By Marni Ward
Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is infamous for its tumultuous exploration of one’s moral and immoral sides. Jekyll’s struggle for equilibrium is in no doubt a reflection on society’s attempts to tame, or secretly indulge in, its inner beasts. The emotions arising from such conflict and storyline can be overwhelming for both society and characters alike, which only begs for Stevenson’s masterpiece to have a backing track; what better way is there to represent such a battle between secrecy, sin, science and salvation?
‘I Think I Smell a Rat’ — The White Stripes
The song title speaks for itself here. The suspicion and concern surrounding Mr Hyde’s identity, intentions and status is enough for Mr Utterson, as well as readers, to make like the White Stripes and “smell a rat”. And although Hyde did not walk down the streets carrying a “baseball bat”, his cane is a nineteenth century equivalent that inflicts his violent nature onto others, just as the humble bat would.
‘Nightmare’ — Set It Off
A desperate cry about losing your mind to the inner moral conflict that one suffers, this song perfectly encapsulates the chaotic nature of Jekyll’s mind and the power struggle between his good and evil sides; something that turns both Jekyll and the song’s narrator into a monster.
‘Bane’ — alt-J
‘Bane’ uses the rather comedic, but effective, conceit of Coca-Cola to demonstrate the intense, soul-surrendering sides to addiction. Jekyll may not be addicted to Coca-Cola, but he is certainly addicted to the transformation into his evil nature via his drugs in a soul-surrendering and perpetual way.
‘Man Next Door’ — Massive Attack
The so-called Man Next Door is a fearmongering, violent and nocturnal entity; he may as well be called Edward Hyde. Not only do the song’s lyrics summarise the nature of Hyde, but Horace Andy’s vocal reverb encapsulates the fear that the Man Next Door (and Hyde) inflicts upon his neighbours. The ominously heavy, slow beat of the song also creates the tense ambience one may have if they were to encounter either evil figure.
‘Sex Murder Party’ — Gorillaz
What describes Soho in the 19th Century better than “sex”, “murder” and “party”? Murder plays a particularly present role in the song, and in Stevenson’s novella. In both, murder and its repercussions seem inescapable. At the end of the song, the lengthy and progressively slower repetition of the word “murder” could easily represent Jekyll’s downward descent into his murderous, malevolent nature as he struggles to stay afloat.
‘Death Valley’ — Fall Out Boy
Death Valley represents a limbo between the song’s two lovers’ status, which will ultimately be the death of them. This contains a relatability between the limbo that Jekyll finds himself in, although not with a lover but with his two sides. He struggles to tame the indulgence of his sinful nature, and is stuck in limbo between what side will inevitably take over, much like the limbo between what way the lovers will go. Jekyll uncontrollably wants to see his “animal side” and “let it all out”, but in the end, this limbo is a pathway to his demise.
‘Night Air’ — Jamie Woon
Night hosts a multitude of anxieties, iniquities and ambiguities. It consumes the song’s narrator, tainting his sanity, and its ominous role in the song resonates with Stevenson’s use of Victorian London’s own night air to warp one’s sense of safety and lucidity.
‘Firestarter’ — The Prodigy
It is no difficulty to summarise Hyde as a twisted firestarter. He is just as addicted to chaos, fear and malevolence as the song’s narrator, and the rapid, psychedelic beat of the song vividly captures the chaotic pace of Jekyll’s mind as a result of his moral conflict and drug abuse.
Image: Mohammad Metri via Unsplash