SPOILERS AHEAD for Stranger Things Season 3 on Netflix.
Stranger Things has become known for many things since it premiered back in 2016 as one of the scariest shows on television. While the performances, scripts, and directing of course all play a part in creating the eerie atmosphere, the music is undeniably part of what made the show so iconic. The opening credits theme alone is the perfect combination of catchy and creepy to kick off episodes of this series. And then Season 3 delivered a musical scene that is bound to be iconic for entirely different reasons.
I am, of course, referring to the unexpected and hilarious break in tension from the intense Season 3 finale when Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and his totally-not-fake girlfriend Suzie (Gabriella Pizzolo) burst into a rendition of "The NeverEnding Story" theme song from the bizarre 1984 movie of the same name, so that Suzie would agree to give Dustin Planck's constant and save the world. Oh, Stranger Things. Never change.
"The NeverEnding Story" in the Season 3 finale contrasted with the darkness and later bittersweetness of the synth music, composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, who have been composing for Stranger Things since the very beginning.
Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein chatted with CinemaBlend about Stranger Things, and they weighed in on the challenges of the "NeverEnding Story" sequence, even though that was not part of their job, and the creation of the iconic theme song that has viewers everywhere not bothering with Netflix's "skip intro" option. Let's start with what they had to say about "The NeverEnding Story" inclusion:
Michael Stein: That was a surprise. I was on set one day at the warehouse just watching them shoot, and Maya Hawke was going through that warehouse just singing that song really loud, and I didn't understand. I was like, 'God, they're singing NeverEnding Story, that's hilarious!' And then later I realized that they had just been like filming it. But our music editor did make that backing track.
Kyle Dixon: He made the backing track. Dave Klotz. He said he had to do a lot of work because they're not necessarily singing in time or in key.
Stein: They weren't actually singing over the song. They were just singing the song together, so it was a lot of work cutting it up and autotuning it and making it sound good. He's really good at that.
"The NeverEnding Story" was an existing (and almost painfully catchy) song from 1984, so the composers didn't have to work to incorporate it into the show, although the brightness of it did enhance the darkness of their music elsewhere in the episode. Figuring out how to include "The NeverEnding Story" fell to music editor Dave Klotz, and making the backing track for the song evidently wasn't too simple.
It's not hard to understand why. In the finished product, Dustin starts singing through the radio to Suzie a capella, with no backing track at all. Hilariously, the lead-up to Dustin bursting into song had some music from Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, but it abruptly stopped when he started begrudgingly singing, to the shock and horror of all the people trying to save the world. Once Dustin started getting into the song and Suzie joined in, however, the backing track kicked in.
That backing track had to be put in, as Gaten Matarazzo and Gabriella Pizzolo were not physically present in the same scene, so it took some work to make the backing music and the singing sync. Fortunately, I think it's safe to say it worked well enough that "The NeverEnding Story" is one of the songs that will be stuck in many viewers' heads for the foreseeable future.
It's probably also safe to say that plenty of viewers will also have the synth opening theme song stuck in their heads. (I can't be the only one to kinda sorta sing along with it during the episodes, right?) When I asked Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein about creating a song that has become so iconic to such a huge hit of a TV show, they said this:
Michael Stein: That was one of the main goals.
Kyle Dixon: That was the goal.
Stein: The goal we had was that we didn't feel there had been a good opening theme for a show for a long time.
Dixon: And that's why that [skip credits] button exists. It's because there were so many opening sequences. I don't want to talk shit about any of them.
Stein: Some that don't even fit the show. I felt like they were so strange where they just would like sync a band or something, and the song felt so foreign to the actual feel of the show. There were just so many amazing things, like Twin Peaks or something, that you just remember and you just love, and they're like iconic. So we just wanted it, it needed to have something that was just as iconic as the things that you remember. Just like the show, it's basically just in brand or on theme with everything else about the show. It has to feel authentic.
There aren't too many shows in recent years that have super popular themes without lyrics to them, and the composers deserve a lot of credit for making the credits so essential. After all, other credits like those for Game of Thrones are also packed with imagery and effects. The Stranger Things credits are just words over a black screen with the song playing. And it works!
You can experience -- or re-experience -- the music of Stranger Things with all three seasons streaming on Netflix now. If you're a little confused about what happened after the final credits started to roll, check out our Stranger Things Season 3 Ending Explained rundown. Join us in crossing our fingers that news of an official Season 4 confirmation comes sooner rather than later!