The best TV show moments are usually paired with a song that sucks you in. Whether it’s a moment of triumph or tragedy, music on TV creates a mood that can linger long after the episode ends.
The only downside of TV shows with unforgettable soundtracks is that only a select few become worthy of a tangible release. While Spotify soundtrack playlists have become all the rage, and often include more tracks than one CD or vinyl can hold, there is still something to be said for the real thing.
Here are eight television soundtracks that are worth the cost of shipping them directly to your door.
Music in the Netflix series Sex Education hits all the marks in terms of variety. The show features noteworthy tracks across various decades and genres, and each feels carefully selected to fit the scene. Ezra Furman was invited to create an original set of songs for the soundtrack release that was meant to capture the ups and downs of teen angst. The Sex Education Original Soundtrack is 19-track LP, set for release on April 10th, and it features both new and old tracks by Furman. Her standout contributions include the recently released “Every Feeling,” and a cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “I Can Change.”
There is no denying that Stranger Things rocked our world the minute it hit Netflix. And we’re already impatiently waiting for season 4. The ‘80s-inspired theme music composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of the electronic band Survive became a massive hit during season one. Each season’s soundtrack has been released on CD and vinyl and features synth-heavy originals by Dixon and Stein. Stranger Things season 3 saw an additional soundtrack release, which includes hits by Madonna, REO Speedwagon, Wham!, The Cars, and an addictive remix of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”
My So-Called Life
The ‘90s gifted us with so many teen dramas, but nothing was more melodramatic than the birth of My So-Called Life. Sadly, the show was cancelled after its first season when lead actress Claire Danes stated she had no desire to continue if season 2 was greenlit. While that news is nearly as depressing as some of the moments in the show, we have to look on the bright side, and that includes Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto), and some killer ‘90s tracks that made it on the soundtrack released back in 1994. You have to do a little digging, but it’s still available on CD and features the show’s popular theme song.
Musical memories from The O.C. cut pretty deep. Perhaps that’s because the shows creator, Jason Schwartz, worked closely with the music supervisor to hand-select some of the best indie tracks of the time, including music by Phantom Planet, The Walkmen, and Modest Mouse. It was also common for bands to perform on the show, with highlights that include Rooney and The Killers. Some of the most dramatic moments from The O.C. were heightened thanks to the tunes that played beside them. From the infamous argument Seth and Summer have about Death Cab for Cutie (who also appeared on the show) or the time Marissa shot Trey to save Ryan and we were never able to listen to “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap the same way again, the series spawned the release of six soundtracks, including the Chrismukkah album.
Freaks and Geeks
Another show that left before its time is Freaks and Geeks. It was cancelled after only one season due to its inability to gain an audience as large as Friends and Fraser. In recent years, Freaks and Geeks have gained somewhat of a cult following and is enjoyed now by audiences new and old. Despite its limited run, music from the show struck a chord with fans, featuring songs from Billy Joel, Grateful Dead, The Who, Van Halen and others. Executive producer Judd Apatow waited until the show could find a company willing to pay for the original music rights before releasing the series on DVD and the soundtrack on CD.
It’s hard to mention Dawson’s Creek without feeling the urge to bust out your best version of Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait.” Perhaps that’s because, when Dawson’s Creek aired initially, singer-songwriters were all the rage and quickly became the bulk of what was featured on volumes one and two of the soundtracks. It was songs like “Feels Like Home” by Chantel Kreviazuk, “London Rain (Nothing Heals Me Like You Do)” by Heather Nova, and “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer that created moments so memorable we still want to play them on repeat. And who could forget Billie Myer’s “Kiss the Rain” playing in the background when Dawson and Joey makeup after their first (of many) fights.
A show that spans fifteen seasons is bound to accumulate memorable music moments, and Grey’s Anatomy certainly delivers. Songs featured in the series usually leave us sobbing because they are paired next to the most gut-wrenching scenes in the history of television. Grey’s Anatomy released four CD soundtracks full of popular songs by Tegan and Sara, Feist, John Legend, The Postal Service, Lykke Li, and more. What makes the music from the show truly special is the musical episode in season 7 that featured a handful of covers by the cast. It was released as an individual soundtrack and included songs like “Chasing Cars” and the appropriately titled, “How to Save a Life.”
HBO’s Girls went from everyone’s favourite show to the show everyone loved to hate. You can’t dismiss the fact that a pile of great tunes played next to some of its best moments, like the time Hannah and Marnie embraced their moves while Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” plays from a laptop in season 1. Girls also brought us some unique tracks that were created and released specifically for the show. Robyn would show up again in the series finale when the show’s creator, writer and director, Lena Dunham, selected “Honey” from the singers’ in-progress tracks, which she later explicitly finalized for the series. Banks wrote and released the song “Crowded Places” for the second last episode of the series, which shows up after a scene when the four girls finally acknowledge that they had finally outgrown their friendship.