As Derry Girls finishes its second season and we await news on the third, Getintothis Naomi Campbell takes a look back at two seasons of a 90’s soundtrack and considers more recent troubles.
As we put pen to paper, or fingertips to keys to consider the best of two seasons of the Derry Girls soundtrack the news came through of the murder of Lyra McKee in Derry. Lyra was a 29-year-old journalist covering unrest in the city related to dissident republicans.
Her loss was a shock to the city and the wider community, a needless, pointless loss, one that affects those of us who grew up in the times Derry Girls seeks to explore. Lyra moved to Derry to live with her partner, Sara Canning, a fierce Derry Woman. She was the definition of a fierce Derry Girl, of a fierce Derry Woman, and she made Derry her home, a city that she was falling in love with.
She was an outspoken LGBTQ+ activist, an inspirational writer, an advocate for greater awareness of mental health issues, a dogged journalist and human rights worker. She was about to release a highly anticipated book with Faber and Faber. There have been short films, Ted talks, viral articles and a lot of love.
Lyra was one of the ceasefire babies, a generation that was young when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, a generation that for many, has been left behind in a place struggling with change.
Our decision to publish a jovial story about Derry city and about a television show is based on her joy, on her hope. Her letter to her 14-year-old self is a remarkable piece of prose and one you should read. It’s here.
Derry Girls is a tale of four young girls from Northern Ireland and ‘the wee English fella’ that stole the hearts of the nation in 2018 as Derry born screenwriter Lisa McGee’s humorous and wholesome adaption of life as a teenager in the 90’s debuted our screens.
Fast forward a year later and the second series finale has come and gone. The episode left many feeling emotional, reminiscing of a time when there was finally some light at the end of a dark, divided tunnel. Derry Girls reflected a time when the Northern Irish troubles were finally brought to an end in 1998. The words “work for a just and lasting peace” from Bill Clinton’s visit to Derry in 1995 acting is the series closing line.
Whilst the short 20-minute episodes took over our TVs each week with authentic comedy, it was the soundtrack that took us on a trip down memory lane. In fact, that’s over two million trips going by the shows rocketing viewings, listed as Channel 4‘s biggest comedy launch since 2004.
Its unique selling point has entrusted Derry Girls as the ‘soundtrack of the 90s’ earning both the Radio Times Comedy Champion award and the IFTA Gala Television Award for best comedy. Light-hearted and exceptionally on the mark scripts (watch out for Northern Irish slang such as ‘mouth’ and ‘craic-killer’) provide eye-watering humour delivered with heart and a sense of underlying unity throughout that could only be met with one voice, that of the late Dolores O’Riordan of Irish band The Cranberries.
As the series is set in the early 90s when the Troubles were rife, the Limerick-based singers’ emotive songs with raw, haunting vocals and trembling electric guitars were the perfect choice to mirror detrimental moments.
The instantly recognisable intro of Dreams, a song which has now arguably become an anthem to the era, was used as the opening track for each episode in the first series. The soundtrack effortlessly highlights teenage years, where everything is explored, from sexuality to family turmoil, friendships and in this case cultural conflict.
We watch intently as the girls express their concerns for the Troubles in their own ways; through poetry, cross-community school trips or as sixteen-year-old lead character Erin Quinn (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) prefers, pretending to be interviewed by Terry Wogan, whilst taking a bubble bath, as you do.
We laugh playfully in the second series as the girls admire some protestant boys exiting their minibus to Teenage Kicks from The Undertones. In episodes that follow we are brutally reminded of several truths, one being that there really is nothing like an Irish Wedding as we witness The Hues Corporation classic Rock The Boat instantly draw everyone to the dance floor in a swarm of arm-swinging madness.
Episode 3, The Concert, dedicated to a Take That show, sees the rebellious five sneak off to a packed arena despite safety concerns of an escaped Polar Bear from Belfast Zoo. Everything from Gina G to The Dubliners compliments the ‘throwback’ essence of the second series whilst keeping in touch with its geographical setting.
While Derry Girls’ eclectic soundtrack ranges from powerful, historic numbers to nostalgia-infused floor fillers, they demonstrate the bigger picture behind Northern Ireland’s fractured history, reminding viewers that young people were accustomed to the ongoings of the world outside their windows but still had lives to live and havoc to wreak (getting caught shoving rogue scones down the bog. See Episode 3).
McGee paints a happy picture albeit when times were tough but the message is simple as Derry Girls portrays the blissful naivety we all experience growing up with a soundtrack reflecting, ultimately, ‘the good old days’. We exhaled as it was swiftly announced that a third series will soon be underway, but the question on our lips is what tracks can we expect to drive the series along?
For now, these are our best picks from the soundtrack of the second series. For your own convenience there is also a Spotify playlist with all tracks from both series and if you haven’t already you can now catch up on Netflix.
The Corrs Toss The Feathers
From Episode 1 Across The Barricade
In what other series would we expect to hear The Corrs in all their high energy leg kicking glory than during a fight break out between a group of young Catholics and Protestants on a school trip? There is something ridiculously comical about adding this Irish element to an otherwise mainstream scene, especially with the added humour of both school teachers looking on in amusement.
East 17 Stay Another Day
From Episode 6 The President
It’s Christmas. Bill Clinton is in Derry, but the girls have other things on their mind as ‘the wee English fella’ decides to leave to be with his ‘mammy’ even after his mouthy cousin Michelle brands him ‘a Derry Girl’.
I’m not crying, you are.
From Episode 5 The Prom
Nothing screams 90’s more than a synth-infused, dance track like Dreams so what better place for it than the opening credits to an episode based around a high school dance. The 1993 classic also appears in episode 1 in a snogging scene between the Derry Girls and their new ‘pet protestants’. Those were the days, eh?
The Cranberries Zombie
From Episode 5 The Prom
O’Riordan wrote the eerie 1994 classic to reflect on the IRA bombing in Warrington but the track was used in an uplifting scene to reflect a time of peace. As the newsreader announces that the Troubles are finally over the haunting melody seeps into the chorus as families are seen pouring out into the streets, flags and walls are splayed with peace symbols and strangers embrace each other. All the while, our main characters are unbeknownst to the outside world as they get stuck into their beloved prom night.
Cypress Hill Insane In The Brain
From Episode 6 Bill Clinton
In a hilarious scene, we witness two elderly men fiddle around with old radios, (the wireless), to try and locate the whereabouts of Bill Clinton who’s visit to Derry is imminent. Ian McElhinney (Game of Thrones, Cold Feet) plays Erins’ grandfather and becomes a favourite through his outspoken nature and sharp reprimands towards on-screen son-in-law Da Gerry played by Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan.
Primal Scream Loaded
From Episode 2 Ms. De Brún and the Child of Prague
After the group enjoy a few too many wines with captivating English deputy teacher Ms.De Brun the scene changes to panoramic and peaceful Derry as troops on daytime patrol appear onscreen, a reminder that this was the norm in early 90s Derry. A similar scene played out in the first series as troops performed one of their regular checkpoints, stopping the girls’ school bus in the morning to be met with tired, yawning teenagers.
The full, crowdsourced Derry Girls playlist is here for your delectation.
Thank you, Twitter.