The soundtrack of a TV show can really make or break an episode. More specifically, it can make or break the feeling of a scene. A powerful song equipped with what’s going on in the show makes for a memorable moment of the episode, whether it’s a serious moment or a lighthearted one. Here are the 27 best musical moments from television.
#27 “At Last” – Etta James (Performed by Cyndi Lauper)
Season 9, Episode 6
This was a perfect song for this moment. Finally, Booth and Brennan are getting married and as the lyrics say, “at last, my love has come along.” This unity had really been a long time coming, but of course in the world that they live in, a case had to stall it even further. Finally, Booth and Brennan end up where they belong; together.
#26 “Good Loving” – The Rascals
Boy Meets World
Season 2, Episode 8
This show went through a huge music phase pretty early on. This particular episode featured appearances from several members of the band The Monkees. When they covered this Rascals song, it was really beautiful to watch and tied in well with how Alan was feeling about his past and how Amy looked back fondly on it as when she fell in love with him.
#25 “DLZ” – TV On The Radio
Season 2, Episode 10
Without a doubt in the top 5 most badass scenes/lines in Breaking Bad history and probably one of the earliest. After Walt has decided to get out of the dangerous drug trade and make his way back into normalcy, he gets obsessed with small projects as a way of distracting his mind. It only takes seeing a whacked out meth cook buying supplies at the department store for him to snap back into Heisenberg. He approaches a huge thug in the parking lot, faces inches apart, and delivers that chilling line, “stay out of my territory.”
#24 “The Pretender” – Foo Fighters
Season 1, Episode 9
This was a great scene. Personally, I found that the show started to lose its spark after the fourth season and scenes like this were what was so great about the show to me. Hank has been rejected by his ex (again) and gets manipulated by a hot young girl (again). She and her boyfriend steal his brand new car. Hank (being Hank) couldn’t care less about the car, but only about the only copy of his manuscript which was sitting in the front seat. He had finally beaten his writer’s block and now the evidence was gone. Or so he thought. The ominous tone of the Foo Fighters song playing during this is perfect. First its angsty, then a little jumpy, then full of rage; Hank’s exact emotional journey during the scene.
#23 “Young Blood” – The Naked and the Famous
Season 4, Episode 13
In some ways, this scene may have even made a better series finale than the show’s actual series finale. It wraps up everyone’s emotional journeys really well and sort of begins new ones. The song “Young Blood” was just perfect, because it’s about what it’s like to be young and free at one point in your life. It couldn’t be more fitting as the scene deals with pregnancy, adulthood and what it means to come of age.
#22 “Daydream Believer” – The Monkees (Performed by Katie Holmes, James Van Der Beek)
Season 3, Episode 19
Dawson and Joey get dragged up to do karaoke for their friends. Though awkward about it, they clearly have fun doing it together, something angsty Pacey can clearly see as well. The irony is that the lyrics are exactly what Pacey is, a daydream believer who was sure he’d win the girl. Jealous and feeling that he no longer has a shot, Pacey walks out mid-peformance; something only Joey notices.
#21 “Lucky Man” – The Verve
Season 6, Episode 1
The montage at the end of the first episode of the sixth season was a great tone-setter for the rest of the season. For five years we had watched as the whole entourage’s entire lives revolved around Vince and his success. They were all lucky to be apart of the ride. In this montage, we see that they’ve all begun to find their own lives as they explore individual goals. Vince ends up home alone in his mansion. “Lucky Man” was a perfect song, as this is how they were all feeling. It ended with perfect irony as Vince, the luckiest of them all, now came to his humongous Hollywood hills home, all alone.
#20 “Driveway” – Great Northern
Friday Night Lights
Season 4, Episode 5
This was one of the saddest scenes in the show. As everyone walks away from Matt’s dad’s funeral, the damages of all of the show’s relationships at that point are touched on in some way. Lyla and Riggins, Matt and Julie and even a little of Matt’s general feeling of isolation. The song “Driveway” comes on amidst all of this, and is heart-wrenching. It talks about looking out your window as someone walks away. This feeling is very familiar to Matt, whose father was never around for him and now never would be.
#19 “Stronger” – Kanye West (Performed by Allison Williams)
Season 2, Episode 9
Actress Allison Williams is a well-known theatrical singer. She recently performed in NBC’s Peter Pan Live! Fans of hers would be excited to see her dust off her singing chops as Girls’ Marnie. It was a perfectly awkward and random debut performance that fit in perfectly with the show: awkward and modern.
