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How "Way Down We Go" by Kaleo Became TV's Most Ubiquitous Soundtrack

Seriously, like, every show

Liz Raftery

Even if the name of Icelandic band Kaleo doesn't ring a bell, if you've watched any TV or been to the movies anytime in the past year and a half, chances are you're very familiar with the group's song "Way Down We Go."

To date, the moody blues track has been featured in TV shows including (but not limited to) Blindspot, The Blacklist, Lucifer, Supergirl, Grey's Anatomy, The Vampire Diaries, Riverdale, Training Day, Suits, Teen Wolf, The Night Shiftand Underground, as well as trailers/promos for The Good Fight, Quantico, Orange Is the New Black, Empire, The Leftovers and Logan, among others.

That fact will come as surprise to most, so what is it about the song that makes it the seemingly go-to track for music supervisors across such a broad spectrum of beloved shows?

"It's cinematic. It builds in a way that a lot of songs don't build," says Suits music supervisor Oliver Hild.

"The soulful vocals, the beat and the distinct changes: It can lay in the background or the foreground and not feel monotonous, and helps relay the authenticity and severity of [a] scene," adds Supergirl music supervisor Gabe Hilfer.

"The song just has so much weight to it. It's hard to find songs that are that patient and sincere," says Hild. "They're kind of a needle in a haystack. When we're listening to hundreds of songs a day and something like that comes across, you just feel it immediately. It just has a certain pace to it that works for, particularly, montages."

Kristy Gibson, the VP of film, television and video game licensing for Atlantic Records, said she noticed a surge of interest in Kaleo from music supervisors ahead of the release of the band's sophomore album, A/B, in June 2016. Though the record company had been pushing a different single, it was "Way Down We Go" that struck a chord, especially after Orange Is the New Black used the song in its Season 4 trailer, which dropped in May 2016. The increased exposure propelled "Way Down We Go" to No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative chart in August 2016, and sent sales and streaming numbers skyrocketing.

"This is what you want in the sync world, is a song that keeps on going," Gibson says. "The song takes on a life of its own, and it just becomes something bigger that's lightning in a bottle."

Many of the music supervisors who spoke to TV Guide said they did not realize "Way Down We Go" had been used -- or was about to be used -- in so many different shows and trailers when they secured the rights for it.

"People typically don't like to use songs that have been used before," Gibson notes. "It kind of just all happened at once. People got a hold of this song and then everyone just requested it and these requests just came at the same time ... [music supes] didn't realize that they were requesting one of the biggest synced songs in the past couple of years."

It's easy to see why when one watches the syncs: they all happen over incredibly dramatic and emotional turns on various shows. On Suits, for example, the song was used at the end of the pivotal Season 5 finale in March 2016, when Mike (Patrick J. Adams) leaves Rachel (Meghan Markle) at the altar and surrenders himself to prison. Hild and his co-supervisor Stacy Wallen-McCarthy said they made a note of the song immediately upon hearing it, knowing vaguely where the storyline for the season was going.

"This song just checked so many boxes for what we consider to be the Suits sound," Hild says. "We didn't necessarily know where it was going to go in the show, but it was one of those, when you hear it, in the first three seconds you're just like, oh my god, this is going to end up somewhere in Suits, somewhere ... Every once in a while, [showrunner Aaron Korsh] will reach out and say, 'Is there anything you guys love? Send me 10, 20 songs that just feel like our show.' And that one definitely was one of them."

"Way Down We Go" is also the song playing in the bar where Supergirl's Alex (Chyler Leigh) tells her future girlfriend Maggie (Floriana Lima) in Season 2 that she's beginning to question her sexuality.

"The song worked for us in multiple ways," says Supergirl music supervisor Season Kent. "It seemed realistic to be playing in the bar, the pain and angst in his voice helps the down and out moment in the top of the scene, and also the bluesy electric guitar bridge gives this sexy vibe between Alex and Maggie. It's a moment between the two of them, Alex opening up and being vulnerable."

Teen Wolf music supervisor Laura Webb opted to use a stripped-down, acoustic version of the song in Episode 9 of Season 6, "Memory Found," as Scott (Tyler Posey) recalls memories of his best friend Stiles (Dylan O'Brien), who's been erased from reality by the season's Big Bad.

"Their bromance has always been a big part of the story," she says. "The song has that timeless feel, too. You hear the emotional angst and pain. I don't know exactly what was in the [song]writer's head, but you feel that and it evokes that, and that's why it works so well. I think it might have been the only thing I even pitched. You know when a song will work and if everyone agrees, it's sort of a no-brainer."

The versatility of song is what made it work for so many shows across so many genres, but the core emotional message -- which is what has drawn so many music supervisors to it -- is something Kaleo frontman and main songwriter JJ Julius Son has never revealed or explained. He prefers instead to let fans and listeners attach their own interpretation to the lyrics of "Way Down We Go".

Not a big TV watcher, Son also hasn't seen most of the syncs, but is well aware that the song's placement in shows and movies have exposed additional ears to the band and broadened its fanbase. (The band was also nominated for a Grammy this week for its song "No Good.")

"It's always an honor when someone kind of connects to your music," he tells TV Guide. "It's been surprising and amazing seeing how well it's done on radio and sync and other things, and the effect that it's had on people. It's a privilege and I feel very lucky."