As with most novels, when I read Outlander and its sequels, I tend to set pivotal or memorable scenes — funny, intense, sad, erotic, or otherwise — to music in my head. The same goes for major characters, though the songs I attach to them change with evolving arcs in each subsequent book.
Since we are in the winter doldrums of Droughtlander 2.0, here is the playlist from my readings of Voyager, so book fans need to disregard events or character development in future books, while purely show fans need to heed this warning: MAJOR SPOILERS. If you don’t yet want to know what happens to the Fraser gang in Season/Book 3, then simply bookmark this article to read once the episodes start. These are just a few moments out of 800+ pages, but I put them in chronological order when possible. Sometimes, the lyrics of a particular song mirrored the actions or dialogue in a scene or chapter, while a few songs simply fit the mood (alas, there are no chart-topping hits specifically about turtle soup). I hope this enhances your Spotify or iTunes lists, as well!
A lot of the songs are about loss, yearning, heartache, and pain, but there are also themes of joy, redemption, unending love, and magic … and one naughty little number about throwing caution to the wind and getting one’s freak on.
1. Peter Gabriel – “I Grieve” (Jamie on the battlefield after Culloden)
I grieve, for you
You leave, me
So hard to move on
Still loving what’s gone
Every time I read the first lines of Voyager, I imagine an overhead shot looking down on Jamie lying in the mud and blood of Culloden Field as the smoke from the battle cleared. Gabriel’s song is so sparse and bleak at the beginning but grows more determined toward the end, as he sings about time marching on after a traumatic, life-altering event.
2. Nine Inch Nails – “Into the Void” (Jamie’s isolation after Culloden)
Tried to save a place from the cuts and the scratches
Tried to overcome the complications and the catches
Nothing ever grows and the sun doesn’t shine all day
Tried to save myself but myself keeps slipping away
Trent Reznor’s lyrics reflect the disintegration of Jamie’s world after Culloden and losing Claire and their unborn child, relegating him to a sequestered life away from his family as his countrymen were rounded up and imprisoned or killed. As his physical isolation sharpens his senses, so his sense of identity dulls against the repression of his culture and loss of land and title until his arrest and arrival at Ardsmuir, where he continues to evolve as a leader of men. Even after he leaves Helwater to return to Lallybroch, he feels as life has gone on without him, leaving him anchorless. Claire understands his loss of a sense of home (even at Lallybroch) in her own way: “you feel like your ties to the earth are broken.”
3. Nat King Cole – “Stardust” (Jamie at Ardsmuir/Claire with Frank)
You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by
When Diana writes of the rare quiet moments Jamie has in prison at night, sleeping amongst the other prisoners and dreaming of Claire, I think of Claire at a university cocktail party or lying in bed next to Frank in the late 1950s, possibly sharing the same dream.
4. Frank Ocean – “Bad Religion” (John Grey regarding Jamie)
It’s a bad religion
To be in love with someone
Who could never love you
Dani at PopWrapped introduced me to this heartrending song about unrequited love from one man to another in regard to John William Grey and James Fraser. Imprisonment is a theme in Voyager, and open fields and cramped offices can be just as confining as stone cells when a character can not act on his own nature and passions, must conform to the standards of society, family, or occupation, and does not have his love returned. The love John has for Jamie eventually garners a respect and understanding, and, when that is the most someone can give you, you will take it to keep them in your life — gnawing, wretched heartache and all.
5. Patsy Cline – “I Love You So Much It Hurts” (Jamie with Geneva)
I love you so much, it hurts me
Darlin, that’s why I’m so blue
I’m so afraid to go to bed at night
Afraid of losing you
I was so upset when I first encountered Geneva Dunsany, but I don’t envy the position she found herself in with Ellesmere. She played no active role in the business transaction that was her marriage, serving instead as the chattel in a fortuitous arrangement between the two houses. Still, the ultimatum to Jamie was unforgivable, though it came from a headstrong, selfish girl who misplaced her anger for a night’s passion. For Jamie to be with a woman other than Claire, especially in this situation in which his family and livelihood was being threatened, must have been surreal in that every second of that night with Geneva must’ve been a clash between physical sensation, emotion, and memory (which is why I always hear Cline’s voice, full of heartache and longing). For Claire to physically be with Frank, as in the night a few months after Brianna was born — though a very different situation in terms of consent and circumstances — shows a similar paradox of physical stimulation/response and emotional disconnect. As Geneva confuses sex with love, so we see Jamie and Claire’s lovemaking as a deeper experience between two people who use it as part of an expression, not just an act.
