Soundtracking A Story

If there’s anything I love as much as books, it’s music. When I read, there are melodies that play quietly in my head. When I listen to music, each lyric often captures a character or moment in a story. For me, music can embody the essence of a book. It becomes an extension of the story that exists off the page. I like that I can easily revisit a fictional world by listening to a song. Much like a book’s back cover, I believe songs can also summarize a story. Lyrics easily portray characters or themes in the story, but other elements found in music can replicate it as well. What if you picked your next book, not by judging its cover but by its song? Give these books a listen and find your next read

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House Cover“Is There More” by DrakeThe setting of Ninth House might take place on the distinguished Yale campus, but this book isn’t a classical performance piece. This is a story that takes place in the shadows, and only the strongest survive when the rules are broken. Listen to the tone and lyrics of “Is There More,” and you will find a great representation of the main character, Galaxy “Alex” Stern. Drake is questioning, yet confident. Much like Alex’s balancing act between her vulnerability and strong will. The lyrics are powerful and convey a sense of perseverance that resembles the driving force pushing her forward throughout the book. “Still I rise, Maya Angelou Vibes. 
When life comin’ at you from all angles and sides.” Drake spins this familiar line of poetry into something more, and Leigh Bardugo does something similar by expanding our perception of Yale in more sinister ways. The music itself elicits an otherworldly feeling that perfectly captures the mysterious ongoings of Yale’s secret societies. The haunting, repetitive note that can be heard in the background complements the story’s supernatural elements. The entire song is a compilation of the book’s spooky vibes and grit. It’s unsettling and inspiring and most definitely plays in the background when Alex takes matters into her own hands.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Black Leopard Red Wolf Cover“Alligator Blood” by Bring Me The HorizonThis is a violent tale steeped in myth and the powerful will of men and monsters. The only song bold enough to capture the chaos, schemes, and tricky magic of this story is one with roots in metalcore. The volume, intensity, and heaviness embody the brash protagonist, Tracker. He even takes after the term “alligator blood” which describes a fierce poker player who keeps skin in the game no matter how the cards are dealt. The vicious lyrics give away the story’s political machinations and untrustworthiness that infect the characters. “Tell me, who will make it out alive?” This song might be a little too much for you. But guess what? That means Black Leopard, Red Wolf is too much for you too. “Alligator Blood” is as brutal as the acts carried out in this book, and it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Skin&Earth by Lights

Skin&Earth Cover“Skin&Earth” by LightsThis one might be cheating because the goddess, also known as Lights, combined her musical and artistic talents to create Skin&Earth: the graphic novel and album. The story of Enaia Jin is told through two unique mediums as her emotions and experiences are illustrated by Lights’ hand, then portrayed by her musically. The album opens with a layered intro that echoes Jin’s introduction in the comic as the threads of her story begin to weave together. The comic really kicks off in Issue 1, Chapter 2 alongside the album’s first full-length song, “Skydiving.” This is the first of many instances the reader will find lyrics in the character’s dialogue bubbles. “It all starts here. With a rush of blood to the head, and I feel no fear.” The combo is exhilarating, and it doesn’t stop there. Each chapter coincides with a track, so the entire story can be experienced in both forms. Lights gave a voice to Jin in more ways than one, and it’s a masterpiece. You can listen to her story or read it, but of course, I recommend both because it’s a beautiful pairing.

The House In The Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The House In The Cerulean Sea Cover“Euphoria” by BTS  – I’m guessing Korean isn’t your first language? Or second? That’s okay because music transcends language and conveys emotion marvelously. “Euphoria” paints a beautiful picture that encompasses the magic and love found in The House In The Cerulean Sea. It mirrors the plot and Linus Baker’s development wonderfully. You will hear how the song starts tentative and wistful like Linus’ initial apprehension as a by-the-books caseworker. Then it develops into full-blown awe and excitement just like when…oh right. Spoilers. The lyric translations are not exact when changed to English, but they still honor the story nicely. The words liken a special someone to the sun, and they conjure up childhood dreams for the K-pop phenoms. There is also a reference to hearing the sea and the euphoric clarity summoned by the sounds of the water. I wonder what Linus finds when he arrives at a house in the Cerulean Sea?

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan 

Wicked Saints Cover“Faith” by The WeekndThe whole vibe of this song is troubling and expresses the doubt experienced in this gothic, bloody book. The characters are wary of one another, their magic systems, and the mysterious gods. Some of The Weeknd’s vocals have an echo effect, which makes the song especially eerie while conjuring the sound of a church choir. The duality of this effect mirrors the complexity of the story: blood magic and faith, selfish motives and devotion. Doubt seeds destructive behavior and emotional pain in both “Faith” and Wicked Saints. Nadya questions her gods, and it ignites her distress and poor judgment. “‘Cause I lost my faith
, and I feel everything. I feel everything from my body to my soul.” Serefin and Malachiasz doubt Nadya’s belief system, instead choosing painful blood magic which sows sadness and chaos. “Cause I lost my faith
, so I cut away the pain.”

The Invisible Life Of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue Cover“Fear and Loathing” by Marina and The Diamonds“Fear and Loathing” is sorrow, exhaustion, and hope. Marina’s musical expression in this song matches the cyclical emotions found throughout Addie’s 300-year existence. The song starts, quiet and low, like Addie’s quaint beginning in the small French village. The first piano chord is striking and mournful, noting Addie’s deal with the dark deity and her despair following this life-changing event. “Fear and Loathing” slowly builds in intensity, and it comes alive like the sun rising for Addie each day. The beauty of this song and Addie LaRue is that it’s human. All emotions are on display to tell a complicated story of living. “I lived my life in bitterness. And filled my heart with emptiness. Now I see, I see it for the first time. There is no crime in being kind.” Both the book and song are fluid and don’t rely on one feeling, capturing the good, bad, and ugly.

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