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The Musical Relevance of Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty

Nobody would watch a TV show about an alcoholic grandfather and his special-needs grandson traveling through space in real-life. Thank god, Rick and Morty is not a reality show.

Ever since the creator of the TV series Community, Dan Harmon, and his cohort Justin Roland premiered their animated sci-fi duo—loosely based on Emmet “Doc” Brown and Marty McFly from the Back To The Future trilogy—in 2013, they have continued to shock and awe audiences with their hilarious cartoon antics and subliminal pop culture and musical references.

Whether they’re poking fun at still relevant rapper-turned-actor Ice-T or humming the Gerry Rafferty classic “Baker Street,” it’s impossible to find a single episode without some kind of pop culture reference.

Although less frequent in their first season, the show has featured a catalogue of music, from controversial rapper DMX to the indie rockers Blonde Redhead.

This season has been much different, featuring even more celebrity guests and musical cues than before.

In the third episode, “Auto-Erotic Assimilation,” Harmon and Roiland wanted to end the episode on an impactful down-note and enlisted the help of up-and-coming indie pop duo Chaos, Chaos, to perform the solemnly soft tune “Do You Feel It,” to end the show.

Originally going by the moniker “Smoosh,” sisters Asya and Chloe Saavedra first began performing as pre-teens in their hometown of Seattle. In 2012, the Saavedra sisters told Vice that they decided to change their name to “Chaos, Chaos,” after Snooki from MTV’s the Jersey Shore sullied their name “Smoosh.”

Harmon and Roiland also feaure comedian/actor Jermaine Clement in the episode “Mortynight Run,” who delivers a hialriously David Bowie-like performance of his song, “Goodbye Moonman.”

Ryan Elder, who composed the music for the documentary film about Dan Harmon, Harmontown, has written most of the songs for the show, including the “Rick and Morty Theme Song” and others used throughout the show including “Flu Hatin’ Rap,” “Human Music,” and “The Small Intestine Song.”

Elder also composed the tune “Get Schwifty,” a track which Rick and Morty use to save planet earth from being obliterated on an interplanetary game show. “Get Schwifty” was later uploaded to Soundcloud, inspiring fans to remix and listen to the tune.

Fans of Harmon’s and Roiland’s work have even gone as far as to make music videos, one of Rick Sanchez lip-syncing Eminem‘s “Rap God” and a spliced up cover of Rick rapping to Kendrick Lamar‘s “King Kunta.”

More recently, Rick and Morty referenced the late Elliott Smith, a soft-spoken musician whose battle with depression and allegdly led him to stab himself to death at the age of 34.

In the episode, “Big Trouble in Little Sanchez,” the mad scientist Rick Sanchez swaps minds with a younger clone of himself to help his grandchildren, Summer and Morty, kill a vampire disguised as their gym teacher. But, when Rick becomes too drawn to life as a teenager, Summer and Morty hold “Tiny” Rick down and force him to listen to the song “Between the Bars” by Elliott Smith.

“How could someone so talented die so young,” Rick bellows, expressing both his teen angst and disbelief in the departed singer’s death. Ultimately, it is through the music of Elliott Smith that Rick gives in and agrees to switch back into his regular body.

To catch more Rick and Morty, tune into Adult Swim on Cartoon Network on Sundays at 11:30 p.m (EST). Also be sure to check out Salute Magazine‘s Rick and Morty playlist on Spotify.

  • Stentor7

    There’s a lot of relevance in the selection of that song that Rick’s singing at the end of the M. Night Shaym-Aliens! episode. The song Baker Street was composed & sung by Gerry Rafferty, a Scottish artist who suffered from alcoholism his whole life & ultimately died of liver failure in early 2011. Here’s the lyrics of Baker Street, read them & compare them to Rick Sanchez’s character, I think there’s a lot of parallels between the person being sung about in the song & Rick.

    Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty
    Winding your way down on Baker Street
    Light in your head and dead on your feet
    Well another crazy day, you’ll drink the night away
    And forget about everything.
    This city desert makes you feel so cold
    It’s got so many people but it’s got no soul
    And it’s taken you so long to find out you were wrong
    When you thought it held everything.
    You used to think that it was so easy,
    You used to say that it was so easy

    But you’re tryin’, you’re tryin’ now.
    Another year and then you’d be happy
    Just one more year and then you’d be happy
    But you’re cryin’, you’re cryin’ now.
    Way down the street there’s a light in his place
    He opens the door, he’s got that look on his face
    And he asks you where you’ve been, you tell him who you’ve seen
    And you talk about anything.
    He’s got this dream about buyin’ some land

    He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands
    And then he’ll settle down, it’s a quiet little town
    And forget about everything.
    But you know he’ll always keep movin’
    You know he’s never gonna stop movin’
    Cause he’s rollin’, he’s the rollin’ stone.
    And when you wake up it’s a new morning
    The sun is shining, it’s a new morning
    But you’re going, you’re going home.

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