As Heard on TV
The songs you like, from the shows you love
Ever watched a TV show intro and thought, “Man…that song was actually pretty good”? Chances are it’s because you’re experiencing that once-in-a-long-while lark of TV production where (rather than hire some Hollywood hack to pinch off a piece of quasi-music) people in TV land pick real songs by real artists to be the audio thumbprint for their show. It’s a trend that I love, especially because it can catapult worthy acts onto a huge national stage, circumventing the record label quagmire, and earning ears based on good taste rather than good marketing.
Below are a few examples of these theme songs—some are well known, and others might surprise you. I came up with four off the top of my head, but am sure there are many more. What’s your favorite “real song” theme song? Add it in the comments or tweet me @soundsofdwa and let’s talk it out, bro or bro-ette.
“Feel it All Around”: Washed Out, Life of Leisure
As if Fred Armisen and Kerrie Brownstein needed an extra ounce hipster cred behind this show (whether feigned or not), this track from Ernest Greene that seals the deal. Washed Out is on the avant garde of post-post rock production, sweeping the sounds of artists like Grizzly Bear and James Blake just a little bit farther out to sea, beloved by Pitchfork, and also just capable of making some sweet tunes.
“Teardrop”: Massive Attack, Mezzanine
Ashamed as I am to say it, this is the song that got me into Massive Attack—just one of the dozens of British acts kicking the ass of the American pop music scene. As a well-disguised Brit, part of me wonders whether Hugh Laurie was responsible for their selection, but it’s probably just wishful thinking. I love that guy.
Other fun facts about this song: it has a super creepy music video featuring a baby singing in-utero (watch it here), and the cover of the album is strangely similar to that from Saosin’s eponymous 2006 release (Massive Attack Here, Saosin Here).
“California”: Phantom Planet, The Guest
This one’s a few years old, and is probably the most well-known of the four. Phantom Planet had a nice run of success from ‘94–’08, and word on the internet is they’ve reformed and are gearing up to begin touring again. Catchy pop-rock sound aside, they get extra cool points for the fact that hipster Jesus and Wes Anderson darling Jason Schwartzman was the original drummer for the band. Though no longer in the outfit, Schwartzman is still making music today as Coconut Records. Give a listen if you haven’t.
The Big Bang Theory
“History of Everything”: Barenaked Ladies
This is the “not like the others” part to this post: this was a song written for specifically for The Big Bang Theory. Still, it’s cool that the Barenaked Ladies were hired to write and perform as opposed to the earlier-mentioned hacky TV trolls. The song brings out the best of what Barenaked Ladies does: tons of smart lyrics spangling in tenor-pop glory, with a sound so infectious you’re sure to find yourself singing it later on.
@PopMosaicBlog— Mad Men: “A Beautiful Mine” by RJD2
@PopMosaicBlog—Dave’s World: “You May Be Right” by Billy Joel, performed by Southside Johnny