Succession is a witty satire, portraying the inner turmoil of a family-owned media empire, Waystar RoyCo. So it’s no surprise that the Succession theme song needed to be as tumultuous and grandeur as its scenes. Nicholas Britell’s opening theme and entire score perfectly capture the essence of wealth and power in a fresh and original way. But how? 

Watch: How Filmmakers Use Musical Leitmotifs

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What is the Succession Theme Song? 

Break down the Succession intro song

Succession’s witty satire is instantly iconic, but so is its theme song. Let’s look at how it came together.


The Succession theme song

Theme music is a musical composition that is often written specifically for television or films and is usually played during the title sequence, opening credits, closing credits, and in some instances at some point during the program. Succession has both an intro theme song and character inspired theme music that plays throughout the series.

Nicholas Britell describes Succession’s intro song as “a classical-sounding piano coupled with a large hip-hop beat, distorted strings, and odd electronics.” A blissful but chaotic melody, the opening theme immediately invokes tension by incorporating notes and keys that aren't normally meant to be played together.

In this clip, Succession composer Nicholas Britell breaks down the opening song and sheds some light on how the soundtrack came to fruition.

Succession theme song

How the Succession Theme Music Helps Tell the Story

An overview of theme songs

Before we look specifically at Succession’s theme song and score, let’s talk film/TV music generally.

One of the most important aspects in creating great film and television is composing a great score, which can seriously influence an audience’s perception of the scenes and overall story development. 

The style of a show’s theme music is usually an instinctive response to the way the writing and acting come to life on screen. A theme song can also set the stage for the show by letting the audience know what kind of viewing experience they can expect. 

Listen to The X-Files theme song, for example:

The X-Files theme

The theme immediately evokes a spooky, sci-fi atmosphere. In other words, the atmosphere of The X-Files.

Unforgettable music is a powerful tool filmmakers use to keep audiences interested right from the start (i.e. an opening theme). A theme song done right should brand the show with a feeling to keep the viewers hyped and invoke an almost Pavlovian-type response. In modern day terms, the theme song could even be meme-worthy (just like the X-Files theme has become).

How the Succession theme music helps tell the story

Succession soundtrack tells the story

Nicholas Britell is known for his distinctive film scores: he’s behind the sound of movies like The Big Short, Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk.

In order to craft the melancholic classical themes layered with hip-hop influence, Nicholas Britell envisioned the type of music the Roy family might imagine for themselves. The unconventional theme music perfectly captures the feeling of tension and suspense within the grandeurs of the Roy family.

Succession Theme Song Nicholas Britell

Nicholas Britell

Succession has its famous opening credits theme song, as well as other themes throughout the story. When composer Britell talks about theme music, he’s referring to “a musical idea that recurs and that may evolve over the course of the show.” There can be many variations on those themes all within the entirety of the score. 

Take a listen to the iconic Succession theme song below:

Succession theme song

The Succession theme song has such a similar duality to the show itself, which combines elements of absurdity with a deeper gravitas under the surface. Britell tried to imagine the kind of courtly classical music that the Roy family might imagine for themselves, adding hip-hop elements in the mix to create somewhat of a noticeable juxtaposition

In many cases, the Succession music will play over scenes without dialogue, creating this powerful, sonic storytelling experience. 

How the Succession theme music helps tell the story

Succession character themes

Composers also often create character themes which play over scenes where certain characters are onscreen. Succession does this with most of the Roys, giving each sibling their own theme. 

Here are some of the many scenes in which the Succession music helps to craft the Roy family narrative.  

Succession music

In this scene, Kendall fires everyone at media company Vaulter. This scene is one of the many turning points in Kendall Roy’s character development. The music leading up to the scene is dramatic, with combined elements of classical and hip-hop giving off a vibe that is foreboding. 

The piano notes start off slower and then get faster to build tension.  The first 30 seconds of music in this scene represent a perfect transition from some loser with a rich father to a powerful decision maker who is about to destroy some lives. It’s a perfect track to accompany a classic corporate horror story. 

In the following scene, Kendall visits Logan after he suffers a stroke: 

Succession music

Here, we see a collision of two opposing characters. The music in the first 20 seconds is forceful, compelling, and invokes the feeling of royalty. The track also has solemn undertones which foreshadow the dialogue between a son who just wants to be accepted by his successful but disdainful father. 

Spoiler alert: as the music suggests, he is not accepted. 

How the Succession theme music helps tell the story

Succession music during big scenes

In some of the most iconic scenes of Succession, Nicholas Brittell’s music plays a big role. Take a look at this climactic moment from Season 2:

Succession soundtrack

In this scene Kendall lets patriarch father Logan take the fall for the major company scandal, calling him a bully and a liar. The music starts off slow, with daunting strings and slow walking. 

Nothing good can be coming based on the music playing over Kendall’s seriously somber facial expressions. The first 30 seconds of the score in this scene give off a vibe that is almost similar to that of an epic superhero film where the hero is about to take down the evil villain

Succession Theme Song Kendall a broken son

Kendall, a broken son

After Kendall exposes Logan in a shocking but not so shocking twist, chaos erupts. The tempo quickly escalates and the music gets louder. Tumultuous strings play over the wave of commotion that erupts once Kendall does what we thought he’d likely never do. 

It gives off the feeling of confusion and disarray, which is exactly how the Roys must be feeling. The music pairs perfectly with Brian Cox’s (Logan Roy) stellar acting at the end of this scene. 

As it plays over Logan absorbing what he just witnessed Kendall say, we see a hint of anger in his eyes. He then gives off a small but detectable smirk, meaning that at the same time, he’s finally proud of his son. End scene.

Succession is a huge success for many reasons. There’s no question that Nicholas Britell’s music is one of them.

Up Next

How to Create Unforgettable Film Music

Now that we know how Succession composer Nicholas Britell used music to create compelling TV, let’s dive into how composers use music in film. Just like with TV, music in film can evoke emotions without words and connect an audience to a film. Keep reading to discover how some of Hollywood’s top composers created unforgettable film moments with music. 

Up Next: Unforgettable Film Music →
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  • Arielle Meimoun is a Content Writer and Digital Artist living in sunny Santa Monica. She also currently works in digital advertising at TBWA and holds a B.A in Psychology from The George Washington University. Her favorite film genres are Foreign, Horror, and any movie musical she can sing along with.

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