Welcome Back to The Hellmouth: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Soundtrack 2017

Buffy the Vampire Slayer stormed onto the scene in 1997 like a shot of adrenaline to heart. A TV show with a perfect balance of horror, humour and action; blended with 90s smarts and high quality aesthetics. It made for some great watching then and still does today. Plus, it featured without a doubt, one of the best ensemble casts — ever!

The soundtrack too was masterfully curated. There’s the first — and in my opinion — best soundtrack, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Album and then the still rather wonderful Buffy the Vampire Slayer — Radio Sunnydale: Music From the TV Series.

The soundtrack features artists such as Velvet Chain, Garbage, The Sundays, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Bif Naked, The Dandy Warhols, The Breeders and Aimee Mann and more.

Through these artists, the show creators fleshed out the world of Sunnydale with music that drew inspiration from the tastes of youth culture and then lead these tastes forwards too!

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Buffy, the Slayer of Vampires so I thought it’s about time we created a brand new slayer-worthy playlist.

Here’s my choices to start us off!

 

Beth Ditto — Fake Sugar

Oh, I do love a montage!

Whether it be a training to fight vampires or experiencing THE WORST FLATMATE EVER — montages are a great TV trope used to tell a story visually and in a time efficient manner.

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Sometimes though, montages can be used with devastating emotional effect. Here’s the perfect song choice for such a moment — Beth Ditto’s Fake Sugar. Whilst her new album is a bit of a mixed-bag, this particular song has fast become one of my favourite songs of 2017.

Imagine a montage where Buffy reflects on her journey from adolescence into adulthood. The friends and family members loved and lost. The battles fought and the evil overcame.

All the while Beth Ditto sings,

“Hand bone, hand bone, where you been?
Around the world, and he’s gone again
Sunny days and I’m gettin’ paid
It’s welcome back the very next day”.

Welcome back to Sunnydale, Buffy.

We hope you enjoy your stay.

 

PVRIS — Heaven

This song, more than any of PVRIS’ other material clearly has a touch of the Gothic. What with the religious metaphors and epic imagery throughout. Lyrically, the song is pretty bleak — focusing on love lost. Which appears to be a reoccurring theme through most of their work.

When Lynn Gunn sings, “You took my heart” repeatedly we’re not sure if it’s an accusation, a prayer or a lament. Either way, it’s completely heartbreaking and we feel her desperation and devastation as the song swells to its stadium-ready chorus.

If there was a song to soundtrack momentous loss, it would be this! I’m thinking a loss of epic proportions.

All the angst ever!

Think, Buffy & Angel 2.0.

 

Twin Atlantic — No Sleep

Is this selection a bit ‘on-the-nose’?

Buffy slays at night and then parties at The Bronze.

Yeah?

Okay, cool.

Twin Atlantic are amazing and I’ll arm wrestle you if you disagree. Plus, they’re Scottish and I feel original Buffy soundtrack alumni Shirley Manson (from the band Garbage), would approve.

This is exactly the kind of band that would cameo on the show because they’re indie-rock, balance that careful tension between popular and still a bit niche and also look really great in skinny jeans.

Picture the scene, if you will:

Faith and Buffy party at The Bronze as Twin Atlantic play this song. Suddenly, a horde of vampires burst in the club and the whole place turns into chaos. Slaying ensues but all the while Twin Atlantic continue to play this song.

Why? Cause it’s Sunnydale and a girl’s gotta have an epic song to kick-ass to.

 

Perfume Genius — Otherside

Whenever you think of trail-blazing LGBTQ musicians, it’s pretty hard not to think of Perfume Genius. Seattle-based solo artist Mike Hadreas is skilled when it comes to penning heart-felt alt-pop with panache and devastating honesty.

The character of Willow may well be a pioneering LGBTQ character or a TV executives wet-dream — either way, Perfume Genius would add a much needed alternative perspective to our new soundtrack.

Plus, he’s super talented and this song is epic!

