Why is Rock Music in Peaky Blinders?

by Patria
Peaky Blinders

The critically acclaimed British TV series Peaky Blinders, set in post-World War I Birmingham, is renowned for its gripping narrative, intricate characters, and stylish cinematography. However, one of the most striking aspects of the show is its soundtrack. Despite being a historical drama set in the 1920s, Peaky Blinders predominantly features modern rock music. This seemingly anachronistic choice has intrigued viewers and critics alike. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this unique musical selection and how it enhances the overall impact of the show.

Historical Context and Modern Music Fusion

One might initially question the use of rock music in a period piece like Peaky Blinders. After all, rock music as a genre did not exist in the 1920s. However, the creators of the show, particularly Steven Knight, have deliberately chosen to fuse historical context with modern music. This blend serves several purposes:

Emphasizing Timeless Themes: The themes explored in Peaky Blinders—power, ambition, betrayal, love, and revenge—are timeless. Rock music, with its raw energy and emotional intensity, effectively underscores these universal themes, making them resonate with contemporary audiences.

Creating Emotional Resonance: Music is a powerful tool for evoking emotions. The gritty and rebellious nature of rock music aligns perfectly with the dark and tumultuous world of the Shelby family. This emotional resonance draws viewers deeper into the story, bridging the gap between the historical setting and modern sensibilities.

Breaking Conventional Boundaries: Peaky Blinders is not a conventional period drama. It aims to break boundaries and offer a fresh perspective on historical storytelling. The use of rock music is a bold statement that sets the show apart from other period pieces, emphasizing its innovative approach.

Character Development and Rock Music

The characters in Peaky Blinders are complex, multi-dimensional, and often morally ambiguous. The music selection plays a crucial role in highlighting these characteristics:

Thomas Shelby’s Internal Struggle: The protagonist, Thomas Shelby, is a war hero turned gangster, grappling with his past and the demands of his present. Songs like Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” capture the essence of his internal struggle and his ruthless determination. The haunting lyrics and ominous tones reflect Tommy’s relentless pursuit of power and his haunted psyche.

Arthur Shelby’s Aggression: Arthur Shelby, the hot-headed older brother, embodies raw aggression and volatility. The intense and abrasive nature of rock music mirrors Arthur’s explosive temperament. Tracks like Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know?” amplify the chaotic energy that Arthur brings to the screen.

Polly Gray’s Strength: Polly Gray, the matriarch of the Shelby family, exudes strength, resilience, and wisdom. The powerful vocals and commanding presence of artists like PJ Harvey in “To Bring You My Love” resonate with Polly’s formidable character, highlighting her pivotal role in the family’s dynamics.

Atmosphere and Setting Enhancement

Rock music in Peaky Blinders also significantly enhances the atmospheric and aesthetic aspects of the show:

Urban Grit and Industrial Landscape: Birmingham in the 1920s was a city marked by its industrial landscape and working-class grit. The gritty, raw sound of rock music complements this setting perfectly, adding an extra layer of authenticity to the visual portrayal of the city.

Intensifying Action Sequences: Action sequences in Peaky Blinders are meticulously choreographed, and the choice of music intensifies these scenes. The high-energy beats and electrifying riffs of rock music elevate the tension and excitement during moments of conflict, making the viewer’s experience more immersive.

Contrasting Eras: The juxtaposition of modern music with historical visuals creates a stark contrast that enhances the overall aesthetic of the show. This contrast draws attention to the timeless nature of the story’s themes and characters, reminding viewers that despite the historical setting, the core human experiences remain relevant.

Cultural Impact and Viewer Engagement

The unique musical choice in Peaky Blinders has had a significant cultural impact, influencing both the show’s reception and its legacy:

Attracting a Diverse Audience: The inclusion of modern rock music appeals to a wider audience, including younger viewers who might not typically be drawn to period dramas. This broader appeal has contributed to the show’s popularity and its status as a cultural phenomenon.

Creating a Distinctive Identity: The soundtrack has become an integral part of the show’s identity. Songs featured in Peaky Blinders have gained new significance and popularity, with many viewers discovering or re-discovering artists through the series. The soundtrack albums have also enjoyed commercial success, further cementing the show’s impact on popular culture.

Enhancing Narrative Depth: The careful selection of rock music adds depth to the narrative, often foreshadowing events or reflecting the characters’ inner turmoil. This musical layer enriches the storytelling, making the viewing experience more engaging and multifaceted.

Influence of the Show’s Creators

The vision and preferences of the show’s creators, particularly Steven Knight, have been instrumental in shaping the soundtrack of Peaky Blinders:

Steven Knight’s Vision: Knight has expressed his desire to create a show that feels contemporary and resonates with modern audiences, despite its historical setting. His personal taste in music and his understanding of its narrative power have guided the inclusion of rock tracks in the series.

Collaborations with Musicians: The show has collaborated with various musicians to create an impactful soundtrack. Artists like Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, and the Arctic Monkeys were chosen not only for their musical style but also for the thematic resonance of their lyrics and sounds with the show’s narrative.

See Also: What City is Often Credited as the Birthplace of Rock and Roll Music?


The use of rock music in Peaky Blinders is a deliberate and strategic choice that enhances the show’s thematic depth, character development, and atmospheric authenticity. By blending modern music with historical storytelling, the creators have crafted a unique and compelling viewing experience that resonates with a diverse audience. The soundtrack has become an iconic element of the series, contributing significantly to its cultural impact and legacy. In breaking conventional boundaries, Peaky Blinders has redefined the genre of period dramas, proving that music, regardless of its era, can powerfully evoke the timeless human experience.

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