Losing yourself in a ten-hour marathon of your favorite tv show is always productive, but it’s truly special when you suddenly wake from your reverie to the sounds of some unknown, perfect song emerging from the speakers. It could be underscoring that big emotional scene at the end of the episode, or it could even be an expertly-placed song in a commercial break that makes you grateful you didn’t change the channel. Either way, having a new song to listen to on repeat will help ease that empty feeling in your chest that comes when the season is over and you have to wait another six months before your next binge-watching extravaganza–so for this week’s Tuesday Ten, we asked our writers about ten songs they fell in love with after hearing them on tv.
All footage is the property of its respective owners. Don’t sue us, guys.
The All-American Rejects – Dirty Little Secret (Smallville)
Some songs strike you with such a force, you remember the first time you heard them for the rest of your life. For me, the fact is proven by The All American Rejects’ “Dirty Little Secret”. While I worked my way through elementary school, my dad bent the rules of my bedtime once a week. The occasion, you ask? A new episode of Smallville. The superhero-centered drama never failed to have an engaging script that followed an everchanging “hero vs. antihero” plotline, all the while developing a charming cast of characters. When hypnotized by one of the more scandalous villains the series offered, resident Kryptonian Clark Kent found himself seduced into an alley–which is exactly where “Dirty Little Secret” cued. No better song exists for a scene involving shocking betrayal through an enchanted fling. Of course, that’s not what my nine year old self paid attention to. I was completely enthralled by the fiery, rebellious track itself. In the few seconds The All-American Rejects blasted through the speakers on my television, I picked up on the positively pop punk guitar and Tyson Ritter’s expressive portrayal of a guilty pleasure relationship. I’ve doubled in age since then, but playing the song still takes me right back to that moment of pure excitement felt by my wannabe rocker-chick self. Those I know also get to partake in the vivid memories through my overtold retellings of the event–meaning this story is certainly not my “dirty little secret”. (Emillie Marvel)
Dashboard Confessional – Stolen (Scrubs)
Scrubs and Dashboard Confessional are a perfect pair. They both grab your attention from the welcoming face-value of a funny joke or a catchy chorus; then, once you invest, you become aware of the cruel heartbreak these things will inflict upon you. “Stolen” outlines something beautiful coming to an end, and as the Scrubs scene unfolds, you watch the girl of main character JD’s dreams get engaged to another man. Feeling as helpless as he does, you watch the onslaught of cheerful faces run up to the newly betrothed couple. Usually the word “stolen” would have a negative connotation attached to it, but in this song, I see it as much more of an exclamatory realization. “You have stolen my heart” is repeated early and often, with a sense of urgency surmounting that continuously keeps building until it all spills out in a gut-wrenching bridge. As everything comes crashing, the lines, “I watch you spin around in the highest heels / You are the best one of the best ones / We all look like we feel,” is where the soundtrack and storytelling blend seamlessly to create a classic moment. Heartache is something we all know too well and no one perfected it more than the deadly duo of Scrubs and Dashboard Confessional. (Joseph Britton)
David Bowie – Heroes (Pepsi commercial)
I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of sports, so when the World Cup took television by storm two months ago, I wasn’t exactly stoked. That is, until I saw Pepsi’s commercial–a part of their 2014 football campaign. In the two-minute clip, a refreshing take on David Bowie’s “Heroes” picks up, starting out simply with the pop and fizz of an opened soda can. The sounds around the city that follow the boy’s actions repeat after each other, creating an unique beat from the spritz of a spray can, the kick of a ball, the sounds of traffic, the clinking of bottles, and more. What makes the ad so catchy is how it connects the song to a casual, everyday routine–showing that music is all around us, whether we’re aware of it or not. With Janelle MonÃ¡e’s cover of the classic song accompanying cameos of various footballers on Pepsi’s all-star lineup, it goes to show how both the World Cup and music can bring a feeling of unity to fans worldwide. At the end of the day, “we can be heroes,” regardless of which team wins. (Emily Yee)
Explosions In The Sky – Your Hand In Mind (Liberty Mutual commercial)