 

Mitski — Your Best American Girl

This self-aware indie-rock would slide quite nicely into the DMs of the original soundtrack.

Critically acclaimed Mitski Miyawaki, has already released 4 albums and is only 26 years old! Having graduated from the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music, Mitski has gone on to prove herself as an outstanding musician — both in terms of songwriting and live performance.

Lyrically, this particular song is a grand journey through self-reflection and the loss of childhood idealised notions of love and identity constructs. In fact, the music video to this song couldn’t be more apt! It explores these themes through the lens of a self-aware ‘Urban Outfitters’ tragic love story. Like if an Instagram filter was trying to cover-up the loneliness within an episode of Twin Peaks.

The bridge of the song is essentially the chords of the song repeated, but played with an unapologetic grungy abandoned and when Mitski sings, “I think I’ll regret this” on the lead-up to this moment, we’re not quite sure we actually believe she will.

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The final resounding note of the song draws a sense of conclusion — a moment of completeness. To give us a sense that through the songs journey, self-acceptance has finally occurred and that regardless of her lover’s perception of her as an individual, her history or her cultural background, she continues to slay.

 

Now it’s your turn!

I’m looking for your suggestions for our Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2017 soundtrack. All suggestions will be collated, considered and then a delightful Spotify playlist will be compiled and shared in the coming weeks!

So, what tracks would Buffy slay to in 2017?

Tweet me: @itsjamiesparks

Listen to our new Buffy the Vampire Slayer playlist on Spotify!

Listen to our new Buffy the Vampire Slayer playlist on Spotify!


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Be Your Best You, Online

Social media can be a powerful communication tool.

Empowering us with information and helping us forge communities. It can be a means of executing strategic and successful professional networking and even be used to campaign for social justice and change. But when used unwisely it can be brand damaging and jeopardise your credibility or, even worse, your employability.

Here's 5 tips to ensure you be your best you, online. 

Best Face Forwards - Posting with Mindfulness and Purpose

It should go without saying that when you post online, your content lives on. Can you ever truly delete it?

From your content floating around in a dormant state on Facebook’s servers to being collated through mass state sponsored surveillance - if you’ve posted it, you can be sure that the content will live on somewhere in one form or another. Even if it’s just your dodgy MySpace profile from the 90s, BE AWARE!

Tom from MySpace. Everyone's first friend.

Tom from MySpace. Everyone's first friend.

I cringe on a daily basis at some of the self absorbed social media posts which are designed to inflate ego and appear to demonstrate little consideration for long term repercussions.

Selfies in moderation? Cool. 👍

Photos of you in your underwear on a daily basis? Not cool. 👎

I mean, if you want your boss, future mother/father in law, your younger brother and sister, your high school teacher, future employers and their dog to see you nude...perhaps consider an alternative career path in adult entertainment?

Have a look through your recent timelines and think, “What would my gran think about this tweet? What would an employer think about this photo?”. Alternatively, you know that scene in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade where the knight asks you to tweet about your bosses new hair cut? Let’s hope his response after your tweet would be, “You have chosen wisely”.

So whether you’re doing personal social media for business and networking or just for fun, please remember that whether you like it or not: you are engaging in a personal branding exercise and the content will live on. So henceforth, post with mindfulness and purpose!

What’s My Brand Again?

Who are you and why should other people care?

That’s ultimately the question you want to answer when someone stumbles upon your social media accounts.

We’re looking at personal branding just now, so I’m going to assume that there’s no real need to focus on the tone of voice for your brand - as it’s you and so it should be your tone of voice. Obviously do show considerations for the platforms you’re sharing on. For example, with Twitter you’d be short, snappy and humorous and on LinkedIn you’d take a more formal tone with your word choice, sentence structure and grammar. You are on a mission here to know your audience and give them content they’ll want to engage with.

