Nothing is clear-cut in terms of “Cobra Kai,” the “Karate Child” universe of collection creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. The road between good and unhealthy is blurry and fluctuating, and you end up rooting for characters representing one or the opposite interchangeably. Equally, the present is each a teenage cleaning soap and an grownup drama, usually inviting a form of whiplash between a modern-day narrative and one in every of pure nostalgia. The sourced music, too, will not be immune from this id disaster because it overdoses on ‘80s kitsch tipping towards arduous rock, hair metallic and AOR, or album-oriented rock.
Certainly, the needle drops on “Cobra Kai” are so on-the-nose, particularly lyrically, that you could virtually predict which ‘80s basic is about to be cued up for a scene. Whether or not that is meant sarcastically, humorously, significantly or in a tongue-in-cheek approach is as indeterminate as whether or not the viewer is meant to assume it’s a genius alternative or face-palm at its corniness, or, Shazam it to get schooled on the style that soundtrack the last decade of decadence.
The collection’ relentless grip on the ‘80s — regardless of not being set up to now — is a large a part of its attraction. However whereas “Cobra Kai” is relying on its music cues to drive house the story, it lacks a true sense of musical id. Different exhibits which might be really set 40 years in the past don’t run into this downside — “The Individuals” and “Halt and Catch Hearth” come to thoughts — however the lack of subtlety in “Cobra Kai” does a disservice to the Netflix collection, which is at present on its third season, after two on YouTube. It’s nothing to giggle at, or with. You’re extra prone to groan.
This tone was set from the beginning: within the pilot episode, anti-hero Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) speeds off in his Pontiac Firebird — the identical automotive he was driving within the 1984 “Karate Child” film — to Poison’s get together anthem, “Nothing However A Good Time.” Innocuous sufficient, however when he’s ingesting and driving, and having a flashback montage of all his downfall moments from the ‘80s, it’s to Foreigner’s “Head Video games.” In distinction, it’s Dean Martin’s jovial “Ain’t That a Kick within the Head,” with the road “how fortunate can one man be,” that makes all of it too straightforward to groan at each look of the at all times successful Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) — what with the New Jersey transplant’s excellent life and preferrred household, coveted Valley house and super-successful enterprise.
Because the seasons unfold, younger Johnny’s cues embody Boston’s “Don’t Look Again,” taking part in on his foamy Walkman headphones when he comes throughout the Cobra Kai dojo for the primary time; AC/DC’s “Again in Black” for when his Challenger is detailed with Cobra Kai colours; Matches’ “The Trip” performs when Johnny and his childhood buddies — you guessed it — experience off on their bikes; and “Sister Sin’s Combat Track” is heard after they get into a bar brawl. The Cobra Kai college students coaching in a junkyard is soundtracked by Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Going to Take It,” whereas their karate match entrance is ready to Queen’s “I Need it All.”
The third season follows the identical components however is barely extra nuanced. Synchs embody Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Coronary heart,” which revs up a automotive chase; W.A.S.P.’s “I Wanna Be Anyone,” fueling Miguel (Xolo Maradueña) to get out of his wheelchair; a Johnny dream sequence is ready to Whitensake’s “Right here I Go Once more” full with video homage; and the Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” performs throughout a vacation scene involving Ali (Elisabeth Shue).
Nonetheless, one wonders: when did Johnny grow to be such a metalhead? Barring tracks by Winger and Fairly Boy Floyd in “Karate Child III,” the final movie within the trilogy (which Johnny was barely in), you received’t discover any spandex on the “Karate Child” film soundtracks. And Johnny actually leans into the style on the collection, even passing on his metallic mania to his teenage protégé Miguel by way of Ratt’s “Lay it Down.” In the meantime, a piece of the rating is named “Miyagi Metallic.”
To be honest, the present does additionally characteristic music from present artists, but it surely’s largely utilized in the identical approach — to translate what’s taking place onscreen. To wit: Yungblud sings of “placing sand of their mouth” from “Tin Pan Boy” throughout a seashore volleyball sport, whereas Fifth Concord’ “That’s My Woman” soundtracks a scene displaying Sam (Mary Mouser) and Tory (Peyton Checklist) coaching. Covers of ‘80s classics work higher. Protomen’s “Within the Air Tonight,” which closes season three with — spoiler alert — Johnny and Daniel combining their dojos, is one such instance. Much more efficient: Kari Kimmel’s model of “Merciless Summer time” on the primary day of college, updating a cue used within the authentic “Karate Child.”
It’s value noting that season three credit two composers and the present has cycled by way of two music supervisors (Michelle Silverman on season one and two and Gary Calamar on season three — each are veterans within the discipline and their earlier work contains “Aquaman” and “The Man within the Excessive Fort,” respectively), to not point out the three creators who double as showrunners. Too many cooks within the dojo? That may clarify the hackneyed nature of its musical DNA, but it surely doesn’t forgive it.