The Music of 'I Think You Should Leave,' Ranked
I ranked every song from the show, which is easier to do than ranking the sketches
“I Think You Should Leave” on Netflix is a special kind of brain poison.
There hasn’t been any show that I’ve been so sure is a total monoculture, where everyone I speak to is up to date with and wholly obsessed with, but that simultaneously feels so foreign to some people.
Sometimes you drop a reference around someone, and suddenly you’re trading non sequiturs back and forth. With others, you mention it and they have no idea what you’re talking about, or they just say “I watched a minute or two but didn’t get it. It’s so irritating.”
People are either totally consumed by it or they don’t know what it is/hate it. There’s no middle ground. I haven’t met a single person who just thinks it’s OK.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m in the camp that wakes up in the middle of the night with things like “It’s just me, Barbie. I’m not the Blues Brothers” popping into my head.
Now that the second season is out, I’ve already watched it multiple times. I don’t re-watch all in one sitting, mind you, and not usually whole episodes back to back, but sketches here and there. It feels like when a great band keeps making really good albums that sound pretty similar. And then their existence is the whole catalog as one giant, ever-expanding canon, rather than a bunch of insular albums with very particular aesthetics and personalities. It’s a huge universe that you can bop around from song to song – or, in this instance, sketch to sketch.
There’s already been enough written and said about “I Think You Should Leave,” and I’m neither going to dissect the comedy (which apparently its creator/star Tim Robinson hates to do), nor am I going to even really get into analyzing the sketches themselves, because more reputable publications with more seasoned entertainment critics have already done that plenty.
But one aspect of the show hasn’t been put under the microscope on its own as much, and that’s the music. It’s not a musical show, but the music is an integral part of it. Each sketch is tied together with ‘60s doo-wop music, adding another texture to the very retro-variety-show graphics of multicolored lines coursing throughout the screen like a $1,000 Dan Flashes shirt.
The two songs most often used, “Big Flame (Is Gonna Break My Heart in Two)” by Doris Williams and “Baby Bay” by John Lewis, sort of make the whole thing feel timeless and, by using these particular snippets, add to the jarring nature of the show but in an endearing and familiar way. “This is weird, but you’re ok.”
More than bits and jokes and lines popping in my head, I’ve been catching myself with songs from the show landing and staying in my head, which speaks a lot to the creators’ abilities to make a product that resonates beyond just Tim Robinson screaming about something awkward.
So, with that, I thought it’d be fun to rank the original songs from “I Think You Should Leave.” Thankfully, I’ve seen it all recently (and repeatedly) enough that I could kind of skim through the episodes to remind myself of the music from each one. It also just gave me yet another excuse to rewatch.
No, I’m not “watching that fucking show again,” I am doing research for WORK*.
*A newsletter I do for free.
So, please enjoy my rankings, and if you disagree, hit me with the comments.
12. The Sort of “Blues Brothers” song
In this sketch, Tim Robinson’s character tries to save a tense situation where a couple is passive aggressively arguing. His method is to throw on a fedora (probably a Stanzo brand fedora) and sunglasses, and crank the music to dance. It freaks the dog out, it scares a kid, it disturbs a woman doing the puzzle.
There’s not much to it, though. I think it’s probably just some royalty-free song they could get for this bit. So that’s why it had to come in last.
11. “The Time Is Now”
This one’s hidden in a season 2 episode’s credits, so fans might not be as familiar with it. Eagle-eared viewers probably recognized that the instrumentals were also used for the commercial for Dan Flashes/The Shops at the Creek. There’s not much to it. The lyrics are
Time is now, that we’re together
Time is now, now and forever
Now we’ll never never know the time is now
We won’t ever ever ever hit the ground
The time is now
The time is now
It sounds like it was something Tim might’ve sung live, because he then tells a now-audible crowd “and that’s new, and you weren’t excited for it.”
10. “Little Buff Boys” Theme
Sam Richardson is a real king when it comes to pseudo-jingles, something that he showed on the criminally canceled “Detroiters” and also on this show (which we’ll get to more later). Despite some funny lines made funnier with Richardson’s delivery, the melody is just a little flat, so I have to rank it pretty low here.
9. The song about “Mai Tais at Rochambeau”
This one you only get a short snippet of. The World Revue Band (fronted by friend of the newsletter Brooks Wheelan) gets some help from Miss Paulson from the Fairfield Branch, who is wearing a big sun hat that I have to assume complements the vibe of the song. Look, I love Jimmy Buffett. This sounds like it could be part of a Jimmy Buffett song. I’m in. I can fill in the blanks and assume that this song would be great by a pool/beach/lake/creek.
8. “LA’s got me on my knees” song
This one ran in the credits of S2 E4. I have no idea what it is. It sounds like ITSYL guest star Conner O’Malley, because when he yells “Los Angeles” it sounds pretty close to his videos as the Howard Schultz fan.
Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:
“LA’s got me on my knees / Hustling so hard I can barely breathe
Fake smiles, fake mirth / Fake deaths, fake births
Welcome to the greatest show on Earth”
It’s such a generic, dull club song about how hard it is to live in LA, but how it’s also, presumably, worth the hustle for the glamor of the lifestyle. Like every song about New York or LA, it’s probably about how the city is actively trying to kill you through unmanageable rent and crumbling infrastructure, but it’s sick cause you can drink a lot and get at least one food item that’s better there than ANYWHERE else.
Who better to sing that than the guy who finds all that sick stuff on the side of the BQE?
I actually think this is one of the better songs, but it gets a relatively low ranking because it’s hidden in the credits with no accompanying skit.
7. “Palm Tree Girls”
It’s hard to enjoy “Palm Tree Girls” with a clear conscience, because Robbie Star at Super Star Tracks Records tricked Johnny into thinking he was a star with this song. But, you can’t deny a hook like “Palm tree girls love palm tree guys”
6. “Moon River Rock”
Another example of Robbie Star fooling adults into thinking they’re stars, but this one is firmly in Ron’s Q-zone, and you can’t ignore that. Once they get Jeff Chris down from Indiana to mix it professionally, that’s a hit, no matter what his family says. His family hates him anyway, so they can’t be trusted.
5. “Baby of the Year” Theme
On the other end of the Sam-Richardson-led-child-contest-theme-song scale is “Baby of the Year.” It asks the questions we all want to know when we meet a new baby: Are they ticklish? Are they jigglish? Can they be tricked? Can they be chucked?
But, most importantly, which ones can dance?
It’s short enough not to overstay its welcome, catchy enough to get stuck in your head, and includes a hard rock detour that compares toes to canned shrimp.
4. “Dangerous Knife (The Night Is a Knife)”
This is another one from the new season. It’s playing in the background of a montage showing one character’s former life as a “piece of shit.” That life included slicked back hair, white bathing suits and sloppy steaks (steaks with water dumped on them). While it was playing, I thought, “Holy shit, that’s Ezra Koenig singing.”
Yep. It’s masked with a little auto-tune, but it’s pretty clear that it’s the Vampire Weekend frontman scoring this nostalgic look at the life of a former piece of shit.
According to Paste, the song’s full title is “Dangerous Knife (The Night Is a Knife),” and he co-wrote it with Robinson.
3. “Friday Night”
This song is one of the few on the show that you hear start to finish. The character sings it at a funeral for what turns out to be his mother, and it’s a radio-friendly hit celebrating escaping a place that doesn’t understand you with the one(s) you love, ripped jeans, and Three Stacks on the radio.
“Friday Night” exists in that uncanny valley between legitimate pop song you’d hear in an uber and a song created by those guys who made Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and all of those other songs produced for kids wanting to be famous. Whoa, were they basically Robbie Star from Star Track Records?
2. “He Layeth on High”
This one’s a somber one, so it’s OK to cry. It’s about a baby duck who gets its head stuck in a big stewed tomato. Hold onto your hats.
TWO THREE FOUR
Man, RIP Fred Willard. He was always pretty much at the top of my list of People Who Pop Into Shows/Movies And Instantly Improve It, so I was already sold when I saw “New Joe” was filling in on organ at the funeral. Huh, never really pieced together that there were multiple funerals on this show. But, aside from work and restaurant etiquette, a funeral is near the top of the list for places primed for awkward moments.
Anyway, my condolences.
1. “The Day that Robert Palins Murdered Me”/ “The Night that the Skeletons Came to Life”
Come on, this was always going to be number one. Some of you probably scrolled down past everything else just to make sure that it was. Well, if you did, go back and read the rest. I worked hard on this.
This is probably the song you think of when someone says “that song from ‘I Think You Should Leave.’ It’s one of the most quoted sketches from the show. It’s the “hit,” in my opinion (and others’ for sure). Hell, Murder By Death even did an exquisitely faithful version of it.
We asked for something spooky, and they delivered.
So, there you go. Unfortunately, you never actually hear any jazz greatness of Marcus “The Worm” Hicks or Tiny “Boop Squig” Shorterly on the show, but we hear it’s off the map.
That, thankfully, didn’t take as long to write as I had hoped! Not because I want to just rush through the product that you so wonderfully read. It’s that it’s hard to justify to others spending a lot of my precious evening time writing about this. But, like I said up top, this didn’t require a whole lot of research. It is, for better or worse, deeply embedded in my brain.
To borrow a quote from the show, I know these [sketches] better than I know my own grandmother.
Got any disagreements with my ranking? Hit me with a comment or argue with me on Twitter.
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Today’s Snakes and Sparklers Musical Guest is A Great Big Pile of Leaves.