For me, I would define my personal brand as fun, nerdy, humorous with a dash of dry wit and a sprinkling of self-deprecation and sarcasm. I post content about the stuff I enjoy - so technology, music, video games and digital marketing. To do otherwise would be super boring. It is my own personal branding and social media afterall, so I better post content I’m actually passionate about!

Now, it’s your turn! Write down 5 buzzwords that describe your brand and what kind of content you’re into. It’s great to always have this in the back of your mind so you keep your content on-brand and your audience fully engaged.

Select your platforms

“You can find me on Google+, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn, my blog, your mother’s blog, my neighbours Twitter and more!!!!!” - A Generic Marketer

“You can find me on Google+, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn, my blog, your mother’s blog, my neighbours Twitter and more!!!!!” - A Generic Marketer

This social media crime is usually performed by small businesses and medium sized corporations rather than those embarking on an exercise in personal branding online. However, it’s still worth highlighting.

Early on I made a conscious decision to select only 2 platforms for daily and weekly use. For me I chose Twitter and Instagram - basically because they’re my favourite. There’s also a light sprinkling of long form blog posts and audio snippets too but you may notice that a lot of the content I generate is re-purposed and re-posted. This is for brand cohesion and also because it saves time! An additional by product of this method is that it allows your followers another chance to interact with content earlier posted that they may have missed.

I live by the mantra of, ‘do it well or don’t do it at all’. For that reason, don’t spread yourself too thinly! Be selective about your social media platforms and use the ones that fit your brand best. Afterall, you don’t need to use them all. Keep it focused and you’ll see more returns for your investment of time.

Optimise your profiles

To optimise your content you need to think of two things:  you want your audience to find your content and you want to impress them. After all, why else would you be doing social media?

For personalised branding we have a gift from the heavens: the hashtag. It really is a marketer’s dream. When utilised correctly, it’ll help drive traffic to your content and keep your content in the right lane - in the right stream of online conversations.  

So plug into trending topics that are brand appropriate and utilise hashtags to both bring people to your content and bring your content directly to them.

Let’s take a look at my Twitter bio.

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My Twitter bio shows personality, humour and also succinctly states my interests: media, technology, digital marketing and video games. Oh, and that I’m taking part in Camp America 2018.

As well as telling everyone exactly what I’ve done professionally and what I’m interested in, I’ve also utilised hashtags to bring people to my profile. By using “#DigitalMarketing” I’ve optimised my profile so that when people search for the profiles of people interested in this topic, mine will pop up.

Also, to reinforce this, I’ll add this hashtag to tweets every so often to further the reach of my content or the content I’ve shared.

By implementing this method and sharing content with other related hastags (like #SocialMedia or #ContentMarketing) my targeted demographic will eventually find me.

Follow a similar tactic and you’ll have the right audience, at the right time.

Planning, structure and research

Now that you’ve nailed your personal branding and fixed your profiles so they’re easily found, it’s now time to generate your own content and source other people’s content.

There’s many useful apps and services to aid with sourcing shareable content and that can also help you schedule posts ahead of time. I’ll perhaps share some fantastic finds that I use on a daily basis at a later date.

Ultimately, you don’t have to create a special planner with colour codes and pipe cleaners and glitter and stickers...although that would be fantastic! But you do want to consider scheduling your core posts ahead of time so you remain consistent and reliable to your audience.

This will actually free you up and allow you to focus more on interacting and replying to your followers throughout the day. Some people schedule the night before but I like to schedule in the morning so my content is the freshest possible.

Also, have a look forward at up-and-coming events - both online and locally. This will allow you to differentiate yourself further. Whilst the "national day of bla bla bla” can be a fun option, it’s a bit throw-away isn’t it?

What about a local comic con? Or showcasing your local museum?! Think how much awesome content you could generate for your followers from a simple day out with friends! This would especially be interesting to your followers from the other side of the world.

Well, there you go! By being self-aware, mindful, engaging, technically savvy and strategic you’ll be able to optimise your online presence and future proof it too.

Just be sure to keep it slick and keep it on brand.


