♪ ♫ Mmmm whatcha say… ♪ ♫
Music is one of the most important parts of any TV show — it can enhance or detract from any moment.
A lot of times, the mark of good music or score is not noticing it. But other times, there is a music moment that is so good, it becomes forever associated with the show.
Here are 18 music moments from TV shows that should go down in history as the best ever:
“Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap — The O.C.
You know I had to start with this one. It spawned a classic meme and
SNL sketch. It felt incredibly inappropriate and out of place for a scene in which a main character shoots another main character’s brother, and yet…it is absolutely iconic. The cultural impact alone earns this moment a spot on this list.
“Breathe Me” by Sia — Six Feet Under
Six Feet Under series finale is often brought up as an example of one of the best finales ever, with many pointing out its final sequence, which flashes to many of the characters’ deaths. That scene just would not be the same without one of the classic soft emo (is that a genre?) songs of the 2000s that perfectly captures the tone of the last few minutes of this award-winning show.
“How to Save a Life” by The Fray — Grey’s Anatomy
There was nothing particularly noteworthy about this moment, but the song elevated it into an iconic moment in pop culture history. They were certainly not the only medical show to use this class song by The Fray, but it will forever be associated with this show above all others — so much so that the cast sang it in the musical episode.
“Phantom of the Opera Medley” by Lindsey Stirling — The Umbrella Academy
All of the music in
The Umbrella Academy is amazing, but to me, this choice was particularly inspired. It seems like such a random instrumental to use while introducing the Hargreeves children, but somehow, it just works. Having Vanya play their introduction was a perfect hint of her role within the family, and the dark, mournful, yet rock-style Phantom medley really fit the show.
“You’ve Got the Love” by Florence and the Machine — Sex and the City
This song always gives me goosebumps, because it reminds me of two iconic finales —
Sex and the City and Gossip Girl. It played in the final scenes of both, but because Sex and the City was first, I’m counting that one. It just feels so happy and celebratory and like it’s closing out a chapter, almost like the equivalent of a “happily ever after.” It also matched Carrie’s voice-over about friendship and love so well — and it was such a fun moment to have Big’s name finally revealed.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen (covered by Jonathan Groff) — Glee
Say what you will about
Glee, but watching Quinn give birth while Jesse St. James and his team performed “Bohemian Rhapsody” flawlessly was peak TV. The performance and choreography were so good, and the music was so well timed to Quinn giving birth. Having Quinn scream things like “Let me go!” at the times the words are sung in the song was particularly genius.
“Sinnerman” by Nina Simone — Sherlock
Sherlock rarely uses actual sung music, making this montage particularly special. The jaunty yet old-fashioned tune created such a fun buildup in this scene and fit Moriarty so well — it made everything feel even more like a game.
“Gotta Get Up” by Harry Nilsson — Russian Doll
I thought this song was okay the first time it played — and then it played again…and again….and again. Each time, the upbeat tune got more and more frustrating, and finally more and more ominous as the people at the party began to disappear each time Nadia was rebooted back to the bathroom. Using the song once? Cool. Using it every episode??? Legendary.
“Whatcha Say” by Jason Derulo — Gossip Girl
Season 3 of
Gossip Girl was a bit of a mess, but this one scene in the Thanksgiving episode seemed to perfectly encapsulate the backstabbing, lying, cheating, and manipulation of the Upper East Side all at once. Every character and storyline was addressed over the course of a single song seamlessly. The fun pop song about making mistakes and the truth coming out worked so well here, and it was fun to hear “Hide and Seek” (which is sampled in this song) in an entirely different context than in The O.C.
“Rivers and Roads” by The Head and the Heart — New Girl
This may not have stood out to anyone else, but I was always absolutely obsessed with it playing over the last scenes of
New Girl Season 4. It’s such a beautiful song, and it really captures that bittersweet feeling of moving on and getting older — which was perfect for Coach moving away and Cece and Schmidt starting to build a life together!
“September Song” by Agnes Obel and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by Ituana — Big Little Lies
Big Little Lies is another show with amazing music, and the finale in particular was flawless. But the best moment was seeing the women watching their children happily on the beach intercut with waves crashing and the women defending Celeste while a peaceful instrumental played — which eventually transitioned into “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” It was haunting yet also kind of…empowering? It just perfectly wrapped up everything.
“That’s Not How the Story Goes” by Nick Urata — A Series of Unfortunate Events
I honestly kind of love when characters on a non-musical show break into song (
Buffy’s “Once More, With Feeling,” anyone?) especially when it’s not frequent. This was such a random end to Season 1 but also felt really theatrical, which fit a lot with the larger-than-life vibe of the show (and Neil Patrick Harris’s involvement, of course) while still being depressing as heck. It even felt like it gave a small window into Count Olaf’s point of view and character.
“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” by Led Zeppelin — One Tree Hill
In case you forgot, this is the scene when we found out someone was pregnant and when Nathan jumped in to save Rachel and Cooper after their limo went over the Molina bridge. The buildup of the scene worked perfectly with the buildup of the song until it hit its crescendo, when the limo actually fell in the water.
One Tree Hill always had amazing music, but using a Led Zeppelin song in this high-stakes season finale was the absolute best music moment.
Watch the second half of this scene here:
You miss out on the beginning, where Haley tells Nathan she has something to tell him and Brooke tells Peyton their friendship is over, but you get the meat of it here.
“The Rains of Castamere” by Ramin Djawadi — Game of Thrones
The song actually barely plays in this scene, but just hearing the opening notes alone is enough to send chills down your spine and make your heart sink. It’s so mournful and dark, and will be forever associated with one of the most brutal moments in television history.
“All for Us” by Labrinth and Zendaya — Euphoria
This is probably my favorite modern example.
Euphoria’s music moments were already great, but ending the first season with Rue’s trippy relapse in a dance number set to Zendaya’s music was a stroke of genius. It perfectly captured how tumultuous she felt in that moment and how she was trying to escape everything.
“Don’t Fence Me In” by Billy Williams & Sammy Kaye — Pretty Little Liars
Pretty Little Liars’ ridiculously rising stakes made it much harder to actually scare the viewers or seem clever, but the Season 5 finale did over-the-top so well. The dollhouse was creepy enough, but having the Liars think they’d escaped only to realize they were trapped behind an electric fence in the middle of a dense forest while the old-timey “Don’t Fence Me In” played?? Genius. It felt sadistically creepy, ironic, and funny at the same time.
“Never Let Me Go” by Florence and the Machine — The Vampire Diaries
We’d seen Damon and Elena kiss a few times before, but this felt like the first big moment that they really gave into their mutual attraction. It felt like it was seasons in the making, and the buildup of the song was timed perfectly to their kiss and the feeling it gave the audience.
Watch the scene here:
This song was actually also used in an amazing music moment in
One Tree Hill Season 9, when Nathan and Julian rushed Dan to the hospital and Nathan and Haley finally reunited.
And finally, “Wild World” by Cat Stevens (covered by the cast) – Skins
Skins was super gritty and hyper-realistic. And then in the first season finale, everyone broke into song, starting with Sid in the bathroom while two guys were at urinals. Then Tony, WHO WAS PASSED OUT AND PRESUMED DEAD ON THE SIDEWALK, started singing as he bled out. Others joined in, including the bus driver. But everyone was…legitimately good? And the song somehow fit everything? PLUS it ended with Cassie and Sid reuniting. 10/10.
What are some of your favorite TV music moments? Let us know in the comments!
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