For the longest time, I’ve wanted to start doing an “anytime” post theme involving music because, if you’ll allow me a not-so-humble brag, I’m pretty dope at making playlists. (And yes, I said dope.) So I came up with “What’s On Their iPod,” wherein I will think about a character or group of characters from a book or show and come up with a playlist that sums up their experience. Simple enough, yes?
I kept trying to come up with the perfect inaugural character/group to use for this post. Then, after Super Hubs graced us with his Game of Thrones theories post last year, I figured that I would piggy-back off that and use the fifth season of GoT as the perfect opportunity. So we picked 13 characters (it was originally 10 until we realized we left off some major people) and started thinking about their musical interests. Because there were so many aspects of each character’s personality and story that we wanted to cover, this post is being broken up into two. This first half will simply detail what we feel goes on in the selected characters’ iPods in general, as well as the circumstances surrounding their iPod usage (is it actually theirs, or are they just borrowing?). The second post will be playlists that sum up the journey each character took in Season 5.
DISCLAIMER: Do not make the mistake of assuming that every song/band/genre choice is a personal endorsement. Also, I apologize in advance for the giant wall of text. Too tired to try and break it up. Deal with it.
Everyone on board? Let’s get started!
Jon Snow — Gifted iPod by Lord Eddard Stark as catchall Nameday gift
By all accounts, Jon’s a prog rock man. The heroic themes and story-driven albums speak to him on a deep sense, shining a light on his not-so-secret aspirations. Raised in a powerful household that he knows he could never rule, under the watchful eye of a matriarch who never showed the slightest affection, Jon dreams of bigger, more fantastical things. He blasts Led Zeppelin after an afternoon of sword fighting with Robb. He shares his favorite Rush songs with Arya after a day of running chasing her and Bran around. He retreats into the music after a particularly cold retort from Catelyn.
After his installation as a man of the Night’s Watch, Jon becomes very focused and mostly listens to instrumental music that keeps his spirits high and his energy higher. But he also thinks a lot about loss, considering he’s left behind the half-siblings* he loves and his favorite uncle, Benjen, has disappeared. He gets very into Johnny Cash’s older stuff. Specifically, the album “Man in Black.”
When he joins Qhorin Halfhand’s hunt for Mance, Jon leaves his iPod in the safekeeping of Sam (who had incidentally left his behind at the Wall before they struck out for Craster’s Keep). He keeps a mental list of songs to musically document his budding relationship with Ygritte and his time with the Wildlings. Immediately upon his return, and largely influenced by the Ygritte-launched arrows in his body, he adds A LOT of songs by The Cure. Almost an embarrassing amount. He also listens to Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” on repeat. For hours.
Naturally, the prog-rock makes a sweeping return when it’s time to protect the wall from the incoming Wildling attack.
*Or cousins . . . R + L + J, y’all.
Daenerys Targaryen — Secretly gifted iPod by Illyrio
More than anything, Dany wants to prove that she is a powerful, sexy woman who knows how to get it done. So it is only natural that her iPod is filled with Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, and Lady Gaga (a fellow Mother Monster).
Dany first filled her iPod with Destiny’s Child and other late-90s/early 00s girl groups because it filled her with the sense of family and camaraderie that she always found lacking in her relationship with Viserys. Whenever he was particularly displeased with her, she would go for a ride on her silver mare and drown her thoughts in pop music.
Despite all the empowering themes, Dany thought of herself as the second fiddle to Viserys’s star power until the fateful day when her sun and stars crowned him in molten gold. This began to rebuild her self-worth. Then, with the deaths of Drogo and their son Rhaego and subsequent birth of her dragon children, she realized that she was the star of her own story. She was no one’s Michelle. She was/is Beyonce.
As Dany struggles to maintain her khalasar, her dragons, and her campaign to free all slaves everywhere, she becomes obsessed with audiobooks on the subjects of business management and how to raise successful children. The jury remains out on whether these are helping her, especially considering how often a playlist entitled “Fire and Blood” shows up under Recently Played. It contains tracks like “Murder Train” by the Four Skins and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” by Smashing Pumpkins. It also contains a whole mess of Disturbed.
When Barristan Selmy joined her company, he brought with him some bare-bones recordings of her belated brother Rhaegar noodling around on the harp. These tracks get the most play when she thinks about her faraway throne in Westeros, the brother she never got to meet, and the promise she made to herself to one day return to her homeland.
Tyrion Lannister — Won iPod after a wagered game of cyvasse
Alongside his well-documented love of books, Tyrion has an equal appreciation for music because it has the ability to put into words and notes what he cannot. Books bring him knowledge, and through knowledge, power. But music gives access his emotions, letting him silently admit to things best buried. With that in mind, his iPod is often kept inside a hollowed-out book. No need to just hand people mroe fuel for their fodder.
