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The Musical Relevance of HBO’s Original Series Vice Principals

The recent departure of North Jackson High School’s Principal Welles (played by Bill Murray) has left a vacancy, and the two suitors serving as his understudies, Vice Principals Neil Gamby (played by Danny McBride) and Lee Russell (played by Walton Goggins) are in the running for the job… or so it would seem.

That is until they learn that the district has hired a replacement, a new principal from Philadelphia, Penn., Dr. Belinda Brown (played by Kimberly Hebert Gregory). United by a common enemy, former enemies become allies when Gamby and Russell team up to take Brown down. The two stop at nothing to destroy her home, her family, her self-esteem, and her reputation.

The show mostly centers around Gamby and his relationships with teacher/love-interest, Amanda Snodgrass (played by Georgia King), and his daughter Janelle, who he fears he is losing to his ex-wife, Gale, and her new husband, Ray.

Naturally, whenever you have an HBO original series co-created by McBride and director/producer, Jody Hill (Eastbound & Down, Observe and Report) there is bound to be a mix of over-the-top ridiculousness, plenty of marijuana, heartwarming moments of sensibility, boldfaced sabotage, and a killer soundtrack.

Whether it’s the clever use of Award-Winning Video Game composer Shawn Lee’s “Schoolhouse Funk” or varsity classics like Beach Boys “Be True To Your School” the soundtrack certainly fits the whole “back to school” motif.

Unlike most TV shows, Vice Principals doesn’t have any set “theme song,” but it does feature the badass sounds of Blues Saraceno’s “Pumpin’ Irony” which commonly plays during the “previously seen on” lead-ins.

The soundtrack is also incredibly diverse and introduces viewers to a lot of music they probably never heard before, such as Persian singer Kourosh Yaghmaei, whose song “Paeez” plays after Gamby and Russell accidentally pour LSD laced Gatorade on themselves during the big football game; 1950’s pop/country singer Johnny Ferguson, whose rendition of “Angela Jones” plays during the closing credits after Gamby saves the field trip to Charles Towne Landing; and 1970’s English soul band, Hot Chocolate, whose track “Brand New Christmas” plays during the ending credits after Gamby and Russell manage to get the liquored-up Dr. Brown to take a bath. 

As far as soundtracks go… Vice Principals really relies heavily on electronic dance music whenever something bad is about to happen. For instance, we hear the drum n’ bass track, “Machine Gun,” from Dutch trio Noisia, playing as Gamby and Russell burn down Dr. Brown’s house; Brooklyn electronic-dance artist Starcadian whose song, “Sunset Blood,” plays while Gamby and Russell are moving around stolen textbooks with a school bus; and Swedish house DJ Alesso‘s “Destinations,” which plays after Gamby and Russell finally get their way by blackmailing Brown into resigning, and are appointed “co”-Principals of North Jackson High School. 

But on their first day back, a masked assailant sets both cars ablaze, before shooting Gamby two times.

In season 2, which premieres on Sept. 17, we see how Gamby has struggled to make a full recovery and is now living with his ex-wife and her husband. While he’s ready to get back to doing what he does best, being the strict disciplinarian we all grew to know and love in the first season, Gamby must first track down the man or woman who tried to shoot him… but if the Vo Williams-fueled trailer is any indication, you know he’s coming for “payback.”

This story has been corrected from the original version. 


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