On Grey’s Anatomy, the ABC hospital drama about professionally and personally harried young surgery interns, life unfolds to new new wave. The series is set in a dank, woolly, feelings-mad Seattle that the script hypes over the Law and Order objectivity of New York. The possibility that anyone on the show hears—or even knows—Black Sabbath or Stravinsky usually appears remote. Instead, the Grey’s people eat and fight and work and sleep to smartly refurbished U.S. songs faithful to the original late-’70s/early-’80s new wave’s slurpy hooks and big rides. The cornerstone stylistic reference is the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights,” uncut 2003 synthpop bold enough to start a movement.
On the show it does, what with tunes such as Maria Taylor’s “Song Beneath the Song,” where she (one-half of the duo Azure Ray) and Conor Oberst mate the rare subgenre of indie-soul to Heaven 17 and insist, throughout a sweet tune about subtext, that what they’re singing about is “not a love song.” In fact, as the Grey’s Anatomy: Original Soundtrack collection proves, most of the show’s new new wave songs are love songs, even though they emerge as professionally and personally harried as the series’ young surgery interns themselves.
When, voicing cocked emotions worthy of X-Ray Spex, Tegan and Sara demand, “Look me in the eye/And tell me you don’t find me attractive” in their genius “Where Does the Good Go,” the narrative and tonal bleed into the show’s docs talking in the halls about last night’s mercy sex is exact. And when Psaap do “Cosy in the Rocket” (the show’s glam theme music), mixing rainwear existentialism and Duran Duran programming, you hear possibly the sharpest marriage of pop and TV ever. Or is it a blueprint for a new nationwide radio format? Probably not. The Grey’s Anatomy tunes—again, exactly like the docs on the show—seem so gone on their own slightly ratty cool that pursuing real superstardom would be moot.