Pam & Tommy: Never For Ever

Why the music featured in the hit Hulu show is not what you’d expect

Pam & Tommy (Image: Hulu)

“Love me, love me. Say that you love me.”

The Cardigans’ 1996 hit single “Lovefool” played in episode 3 of Hulu’s Pam and Tommy, while Pamela Anderson sat in the makeup chair on the set of Baywatch, exhilarating in a moment of pure happiness. That was the song that made me realize that this show would not be rolling out the soundtrack I expected. 

The signs were apparent from episode 1, with its needle drops for Fatboy Slim and Belinda Carlile, that whatever was happening in rock music in the mid-’90s wasn’t going to be the primary landscape. And that’s probably for the best because the final death rattle of Sunset Strip hair metal had already evolved into the terrors of rap rock from the likes of Limp Bizkit and Korn.

Meanwhile, as the miniseries clearly shows, grunge was taking over the world. And by the end of the series, grunge was fading into alternative rock, which had little to no discernible identity. The series didn’t bless viewers with a million little Gin Blossoms and Bush songs.

Pam & Tommy promo poster (Image: Hulu)

Instead, the series frequently does with music what it did with directors: puts the point of view in the capable hands of women. Since the show deals with revenge porn, released against the wishes of the featured, erm, players, it repeatedly strives to be sensitive to Anderson’s plight. And that sounds like playing a Crystal Waters song in the club the night they meet. Sleater-Kinney is playing at a moment when Tommy Lee is being agro; that’s quite a way to invoke the sound of punk rock and point out how toxic his behavior is with one fell song…er, swoop. And the new romantic vibes of late-era Roxy Music and Tears for Fears playing when the backstory of Anderson’s rise to fame—they’re not women, but they’re undoubtedly feminine, from their keyboards to their lyrics.

Conspicuously missing from the series are any Mötley Crue songs. Though Lee seemed to embrace the idea of the series before seeing it, he and Anderson were not involved in its development and writing. It is based on a 2014 Rolling Stone article the couple also did not participate in—the thrust of it, if you will, was based on an interview with the guy who stole the tape. Maybe that was a conscious decision by production because the Crue was on the backside of their career.

 

 

Or perhaps they decided for the sake of money: the Crue would have probably said yes, but at what cost? But considering that we watch Lee sit in his house surrounded by his gold and platinum records constantly, it feels like a stretch that he never puts his music on—or even practices it. Anderson has not yet commented publicly on the show.

The show leaves us with another icon of womanhood (and blondness): Dolly Parton. As the series wraps up with an epilogue detailing how life went for everyone after this insane event, “I Will Always Love You” plays. We’re left with the thought that Anderson and Lee still consider each other the loves of their lives, which is perhaps a lot to swallow—they’re certainly the trauma bonds of each other’s lives. 

 

VIDEO: Pam & Tommy trailer

Courtney E. Smith
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