“Your Hand In Mine” is the type of song you’d hear in passing on Pandora or in a movie or, in this particular case, an Olympics commercial and ignorantly just assume it was either Explosions In the Sky or This Will Destroy You–obviously the ONLY two post-rock bands that exist, right? I’m kidding. What I mean to say is that this song, although very distinct and familiar, has always been a mystery to me–that is, until I heard it on a Liberty Mutual Insurance commercial during the Sochi Winter Olympics. I remember hearing it on the ad and vaguely recognizing it as “that awesome post rock song I always hear on the Moving Mountains Pandora station but never actually bother to look to see what it is.” I was immediately enticed (again) by the epic and optimistic melody, which is carried by glassy clean guitar notes and a steady marching beat, and I decided I finally had to do some research to see what indie band could land this sort of national song placement. After finding out it was Explosions, I felt slightly accomplished for my correct assumption–but mainly disappointed I didn’t give the band the initial attention they deserved for such a beautiful song. If it weren’t for the commercial placement, I may have never bothered to find out who performed the song, and the band may have slipped under my radar as just another post-rock band scoring for TV. (Ethan Rose)
The Honorary Title – Stay Away (One Tree Hill)
I don’t know what it is about American teen dramas, but they’re my kryptonite. And One Tree Hill was the definition of my teenage years. To this day my bedroom is the same red of character Peyton Sawyer’s, who I basically wanted to be (and still do). But while the storyline was enough of a hook on its own, the soundtrack was the true highlight. I owe the majority of my music taste to this show–it introduced me to the likes of Yellowcard, Dashboard Confessional, and Fall Out Boy (remember when Pete Wentz had a recurring role? That was the best). There are so many artists I discovered through One Tree Hill I even have a playlist dedicated to the subject, but one band that really stood out is The Honorary Title. Their track “Stay Away” appeared in season five, where there was…you guessed it…a love triangle going on, and the song captured the brooding swirl of emotions brilliantly in just four minutes, while adding to the dramatic tension onscreen. “Stay Away” may be about resisting temptation, but the seductive melody is so irresistible you’ll be pulled under within seconds by the crooning lyrics, echoing choruses, and anguished guitar. Try not to go starting your very own love triangle while you get swept up in the whirlwind of moody drumbeats and acoustic-led verses. This episode was the first time you saw real hope for complicated love interests Lucas and Peyton again (who we all knew were destined to be together), and “Stay Away” was the framing alternative soundtrack to the longing glances across the room, stolen kisses, and tortured love. If you’ve never had something so melodramatic as an average episode happen to you (and let’s face it, who has), you can pretend with this track, crying out the intense lyrics while staring out your window and watching the rain fall. (Alex Bear)
Jenny Lewis – Completely Not Me (Girls)
I’m going to be totally honest with you – I barely watch television. I haven’t had cable in 4+ years and very rarely watch Netflix, and the only show I keep up with on a regular basis is Girls, created by and starring one woman powerhouse Lena Dunham. If you’re not familiar, it follows the lives of a group of four girls living in Brooklyn as they traverse through the terrible, amazing, scary, and ridiculous realm that is post-grad life. Because I don’t have access to cable/HBO, when I found out the second season of Girls was going to be streamed on HBO Go, I freaked out and cancelled all of my Sunday night plans (or at least altered them a bit) to make sure that I’d get home and see it that night. The show is known for having a pretty stellar soundtrack (a scene where Hannah, played by Lena Dunham, dances around to Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” is a favorite), and the second season didn’t disappoint. The premiere included a new song from Rilo Kiley frontwoman-gone-solo Jenny Lewis, “Completely Not Me”, that played as the end credits went by. Produced by Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, it’s a glistening indie-pop track with a bit of a southern twang that’s a solid pre-cursor to her new album The Voyager. Her inclusion on the soundtrack of a show targeted almost exclusively to millennials speaks directly to the mindset of 20-somethings today, too. Both Rilo Kiley and the Postal Service (she contributed vocals to Give Up track ‘We Will Become Silhouettes’ and performed with the band on their recent reunion tour) played a pivotal role in the lives of a huge portion of the show’s audience, and like the characters in the show who are forced to grow up and become adults at a quick clip, Lewis’ music has matured with its audience, a far cry from her emo/synth-pop past. As a recent post-grad myself, I can sympathize with the characters in the show way more than I’d like to admit (shoutout to Hannah being a writer and completely hung up on her ex!) but what’s cool about growing up and graduating–other than this song–is that you never have to write another essay about old, dead philosophers you don’t care about ever again. (Tarynn Law)
Rooney – I’m Shakin’ (The OC)
