Cash rules everything around Westworld, so it’s only fitting that the Wu-Tang Clan’s iconic track of the same name received the Westworld treatment.
Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi reimagined Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.” for the HBO series’ most recent episode. Djawadi’s take on the track isn’t as quickly recognizable as some of his earlier work on the show, including a popular cover of Kanye West’s “Runaway” off West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” off the band’s In Utero album.
There are a number of cover songs that have caught Westworld fans by surprise, like the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” and Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” Not every cover is equally loved by fans, however. People have called out the show’s use of multiple Radiohead songs to make a scene more dramatic, saying their inclusion can make the writing look lazy.
Sean T. Collins wrote about Westworld’s reliance on these types of emotional songs for Vulture during the show’s first season, noting:
...the show’s filmmakers artificially increase the sequence’s tear-jerking levels by soundtracking it with a chamber-music version of the closing track on one of the most acclaimed albums of all time: “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” the achingly sad conclusion of Radiohead’s electronic-music breakthrough Kid A [...] it is the show’s most egregious example yet of using a song with preexisting cultural clout to do its emotional work — a syndrome we’re seeing, or hearing, with increasing frequency as Peak TV prestige dramas attempt to cut through the clutter and grab viewers, or listeners, by the heartstrings.
Djawadi told Pitchfork that showrunner Jonathan Nolan is a big fan of Radiohead, though, and that’s partially why so many of the band’s tracks are used. Djawadi also expanded on how he approaches each cover, explaining the bare essentials of “piano reduction.”
The trick is when you do these piano arrangements, you have to cover all the different elements of the track. You obviously have to cover the melody and you have to cover the harmony and what the different instruments do when there’s this full, produced arrangement. You have to somehow reproduce that in its own way with one instrument. It’s fun. I really enjoy doing it. It’s something I did when I was kid with songs in the ’80s—pop songs and classical pieces too. It’s called piano reduction, and it’s a great way of analyzing a piece of music. That’s how I learned a lot about music.
All of Djawadi’s tracks can be streamed on Spotify; we’ve embedded the season one soundtrack below.