‘Game of Thrones’ Inspires Songs From The Weeknd, Maren Morris, The National and More

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” adaptation of George R. Martin’s novels has permeated virtually every facet of culture. As the series approaches its May 19 finale, after eight years running, and salivating fans engage in boundless speculation as to the ultimate ending, a motley crew of the some of the biggest names in disparate genres have contributed songs inspired by the series to a compilation titled “For the Throne.”   

Maren Morris starts the album off. Her contribution here might be her least country, and darkest, song to date — a simple, almost completely twang-ridden guitar and vocals number. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this album at large is the numerous ways “Game of Thrones” inspires lyrics that, taken alone, could have broader, unrelated meanings. Morris taunts, “So you wanna play God? / Come on, is that all you got?” It’s only upon the line “Would you sell your soul? Burn it all,” that Thrones fans will catch a reference to the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen II.

The most star-studded track is “Power Is Power” by SZA, The Weeknd, and Travis Scott. The Weeknd starts off from the perspective of Thrones character Jon Snow, singing, “I was born of the ice and snow.” It’s one of the most dynamic songs of the set, conjuring an alternate universe in which R&B fits with fantasy fiction. Scott packs enough distinctive flair into his few bars to make for a highlight. A true standout comes in the following song, the Lumineers’ “Nightshade.” Lyrics like “I saw the footprints in the white of the snow / I counted thousands and I was just a rider alone” seem like such obvious references to the show now that you know, but would you have known otherwise? The same goes for Ellie Goulding’s “Hollow Crown,” a catchy song with Goulding’s distinctive voice shining, and an ambiguous refrain of “You know you’re fighting in a losing battle.”

X Ambassadors and Jacob Banks’ “Baptize me,” while infectious, comes across as a rather cut-and-paste collaboration. On “Too Many Gods,” ASAP Rocky and Joey Badass use “Game of Thrones” as a springboard for social criticism, observing, “Tell me why we go to war, too many gods.” Christopher Hitchens would have been proud. The National’s “Turn On Me” is without any overt reference to the show, which could be interpreted as either an example of impressively subtle songwriting or loose interpretation run rampant. The same goes for James Arthur’s “To the Grave,” save for the mention of “a crown of roses in your hair,” which diehard GOT fans will recognize, and which alone would be a nice bit of imagery.

Rosalía’s “Me Traicionaste,” featuring A. Chal, is a surefire standout, from its sheer catchiness. Regarding its relevance to “Game of Thrones,” however, we are really stretching the imagination. The closest reference you can find is in the title, which translates to “You betrayed me.” Presumably, someone in the show betrayed someone else at some point. The same goes for “When I Lie,” a Lil Peep song excavated and remixed with contributions from Ty Dolla Sign. At any rate, any addition to the late Peep’s catalogue should prove a treat to fans. Lennon Stella’s “Love Can Kill” is a compelling song, although again with no real detectable relation to the series, aside from lines like “No matter how you feel, my love, you are not safe with me.” Considering its placement in the track sequencing, it functions as something of a welcome counterpart to Goulding’s number.

Chloe x Halle’s “Wolf At Your Door” is the first song that sounds like it would actually soundtrack some fantasy fare — at least in its dark, hushed intro. It then develops into a pretty standard pop song, albeit one with enough mentions of wolves, snakes, snow, and other fairy tale stuff to make up for any lacking in the few preceding songs. Next, Mumford & Sons’ “Devil In Your Eye” is possibly the most poignant and realized track on the album, and at this point, who even cares about its relevance? Finally, Muse’s Matt Bellamy brings things to closure, sampling the show directly, with snippets of character Lady Melisandre praying in High Valyrian, as he bellows away in his usual style. While it sounds at points like at least twenty other Muse tracks, as if Bellamy is running out of melodies, it reaches epic proportions at the end, showing off serious singing chops, and bringing everything to a properly climactic end.

In many ways, “For the Throne” seems like a rather lazy attempt to capitalize on the success of “Game of Thrones” by haphazardly assembling as much star power as possible for a patchy set of tracks with some far reaches. Nevertheless, the roster of artists included virtually guarantees that there will be something for everyone, and there are certainly some quality songs in the set. GOT fans looking for a piece of memorabilia should be warned that many of the songs here hardly relate to the show, but there is a fair amount of inspiration.

For the Throne” is available April 26 on Apple Music.