Unsurprisingly, Tyrion has a lot of (generally sad) songs about lost love and dysfunctional families. It should be no surprise that that results in a lot of Staind. “Disarm” by Smashing Pumpkins make an appearance, representing his relationships with Tywin and Cersei. Nirvana’s “About a Girl” describes parts of his relationship with Shae. “Mad World” by Tears for Fears gets a lot of play once he is unceremoniously dethroned as Joffrey’s Hand after the Battle at Blackwater Bay.
He has a love-hate relationship with “The Rains of Catamere.” He listens to it during flare-ups of Lannister pride. It’s included on a playlist he made to help him get pumped for Hand of the King duties. He also listens to it after any interaction with Tywin, positive or negative.
Of course, Tyrion’s wine-guzzling sex freak side has to be represented. So there’s an orgy (see what I did there) of songs about getting down to business. Sex business. Which is ANOTHER pun because he deals almost exclusively in prostitutes! A short list of songs and artists that encapsulate this side of him: “Right Round” by Flo Rida, “Lady Marmalade,” Marvin Gaye (obviously), the video for “Buttons” by the Pussycat Dolls, Blackstreet, and Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.”
Throughout the trial of Joffrey’s murder, Tyrion has no access to his iPod, and Jamie doesn’t think to retrieve it when he’s setting his little brother free. It’s a long, quiet journey to Essos . . .
Arya Stark — Joint gift with Sansa from Catelyn; gained sole ownership after Sansa’s betrothal to Joffrey
Catelyn gifts her two girls with one iPod because she wants it to bring them closer. Instead, it ignites a war of who gets it when and what music is allowed on it. Arya mostly borrows Jon’s iPod instead. Then Sansa gets betrothed to Joffrey and is gifted a better one, thus giving Arya complete control over the original.
Before her life goes to hell in a hand basket—and after deleting all of Sansa’s music—the contents of Arya’s iPod are brief and to the point: Joan Jett. Heart. 4 Non Blondes. Early Liz Phair. Arya’s personal beliefs about gender roles, along with the encouragement from her “half-brother” Jon, her father Ned, and her dancing instructor Syrio, kept her knee-deep in music made by ladies who also wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
Her iPod is miraculously on hand the day she departs from King’s Landing, following the too-real beheading of her father. It and Needle are her most precious items. She mostly uses it as a means of connecting with her scattered and/or deceased family members, making playlist after playlist of songs each one liked. Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” for Jon. Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” for Sansa. An Animal-heavy Muppets song for Rickon.
Rolling with Sandor “The Hound” Clegane doesn’t change Arya’s musical tastes too much . . . Then they arrive at the scene of the Red Weddings, and all light leaves her life. Post-RW Arya begins to gravitate toward one very intense and specific musical passion: black metal. We are talking eyeball-vibrating, sternum-crushing, scummy, vicious, obscure Norwegian black metal played by murder-cult members who have to cut off body parts as part of their initiation. While there are definitely remnants of the old Arya left to cower in the recesses of her musical catalog, they are no match for the auditory brutality that is birthed from the blood of the North.
Arya’s iPod is never 100 percent charged after leaving King’s Landing. She’d take what power she could get, but it rarely reached more than 40-50 percent. When she leaves Sandor to succumb to his wounds and boards a ship in Saltpans, it tellingly loses all battery life.
Sansa Stark — Joint gift with Arya from Catelyn; gold iPod from Lannisters; gray-blue iPod from Littlefinger
Sansa hated sharing an iPod with her stubborn little sister. Defending her right to listen to Disney movie soundtracks whenever she wanted was not her idea of a good time. So when her future family gifts her with a gold iPod, she is eternally grateful to have 100 percent control of her music.
She didn’t even mind that it came preloaded with “The Rains of Castemere.”
The Sansa who arrives at King’s Landing listens to pop music almost exclusively. The Go-Gos, Jessica Simpson, and Ariana Grande get a lot of play, followed by N*SYNC and One Direction. She truly feels nothing but happiness about being in the South, and her music choices are an excellent mirror of those feelings. After all, that one annoying memory of her direwolf having to give its life in place of Arya’s can be easily buried by “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Most of the time.
After her father’s beheading, the pop music remains a prominent feature on her music player. But now, its existence is a calculated move made out of fear. The safest thing for her to do is portray a love and support of Joffrey and the Lannisters. Whenever she can remember, she hums the melody of “Rains” to herself in case one of Cersei’s spies is listening.
Once Joffrey throws her aside for Margery Tyrell, Sansa tosses that shining, golden Lannister iPod into Blackwater Bay. It was like a weight was lifted off her shoulders. But she isn’t without music. As Margery begins to reach out, Sansa spends a lot of time in the company of musicians hired by the Maiden of Hightower. The latter even gives Sansa her iPod on a temporary basis (once Margery is given her own golden player). Young Lady Stark uses this thoughtful gift to compile all the albums she’s been wanting to listen to since her father’s death. Predictably, Alanis Morisette’s “Jagged Little Pill” album makes an appearance. When her hopes of marrying Loras are dashed, she spends a lot of time listening to The Smiths before returning the iPod after the news of her new engagement.
