‘I May Destroy You’ is an intense British drama from a co-production between HBO and BBC that revolves around the traumatic experiences of its lead character Arabella, a black woman after she was sexually assaulted in a nightclub.
Michaela Coel, the writer, co-director, and star of the show became the first Black woman to win the Emmy Award for her exceptional writing inspired by her personal experience of being sexually assaulted by a bunch of strangers back in 2016.
Coel managed to present the show as she intended by even turning down a deal of 1 million dollars while pitching the show to Netflix after being denied any percentage of copyright for her creation.
With the theme of ‘I May Destroy You’ being as serious and dark as it is, the music used in the show has an integral role in communicating the emotion of a scene and the character’s mindset to its audience. All the incidents that Arabella goes through are amplified with the soundtracks which make the scenes much more daunting for the audience.
Although the list of tracks is quite long, we present you with five songs featured in the show with their interesting facts and background on them.
‘Nightmares’ by Easy Life (Season 1, Episode 2)
‘Nightmares’ has got that chill vibe that you often get to hear in Lo-Fi songs but with a bit of dark twist as evident through the lyrics. The alternative and R&B band Easy Life has spoken about how the song expresses the inability of society to handle the fallout of claustrophobic anxiety. According to the band’s lead singer Murray, the song originated with a trumpet sample from Dionne Warwick’s version of Burt Bacharach’s Loneliness Remembers What Happiness Forgets.
Another interesting fact is that Ciara Elwis, the music supervisor for ‘I May Destroy You’ preferred to use ‘Nightmares’ for the ending of episode 2 instead of a classical score so that the viewers would decide how to feel on their own rather than the music telling them to feel a certain way as the characters that did something pleasant on an episode would go on to do something terrible in the next one.
‘Babycakes’ by 3 Of A Kind (Season 1, Episode 6)
‘Babycakes’ by 3 Of A Kind hit number one in the charts back in 2004 and 90s kids from the UK have definitely heard it although with mixed reaction. The track differs from most of the songs that play in I May Destroy You since it’s featured in some jolly montage clips in episode six.
Interestingly, Liana Caruana (also known as Miz Tipzta), Nicholas Gallante (known as Devine MC), and Marc Portelli ended up being a short-lived music group. Although the song remains in some corner of YouTube for fans to get some Nostalgia, the members have moved on to a different career path for quite a while.
Lianna is seen on Twitter and still offers songwriting/ghostwriting services. The band’s other member Nicholas was seen on the satirical music-based game Never Mind the Buzzcocks in 2014. Marc Portelli, also known as Marky P, is nowhere to be found on social media.
Talking about the inspiration behind Babycakes, Lianna wrote the lyrics for the song after being influenced by the love story in the film Babycakes, 1989 starring Ricki Lake.
‘Something About Us’ by Daft Punk (Season 1, Episode 3)
‘Something About Us’ was among the few songs that were personally selected by Michaela herself for the script as the show didn’t use classical scores. The track is from Daft Punk’s second studio album Discovery. The music video for the song is a scene from the animated film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem.
Many of the songs selected were created by musicians of African ethnicity. Michaela wanted lots of female hip-hop and gospel things to portray the music taste of the bubbly girl Arabella, which she got from songs like ‘Truffle Butter’ by Nicki Minaj with Lil Wayne and Drake.
Daft Punk’s music is still relevant among the younger generation today. A very interesting rendition of their other song ‘Around The World’ was covered by the YouTuber Franzoli Electronics in which the song was played on Tesla coils.
‘Punk Champagne’ by Farai feat. TONE
‘I May Destroy You’ also features some extremely talented underrated artists, one of them being Farai Bukowski-Bouquet, a London-based singer and producer TONE, who worked together to produce Farai’s debut album Rebirth.
Farai met TONE via Shop Floor Sessions who used synthesizers and guitars to back up her lyrics which capture the heart of places she’s lived in. Other contributing artists like Marc Pell from Micachu and The Shapes recorded the drum grooves for the tracks.
Punk Champagne is the third track of the album which starts with low pitched synth sound with the drums kicking in right before the vocals to immediately set the mood. The expressive vocals right from the start successfully convey the lyrical meaning of the song.
The series has brought forward many talented artists like Farai from London and other parts of the world which Michaela appreciates a lot about her job. It’s interesting how an indie artist who’s far off from mainstream music was discovered for the series. The show has allowed the younger generation to find artists other than the mainstream hits who bring a unique story to the table.
You can listen to other songs by Farai on her Bandcamp and support her work.
‘Odo Nana’ by Lady Jay
Lady Jay is another underrated artist who was born in Tema, Ghana who remains quite a big name in her country of origin. She was featured on the cover of the Spotify playlist Phenomenal Woman back in 2020 and her songs cover a variety of genres, primarily RnB, soul, High Life, Afro Beat, Afro Trap, and Hip-hop.
She is represented by Walhalla Entertainment, a record label and media company creating high-quality content for music and films in Ghana. The artist also went on to create an inspirational patriotic video during the pandemic for her native country that resonated with nationalism at its core.
Interestingly, she was also seen with Michaela, who appeared on her Instagram story and seems to be a good friend of hers. Coel’s parents are originally from Ghana as well which must have led her to inherit some cultural knowledge about the country.
‘Oda Nana’ being featured in the show has definitely encouraged other artists from Ghana, whose songs fused with the country’s folk elements are something that needs to be heard by a wider audience. These subtle folk elements can particularly be heard in the song ‘Oda Nana’ chorus vocals as well as the rhythm of the song, which has beautifully fused with pop-style singing. The guitar melody adds musicality to the upbeat vibe of the song.
- You can find the full list of songs featured in I May Destroy You through the following playlist in Spotify !