Squid Game soundtrack: what pieces of classical music are used in Squid Game and who composed the score?
Loving Netflix's new show Squid Game? Michael Beek explores the addictive phenomena and its equally catchy soundtrack
As Netflix’s currently most popular new show, it’s likely you’ve already come across Squid Game. Hwang Dong-hyuk’s intensely entertaining nine-part series is keeping millions on the edge of their seats (and covering their eyes), helped along by what is fast becoming an iconic soundtrack – featuring classical favourites and some catchy original music.
What’s Squid Game all about?
The series sees a group of rather down-on-their-luck individuals tempted into a series of games at a secret facility on a remote island off the coast of South Korea. Most of the players, millions of Won in debt, are in line for a truly life-changing sum of prize money, but it comes at a great cost. The games, though simple and child-like, see the losers quite literally eliminated. As each contestant is dispatched, the prize money only increases. Though their very lives are at stake, the lure of billions keeps them playing… and audiences gripped.
Who wrote the music for Squid Game?
The music of Squid Game is overseen by music director and composer Jung Jae-il, one of South Korea’s most high profile artists. A multi-instrumentalist and composer, Jung is perhaps most familiar to western audiences as the music director and composer for Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning film Parasite (2019). He also worked with the director on his film Okja (2017) and, before that, Haemoo (2014) – which Bong produced.
Jung studied at Seoul’s Jazz Academy and began working in film music very early in his career – he was just 15 when he started. Since then he has become one of his home country’s leading music artists, working with many South Korean stars, including the singer Park Hyo-shin.
The soundtrack also features music by Park Min-ju and an artist called ‘23’, who appear to be somewhat enigmatic.
What’s the music for Squid Game like?
Jung Jae-il’s original music for Squid Game is led by guitar and percussion, which has an almost contemporary Western vibe – though not a cowboy in sight. Gritty and edgy, with electronic hues, he adds an increasingly pervasive haunting piano theme as the series progresses. It’s a suitably dramatic and emotional accompaniment.
However, it’s the quirkier tracks that are making Squid Game’s soundtrack iconic, notably Mr Jung’s piece called Way Back Then, a jaunty almost folk ditty for recorder and traditional Korean percussion. The music by the mysterious ‘23’ and Park Min-ju is also memorable, including the a cappella Pink Soldiers, the quirky Needles and Dalgona and the computer game inspired The Fat and the Rats.
What classical music is featured in Squid Game?
It seems the faceless game makers think classical music is a nice way to calm the nerves of their dwindling, bloodied contestants, as it's piped into the various rooms. Each morning they are awoken (if they’ve slept at all) by the third movement of Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto.
The details of each new game is revealed with the strains of Johann Strauss II’s The Blue Danube, which also can be heard in the VIP lounge and around the now famous topsy-turvy staircases after the games finish. The work is also used more extensively on the soundtrack for a dining scene in the penultimate episode...
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is also heard in the glitzy lounge, where masked billionaires bet on the lives of those at play.
Can you buy and stream the Squid Game soundtrack?
Yes, Squid Game's original soundtrack has been released to accompany the series. It features all the original tracks by Jung Jae-il and those by ‘23’ and Park Min-ju. It is available to stream and download from all the usual best music streaming platforms. It is not currently available on CD or vinyl.
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Parasite – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Michael is the Reviews Editor of BBC Music Magazine. He was previously a freelance film music journalist and spent 15 years at St George's Bristol. Michael specialises in film and television music and was the Editor of MusicfromtheMovies.com. He has written for the BBC Proms, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood in Vienna and Silva Screen Records.