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Why Buffy the Vampire Slayer Still Matters

BUFFY: My life happens to, on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it. Sometimes more than I can handle. And it's not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they're too busy with their own. The beautiful ones. The popular ones. The guys that pick on you. Everyone. If you could hear what they were feeling. The loneliness. The confusion. It looks quiet down there. It's not. It's deafening…
(Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 3, Episode 18, "Earshot")

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is, without a doubt, my favourite TV programme.

I love many other quality TV shows too - shows like Alias, Six Feet Under, Game of Thrones and even Battlestar Galactica - but Buffy holds 1st place and always will, for a good number of reasons.  

Much like in a previous blog post, ‘Why Lara Croft Should Your Girlfriend’, where I highlighted that Lara Croft mirrored the strong female role-models and archetypes in my real life; Buffy too fits into my life through it’s familiar picture of depicting a strong and empowered female character.

When the show first aired in the UK I was 16 years old - so in the grips of teenage angst and the living nightmare we affectionately call ‘High School’. During this time, I identified with the central oddball group of characters - Buffy, Willow and Xander - as they mirrored my own friend group of arty weirdos and social outcasts. In terms of character and sense of humour, I basically was Xander (except I didn’t make-out with a teacher who later tried to eat my head - praying mantis style).

Frankly My Dear, I Don’t Give A Genre

To the uneducated, Buffy the Vampire Slayer could be misread as a naff 90s programme about a hot blonde chick, violently stabbing vampires in the heart with a piece of wood.

But, as you and I know, it’s so much more than that. 😎

The programme stood out starkly in the the TV landscape for it’s dry-wit, horror sensibilities and a knack for forming an uber cultural pastiche. Blending together cultural references with an unnerved ability for self-referential humour.

There’s a sense of “...generic hybridity of the series: its ‘spasms of viciousness’ are punctuated by the conventions of the soap opera, horror, comedy, music video, action and sci-fi genres...In the age of cable and satellite television, genres have been increasingly recombined to attract niche markets and coalitional audiences” (Jancovich and Lyons [Editors], 2004: 122).

It’s this blend of genres that is one of Buffy’s stark selling points and perhaps why it has aged so well. Without adhering to the visual and storytelling norms of any one genre, it’s managed to continually bridge the gaps between the current fashions and tastes to consistently remain relevant.

Many came in the wake of Buffy and tried to recreate the magic (I’m looking at you Charmed and Alias) but just couldn’t quite reach the level of success that Joss Whedon and his his team managed to create.

LGBTQV..For Vampire?

Part of the success of the programme, which has since become a staple of quality TV, is the ensemble cast structure. Whilst Buffy the Vampire Slayer does follow the life (and slaying) of the main protagonist Buffy, there’s a whole cast of characters which have significant story arcs throughout the seven seasons.

 

“...the ensemble dynamic of Buffy...does not necessarily contradict the claim for a central agent, but rather allows multiple points for investment and the extension of the central ‘trouble’ across multiple plot-lines; ensemble casting fosters greater permutations of each narrative's central probmatic (or enigma) and plays into the very demands of the serial structure.”
Hammond and Mazon [Editors], (2005), The Contemporary Television Series: 161

 

One fine example of this, and a prime example as to why Buffy still matters today, is the character journey of Willow. Through several seasons, this character journeys through a number of interesting plots including, but not limited to: stumbling through adolescence as a social outcast and bullied nerd;  blossoming into an empowered female witch; a surprise turn as a supremely evil, if not vengeful, supervillain (human flailing included) and then a painful journey through mourning, self-acceptance and redemption.

Before the darkness - Alyson Hannigan as season 3 Willow. You know, before she goes a bit crazy and evil in season 6. 

Before the darkness - Alyson Hannigan as season 3 Willow. You know, before she goes a bit crazy and evil in season 6. 