#18 “The Ice is Getting Thinner” – Death Cab for Cutie
Season 1, Episode 18
Gossip Girl is full of great music moments. Picking the best one is difficult. One of the best definitely takes place during Chuck’s toast at his father’s wedding. His speech talks about never giving up on love and the act of forgiveness, even when it’s the hardest to bare. He’s looking directly at Blair as he speaks. The tone of the song in the background is perfectly contemplative for Blair to reassess her feelings as well as Serena, who enters the room mid speech, but caught up in her own thoughts.
#17 “Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol Cover)” – The Wind and The Wave
Season 11, Episode 21
In this shocking episode of the eleventh season, Derek enters a coma just weeks after his reconciliation with Meredith had begun. As he’s being kept alive by machines, Meredith gazes at his body and looks back on all their memories together and lets him go. The classic “if I lay here” lyrics fade over the scene, but with a different sound than we normally hear in scenes like this, as it was a beautiful cover by The Wind and The Wave. In some ways, it was sort of symbolic of the change that Meredith’s life is about to take.
#16 “Simple Song” – The Shins
How I Met Your Mother
Season 8, Episode 24
This song on its own is already epic. HIMYM has always had an impeccable taste in music and might be the reason why I loved the show as much as I did. In this scene of the season 8 finale, the moment we’ve all been waiting for FINALLY arrives. We get to see The Mother. This was the first time I had heard this song and it fit in so perfectly with where everyone was at that exact time. Marshall struggles with telling his wife the truth, Ted struggles with moving on, Barney and Robin struggle with wedding scares and BOOM! It ends with a visual of The Mother. This scene would not have had nearly as big an impact without the help of The Shins.
#15 “Make Your Own Kind of Music” – Mama Cass
Season 2, Episode 1
If you were at all a Lost fan, this song has a big significance to you. We all remember that first introduction to Desmond’s background, where we see him living in the hatch all that time. Everyday, he went through the exact same routine. Exercise, eat, press the button. Throughout it all, he would always listen to this Mama Cass song. We really got a glimpse at how isolation like that can completely screw you up in the head. The song occasionally floats back up throughout the rest of the show, but always holds this original significance. That’s what makes it so powerful.
#14 “Zou Bisou Bisou” – Sophia Lauren (Performed by Jessica Pare)
Season 5, Episode 1
This was a great season opener. After Don and Megan get married, she performs a sexy French song and dance to him in front of all his coworkers and friends. It was the first bit of personality we actually saw from her and was something that gave her a little more substance and interest. This signature scene is still buzzed about as a fan favorite of Mad Men.
#13 “You Shook Me All Night Long” – AC/DC
Season 1, Episode 24
At the end of season 1, Nick decides to get back together with his ex and move out of the apartment. Nothing had happened between him and Jess at this point, so Jess and fans were all really hoping this wouldn’t work out. Nick decided he needed to grow up. Apart of his immature days was his collection of old music. At the end of the episode, when the gang sadly sits separately in their rooms without Nick, the classic AC/DC jam slowly creeps throughout the apartment. As the gang realizes it’s Nick, accepting he needs to stick around and stay himself, they all individually dance out of joy. This was one of the most fun scenes to me and definitely a big “YES!” moment.
#12 “Wonderwall” – Oasis
Season 4, Episode 3
This has always been a really controversial show. The one (moderate) conscience in the show has always been Sean McNamara, who always did the right thing. He worked everything out with his wife and was back to the mediocre life he loved. When he meets the new babysitter, he channels some of Christian Troy in a way he never had before. The babysitter explains to Sean what a “wonderwall” is, and how it can make you feel special, young and free. The song goes on full blast as it cuts to what Sean took this message to mean; bang the babysitter.
#11 “Hallelujah” – Imogen Heap
Season 3, Episode 25
Everytime I think of this show, this is the first scene that pops into my head. It was the most intense and tragic thing I had scene at the time. After a fatal car crash, Ryan carries Marissa’s dead body back to her home, past the car’s explosion and lays her down. He leaves, silent and unmoved as the gang enters and discovers her body. Though there are so many sounds and cries that would be going on during this scene, they’re all instead replaced by the ominous Imogen Heap cover of “Hallelujah”. Traditionally accompanied by a guitar, this rendition is only singing, making it that much darker.
#10 “Open Your Eyes” – Snow Patrol
Season 9, Episode 22
This sitcom doesn’t generally have a lot of music in it because it would take away from the mockumentary feel of the show. However, in the ninth season when Pam worries that Jim has doubts about their marriage, he enlists the help of the “doc crew” to create a beautiful music montage of their relationship. It was a real tear-jerker. The choice to use a Snow Patrol song was intentional by the crew of the show because their are thousands of fan-made Pam/Jim videos on the Internet set to Snow Patrol’s music and this was a tribute from the show to fans. It was beautifully done.
