‘Mad Men’ Playlist – Songs for Peggy Olson
‘Mad Men’'s sixth season ended with a virtual role reversal between protagonist Don Draper and protege Peggy Olson, with both of their futures at Sterling Cooper & Partners hanging in the balance. Ever the man of mystery, Don’s many secrets were finally unraveling, while we last saw Peggy confidently seated at Don’s desk -- a long way from the perky, wide-eyed ingenue she was a few years ago. In light of these character developments, we're celebrating the return of 'Mad Men' with a playlist we think Peggy would totally be into. She's gone from doing the Twist to settling on the fringe of an emerging counterculture, so we found a set of diverse songs suited to our favorite secretary-turned-star-copywriter.
Peggy’s career as a copywriter began when the male-dominated Sterling Cooper turned to her for some much-needed female perspective. As the series progressed, Peggy grew confident and unafraid to speak up when she felt her male colleague’s version of “what women want” simply wasn’t based in reality. With that in mind, we think this Broken Social Scene song suits Peggy, perfectly capturing her frustrations with the existing stereotypes that reduce women to makeup and wide smiles.
If Peggy Olson were around to see a silver-fingered Lorde sing her ridiculously catchy breakout hit ‘Royals’ at the Grammys, we think she’d totally be on board. Peggy -- hailing from a working-class family from Brooklyn and striving to make her way in the city -- could level with the 17-year-old New Zealand songstress’ anthem of postcode envy.
‘Modern Girl’’s tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek vision of every girl’s dream is something we think Peggy would have on repeat. Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker’s portrayal of the shallow perception that all most girls need is their baby’s love, TVs and sunny days is the kind of simplistic view Peggy has encountered day in and day out throughout ‘Mad Men’’s run.
Peggy’s constant disagreements with her mother over religion, and even a Peter, Paul, and Mary-singing priest trying to save her soul in season two, makes us think that this Vampire Weekend song -- wherein Ezra Koenig inverts a refrain made famous by Outkast and twists it into a brilliant bit of religious skepticism -- fits in squarely with Peggy's worldview.
Though this track from the Clash's debut album was designed to take aim at England’s economy and high unemployment rate, we think -- in about another 10 years -- Peggy would rock out to this song as an anthem for her many frustrations with her own fledgling career. From Don throwing money in her face to quitting SCDP (only to have Don manipulate her back into the ranks with a creative merger), Peggy has a few bones to pick with her ‘Career Opportunities’ -- or lack thereof. But with the way things left off at the end of last season, that may soon change.
This Neko Case song succinctly captures the balancing act of exuding strength, and the tenderness and demureness continually believed to be a measure of “female-ness” -- something Peggy understands firsthand. In season two, Don’s one-time mistress Bobbie Barrett gives Peggy some sage -- albeit unwarranted -- advice: “You can’t be a man. Don’t even try. Be a woman. It’s a powerful business when done correctly.” This perhaps speaks to the tightrope act Case conveys in ‘Man’ -- an act that Peggy has taken firm control of at this juncture in the series.
Though we were inclined to think Don would be more attracted to James Murphy’s bittersweet ode to ‘Mad Men’’s heart and soul, New York City, we think Peggy would opt for Chan Marshall’s love song for the city. Sure, Peggy’s had her struggles with the city -- accidentally stabbing her boyfriend Abe comes to mind -- but Peggy’s career at Sterling Cooper began with her determination to one day make it in the city. And that she has.
“You haven’t moved from that spot all night since you asked for a light / You little smoke stack / You’ve wasted my time / I’d like to see you try and give it back.” Mac McCaughan’s words could very well be Peggy’s. Yes, she deeply admires Don and what he has done for her, but that doesn’t mean we don’t think there are times she wouldn’t mind singing along with Superchunk’s bitter, working-man anthem: “But I’m not working for you, slack motherf---er!”
Peggy has had her fair share of romance throughout the duration of ‘Mad Men,’ but she has consistently put her job first. She has continually rebounded from failed relationships with Pete, Abe, Ted Chaough and the like, only to be more determined in her career, proving that she won’t -- as Marling sings -- “be a victim of romance.”
As Peggy admitted to Don early in the series, “I look at you and I think, ‘I want what he has.’ You have everything, and so much of it.” Although Alex Turner’s smooth turn-of-phrase on ‘I Want It All’ is more of the swaying-hips variety, the song’s central plea is essentially the foundation of Peggy’s entire character: an unrelenting determination to have it all.