Smart man that he is, Tyrion does not try to give her another LannisterPod as a wedding present.
When Sansa boards Littlefinger’s ship after escaping the Purple Wedding, he gifts her an iPod preloaded with a playlist of songs that remind him of her mother. Some of them come with a Parental Advisory label, but it’s not like she can say anything to him about it. He just rescued her from her personal hell. She just quietly deletes the list and returns to her Smiths discography. Her tastes remain in that vein following her aunt Lysa’s “suicide.”
Theon Greyjoy — Stole iPod from a younger kid (tells everyone he killed the previous owner)
At one time, Theon’s iPod housed typical fraternity dudebro fare. High-energy country songs about drinking. Stoner rock. Mediore R&B songs about sex. Terrible, gross bands like Buck Cherry. Too much ska (which would be any ska, in my opinion). Tucker Max audiobooks. His iPod was as douchey as he was. (Don’t try to argue that Theon wasn’t a gigantic douche because he very much was.)
His buried sentimental side resulted in touches of music that his foster brother Robb Stark enjoyed, like Beck, Bon Jovi, and the Foo Fighters. Theon’s not really a fan of them (other than the Bon Jovi hit singles), but he loved feeling like he had a lot in common with Robb. Even after he betrayed him, took over Winterfell, and pretended to kill Bran and Rickon.
Then, Ramsay gets a hold of him . . . and his iPod. As Reek, Theon has absolutely no control over the kind of music he listens to. You may be thinking “Why would Ramsay let him listen to music at all?” Because he’s Ramsay, you sweet summer child. He is the master of mindf***ing. Why wouldn’t he? Especially when he’s picked all the music, which would of course be very upbeat pop songs, techno, and creepily sweet schoolyard songs/rhymes—the most noteworthy and unnerving of the latter being the “I Love You” song they sang on Barney.
Jamie Lannister — Coming-of-age Nameday gift from Tywin (gold and engraved)
Now, we’re taking a few liberties here because the way Show Jamie progressed was way less appealing than the way Book Jamie does (I’m still not over it). So our choices are kind of based on the latter.
Before Cersei’s marriage to Robert, Jamie never really used his iPod. He was too busy being one of the youngest knights appointed to the Kingsguard, sleeping with his sister, and disappointing his father. But after the rebellion ended, and Jamie earned the name Kingslayer, his life became overly complicated. Now his sister was the Queen—sleeping (and fathering three children) with her was actually high treason. Of course, this doesn’t stop Jamie, but it does leave him with a bit more free time on his hands.
Full of Cersei lust and longing, he gets the audiobooks for the Flowers in the Attic series to experience the story of siblings who were able to make it work (he woefully misinterprets the message). He listens to a lot of Dashboard Confessional and Jimmy Eat World. Weezer’s “Pinkerton” album gets a lot of love from him. Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” is pretty relevant.
Like a good Lannister son, he has “The Rains of Castemere,” but it is only played on four occasions: Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen’s namedays and the anniversary of Cersei’s marriage.
After being captured by Robb, Jamie’s iPod is taken from him and traded for supplies. He doesn’t really care that much. All he wants is to return home to his sweet sister, which of course he eventually does. He doesn’t tell Tywin about his gift’s whereabouts; no need in poking the lion any more than the usual amount.
Cersei Lannister — Coming-of-age Nameday gift from Tywin (gold and engraved)
Cersei’s iPod is a tiny, rectangular testament to the many (but all crazy) faces of Cersei “Incest for Days” Lannister.
She likes to imagine she’s the HBIC (which is semi-true in a technical sense but 100 percent wrong in the way she means it). She’s also not very imaginative. Thus, she’s got a lot of Madonna and feminist history audiobooks.
She also thinks she’s hot stuff, so she owns a lot of sexy lady songs, including all of the raunchier Rihanna songs. Jamie once found a playlist that included “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” and “I Touch Myself” and assumed it was a sexy time soundtrack. And it is, but he very mistakenly thought Cersei listened to it while thinking of him. He couldn’t be more wrong. As we all know, the only person who actually turns Cersei on is herself. (Disturbingly, “The Rains of Castamere” is also on that palylist.)
Then, there’s Cersei’s whole “me against the world” attitude. So she’s got a lot of songs about getting revenge, whether on lovers (repped by “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago and Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”) or in general.
She’s also laughably insecure. In a playlist titled “Mornings,” self-recorded motivational phrases and pep talks can be found. The track “You’re better than everyone, and they’re all just jealous” is her most obvious mantra.