#9 “Babe, I’m Never Gonna Leave You” – Led Zeppelin
One Tree Hill
Season 3, Episode 22
This CW hit probably has more of the best music moments than any other show I’ve seen. Picking just one was extremely difficult. When it comes down to it though, the end scene of the season 3 finale is the best choice, as it was about all of the characters. Things were left in a strange place among Lucas and the gang, and Nathan’s creepy dream that Hayley was going to die wasn’t helping. At the end, a car crash leaves uncle Coop and Rachel underwater and it’s Nathan who jumps in to save them, unable to resurface. Meanwhile, Lucas and Brooke’s relationship is at an end and Dan discovers someone knows he killed Keith. “Babe, I’m Never Gonna Leave You” is poetically questionable for all of the characters in their relationships at that moment.
Fun fact: This was the first time a Led Zeppelin song had been licensed for TV.
#8 “Don’t Fear the Reaper” – Blue Oyster Cult
Orange is the New Black
Season 2, Episode 13
At the end of season 2, Rosa (who is close to her end) manages to break out of prison with some help to enjoy her last few days. It’s a beautiful scene, where Rosa takes the form of her young and wild self as she zooms out of the prison in the stolen van. She no longer fears death, but welcomes the adventure, just as the song says. And on her way out, she runs over Vee. We all wanted to see that happen.
#7 “5,000 Candles in the Wind” – Mouserat
Parks and Recreation
Season 6, Episode 22
“It needs to be like ‘Candle in the Wind’, but 5,000 times better.” Those were Leslie Knope’s instructions to Pawnee’s favorite rockstar, Andy Dwyer. Andy came up with a hilarious tribute song to the Parks department’s fallen comrade, Lil’ Sebastian. It’s a song any Parks fan can’t help but sing along to. In the season 6 finale’s Unity Concert, Andy and his band Mouserat perform the song again, this time with the help of Ginuwine, The Decemberists, Letters to Cleo, Land Ho, Duke Silver/Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) and a holographic Lil’ Sebastian. It was an epic moment for the show.
#6 “How to Save a Life” – The Fray
Season 5, Episode 20
For the first real time in the show, we saw Dr. Cox tragically break down. The death of three of his transplant patients is too much for him and he walks out of the hospital for the first time. He had actually given up on himself. The tragic Fray song perfectly accompanied this scene and the irony that they bellow, “how to save a life” when Dr. Cox couldn’t was too much to handle.
#5 “Breathe Me” – Sia
Six Feet Under
Season 5, Episode 12
This series finale was really a work of genius. The characters’ lives were all wrapped up so beautifully and the montage that took us through their lives until the very end is unable to sit through without crying. Sia’s “Breathe Me” holds a whole different and much more significant meaning to fans of this show.
#4 “Hurt” – Johnny Cash
Season 3, Episode 8
Lex has been in and out of his father’s manipulations his entire life. After the drugs and traumatic experiences he’s gone through, he’s finally committed. Lionel stares at his son through the two-way mirror, who has a gazed, empty expression over his face in his straight-jacket. It is especially tragic when Lionel reaches his hand up to Lex, who can’t see him and has clearly lost so much of his mind.
#3 “Come Join the Murder” – The White Buffalo
Sons of Anarchy
Season 7, Episode 13
When Jax has finally understood why his father left life in the way he did, he thinks about how his own path has taken him so far away from the man his father was. The signature intro of the song talks about a crow flying straight through the air. A crow eating a piece of bread on the highway was also how the series opened. In the finale, Jax embraces the destiny of his father before him and rides his motorcycle straight into oncoming traffic. As he does, he stares to the sky and sees crows flying straight through the sky. When he crashes, the last image we see mirrors the first one we saw, as crows eat bread on the highway, this time soaked in Jax’ blood. The poetry of this whole scene is due in large part to the choice of this song, about joining the “murder” of crows and flying with black. Jax has finished his evil life and is ready to fly with his father into freedom.
#2 “Wanted Dead or Alive” – Bon Jovi
Season 3, Episode 16
Dean is almost at the end of his contract which will send him to Hell. Sam, whose desperate to find a way out of it is told by Dean to just enjoy their time left. Dean blasts the classic Bon Jovi song and begins singing along. Sam, throwing back tears, manages to join in on this special moment with his brother. The lyrics are of course a perfect symbolism for Dean’s current state.
#1 “The Joker” – Steve Miller Band (Performed by Danny Masterson, Ashton Kutcher, Topher Grace, Laura Prepon)
That ’70s Show
Season 4, Episode 24
The musical episode of this show is easily one of my favorites. Being that it’s a show based in the ’70s, the episode is full of classic ’70s rock. The best moment was when the gang is sitting around the circle like they do in every episode, smoking weed, singing and dancing along to Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker”.
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV