When thinking about compiling a list of 15 Songs That Made A TV Moment Memorable, I kept asking myself a few questions. I’ll pose them to you now. Do you ever hear a song and instantly associate it with a character, a couple or a scene? Do you feel your emotions stir in reaction to the familiar strains? Perhaps it’s the sadness of a melancholy note that gets to you. Or it’s the euphoric energy that comes from the memory of adventure or first love.
A flawlessly written, staged, acted and a directed scene is sometimes hard to find. But when coupled with the perfect song, an amazing or mediocre scene can be elevated to the annals of greatness. The chords or the lyrics might elevate the subject matter, evoke emotion or suspend belief as the music weaves its magic.
So whether you like your songs ordinary or extraordinary, there is no doubt that music has transcendent capabilities. It can take us back to a time and place, suspend the now and allow us to wade into blissful nostalgia.
With that in mind, I present a list of
10 13 15 Songs That Made A TV Moment Memorable. These songs from popular television shows all managed to evoke heartbreak, longing, happiness and the very real throwback to a particular moment in time.
The Perfect Score – 15 Songs That Made A TV Moment Memorable
(In No Particular Order)
#1 Within Temptation: All I Need
The Show: The Vampire Diaries (1×09)
The Scene: Damon and Elena share their first dance
Can you still see the heart of me? All my agony fades away when you hold me in your embrace.
If you’ve watched The Vampire Diaries, you’ll remember this scene in the first season – irrespective of shipping preferences. It’s the Miss Mystic Falls pageant and Elena descends the winding staircase, expecting to see Stefan as her escort. Stefan is AWOL, but Damon, already in love with Elena, steps in to spare her the humiliation of being stood up. Of course, his reasons are not all altruistic. Up until this point, I was Team Stefan. But the blue from Elena’s gown had turned Damon’s eyes into pools of glowing sapphires. I was a goner. What unfolds is electric, forbidden and so wrong, it’s kind of perfect. Underscored by All I Need, I had this scene on a loop for weeks.
#2 Snow Patrol: Chasing Cars
The Show: Grey’s Anatomy (2×27)
The Scene: Denny dies
If I lay here, if I just lay here. Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Grey’s Anatomy is renowned for phenomenal music to compliment the highs and lows of the medical staff at Seattle Grace Hospital. But one of the moments the show veritably amplified the feels was when Denny Duquette, the adorable kind hearted cardiac patient died right after he had proposed to Doctor Izzie Stevens. Bursting with happiness, Izzie can’t wait to see Denny, show him her beautiful gown and bask in their giddy omg-I-can’t-wait-to-see-you stage of love. Unfortunately somewhere between transforming into a princess and rushing to his side, Denny’s heart had failed. “An hour ago he was proposing,” Izzie murmurs as she lies beside his corpse. “And now he’s going to the morgue.” This was one of the many moments Grey’s Anatomy broke me. Thanks, Snow Patrol. I’ll never be able to listen to this song without thinking about these characters.
#3 Sia: Breathe Me
The Show: Six Feet Under (5×12)
The Scene: The series finale montage
Ouch, I have lost myself again. Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found. Yeah, I think that I might break. Lost myself again and I feel unsafe.
The series finale of Six Feet Under is considered by many to be the best final episode of any show ever. While the series garnered praise and later criticism for too much pain, too much heartache and too much unhappiness, its mark on the television landscape is undeniable. As the final episode draws to an end, my tears mirror Claire’s as she prepares to leave home alone and truly independent. As she drives away from her family the show begins a montage. We begin to see how every character lived and died and I swear, all you’re left with are eyes the size of saucers as your body heaves with the force of your ugly cry. Sounds depressing. It kind of is. But it’s also unbelievably beautiful and made truly iconic by Sia’s incredible ballad.
Content Note: It should be noted that this show is rated TV-MA and extremely explicit.
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#4 Ella Henderson: Beautifully Unfinished
The Show: Reign (3×03)
The Scene: Stéphane Narcisse and Lola marry
‘Cause every time I’m with you, somehow I forget to breathe. You got me like a rag doll now I’m dancing on your string. And I keep trying to figure out, who you are to me. But maybe all that we are meant to be is beautifully unfinished.
Reign has had many wonderful musical moments but I finally chose this one. After what felt like years of courting, Stéphane Narcisse won the hand of Lady Lola. Their relationship went from comfort in a time of grief, a tentative friendship, pseudo-hate and then all the way back to the beginning. Despite all the issues on the periphery, Narcisse was determined to win Lola’s heart. He wouldn’t settle for an affair, he wanted it all. His diligence finally pays off when Lola says yes. Ella Henderson accompanies the soon to be Lord and Lady Narcisse as they walk down the aisle. I never thought the day would come. But when it did, it was perfect.
#5 Charlene Soraia: Wherever You Will Go
The Show: Beauty and the Beast (1×09)
The Scene: Vincent risks remaining incognito to dance with Catherine at her sister’s wedding
If I could, then I would, I’ll go wherever you will go. Way up high or down low, I’ll go wherever you will go.
Bubbling with romantic tropes, this CW show chose a cover of The Calling’s Wherever You Will Go for an epic VinCat moment. Accompanied by a piano, Charlene Soraia’s simple rendition is so romantic, I’m sure it instantly became a wedding playlist classic! Which is fitting considering the scene it’s paired with is at a wedding! Catherine is a bridesmaid but instead of sharing in the euphoria of the day, she’s kind of lonely. “I wish you could go with me,” she had wistfully told Vincent earlier in the episode. But because of his secret identity and beast tendencies, being in public was not a good idea. By episodes end though, Vincent said “screw it!” and arrives just in time to share a slow dance with Catherine. It’s so romantic, I still swoon on a loop when I watch it.
#6 Adele: Turning Tables
The Show: Dallas (1×01)
The Scene: Christopher marries Rebecca while Elena watches the love of her life choose another woman
So, I won’t let you close enough to hurt me. No, I won’t rescue you to just desert me. I can’t give you the heart you think you gave me. It’s time to say goodbye to turning tables.
Arguably the most well-known song on this list, it’s kind of ironic that it’s paired with this show – a remake of a classic. I don’t know how many people actually watched the Dallas revival. Clearly, I was one of them. At the end of the pilot episode, the fact that Christopher and Elena are Meant to Be is glaringly apparent. But this is Dallas and so all the soap opera tropes of old were lined up to torment us. Elena’s dating his brother. He’s about to marry someone else. Those facts don’t stop the longing looks and angst enough to power a small village. Elena’s heart breaks as she watches Christopher say “I do” to another woman. Believe me, when the first strains of Turning Tables starts and Jesse Metcalf’s long lashed, regretful gaze meets Jordana Brewster’s across the crowd… it just hurts.
#7 Christina Perri: Sea of Lovers
The Show: Jane the Virgin (1×06)
The Scene: Jane and Rafael share their first kiss
In the sea of lovers without ships. And lovers without sight. You’re the only way out of this sea of lovers losing time. And lovers losing hope. Will you let me follow you. Wherever you go. Bring me home.
Sugar and spice and all things nice. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love some part of Jane the Virgin, even if they’re not watching anymore. Christina Perri is brilliantly called upon to set the romantic tinder alight as Jane and Rafael finally give in to their steadily building attraction. She’s broken up with her Michael. He’s on his way to being a divorced, single dad. Not exactly the most ideal circumstances. But when he reaches for her and they kiss while white petals fall from the sky like weightless bundles of confetti, all you’re going to be able to do is squee. It’s one of those cheesy (in a good way) and incredibly romantic moments. It’s a classic.
#8 Gavin Rossdale: Love Remains the Same
The Show: Moonlight (1×16)
The Scene: The final moments from the series finale
I never thought that I had anymore to give. Pushing me so far, here I am without you. Drink to all that we have lost, mistakes we have made. Everything will change. But love remains the same.
Moonlight is a show that was ended too soon. It is also arguably one of the shows that spearheaded the vampire renaissance. Moonlight chronicles the story of a vampire and the human he saved many years prior. I was utterly obsessed with this show and remember quite vividly how passionately involved I was in the “Save Moonlight” campaign. The fandom was unfortunately not successful, but we’ll always have this scene. During the series finale, Mick and Beth struggle to reconcile the complexities of their relationship. He’s centuries old, immortal and hot as hell. She’s a human, aging with every breath she takes. It can’t work. It shouldn’t work. They should give each other up. But Mick knows what he wants. And it’s Beth. Gavin Rossdale’s ballad wrings every emotion from me as I console myself with the knowledge that despite its cancellation, MickBeth got their HEA.
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#9 Ruelle: War of Hearts
The Show: Shadowhunters (1×12)
The Scene: Alec and Magnus share their first kiss
Come to me, in the night hours. I will wait for you. And I can’t sleep, ’cause thoughts devour. Thoughts of you consume.
