What does the Depeche Mode song in The Last of Us mean?

In The Last of Us, when Joel, Ellie, and Tess leave for the west, back at Joel’s apartment, a song by Depeche Mode starts playing on his radio that is intended to give Joel a message.

When Ellie first arrives at Joel’s apartment, Tess locks her inside to have a conversation with Joel alone. Ellie overhears them talking about which way they should choose and about two people named Bill and Frank.

She explores Joel’s apartment and discovers ‘The Billboard Book of Number One Hits’ by Fred Bronson. She opens the book and comes across a note inside it.

The note mentions the initials B and F. It also has numbers written on it. Number 60 is written for the words ‘nothing in’ and number 70 for the words ‘new stock’. However, in front of number 80, a red cross has been drawn.

The radio’s smuggling code

Ellie cracks down that these are codes for smuggling on the radio. The initials stand for Bill and Frank.

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Now coming to the numbers. If Bill and Frank play a song from the ’60s on the radio, they don’t have anything new. If they play a song from the ’70s, that means they have new stuff.

What does the Depeche Mode song in The Last of Us mean? 1
Ellie discovers a note inside ‘The Billboard Book of Number One Hits’

Ellie fails to decipher what the red cross in front of the number 80 means. She asks Joel, who doesn’t care to explain. He grabs the book away from her and keeps it on the table.

Joel proceeds to take a nap to kill time. Ellie questions Joel about what she should do in the meantime. He claims that he is sure that she will figure that out.

Ellie then picks up the book again and continues to decode the meaning behind a song from the ’80s.

The meaning behind the Depeche Mode song

When Joel wakes up, Ellie lies that the radio played while he was asleep. She says the song it played was ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ by Wham!.

She takes note of Joel’s sad face upon hearing that lie and figures out that a song from the 80s means there is trouble. Joel attempts to confront her, but Tess shows up.

The trio leaves for the west. When they finally manage to escape after avoiding a FEDRA soldier, back at Joel’s apartment, ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ by the English electronic music band Depeche Mode starts playing on the radio.

‘Never Let Me Down Again’ was released on 24 August 1987. Thus, the radio playing an ’80s song suggests that Joel, Ellie, and Tess are walking into some kind of trouble.

Also Read: The Last of Us season 1 episode 1 recap & review: When You’re Lost in the Darkness