The thorough-thread within these storylines is Willow's sexual identity - a storyline which creator Joss Whedon is said to have always had in mind since the programme’s conception. Name another 90s American mainstream, internationally successful TV programme which dared to have (heaven forbid!) one of it’s main characters identify within the LGBTQ spectrum, I dare you! It was scandalous and fantastic and progressive. Apart from that one character in Dawson’s Creek, I’m struggling to come up with an example from a similar type of programme. 

And to think that now we hardly raise raise an eyebrow to a token gay storyline within that one season of Game of Thrones.

We’ve come so far.

Yay. 🤷‍♂️

To be honest, it perhaps would have been a braver and more progressive move to have selected a male central character identify as gay. However, this would have been a move perhaps a tad too far for the 20th Century Fox TV executives. It’s undeniably easier and sexier to sell the idea of a couple of  ‘sexy lesbian witches' than ‘Xander - the token gay’. But nevertheless, this writing decision is still a powerful one.

In a world where minority groups are still fighting to have their voices heard and are fighting to protect their own basic human rights, the character of Willow still stands the test of time and proves to be a force to be reckoned with. She's a flawed but capable role model. 

We need powerful female protagonists, now more than ever.

Vampires! Vampires For EVERYONE!

One other thing that makes Buffy still relevant today is that it’s a highly globalised text. Like much of American television, it’s ready to be shrink-wrapped and exported to other westernised cultures. Like in the UK, where the BBC aired the series originally on BBC2 in the 90s.

 

“Globalization is about power. Which way does it flow? Is it a circuit, a connection or draining blood-suckage? “It’s about the power”, says Dark Willow on her way toward world destruction at the end of Season Six. “This is about power,” says Amy when she shows Willow “The Killer in Me” (7.13). “It’s about power,” says Buffy, teaching Dawn to protect herself at the beginning of Season Seven; and at the end of the same episode, “It’s about power.” says the First Evil to mad, unbad, and dangerous-to-know Spike. Whether the power is good or bad depends on who is using it and how it’s used; so, too, globalizastion”.
Wilcox, Rhonda, (2006), Why Buffy Matters - The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 91.

 

That’s not to say that TV should always be made with a globalised stance or structure. Sometimes it’s necessary or even imperative to have programmes especially made for local territories. However, part of the power of a show like Buffy is that it can speak volumes to so many people all over the world - even 20 years later!

Now, Slay!

One final reason why I think Buffy is still relevant is how the characters overcome evil and work for the good of humankind. Each season has it’s own ‘Big Bad’ which the characters have to battle throughout, sometimes episode by episode before eventually working towards the inevitable show-down in the season finale.

Perhaps the ‘Biggest Bad’ of all wasn’t the monsters, demons or things that went bump in the night. Sometimes the scariest ‘Big Bad’ isn’t the monsters at all! But the people. There’s a number of seasons which took this approach and, in turn, made the horror far more affecting. For instance the Mayor in season 3, the nerds in season 6 and even the fan favourite, ‘Dark Willow’. As we know too well,  people can make questionable decisions: politicians, our peers or even our best friends.

In our ever shifting political landscape, a programme like Buffy is necessary now more than ever as it helps to critique and comment on the darkness that we face on a daily basis. It’s a programme that helps to show how when we come together, we can face the worst and overcome.

I still love Buffy the Vampire Slayer as it shows that the 'loser', the powerless and the disenfranchised can actually become the most powerful - particularly when they band together.

So that’s why Buffy matters.

Because she died three times, kicked ass and proved not even Sunnydale, the hellmouth or even a ‘Big Bad’ could overcome her.  


BUFFY: So here's the part where you make a choice: What if you could have that power…now? In every generation, one slayer is born…because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power…should be our power. Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of the scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a slayer...will be a slayer. Every girl who could have the power…will have the power…can stand up, will stand up…every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?
(Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 7, Episode 22, “Chosen”)
Entertainment Weekly's 20th Anniversary reunion, 2017

Entertainment Weekly's 20th Anniversary reunion, 2017


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