American Horror Story didn’t invent stylized horror, but damned if showrunners Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk don’t know how to create atmosphere better than anyone. Since AHS: Murder House (season 1) first aired in 2011, the horror anthology has produced some of the most twisted and bizarre moments to ever hit the small screen with a smashing, all-star cast. The show’s visuals, set design, and cinematography are some of the most original concepts to be found. Though the plot lines can amble, the show is always watchable due to its unmistakable ambiance. In particular, the show makes excellent use of music to not only create tension, but often to express depth of character which augment the actors’ emoting. While there is incidental music throughout the show, there are moments where music is slightly more evident and, at times, the focal point of a scene itself. Here are some of those best moments (and best songs) thus far.
[Author’s note: not all scenes are available for free online viewing.]
7. She Wants Revenge’s “Tear You Apart” – AHS: Hotel, episode 1
Can you think of a better song to play while two vampires (Lady Gaga and Matt Bomer) brutally murder two people in the middle of a foursome?
6. Sisters of Mercy’s “Neverland” – AHS: Hotel, episode 1
The perfect tune to introduce the season’s main character: the bizarre and darkly twisted Hotel Cortez.
5. Iron Butterfly’s “In A Gadda Da Vida” – AHS: Coven, episode 1
Supreme Witch Fiona Goode is tying one on, bumping line after line as the camera blurs along with Doug Ingle’s slurred vocals. That the song was originally meant to say “in the Garden of Eden” is hardly coincidental.
4. Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower” – AHS: Asylum, episode 12
After being incarcerated in the same insane asylum she ruled with a cold, iron fist, Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) experiences a glimmer of hope when her release seems eminent. That hope is soon dashed, as none other than the Angel of Death herself (played by the incomparable Frances Conroy) comes strolling into the kitchen.
3. Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” – AHS: Freak Show, episode 2
Sarah Paulson has been one of the show’s strongest performers season after season. In AHS: Freak Show, she plays conjoined twins – one sweet, one cynical – and makes her debut on Miss Elsa’s stage show singing the anachronistic Fiona Apple tune.
2. David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” (sung by Jessica Lange) – AHS: Freak Show, episode 1
As the head of the freak show, Elsa Mars has yet to give up her dreams of stardom. What better way to say “this strange life” than with David Bowie’s surrealistic lyrics in her thick German accent?
1. Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” – AHS: Asylum, episode 6
One of the best moments in the show’s history occurs when former meek and frightened Sister Mary Eunice (now possessed by the Devil) tells off Jesus Christ by way of song.
Shirley Ellis’ “The Name Game” (sung by Jessica Lange) – AHS: Asylum, episode 10
Sister Jude is fresh off a high-voltage EST session and seemingly hallucinates one of the show’s most memorable, choreographed moments. Chancing this lighter fare in the midst of a very dark season was a bold choice by the writers that worked wonderfully.
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