Okay, my southern accent REALLY comes out when I’m excited, but The O.C. changed my life, y’all. I mean it. It was the absolute highlight of my teenage years, not only because it was just an all-around great show, but because it taught me about life, introduced me to excellent tunes, and produced the mother lode of soundtracks. Go ahead, Google it–it’s an indie music lover’s paradise. But, there’s a particular episode with a particular song that stands out, and it’s one I will always attribute to my great taste in music. It happens in “Third Wheel,” the 15th episode of the first season, when a band called Rooney became the show’s first ever musical guest. Performing their single “I’m Shakin'” while channeling The Beatles with their sound and hairstyles, they hooked me. I immediately went out and bought their album, and now that I think about it, this purchase most likely marked my transition into my indie rock phase (where I currently still reside). Ryan, Marissa, Seth, and Summer really did have the best of everything, even the best music. But does anyone know how they got into this cool music venue that served alcohol ALL THE TIME? They were in high school, people. Oh, the perks of Californiaaa. Here we cooooome! (Alyson Stokes)
The Thermals – Now We Can See (Chuck)
Chuck is probably one of my favorite shows to ever grace television. I know it’s dorky, cheesy, and mostly predictable, but it endlessly entertained me. If you’ve never seen it, get on Netflix and prepare yourself for the wild ride of geeky Chuck who suddenly attains a wealth of spy knowledge and must become the world’s greatest spy–and get the girl–all while working at the local Buy More (basically Best Buy). Besides the Oscar-worthy plotline, the show actually has a great cast; Chuck is played by Zachary Levi, the voice actor of Tangled’s Flynn Rider, and his friend John Casey is played by Adam Baldwin, whom I know best for his part as Jayne in Firefly. Now, normally I don’t pay much attention to TV show soundtracks, but the song in the opening scene of “Chuck Versus The Ring” grabbed my attention at once. The starting chorus of “Oh way oh-oh” and the guitar riff made me think of Weezer at first, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was actually “Now We Can See” by The Thermals. I was hooked within seconds. The verses have this rhythm embedded in the melody that makes you need to sing along. I bought the song right away and learned the words during the commercial breaks.
When it plays during the show, Chuck and Casey walk up to their boss at the Buy More and quit their mediocre jobs as computer salesmen to pursue full time spy stuff. My favorite part of the clip: thinking that Chuck is a loser who needs the job, the boss says, “What are you gonna do with your life?” Chuck wittily retorts, “Anything I want,” and the song starts up again. This scene makes me throw my fist in the air because it’s the first time Chuck stands up for himself and takes control of his life. The confidence and catchiness of “Now We Can See” fits that mood so perfectly. I must applaud whoever chose the music for this episode. I keep this song in my back pocket for whenever I need a pick-me-up on a bad day, or even just a confidence boost on a good day. Hell, if I ever decide to quit a job somewhere, I just might play this song as I do it. Or would that be too cheesy? (Hannah Pierangelo)
Young Love – Close Your Eyes (Scrubs)
There could not have been a more perfect song than Young Love’s “Close Your Eyes” to soundtrack the scene loyal Scrubs fans had been awaiting for years. After tumbling through seasons of JD and Elliot’s on again-off again romance/best friendship (one that, by the happy coincidence of our writers’ shared tv tastes, you all got a glimpse of earlier in this article), they finally decide to forget what everyone else thinks and just be together. Speaking as a devoted Scrubs fan, I have to admit, it’s pretty contrived after the heartwrenching moments we got used to in the show’s earlier seasons, but the emotion of the song completely brings the scene to life and makes it believable. Its structure reflects the pair’s relationship perfectly; the song is built around something so simple–just a lone guitar and voice–but gradually builds layer after layer of beauty and complexity without losing the core. It’s just like how JD and Elliot’s relationship changes over the years in all these different ways, but their simple love for one another always remains at the center. And the song’s closing lines, which arrive just as the two finally make their decision, sums it up equally perfectly: “I hope I see you around, the way I always do / It’s always a surprise to be with you.” (Eleanor Grace)
Young The Giant – My Body (Michelob commercial)
My first experience with Young the Giant’s “My Body” was hearing it in a Michelob Ultra commercial in the summer of 2012. Michelob was showcasing their new light beer, featuring fewer calories, a “guilt free” choice, with young and active adults partaking in outdoor activites. The song intrigued me due to the contradictory lyrics to the commercial’s imagery. The chorus, “My body tells me ‘no,’ but I won’t quit ‘cause I want more,” seemed a bit ironic for an alcohol advertisement, the message mixed between “Our beer is so good and has so few calories, you’ll never want to buy another brand again” and “Get blackout drunk, but please, if you do, drink our beer.” Still, the song helped Young the Giant’s self-titled debut skyrocket to mainstream radio stations across the country, and the commercial has continued to run for three straight summers. So, I guess I might have been one of the few to notice the mixed message. (Alex Rudisill)