Joss Whedon: A Musical Study

For the nouveau-geek among us, Joss Whedon may only conjure images of Avengers assembling. However, the more seasoned Whedon-ites knows his storied background with shows like Firefly, Buffy, and Angel. Continuing on, there’s even a fringe element of his geek following that also knows of the musical presence he carries through his more intimate work. For example:

That song should get the geek feels going. It’s an incredibly evocative tune for a show that lasted a mere season. It opened every episode of Firefly and gained cult status right along with it. As any Browncoat will tell you, “You can’t take the sky from me.”

But let’s not hinge the man’s musical rep on a single theme song. Whedon has always had a desire to incorporate music into his productions. As far back as the first season of Buffy, Whedon began the inkling of developing a musical episode for the series. When Whedon was finally able to deliver “Once More with Feeling” in season six, he gave fans Something to Sing About.

The beauty of this music lies not only in the breadth of its range but also in the depth of its insight into the characters Whedon spent years developing. His quippy lead ensemble became well-versed in hiding their feelings beneath layers of responsibility and humor. But with the entrance of one little demon that “encourages” people to sing and dance their feelings for all to hear, everyone gets a cleansing dose of truth.

Whedon continued weaving music into his work. Sometimes it would be subtle, other times it would be a feature on the marquee. His lyrics are always the thing. They are a perfect balance of hook, innuendo, and depth.

One of my favorite examples of his lyrical talent is in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog. Produced during the writer’s strike, Whedon wanted to create content to keep the fans engaged. So, he created this web series that became another cult hit for his followers (a running theme, no?). One of the best elements, in my opinion, is the music. It once again blends humor and sincerity to tell a story and breath more life into the characters. This song so simply introduces the plot and the characters’ inner workings:

This lover of wit and character, at some point, was drawn to the writings of Shakespeare.  He began hosting reading parties with his usual cast of characters. In those evenings of poetry and prose, came a culture of expression through the verse. Shakespeare has a musical quality to his style. Add to that, Whedon’s unique take on…everything – and you have his production of Much Ado About Nothing. This comedy of errors received a modern adaptation at the hands of Whedon, and he ended up creating an entire soundtrack to musically frame his work.

Whedon certainly matured in his musical skill as he wrote this lovely piece to support Shakespeare’s words. It gave a gentle weight to the scene and lyrics; it fit the beautiful adaptation perfectly.

The geek element of Whedon’s music comes to play in his near-obsessive drive to continue creating. Geeks are known for their consuming, frenetic passion about #AllTheThings. His mission as a writer, director always seems to be creation and story-driven. That passion and drive is directly reflected in his musical productions: the lyrics and melodies always seem to focus directly on the story, the creation. This loop seems to be a continuous feed for that passion of Whedon’s. The more he creates, the more he wants to create – and because he has standards and taste, everything he does is well-thought, well-intentioned, and well-executed. It’s the true soul of the “geek.” When we care, we CARE.

listen-to-joss-whedon-put-shakespeares-words-to-m-1-32201-1370554038-18_bigAs an epilogue to my Whedon opus, I want to share something with a gentler theme than his previous endeavors. He has been working on writing an EP with a largely unknown indy artist that he met through her Kickstarter. By some weird fate of the internets, this impassioned creator found (and was enamored with) the voice of Shawnee Kilgore. You should go read their story… it’s quite charming. In a collaboration that is reminiscent of Griffin and Sabine, they exchanged emails and files and worked on writing this EP together. The first song, “Big Giant Me”, was released in 2014 and is available through Shawnee’s website. The EP is coming soon, and I can’t wait.

The music is beautifully ethereal while still having the gravity of the depth of its meaning. This is so evocative of Whedon’s body of work, that it just feels… right. I hope that this is just another tangent for Whedon to travel when feeling the need to create, because his voice is so musical even in its prose, that it only makes sense for him to harmonize it within a melody.


E is a long time blogger about a great and many things people overlook. She likes to connect the dots, fit the pieces together, and showcase the overshadowed... oh, and she likes cookies.

  • Bastakiatavich

    Fun read and brought back some good memories!

    • E

      Thanks! His music always hits me right in the feels! “Once More with Feeling” gives me goosebumps every time.

  • james pisano

    Really well written, E! I didn’t realize how talented Whedon is. Cool!

    • E

      I’m glad I could share it with you!

  • scot72

    So glad you wrote this article. Once more with feeling is a great example of a musical musical done right. So many TV shows ‘try’ but rarely succeed. Now if only I could double wield crossbows…

    • E

      I know, right! Thanks for reading. 😀