Showtime’s “Billions” shows heavy rock quotient in first three seasons


A series about stockbrokers and hedge fund managers is perhaps the last place certain audiences would expect to find scenes that have been enlivened by rock music, particularly that from the 1980s and 1990s. But that is exactly what happens in “Billions.”

Though set in contemporary times, the music has a classic rock and grunge bent. Largely it is the music that galvanizes billionaire hedge fund manager, Robert “Bobby” Axelrod. As the easily angered, but often in legal trouble Axelrod, Damian Lewis dons the shirts of his favorite bands, and shortly thereafter, the songs play. It doesn’t always that way, but it does for Metallica and Megadeth.

Some of the best songs from the show include “Debaser” by The Pixies, “Next Big Thing” by the Dictators,  and “Master of Puppets” by Metallica.

Why the use of rock music in “Billions” feels right

Lewis’ character, Bobby Axelrod,  also known as Axe, is a tough guy who grew into a self-made billionaire. He never forgot his rock roots, and when he is particularly emotional for good or bad reasons, he seems to have his own theme music. Axe also likes fast cars. He owns them and he gives them away as gifts. In short, the music serves to round out the character.

Not only do audiences get to see a billionaire depicted, doing typical billionaire activities such as buying expensive things, but audiences  are shown that Axe is at heart, an everyman. The songs the show’s creators have ascribed to him are beautifully angry pieces that fit the mood of the scene and Axe’s mood. When he is to go to a hearing, audiences are given the opportunity to see him change his shirt. He goes from business casual to rock t-shirt.

As the proverbial icing in the cake, the band Metallica shows up in one scene when Axe goes to see them live. They even hang out backstage.

The new season of “Billions” is scheduled to air March 17 on Showtime.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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