If you’re like me, you LOVE Netflix’s new series Stranger Things.
It’s like every awesome 80s movie got together at a party and said, “Hey, you know what would be cool? If we all hooked up and made a TV baby!”
Creators Matt and Ross Duffer have perfectly captured what it felt like to watch one of those films for the first time, especially the scary ones. From the first episode, I was immediately hooked. I haven’t binge-watched all of it yet – currently on episode 5 – but I cannot wait to see how this show plays out.
However… something has been bugging me every time I watch a new episode: that theme song.
It’s a fantastic theme, very reminiscent of the 80s synth sound I grew up with. Recent soundtracks from films like It Follows and Beyond the Black Rainbow have really brought synth back into the mainstream, and Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, the composers of the Stranger Things theme song and members of the band S U RV I V E, clearly were inspired.
Still, every time I hear it, I can’t help but think, “I’ve heard this somewhere before!”
Well, I finally found the source… and it wasn’t from an 80s film.
Let me explain…
Here’s the theme from Stranger Things.
And here’s the 2nd track on the Tron: Legacy soundtrack, created by Daft Punk.
Yes, it’s true that the Stranger Things soundtrack adds a lot of layers to Tron: Legacy’s core rhythm, but they are basically the same. They just aren’t the same speed.
In fact, listen to what happens when I speed up the Tron: Legacy soundtrack by about 15%:
To me, it seems obvious that Dixon and Stein might have taken something they shouldn’t have, repurposed it for this wonderful show, and somehow nobody noticed.
You can certainly try and justify that this is just one homage in a series that is inherently based on homages, but plenty of high-profile, well-respected musicians have been accused of plagiarism before. Look, it happens.
In this instance, who knows if it’s purposeful or if it’s simply a rhythm that got stuck in their heads and eventually emerged in a brainstorming session and then stuck around. But what I can say for sure, at this point at least, is that the S U R V I V E duo have not given a single verbal shout out to Daft Punk in any of the interviews I’ve found where they discuss their process and inspirations for composing the Stranger Things score. For that reason, I can confidently say that I don’t think they were simply creating another homage here, whether the similarities were intentional or not.
Regardless, when stuff like this happens, I feel it’s important to point it out. Not only to keep musicians honest, but also to remind ourselves that we’re all fallible, we all make mistakes, and owning up to something so blatant is definitely necessary. Even if it was truly an accident, they should still hold themselves accountable.
Apparently, the track that was listed above is not on the soundtrack for the film, but was instead used for the Visual Effects Concept Test that the official Disney UK YouTube channel put out a year before the film was released.
The theme starts up around 2 minutes in. You can click here to go directly to that point.
There’s no information on the video that Daft Punk created this track, but it does sound a lot like the music from the film.
Thanks to Paul Aftanas for sharing this info with me.