6. John Lennon – “Beautiful Boy” (Jamie and William)
Out on the ocean sailing away
I can hardly wait
To see you come of age
But I guess we’ll both just have to be patient
Chapter 16 is so hard for me to read, as Jamie finally finds a measure of joy in his life at Helwater, but his short time with his son is a bittersweet microcosm of the parent-child relationship he desperately wants but has never had with Faith or his second child with Claire. When he has to leave Willie and head home to Lallybroch, it guts me every time. Lennon’s song for his second son, Sean, is equally bittersweet because the protective and hopeful lyrics of a father excited to watch his son grow up contrast with the reality that the legendary artist never got to do so.
7. Paul Simon – “Father and Daughter” (Jamie and Frank with Brianna)
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
Love his daughter more than I love you
Oof, this is another bittersweet aspect of the third book, so the lyrics to this song are rather ironic considering the two men who get to call themselves “father” to the girl. Simon’s song is about a father and daughter spending time together, its lyrics often referring to teaching and learning in a natural setting. The close relationship Brianna and Frank share is juxtaposed with the prayers Jamie says for her every morning and night, each father doting on the child in to the best of his ability regardless of proximity or familiarity, both wishing her health and happiness.
8. Johnny Cash – “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Claire walking toward the print shop)
I felt your heart so close to mine
And I knew our joy would fill the earth
And last ’till the end of time my love
I’m not alone in associating this song with the print-shop scene, but, rather than Roberta Flack’s rendition (as gorgeous as it is), when thinking about the long-awaited reunion between these two characters after all those years, Johnny Cash’s version just fits perfectly. Cash had a way of bringing the pain and yearning out of love songs, and his aged voice, tremulous but still soulful and rich, brings a focused intensity here over the orchestrations, just as I imagine Claire purposefully walking through the Edinburgh crowds to find A. Malcolm’s shop, each step pounding in her ears as she is at once terrified and excited and breathless.
9. Daft Punk – “Within” (Yi Tien Cho/Mr. Willoughby)
I’ve been for sometime, looking for someone
I need to know now, please tell me who I am
When Jamie is transferred from Ardsmuir to Helwater, he realizes that he exchanged one type of prison for another, the latter devoid of chains or stone blocks but also of freedom, identity, and the security and connection of home. For the character of Yi Tien Cho/Mr. Willoughby, his prison is even more claustrophobic, as being a “stranger in a strange land” restricts both his physical movement and freedom of expression through language and custom. Not only is he deprived of family and friends beyond Jamie, but he cannot control society’s perception of him — a miserable situation on all sides.
10. The Beatles – “And I Love Her” (Fergus)
Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die
From childhood to young adulthood in Voyager, Fergus has dealt with so much in his life: orphaned as a boy, sexually assaulted, physically disfigured. All he wants is connection with people he loves and who love him, and his devotion to Jamie provides the latter with the father-child bond he so desperately needs. Plus, I love the unspoken communication between the two on their adventures. Despite growing up in a brothel and receiving a detailed education in the interests of the flesh, Fergus retains a robust romanticism towards love and sex and chivalric gestures.
11. Aimee Mann – “Wise Up” (Laoghaire)
It’s not what you thought
When you first began it
You got what you want
Now you can hardly stand it though
As with Geneva, I’ve had to come to terms with Laoghaire MacKenzie and her incessant immaturity. Yet, I can’t deny pity for the character who might be coquettish and opportunistic but lacks the true sympathy and emotional intelligence to see how tightly the rose-colored glasses are stuck to her temples. In a way, I’m reminded of Scarlett O’Hara’s realization at the very end of Gone with the Wind that the image she had passionately and stubbornly created in her head of Ashley Wilkes was a standard which he could not possibly attain. Laoghaire had a teenage crush on a man who helped her out of kindness, and she misread his gentle indifference toward her as the soil to nurture a myopic obsession with her white knight that blinded her from their lack of chemistry, understanding, or true connection until she finally snags his hand in marriage and the truth hits her upside the head.
