Music in Fallout is a big part of the games, everyone has a favorite radio station, a favorite song, a memory they associate with the songs. But the 50s tunes are more than just background noise.
Fallout’s music is reflective of the game it appears in in many ways. For example, Fallout New Vegas is set in the American West, so the radio stations play mainly country. Not only is this appropriate for the theme, but it also fits the idea of what Pre-War Americans living in the Nevada area would have listened to. Fallout 3 & 4’s music is very jazz heavy, which also fits the idea of what a Pre War American in New England may have liked.
In Fallout: New Vegas, the country music has heavy themes of love, money, or moving on to something new. The songs all represent these themes in different ways, some songs are about falling in love (Mad About the Boy), leaving a trail of lovers behind you (Jingle, Jangle, Jingle), or missing a lover you had long ago (Johnny Guitar). It’s important that even though there are common themes within the radio songs, they are all very different. The themes of love, money, or moving on are also representative of what many people in the Mojave Wasteland want.
In Fallout 3 and 4, the music has mostly songs of either love, death, or radiation. Even the some of the songs about love have radiation incorporated (Crawl Out Through the Fallout & Rocket 69). The radio playing in the post nuclear apocalypse are almost all about the thing that demised the world. I believe it boils down to something simple that I’ve seen discussed many times.
The East Coast can’t move on from the nuclear war. Even 200 years after the war, people in the Capital Wasteland and Commonwealth are living in dilapidated shacks and have ghouls living in their basement. The ‘successful’ towns are glorified shantytowns of thrown together metal, nestled inside pre war locations (Megaton, Rivet City, Diamond City). The music represents the people of Fallout 3 and 4; they can’t move on.
Fallout: New Vegas, on the other hand, has little to no music relating to death or radiation. The people in New Vegas have towns all over the map, have electricity and the NCR was working on building a railroad all the way around the Mojave. They have simply moved on from the war that happened over 200 years ago.
New Vegas has messages of letting go (Dead Money) and the theme of ‘Old World Blues’, meaning people are clinging onto the pre war past instead of moving on and rebuilding society. The people of the Mojave Wasteland have moved on and rose up, while the people of the East have Old World Blues