the Begin.”

2.04: “The Oath”

Here we get the first big showdown between Chuck and Bobby. It’s a deposition wherein Chuck jabs Bobby with congratulations on rebuilding the offices since the last time he visited, and Bobby goads right back by asking about Chuck’s sleeping arrangements since then. We also get Ira, kick-assed-ly, asserting that since Bobby’s not claiming monetary damage, the wound inflicted by Chuck must be emotional: Just how did wittle Chuckie wound wittle Bobby? Megadeth, “Peace Sells”, but, alas, nobody’s buying.

2.05: “Currency”

Wags drives back to Axe after his session with Wendy, ready to get back in the saddle, to Johnny Cash, “A Legend in my Time”. Same song plays as Chuck celebrates the Boyd arrest with plates full of the sexiest carbs imaginable at The Mile End.

source: Showtime

2.06: “Indian Four”

Chuck has learned that Wendy went back to Axe. The song playing as he walks away is my favorite song of the season, not surprisingly written by my favorite new artist of last season (and since) Jason Isbell: Drive-by Truckers, “Goddamn Lonely Love.” Really, there’s a lot of good music, and even a fair amount of great music, but only rarely are we awarded with a genius songwriter, no hyperbole at all in that word “genius.” Mark my words, young people 50 years from now will be covering Jason Isbell’s songs, the same way young people will cover Dylan and Leonard Cohen till the end of our days. Amen.

Say, you don’t really like country music? Or sleepy guitar? Or a good honest voice? Well, here are the lyrics, to read, like poetry, because that’s exactly what this is (emphasis mine):

I got green and I got blues
And everyday there’s a little less difference between the two
I belly-up and disappear
Well I ain’t really drowning ’cause I see the beach from here
And I could take a Greyhound home but when I got there it’d be gone
Along with everything a home is made up of
So I’ll take two of what you’re having and I’ll take all of what you got
To kill this goddamn lonely, goddamn lonely love
Sister, listen to what your daddy says
Don’t be ashamed of things that hide behind your dress
Belly-up and arch your back
Well I ain’t really falling asleep; I’m fading to black
And you could come to me by plane, but that wouldn’t be the same
As that old motel room in Texarkana was
So I’ll take two of what you’re having and I’ll take all of what you got
To kill this goddamn lonely, goddamn lonely love
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
A man walks into a bar and leaves before his ashes hit the floor
Stop me if I ever get that far
The sun’s a desperate star that burns like every single one before
And I could find another dream,
One that keeps me warm and clean
But I ain’t dreamin’ anymore, girl, I’m waking up
So I’ll take two of what you’re having and I’ll take everything you got
To kill this goddamn lonely, goddamn lonely love
All I got is this goddamn lonely, goddamn lonely love
All I got is this goddamn lonely, goddamn lonely love
All I got is this goddamn lonely, goddamn lonely love
Songwriters: Jason Isbell
Goddamn Lonely Love lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

2.07: “Victory Lap”

Seems each season has featured a one-hit wonder song. Last season’s Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” is followed this year by comparably cheesy grunge-wannabe Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy.” The song plays as Chef Ryan is serving up some pool-side snacks (as cleverly described by someone on twitter).

As Bobby is reaching his conclusions on what to do about that pesky town of Sandicot, we hear AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock.” Personally, not at all a rare tune to hear at middle school pep rallies and football games growing up.

2.08: “The Kingmaker”

Wags is vaping a vaportini to the tune of Fucked Up, “Turn the Season.” We hear it again when Bobby has realized that Foley is in cahoots with familia Rhoades and hops on his bike to confront them at the Yale Club, and once more as the Rhoades light up their stogies to close out the episode.

source: Showtime

At Foley’s party, of course, is Ben Folds, live and in person, singing “Landed.”

2.09: “Sic Transit Imperium”

Closing out the episode, as Wags opens up Bobby’s returned gift of membership in the virtual utopia, and Bobby skips his own party to take leery, fearful, hurt Lara to the races, we hear Bob Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna.”

2.10: “With or Without You”

Well, the episode is named for a song, which I was bemused to learn was one of the only two (other was “Where the Streets Have No Name”) to make it big in the States from U2. Arguably, the band had plenty of songs better than “With or Without You,” but this one fit the episode nearly perfectly.

Before we hear that titular song, we hear The Crystals “What a Nice Way to Turn 17” as Axe’s big birthday bash on the estate is being wrapped up. Axe wakes to find his candles have indeed got out. Lara has packed up the boys and is gone.

Chuck Sr.’s spy is cloaked to finagle the theft of a cherry red laptop belonging to Junior’s femdom friend. The computer contains all her client information, and, to ease the way to the coveted governor’s mansion, the Rhoades need this particular drive wiped squeaky clean. K.Flay’s “Blood in the Cut.”

