Is the 'Succession' Theme Actually Good? A Musical Analysis

Succession may have only started airing in 2018 but it has quickly become a fan favorite, not least because of its theme tune.

In fact, the opening has become so popular that when the show's third season began on October 17, fans shared videos of themselves playing the song in celebration and clips quickly went viral.

So what is it about the theme song that makes fans love it so much, and is it actually any good? Newsweek discusses the tune with classical music expert Rosie Pentreath to analyze it further and find out.

The story behind the theme tune

"The Succession theme is one of my all-time favorite TV themes ever written—if not, my very favorite," Pentreath said as she reflected on the song.

"It's by an American composer called Nicholas Britell (you might know his music from films like Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Big Short and Vice) and he won the Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music Emmy for it in 2019."

Britell's theme tune features both piano and violins and it juxtaposes an opening sequence focusing on the family life and bond—or lack thereof—between Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his children Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck).

The composer previously spoke with NME about crafting the song, saying he wanted to make a "really dark, classical sound" that suited the Roy family.

Of the story he wanted to convey, Britell told the publication: "To me, when I hear [the Succession theme], it has a feeling of drama but also a momentous becoming. Like you're on the periphery of something happening."

It's all about the melody

Pentreath detailed why the song works on so many levels, saying it was the tune's melody that makes it so unforgettable.

"I think the reason the theme is so popular is because it has a strong, memorable melody," she explained. "You hear it clinking away in the piano part to begin with, before the violins pick it up and develop it into a lyrical, more yearning song-like phrase as the titles progress.

"The melody is backed up by a drum kit, and the addition of a heavy, regular kit beat with the high 'classical' strings and piano is striking, as it's a combination that's not heard that often."

She went on: "The other reason the Succession theme catches the ear is because the beat feels a little labored, and the pitch of the notes is actually a bit distorted, and this gives them a really grating texture that sticks. A 'so wrong it's right' kind of thing is going on, I think.

"The theme also has some iconic string chords, which gives it real heft and drama—so I'd say it's a magic combo of good melody, striking overall sound, and powerful use of those strings that makes it so great from a classical music perspective."

Succession Season 3 continues on HBO and HBO Max on Sunday, October 24, at 9 p.m. ET.

Succession season 3
"Succession" has one of the most memorable theme tunes on television, and it was composed by Nicholas Britell. HBO