12. Donny Hathaway – “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” (Claire returns to Lallybroch after finding out about Laoghaire)
I’m just trying to be somebody
You can love, trust and understand
I know, I know, I know that I can be
A part of you that no one else could see
Amy Winehouse recorded a kick-ass version of this song, but Hathaway’s aching vocals align more closely with Jamie’s inner turmoil as the Frasers’ second honeymoon comes to a crashing halt when the estranged missus shows up primed for drama and hysterics and gunfire. Should Jamie have told Claire about Laoghaire the day she returned? Fans can and will debate this all they want. Jamie’s and Laoghaire’s marriage had not been happy or fulfilling, and the couple had separated, and, with Claire’s return after two decades being such a blinding, mind-blowing event, it’s no wonder Jamie didn’t want to tell her just yet. I believe he would have told her in time had Jenny not intervened, but he wanted to stay in the little fantasy bubble with his true love as long as he could, even if it meant denying reality an hour at a time. Could you blame him after all he went through after Culloden, and sympathizing with what he must’ve felt about the ball and chain that was Laoghaire? Heck, I’d probably hide her, too, and delay the inevitable as long as possible.
13. Sarah McLachlan – “Ice Cream” (Jamie and Claire on the boat)
And it’s a long way down
It’s a long way down
It’s a long way
Down to the place where we started from
We have to have a few joyful, sweet songs amidst all this angst. When Jamie and Claire do get a chance to breathe and enjoy one another again, I love how they reconnect by walking turns around the ship and simply talking. It shows the happiness of the couple who has come to treasure the simple pleasures after so much has happened to them. I first heard Sarah in high school in the mid-90s and her music does not age, but as I’ve grown older I appreciate “Ice Cream” for its celebration of the simple pleasures of being loved and loving someone in return.
14. Hozier – “Sweet Thing” (Jamie tells Claire About William after the Governor’s reception)
And you shall take me strongly
In your arms again
And I will not remember
That I even felt the pain
Yes, this is a Van Morrison song, but Irish crooner and man-bun enthusiast Andrew Hozier-Byrne performs a soulful, fantastic cover. Jamie’s confession to Claire about Willie and their subsequent evening together is the catharsis from the secret Jamie has kept, as well as his feelings toward his son and grief over being apart from him. Claire can see all Jamie has given up or lost in their years apart, Jamie leans on her for strength, and both the song and this scene illustrate the redemptive power of love.
15. Scissor Sisters – “Filthy Gorgeous” (the miraculous reinvigorating properties of turtle soup)
You gotta keep your s–t together
With your feet on the ground
There ain’t no one gonna listen
If you haven’t made a sound
Come on, guys: we have to have one song that makes you spit your whiskey across the table as you listen to the lyrics. The Frasers were never afraid to get their freak on (land or sea), and, despite the cramped quarters of the ship, an arm wound, and probably not the best hygiene the two have enjoyed, their bottled-up lust bubbles over, and they go crazy in a cabin as Claire’s fever breaks. There are countless sexy songs that could work here, but sexy-hilarious is more appropriate, as Claire takes the initial lead before Jamie’s stamina and focus enable him to meet his wife’s … determination (?!?) with a fairly powerful amount of stank. This is #relationshipgoals.
16. Fleetwood Mac – “Gold Dust Woman” (Geillis Duncan)
Rock on ancient queen
Follow those who pale
In your shadow
Lustful, zealous, fierce, and downright nuts, Geillis Duncan and her mystical machinations involving young boys and precious jewels make the weeks at sea look like a tea party by comparison. This gonzo firebrand keeps trying to force a skill for which Claire has a natural talent, but her chutzpah is magnetic, and I love her scenes.
17. U2 – “Window in the Skies” (Jamie and Claire)
The rule has been disproved
The stone it has been moved
The grave is now a groove
All debts are removed
This last song is sort of an overview of the whole book, exemplifying the couple’s journey back to each other across time and space, eventually reuniting but not without baggage and new/old ties. Yet, they still experience smaller separations and kidnappings and shipwrecks that threaten to tear them apart again, if not for Jamie and Claire’s tenacity, intuition, and intelligence in a crisis. Ultimately, this is a song of hope and achieving peace after turmoil and suffering through hard-won love. The lyrics also connect the couple on a spiritual level through disagreements and misunderstandings, ultimately recognizing and accepting the person each has become after twenty years while holding onto the foundation that connects their hearts, upon which they steadily construct their lives together as soulmates.
Which songs would you add to the Voyager playlist? Let us know in the comments below!