For all the attention that “Master of None” is getting, not much is being paid to the title. It is taken from a Beach House song of the same name, which seems to fit perfectly. Music seems a key device of “Master of None”, and while its soundtrack is full of obvious echoing of plot, these choices show the impressive cohesiveness of the show’s debut season.
Two of the new episodes’ soundtracks are bound to the episode’s theme better than any. Episode seven, “Ladies and Gentlemen,” centers around Dev’s (Aziz Ansari) exploration and support of feminism. In one scene, Dev and friend Arnold (Eric Wareheim) walk home from a bar while “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin plays, then it cuts to a woman walking home alone from the same bar to the “Halloween” score.
This scene begins the episode and successfully introduces the show’s main theme of “look how easy guys have it!” and turns Dev’s naivety into a joke. “Ladies and Gentlemen” is also introduced in the title credits by The Slit’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” an all female cover of a song about learning unpleasant truths, which Dev does throughout the episode.
In episode six, “Nashville,” Dev and his girlfriend travel to the city, talk about the meaning of honky-tonk and even attend a honky-tonk concert. Obviously, country music would be unavoidable in an episode about Nashville, and the episode doesn’t stray from it. Every song in this episode is a country song, starting with Johnny Cash’s “There You Go.”
Being a streaming show airing on Netflix, “Master of None” can do things differently, with a lot more freedom than traditional cable or network television. Because it doesn’t have to make room for commercials, “Master of None” can move the title sequence around wherever it wants. And because the whole season premieres at once (and most people are going to binge watch several episodes in one sitting) it would be annoying to reuse the same song.
Every episode shows the title sequence at different times, with different songs. These songs vary in genre, but they always match up exactly with the episode’s plot. Episode two, “Parents,” opens with the ‘90s rap song “They Reminisce Over You” by Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth, which is immediately recognizable as outdated rap. This matches an audience that might feel nostalgia for that era, seeing as it is a show about 30-somethings, and also an episode about looking back on the past. Episode eight, “Old People,” begins its title sequence with a song by Bo Diddley, “Look at Grandma” — this selection speaks for itself.
More than anything, the music of “Master of None” matches the usual aesthetic of Ansari. From his “Parks and Recreation” character Tom Haverford to his standup shows, Ansari always projects (or tries to project) an image of coolness and nonchalance. It is why the character Dev always seems to be dressed like a young stock broker at a weekend convention in Las Vegas, and why he remarks “This is maybe the most amazing song that’s ever been created” when “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison begins to plays in the third episode. “Master of None” always keeps this aesthetic in mind, choosing music that reflects the coolness of Ansari, while connecting to the content of each episode.