Samwell Tarly — Parting gift from his mother
It should not come as a shock that Sam’s iPod is mostly just audiobooks. He’s such a book nerd, he listens to books while he’s reading other books. He’s even petitioned for the Night’s Watch to invest in an iPod so that he may record and save audio files for all the books in their library that are close to falling apart.
Up until Craster’s Keep and the subsequent mutiny, Sam’s audiobook preferences solely featured the topics of history and science. After meeting Gilly, however, Sam starts listening to ALL THE SHAKESPEARE. Particularly the Bard’s sonnets. So deep and all-encompassing is his secret love, Sam even branches out into music and adds a lot of sappy, unrequited love songs. Naturally, he’s very ashamed of his feelings, so he tries not to listen to the resulting playlist as often as he’d like. He fails. And not fully understanding how creepy the song is, he includes “I’ll Be Watching You” by the Police.
Gilly — Steals iPod from one of the mutinous Night’s Watch men
Gilly’s life had been so sheltered and horrible before she ran off with Sam, she never really got experience the magic of music. But she knew it was out there. When the Night’s Watch camped out at Craster’s Keep, she kept an eye on the little rectangles some of the men carried with them, noticing how they often hummed or bobbed their heads while using them. The night of her escape, she had the presence of mind to nick one from the coat pocket of one of the mutineers when she saw it left unattended.
Since then, she has worked to add every single song or album that is mentioned around her. She aims to address her burning desire to know what life is like outside her little bubble, and music is helping her get an idea. Even when life proves to be less than savory even beyond the clutches of her horrible, horrible father, Gilly is always thankful for the lesson. Unless she’s around Sam, Gilly listens to music 24/7. She hums songs to her baby while feeding and changing him.
She has a particular fondness for “Janie’s Got A Gun” by Aerosmith.
Brienne of Tarth — Won at a tournament
The contents of this iPod reflect its owner, the champion of her own underdog/hero story. The soundtrack to Disney’s Mulan is a big hit, of course. Brienne would almost reflect early Arya tastes but for the fact that Brienne doesn’t wear her gender as a badge of pride. It’s everyone else who’s obsessed with her being a girl.
Before joining Renly Baratheon’s Rainbow Guard, Brienne mostly used her iPod when training or to pump herself up before a tournament. In the case of the former, say hello to the Rocky soundtrack; the latter, the Superman theme. Once she joins the youngest Baratheon’s personal guard, she rarely needs the music anymore. His presence is enough motivation for her.
Following his death, Brienne consoles herself with songs about lost love. A short list: Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart,” 3 Doors Down’s “Here Without You,” and “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor. She also throws herself into her work, conscripting herself to Lady Catelyn’s service and vowing to take the captured Jamie back to King’s Landing in exchange for the Stark daughters.
Little did she know that this seemingly innocent task would cause her to open up her heart a little bit. Though the emotions felt by both are never fully articulated, Brienne honors their time together with the track “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.”
Stannis Baratheon — Borrows Melisandre’s
Like its subject, this description is to the point: Stannis is not really a music guy. In his mind, he’s got more important things to do. But when Melisandre enters his life, she introduces him to her musical tastes. It’s mostly Bjork, monk chants, and the sounds of a crackling fire. Such selections are often playing when they go off to make shadow babies or when Stannis is being forced to meditate.
He still doesn’t really care for it.
Littlefinger — Given the first iPod ever made by the Westerosi Steve Jobs
Much like Gilly, Littlefinger has a wide range of music on his iPod. Unlike Gilly, it is 100 percent strategic. Simply scrolling through the albums list would not give anyone enough information to make an educated guess to what kind of music Baelish actually likes. Even his playlists are strategic. He’s got playlists for dealing with lords, for when he’s training new girls in his brothels, and for every member of the Small Council. For the most part, Lord Baelish listens to classical music when he’s on his own. It’s the most middle-of-the-road choice he can make on the off chance he has an unexpected guest. But let’s be real here: all his guests are expected.
Being Littlefinger, he’s got a lot of unreleased demos and obscure b-sides, mostly in genres he doesn’t really care for. He just likes having things that no one else has and being able to say “Have you heard obscure band/song? No? Oh, you absolutely must. Here, listen.”
If I were going to guess, however, I think he’d be REALLY into gangsta rap. He is literally all about makin’ money and havin’ hoes (just in a more literal sense), and he is almost always on some insane power trip.
And because he’s a creeper, he’s got an untitled track buried deep in his discography that is a manipulated recording of Catelyn Stark’s voice. It is three words repeated for three whole minutes. “Only you, Petyr.”
So there you have it. Part 1 of this epic Game of Thrones music journey. I hope you enjoyed it and agreed with at least 50 percent of these iPod theories. If not . . . YOU’RE NOT MY SUPERVISOR!