Top 5 Songs on TV

Being a continuation of the meme I started last week, and you're invited to play with this one too. The rules I'm sticking to on this one are: Stick to soundtracks played over the action. No more than one song from any given television series. No scores or theme songs written for the show (pre-existing songs used as theme tunes are ok, but borderline). And no songs sung exclusively by the actors (i.e. in musicals, sorry Cop Rock!). I also want to say, no songs from the end of a Cold Case episode, but that's not an official rule. Lots of TV out there... what do I choose? These are only my favorites, not an objective "best". You're invited to draw up your own list.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Veronica Mars
Veronica Mars is one of those shows that seems replete with fun and interesting musical choices. The pilot alone uses some 15 pieces of music, everything from loungy air to Blue Oyster Cult to the chick rock of Taxi Doll to Miriam Makeba's Pata Pata. I've probably acquired over 80% of the songs used on Veronica Mars in its three seasons. The "musical casting" is just that perfect. And because I couldn't choose a single moment to put in this list, it stands as my LAA. My thanks to the Music of Veronica Mars blog for all the research. Check it out.

And now, the real top 5, and I find that like Veronica Mars, the selected shows have universally good song selections. Gonna be hard to pick just one from each!

5. Live and Let Die (Wings) - Life on Mars (Episode 2)

Life on Mars (the UK original, of course) features great (I'd even say "forgotten") tunes from the 70s. Live and Let Die isn't in any way "forgotten", but I love how it plays up the comedy of this scene featuring an absurd chase in swimming trunks.

4. Let Me Show You (Camisra) - Spaced ("Epiphanies")Won't embed, so here's the LINK. The now iconic clubbing scene from Spaced has a kicking beat that is both fun and inspiring. There are world-class DJs who listen to the episode before going to work, and here in the apartment, simply playing the song will make someone get the shot glasses out. No joke. Bonus mix with the A-Team theme song at the end. It kind of broke my heart not to nominate Lemon Jelly's Staunton Lick from the final episode of Spaced here, but I had to admit to myself that Camisra took the prize.

3. Mr. Blue Sky (ELO) - Doctor Who ("Love and Monsters")

Here is an example of a song running through an entire episode (or in fact, a few songs from the same band). In the offbeat Who episode, Mr. Blue Sky manages to hit Elton's highest highs and lowest lows in a way that makes you feel like writing the episode started with the song itself. Sure, the Absorbaloff stuff is terrible, but the ELO stuff in the episode is just magical.

2. Breathe Me (Sia) - Six Feet Under ("Everyone's Waiting")

This is the final scene of Six Feet Under, so SPOILER WARNING. The way Breathe Me's silences are used to edit the scene is, well, breathtaking. It narrowly wins against Radiohead's Lucky, played at a pivotal moment of the series. Best damn car commercial ever.

1. I Don't Like Mondays (Tori Amos) - West Wing ("20 Hours in America")

Breathe Me drives its scene. I Don't Like Mondays, on the other hand, is an example of how a song can support a scene that would be strong without it. And yet, Tori Amos' sweet voice adds to the sadness of the moment, while the music gives it a funereal feel that I couldn't do without. Aaron Sorkin has used great music on his shows, infrequently but at crucial moments, and has always manages to elevate his scenes with it. I might just as well have named Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah ("Posse Comitatus") or the Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms ("Two Cathedrals").

So those are the songs I can't hear without thinking of the scenes they supported. What are yours?


Audio Mastering Services said...

Hey dude, that's very nice that your favorite songs are being played on the TV. I always love to hear my favorite songs and also love to sing along with them.

Siskoid said...

Well in reality, I think they became favorite songs BECAUSE of their televisual context.

Jeff R. said...

I made my list last week, actually, but I could only reach four. So I'll steal "Breathe Me" from yours to complete it.

I was tempted to go with all five versions of "Way Down in the Hole" (The Wire) and be done with it, but decide to instead go with Homicide:Life on the Street and the Iguanas' "Boom Boom Boom" as my Simonverse pick. (With that same show's use of "Keep 'em Separated" being a strong runner-up contender.)

From Doctor who, I'd go with the Scissor Sisters' "I Can't Decide", assuming the cast-singing doesn't rule out lipsync karioke...

It looks like I can sneak into a loophole in your rules picking "The Nightingale" in Twin Peaks (which was, I believe, written for the show but, unlike "Falling" wasn't the theme tune so should slip by.)

And I'll close out my list with "Upjump the Boogie" as used in "The Shield"

Anonymous said...

Miami Vice ruled (and continues to rule) all in this category.

No other series even comes close.

Yes, I'm deadly serious.

Anonymous said...

My choices would be the three from West Wing that you mentioned, plus Three dog Night's Eli's Coming from the Sports Night episode of the same name, and the greatest of all: The Little Drummer Boy, sung over the funeral of the homeless marine on the West Wing episode Excelsis Deo.
~The Mutt


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