Why You Can’t Stop Listening to the ‘Succession’ Theme Song

In the fall of 2021, the cutthroat family audiences love to hate will return to HBO for the third season of ‘Succession.’ With the Roy family comes the ‘Succession’ theme song, a musical arrangement that transcended the world of TV themes. By blending a swooping orchestral score with hip-hop elements, composer Nicholas Britell created one of the catchiest theme songs on television.

Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong raise their hands to swear in at a Congressional testimony in 'Succession.'
Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong in ‘Succession’ | Zach Dilgard/HBO

Who is Nicholas Britell?

Britell is a composer, pianist, and film producer. After graduating from Harvard University in 2003, Britell began his career as a composer. His composition work was first in Carib’s Leap, a documentary short directed by Steve McQueen.

Since then, Britell has been a frequent collaborator with directors Barry Jenkins and Adam McKay. His scores have appeared in The Big Short, Disney’s CruellaNetflix’s The King, Battle of the Sexes, and Vice. His acclaimed work in If Beale Street Could Talk and Moonlight gained him Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score.

What makes the ‘Succession’ theme stick in your head?

Britell’s success as a composer can hardly be argued, but none of his work has spilled into popular culture like the Succession title theme. The song, which Vulture described as highly “meme-able,” bounced around Twitter, where users laid it over other TV title sequences. It is arresting in a way that makes it unskippable. 

According to Britell, he began work on the theme by first reading the script. After digging into the complexity of the Roy family, Britell got to work on music that would fit the show.

“There’s a darkness to the show and a gravitas to it that I instinctively wanted to emphasize. But there’s also an absurdity that’s both comedic and strange,” he said to Vulture.

To capture the ludicrous grandiosity of the Roys, Britell mixed thumping percussion, clinking piano, and soaring orchestra. By leaving the piano slightly out of tune, Britell achieves an almost rotted sound. While mirroring the family’s sense of self-importance, he also captures the ways in which they’re crumbling from within. 

“I’d personally say the theme is an encapsulation of the elements in the show’s music, which is a combination of early-19th-century, late-18th-century set of harmonic ideas, coupled with a late-20th, early-21st-century set of beats. And then overlaid with a strange, circus-like mentality,” he said.

Will Nicholas Britell provide the music for ‘Succession’ Season 3?

Luckily for fans of the main theme, Britell will return for the third season to provide more richly discomfiting music. Though there is not yet a release date, an arrangement of Britell’s theme plays over the trailer. Like the actual opening sequence, where the music plays over grainy footage of the Roy children, the presence of the main title theme invokes a sense of anticipation and unease. In the trailer, the music leans into the theme’s hip-hop elements before smashing back to piano as the divisions in the Roy family carve deeper. 

RELATED: ‘Succession’ Season 3 Trailer Teases Delicious Roy Family Drama