Two smiling people standing in front of mirrored surfaces outdoors with a microphone boom overhead.


I Can’t Stop Thinking About The Curse Soundtrack

Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie’s distressing new show comes with an equally off-putting score that’s one of the best on TV right now.

One of the first distressing moments of Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie’s surreal, anxiety-inducing new show The Curse happens in a greenhouse filled with tomatoes. Asher, Fielder’s well-to-do and socially awkward husband, is chatting with his father-in-law (Corbin Bernsen), attempting to bond as he watches him water his plants. But something is off. The lighting is severe like a police interrogation, and the low groan of a sustained organ note, gradually building in volume until it sounds like a drone, suggests something sinister is about to happen. As their conversation turns to satisfying Asher’s wife Whitney (Emma Stone), it seems like the bomb is finally about to go off. Then, the shoe drops and the secret reveals itself: Bernsen knows Asher has a micropenis.

The first time I watched this I found it to be anti-climatic; after all that build-up, this was the kicker? But the second time, I was laughing; there was something pointed in how that moment was draped with A24-style sound effects, morphing a punchline into a reveal of mundane horror. In the months since The Curse premiered critics have called it everything from “disorienting” to “cringe-worthy,” and a huge part of its meticulously crafted unease comes from that masterfully eerie score.

Unlike TV’s usual cut-and-dry fare, where the music emotionally mirrors the content on the screen, the score in The Curse acts like another character, one with its own agenda. Centered around Asher and Whitney (Emma Stone) as they wreak havoc while filming their HGTV program Fliplanthropy, the show is hyper-aware of the satire its painting through the show’s insufferable titular characters. At any given moment, ominous-feeling synths or ghostly, off-key saxophone solos charge even the most unassuming shots with an unceasing current of dread — like when Whitney is working from her glass-encased office in the middle of the town’s dilapidated shopping plaza to an ever-growing hum of chattering instrumentals. (A way to highlight how out of place she is in her surroundings, perhaps.)


That feeling is probably familiar to you if you’ve watched the Safdie brothers’ Good Time and Uncut Gems, two films scored by Oneohtrix Point Never, who’s returned to executive-produce the score for The Curse. The music itself, however, is credited to jazz musician John Medeski, who, in a statement to Pitchfork, said that Fielder and Safdie wanted “to have the music be like another observer providing a perspective,” and to sometimes even mislead the viewer. It does in episode five, when a tender moment between Asher and Whitney is invaded by a foreboding buzz that shades their intimate exchange with bristling discomfort. But these moments are all in service to the show’s slow-building plot; as the story progresses, the audience eventually witnesses the deterioration of Asher and Whitney’s relationship, just as the music forewarned.

It’s difficult to make a score that’s memorable on TV (usually, it’s the soundtrack that gets all the attention). But The Curse, as critics have pointed out, is not your typical show: It’s a satire, surrealist comedy, thriller, and supernatural horror designed to make you squirm at every turn. It has a score that matches that energy, delivering something with so many layers the viewing experience is a riddle of trying to figure out what they’re really trying to say. Sometimes it’s a hint that something’s not right underneath the surface. And sometimes, it’s just a joke about a micropenis.