Bobby mentions the title song in one of his voicemails to Lara. Rainy night in Paris, not wanting to get out of bed, letting the song play on repeat all night. We hear the song as Lara comes home. U2, “With or Without You”

2.11: “Golden Frog Time”

Lara’s goon cousins are doing wise guy things, doing their bit to help along Axe’s side of the Ice Juice play. Song accompanying them is Tom Petty’s “Even the Losers.” We hear the song again as Chuck, in a time jump to the past, gets the ball rolling on that very same smoothie play.

2.12: “Ball in Hand”

Suited and booted Lawrence Boyd says goodbye to incarceration and we see Chuck and Bobby and others at their respective morning ministrations to the tune of The Blasters, “So Long Baby Goodbye.”

The episode closes with Kate celebrating her win to Head of Crim, Lonnie packing up his desk, the best and brightest at Axe battening down the hatches, Bobby being processed back out of prison and heading home after posting bail, and Chuck and Wendy meeting at their marital home. The tune is another apt one: Josh Ritter’s “Homecoming.”

Now, here’s a handy dandy playlist for your listening pleasure: Spotify Playlist.

6 thoughts on “Music of Billions Season 2”

  1. Last season favorites I still listen to almost every day on my #Billions playlist is High Tiding & $4 Vic. High Tiding just gets me to move in my seat, jut out my chin with the beat, thumb tap the steering wheel. I had never, EVER heard of that song before #Billions. So thankful BK is a musical guru.

    In terms of known songs for me, this season’s favorites were Even the Losers by Tom Petty and With or Without You by U2. Love me some Petty!!

    In terms of new songs for me, this season’s favorites were Top Shelf Drug, Trouble, Homecoming and Goddamn Lonely Love. Homecoming and Goddamn Lonely Love is on repeat, every day. And that is a feat in and of itself because this Oklahoma girl does not generally listen to country, especially new country. Having grown up with country in my household, I have an appreciation for the old stuff, like Bob Wills, Chet Atkins, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Sr. & his son Bocephus. “Newest” country for me would be Keith Whitley, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, The Judds, Dixie Chicks, and of course Oklahoma boy Garth Brooks. Currently I am enjoying Chris Stapleton (talk about a good honest voice) and now Jason Isbell, former member of Drive-By Truckers. That’s about the extent of the country genre on my iTunes.

    I am sending telepathic vibes to the #Billions writers to find a spot in season 3 for Chris Stapleton’s “Either Way” and anything by Supertramp LOL

    Nice link up on “Jump Into the Fire” being used in Goodfellas, as we know that’s one of the staples of the writers!

    1. Great list Krista! I grew up sort of “South-ish” in Delaware and lived in Houston for about a minute after college, so I’m not a total stranger to country music. Even saw Clint Black in concert at the Astrodome, as a part of the state fair or something…All I remember is watching a rodeo and seeing Click Black. And there is something to be said for the southern boy aesthetic, something northern boys can never pull off. (an aesthetic that Damian, I sense, could totally pull off, eventhough he is neither north nor south) But I know exactly what you mean about new country vs good country. I like good country…ie “alt-country” which is more pure Americana rather than shit-kicking truck-driving cheating-woman music. Rarely, if ever, listen to “new” country and find some of the anti-intellectual veins running thru it downright awful (and scary).

      Nothing has surpassed the golden find last year with Jason Isbell. I kick myself for not knowing him already before hearing him on Billions. I sought out everything he did and found out about his Drive-By Truckers origins last year. Now I’m going to see him when he comes to Seattle in September. Will have to look up Chris Stapleton..and some other names folks mention in the same breath as Isbell. Josh Ritter is okay too, but not the same brand of songwriting genius, IMO. IDK, I’m an art snob, I know, but there are only so many hours in the day, and I don’t have music on all the time, so when I do listen to it, it has to be the best I can find.

      Yes, BK is a musical guru….his taste runs wider and more prolific than mine and on some things we have no overlap at all. (He admitted to never liking Morissey, for instance…hm.)

          1. Ouch, that’s a tough song to listen too. Raw and painful. Great emotion in his voice. I love blues too.

            The thing about Isbell is that he does personal beautifully, but he’s not afraid to do political either, really beautifully too. “From the sky we look so organized and brave / walls that make up barricades and graves / Daddy’s little empire, built by hands and built by slaves / from the sky we look so organized and brave” I swear I can’t be in a airplane anymore and not hear these lyrics when I look out the window. He’s an Alabama boy, but wise about where he comes from, what it means to be Southern, and what it doesn’t have to mean. Like he said…a punk version of country. 😀

  2. Thank you for putting together a spotify playlist 😉
    Billions sountracks are great anyways, I myself prefer rock and some blues, but country is fine, usually lyrics are deep and tell a whole life story.
    I loved the Bobby’s pic in that Megadeth tshirts that rocks all the way!

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