Music is a vital part of carving out identity in We Are Who We Are. More often than not, it seems, main characters Fraser Wilson and Caitlin ‘Harper’ Pythress have at least one headphone in, and the likes of Kanye West and Frank Ocean blot out their parents’ voices and punctuate sunny, idle days.
Making Meaning in We Are Who We Are: From Frank Ocean to Ocean Vuong
The way that Devonté Hynes became involved in TV series We Are Who We Are seems typical of the show’s bold, meandering, and aleatory nature. Director Luca Guadagnino sent Hynes a.k.a. Blood Orange the script to let him know he was planning to re-create a 2016 concert in Bologna for the finale of the mini-series. After spending time on set, the conversation moved to Hynes composing the score, and so it went.
Beyond the score and soundtrack, which veers triumphantly – if skittishly – from pop to classical, there’s poetry. ‘I am he who aches with amorous love’, repeats Caitlin in the early episodes, lines from Walt Whitman: ‘Does the earth gravitate? Does not all matter, aching, attract all matter?’ Indeed, attraction can be as vital as gravity – especially as a teenager. So, can pop songs.
As the teenagers in We Are Who We Are reach out for culture to make meaning out of their lives stranded on a U.S. army base, we’ve curated a list of our favourite tracks and references so far.
Blood Orange - Time Will Tell
Teenage stars Jack Dylan Glazer and Jordan Kristine Seamon perform in an homage to Blood Orange
The third episode opens with Fraser and Caitlin discussing the value of poetry. Fraser is the proud owner of Ocean Vuong's 2017 TS Eliot Prize winning collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds. 'In the body, where everything has a price, / I was a beggar', Fraser reads aloud. Here's Vuong himself reading from the collection.
Frank Ocean - Nikes
From Ocean Vuong to Frank Ocean, a poet in his own right ('We're not in love, but I'll make love to you / When you're not here I'll save some for you / I'm not him but I'll mean something to you')
The Smiths - This Night Has Opened My Eyes
No healthy dose of teenage angst would be complete without The Smiths ('You kicked and cried like a bullied child /
A grown man of twenty-five')
Lucia Manca - Eroi
More debauched Italian parties...
Anna Oxa - A Lei
Strong hair game.
David Bowie - Absolute Beginners
A charmingly by-the-numbers love song from The Thin White Duke himself.
Chance the Rapper - Same Drugs
An intimate, puppet-fuelled tour de force.
And finally one from Devonté Hynes' stunning, energetic score!