My dedication to Shadowhunters was kind of meh. That is, until episode 1×12, “Malec”. Alec was my favourite character and watching his attraction to Magnus grow became the reason I continued watching. Alec was falling in love for the first time but he didn’t quite know what to do with the emotions. Compounding the problem is his duty as a shadowhunter. In “Malec”, Alec finally sets aside doing what is right and proper and chooses to follow his heart. Ruelle is no newcomer to this show. In fact, she’s a frequent contributor to its soundtrack, including its title track. War of Hearts is sublimely placed as the backtrack to Alec squaring his shoulders and finally making a move on the Warlock he has a crush on.
#10 Switchfoot: Dare You To Move
The Show: One Tree Hill (1×08)
The Scene: Nathan and Hayley share their first kiss
Welcome to the fallout. Welcome to resistance. The tension is here. The tension is here. Between who you are and who you could be. Between how it is and how it should be.
I struggled. Really struggled to choose a song from One Tree Hill. This show is a minefield of precious, perfect songs that are etched on my heart. Matt Nathanson’s, Wedding Dress, almost made the list. But in the end, Nathan and Hayley were the couple that made it to the end of the series, its one true constant. Their first kiss is one of One Tree Hill’s many epic moments. In the first season, Nathan is a self-important, arrogant jock who needs Hayley’s help or he’ll fail his classes. Despite her better judgement, she decides to help him. But Nathan doesn’t respect her time or the effort she makes to help him. She’s pissed. He’s contrite. Of course, this is bound to end up in a passionate lip lock. The chorus just about swells as Hayley launches herself into Nathan’s arms. Feels. Feels for days.
#11 Coldplay: God Put A Smile On Your Face
The Show: Alias (2×14)
The Scene: Sydney and Vaughn’s first official dinner date
Where do we go nobody knows? I’ve gotta say I’m on my way down. God give me style and give me grace. God put a smile upon my face.
It took the spy and her handler 2.5 seasons to go from longing looks and low-key flirting to a full on passionate kiss fest among the decimated ruins of SD-6. In the episode thereafter, however, they’re on their first date. Sydney’s cooking but it’s clear every time the camera catches either of their faces that the meal is mere foreplay. Sydney is trying to season her sauce but Vaughn is tracking her every move – and she knows it. Listen, the tension between them is so dense a chainsaw would have trouble hacking through it. Coldplay perfectly compliments the anticipatory, flirty tone of the scene as they finally realise that food can be heated later – much later.
#12 Hozier: Arsonist’s Lullabye
The Show: The Originals (2×05)
The Scene: Elijah hallucinates and it’s… kinda hot.
All you have is your fire. And the place you need to reach. Don’t you ever tame your demons. But always keep them on a leash.
The Original’s creators have always held that Elijah was the most dangerous sibling – the wolf in sheep’s clothing. In The Red Door, Elijah’s thoughts go into the deepest, darkest recesses of his mind. Held captive, he is forced to revisit past memories of his varied atrocities. As a cruel twist, interspersed with the carnage, Elijah is manipulated into dreams of his happy place. It turns out that Hayley aiding in his rescue and offering her blood as a light snack is Elijah’s version of utopia. “I crave you,” he says. Yikes. Hozier’s heavy beats are the perfect compliment to the sexy scene, making it one of The Original’s most memorable musical moments.
#13 Naya Rivera: If I Die Young
The Show: Glee (5×03)
The Scene: Santana sings a tribute to Finn
If I die young, bury me in satin. Lay me down on a bed of roses. Sink me in the river at dawn. Send me away with the words of a love song.
I’m cheating a little with this inclusion. However, it’s such a great moment and the perfect song to convey the heartbreak and devastation the loss of Finn Hudson wrought on the characters. Santana, struggling with the death of Finn, finally sings a song at Glee club. While she starts the song strong, her attitude almost blasé, it doesn’t take long before the weight of the moment and her grief is too much to bear. I became a casual Glee viewer in later seasons, but I tuned in for this episode. It was the perfect tribute to Corey Monteith, who had tragically died months earlier. Not a dry eye for miles.
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#14 4 Non-Blondes: What’s Up
The Show: Sense8 (1×04)
The Scene: An epic sense8 karaoke spanning cultures and continents
So I wake in the morning and I step outside. And I take a deep breath and I get real high. And I scream from the top of my lungs, what’s going on?
