Lana Del Rey’s two-night stint at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Oct. 16 and 17 seems particularly fitting given that her music was covered by the cast of American Horror Story: Freak Show this week.
Series creator Ryan Murphy announced that Jessica Lange would perform a Del Rey anthem before the season began and a snippet of the veteran actress belting out Paradise EP track “Gods & Monsters” soon arrived online.
While that must-watch moment has generated the most attention, Lange also tackled David Bowie‘s 1973 classic “Life On Mars?” in the season opener. Co-star Sarah Paulson then delivered a faithful rendition of Fiona Apple‘s 1996 hit “Criminal” in the following episode. An as-yet unnamed Nirvana song will also be covered on a future episode, according to Murphy.
“This season we’re exploring song performances that echo the unusual, eerie realm Ryan has created,” explains music supervisor PJ Bloom. “There is an underlying tone in all of them that is synergistic to Freak Show, whether that’s lyrics, instrumentation or performance.”
The importance of musical numbers and their subsequent digital release — Lange’s Del Rey cover ranked among the top 50 downloads on iTunes soon after Wednesday’s episode aired — raise the question if American Horror Story: Freak Show is following the model laid out by Murphy’s other hit TV show, Glee.
“If you’re suggesting that Glee is one of the first shows to capitalize on releasing original song material in connection with the initial episode airings, then yes,” says Bloom. “More importantly we want to offer our audience an opportunity to relive the in-show song experience should they be interested. We’re extremely proud of all of our performances and believe they deserve to have a life outside the show.”
This season’s twisted setting has enabled both series creator and music supervisor to explore quirkier song options than usual. A good example is Lange’s wacky interpretation of “Life On Mars?” — complete with a heavy German accent.
“Ryan is a big Bowie fan, as am I,” Bloom reveals. “We’ve touched on his catalog in Ryan’s other shows, ‘Heroes’ on Glee, ‘Fame’ on Nip/Tuck [but] ‘Life On Mars’ is arguably one of David’s stranger songs, both lyrically and in structure, and one that fits impeccably into our Freak Show world.”
There’s even the possibility of an American Horror Story: Freak Show album. “If there’s an overwhelming desire for a full soundtrack album we’ll explore it. Right now we’re excited to see how our audience reacts to the availability of each individual song performance.”
A version of this article originally appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of Billboard.