These 19 TV Soundtracks Will Have You Jamming Out In No Time, From 'Stranger Things' To 'The O.C.'
Looking back, there's a good chance that TV soundtracks introduced you to some of your favorite bands. And often, the soundtracks were just as amazing as the shows. Maybe The O.C. kick-started your emo phase long before "MySpace emo" became a thing, introducing you to Death Cab For Cutie and Elliott Smith. Or, if emo music wasn't your thing, maybe you discovered pop punk bands like Paramore and All Time Low through Degrassi: The Next Generation. One thing's certain: The best TV soundtracks are the ones that widen your musical horizons and make you want to listen to them nonstop, no matter how long it's been since you've last watched the show.
But besides older shows, there are also tons of new ones that have been just as instrumental in turning artists and bands you love into stars. Insecure's music is just as relatable as the show, making fans fall in love with SZA's songs, leading to her debut album becoming a huge success. And shows like 13 Reasons Why introduced millions of viewers to indie artists like Destroyer, Future Islands, Car Seat Headrest, and more.
Then, of course, there are TV shows that double as quirky musicals, like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Flight of the Conchords. These shows produce unforgettable original songs that'll stick with you forever. With that in mind, here are 19 of the best TV soundtracks that might have influenced your taste in music without you even realizing so.
1. 'The O.C.'
When fans look back at The O.C., they think about its soundtrack just as much as its beloved characters. And that's for a good reason. The show premiered plenty of iconic songs, including Gwen Stefani's "Cool" and Coldplay's "Fix You." The show also introduced indie bands that became a large part of many's teen indie mixtapes, like of Montreal and Rilo Kiley.
Plus, plenty of bands that were then obscure but became mainstream made appearances, like Modest Mouse and The Killers. And who can forget Seth's obsession with Death Cab for Cutie?
If you didn't think '70s and '80s hits were cool growing up, chances are Scrubs changed your mind. The show's soundtrack combined both indie artists like The Shins (who also played a large role in Zach Braff's Garden State) and Dashboard Confessional, with classics by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Erasure, Billy Joel, and Cheap Trick.
3. 'Twin Peaks'
Twin Peaks' soundtrack became iconic because of its original score, with a gorgeous, spooky theme song that's instantly recognizable to anyone—even if they haven't watched the show.
And when the show came back in 2017, it featured some great artists playing The Bang Bang Bar, too, like Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, and Sharon Van Etten.
4. 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'
Whenever Buffy and The Scooby Gang had any free time in between fighting evil, they could always to be found at The Bronze. You might not have recognized all of the bands at the time, but plenty of big names played the club, including Michelle Branch, The Breeders, and Aimee Mann.
Plus, who can forget the Buffy musical episode?
5. 'Freaks & Geeks'
Freaks & Geeks was set in 1980, so the soundtrack heavily relied on tons of '70s classics. This includes Rush (who Nick Andopolis was obsessed with), Cheap Trick, Styx, Queen, The Who, and more. The soundtrack was always a large part of the short-lived show, with Lindsay following The Grateful Dead on tour by the end of the series, while Nick went through his disco phase, loving ABBA.
6. 'Gossip Girl'
Gossip Girl's soundtrack might remind you a bit of The O.C.'s—and that's because they both had the same creator and music supervisor. The show's soundtrack included some of the biggest indie rock bands at the time, including Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT, The Kills, Bloc Party, and more.
Before Coldplay and Foo Fighters became huge, they appeared in the Daria soundtrack back in the late '90s. And the show introduced tons of teens to the perfect songs that fit those angsty teen feelings, featuring bands and artists like Garbage, Fiona Apple, Blur, and PJ Harvey.
8. 'This Is Us'
Watching This Is Us means you're likely to cry, so it makes sense that the soundtrack would include artists known for their heartfelt, solemn songs like Sufjan Stevens, Conor Oberst, and Wilco. Plus, the show's star, Mandy Moore, also contributes to the soundtrack. It's rare to hear Moore sing these days, so it feels like the ultimate treat when she does.
9. 'Big Little Lies'
One of the biggest mysteries in Big Little Lies is how six-year-old Chloe developed such amazing taste in music so fast. The youngster is constantly introducing her parents to new artists and listening to classics that most people don't learn to appreciate till their teen years, like PJ Harvey and Fleetwood Mac. Her sophisticated tastes may be mysterious, but Chloe does create the perfect soundtrack to narrate her mom's troubles, so props to her.
10. 'Gilmore Girls'
The O.C. is often credited as the TV show that introduced so many of its teenage fans to beloved bands, but Gilmore Girls has a soundtrack that easily rivals it, with some cool guest appearances, too — like that one time Sonic Youth appeared on the show. And Rory had amazing taste that's far more eclectic than Seth's. The soundtrack was made to reflect that, featuring songs by Björk, Frank Sinatra, The Shins, Yo La Tengo, Pixies, David Bowie, and Belle & Sebastian.
Insecure's soundtrack is so important because it showcases tons of incredible female artists of color with its eclectic soundtrack, including Leikeli47, SZA, LION BABE, and Rico Nasty.
12. ' Flight of the Conchords'
It's been nearly a decade since the show ended, but who can ever forget the lyrics to "Business Time" or "The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)"?
13. '13 Reasons Why'
Selena Gomez is one of the show's executive producers, so it makes sense that its soundtrack plays such a large role. And the show doesn't rely on just pop hits, either. It features a nice mix of original songs by Gomez, plus classics by Joy Division and The Cure, with a smattering of indie artists like Telekinesis, Protomartyr, Angel Olsen, and Car Seat Headrest.
Donald Glover's show Atlanta celebrates the city's rap scene, and it's important for the soundtrack to reflect that vibe. That's why the series prides itself in featuring well-known rappers like 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane, and even Glover himself as Childish Gambino.
15. 'How I Met Your Mother'
Throughout the show, there are tons of music references, from Ted's crush on Pixies and The Breeders' Kim Deal, to the gang thinking they were hanging out with Moby on New Year's Eve. So it makes perfect sense that the soundtrack would feature a mix of well-known artists and indie bands, reflecting the gang's varied tastes.
16. 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend'
When it comes to shows with original soundtracks, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has some of the most hilarious songs. From period sex ("Period Sex") to hot guys not having perfect lives ("Fit Hot Guys Have Problems Too”), the show's songs tackle it all.
Both Mickey and Gus are very into music, so it's fitting that the show's soundtrack includes a great mix of big names like Chance The Rapper, Fleetwood Mac, and Weezer, while also introducing indie bands like Eternal Summers, !!!, FIDLAR, and more.
18. 'Stranger Things''
When it comes to any TV show or movie set in the '80s, the soundtrack is so important. And rather than using the same hits from the decade as every other show, Stranger Things' soundtrack feels so different, featuring mood-setting songs by New Order, Peter Gabriel, and Olivia Newton-John.
19. 'Degrassi: The Next Generation'
Degrassi was a hit during the MySpace era, and its soundtrack embraced that, featuring pop punk bands like Paramore, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Hellogoodbye, and All Time Low. And, of course, nearly every episode was named after a song, so the music had to be a big part of the show.
Listening to these soundtracks will make you feel so nostalgic, and introduce you to new artists — and maybe even inspire a TV marathon or two.