Fabulous? Check. Uplifting? Check. Amazing? Check. Sense8 ticks every box and with the inclusion of an eight person karaoke, it instantly became one of the most memorable moments where character and music collide. As Riley sits on a hill and scrolls through her iPod, she selects “What’s Up” and begins to hum. As she does so, her psychic connection to 7 other people brilliantly places the song into their reality too. What ends up happening is a fantastic montage of eight strangers enjoying the same song, at the same time – some of them inexplicably with each other – despite the fact that they’re on different continents, in different time zones. It’s quite simply uplifting, joyous and oh so epic.
Content Note: It should be noted that this show is rated TV-MA and extremely explicit.
#15 Sara Bareilles: Gravity
The Show: Army Wives (3×06)
The Scene: Frank and Denise flashback on their marriage
You hold me without touch. You keep me without chains. I never wanted anything so much than to drown in your love, and not feel your reign.
The final spot on the list of the 15 Songs That Made A TV Moment Memorable goes to Sara Bareilles and her absolutely beautiful ballad, Gravity. It’s a song that some might recognise from The Vampire Diaries. My favourite use, however, came from the Lifetime show, Army Wives. Frank and Denise are having marital problems and they’ve reached the breaking point. Losing hope, they separately reflect on the highs and lows of their relationship. In a surprising fanvid-like moment, the audience is reminded of why Frank and Denise love each other, despite the pain and the tragedy they’ve endured. Gravity underscores their past happiness and their current misery. The montage ends with Frank, a tough military man in tears. I loved this show and I loved this moment.
There are many fantastic songs from current and older shows. For this list of the 15 Songs That Made A TV Moment Memorable, I chose television series from the past 10-15 years that were top of mind.
Are there any other songs from television series that elevated a scene or stuck in your mind? Comment below and let me know!
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox Television, Warner Bros. Television, ABC Studios, HBO, CBS Television Studios, Silver Pictures Television, Freeform Original Productions, Ryan Murphy Productions, Alloy Entertainment, Bad Robot Productions, Netflix, The Mark Gordon Company
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7 thoughts on “The Perfect Score – 15 Songs That Made A TV Moment Memorable”
I LOVE THIS LIST! Spot on with Sense 8 moment. That is, hands down, one of my favorite moments from the series! When I read Chasing Cars on your list, it wasn’t Danny’s death that came to mind, but Derek’s. Sleeping at Last did a cover of Chasing Cars that played Meredith and Derek’s final moments together before he died….instant tears whenever I hear Chasing Cars. Thank you for this post!
Ah, thanks Catherine! I watched Derek’s death on YT because at that point I had given up on the show – Mark and Lexie killed me and I couldn’t return to the show after their demise. But yes, this show chose that awesome song twice and both times were tearjerkers! Grey’s does music very well!
I can think of two off-hand: First, the original trailers for “Felicity” before the show began running, with Madonna’s “Power of Goodbye.” I wished they used that song as the series theme, because I associated it with Felicity.
Then there’s Delerium’s “Flowers Become Screens.” That song played in “Port Charles,” the scene in which vampire Caleb comes back after a long absence and dances with his love Livvy. Unfortunately the song was changed when the show went into syndication; they must’ve had some licensing issues. But for me, that song *is* about Caleb and Livvy re-connecting.
I never watched PC, but I can feel you on the licencing issues. Roswell featured Collective Soul’s “Run” during a Michael and Maria scene during its original run. On the DVD the song is changed. I’d always associated “Run” with the scene and with them. Doesnt quite feel like the same scene without it.
I’d add MIKA’s “Any Other World,” from The Elevator Scene, when Will & Alicia finally get together in “The Good Wife.” Haunting and on point.
Thanks for this. I will check it out 😀
I love pretty much every single one of your choices for this list, and your descriptions are perfection!!
Although I never become fully interested in The Vampire Diaries until the introduction of Bonnie and Enzo’s relationship (so pretty much just the last two and a half seasons, hehe!), I am a sucker for a fantastic dance scene, and that one between Damon and Elena is, as you said, electric.
While Switchfoot’s ‘Dare You to Move’ will forever and always put me in mind of A Walk to Remember, the Alias and Beauty and the Beast scenes you’ve highlighted are among some of my favorite TV romantic moments of all time.
Lastly, THANK YOU for spotlighting Sense8’s ‘What’s Up’ karaoke scene. One of the most perfectly placed songs in TV history, it just showcases so wonderfully well what makes the show so unique…and the fact that it turns into a beautifully joyful and intimate Kalagang moment doesn’t hurt in the slightest!