My pals over at Underscoopfire have written a few posts about the best TV theme songs of various decades. The most iconic theme songs, however, do not lead to mainstream musical success. Every band is looking for its big break, and you’d think there’d be no bigger break than national television, right? WRONG! A few bands made it to the dance by getting their songs placed as themes for popular television shows. Unfortunately, these bands couldn’t spin that exposure into mainstream success. Be it the overexposure of weekly television, or the fact that people came to identify them with only that song, these bands are pretty much One Hit Wonders. I thought we’d take a look at a few of them, shall we?
The BoDeans – Closer to Free
This served as the theme song to Party of Five, one of the most depressing hours on television. Seriously, the Salingers couldn’t win. The only redeeming part was in later seasons Lacey Chabert’s Claudia grew from a frumpy, violin-playing bitch to an older, hotter bitch. She was the smartest one in the family, but she was SUCH a sanctimonious bitch about it. Anyway, this theme song is probably your only exposure to The BoDeans. Yeah, I’m sure someone will chime in and say “They’re still playing”, but the point is that nobody cares.
The Rembrandts – I’ll Be There For You
Remember 1994, when nothing could go wrong? We all had the yellow Sport Discman, and you could still buy CD singles? This quirky show about pretty white folks in a coffee shop debuted and, you guys, this theme song is NEVER gonna get old! I mean, it’s about friendship and always being there for people. I’m amazed the Rembrandts aren’t prepping for their 20th anniversary tour of all their hits. Well, they’re not. This song was the Alpha and the Omega in the career of the Rembrandts.
Paula Cole – I Don’t Wanna Wait
Ah, “The Creek”. The spiritual prequel to One Tree Hill, this show set the standard for what a WB teen drama should be. Angst, pretty 30 year olds pretending to be teenagers, and trees. Lots and lots of lakes and trees. Paula Cole kinda went backwards here. Instead of emerging due to the theme song, she was a known quantity prior to Dawson’s Creek, thanks to “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” After “I Don’t Wanna Wait”, Paula kinda disappeared. Sure, she was on the whole Lilith Fair circuit, but that’s not exactly mainstream success, now is it?
The Dandy Warhols – We Used To Be Friends
I feel like this might be the controversial entry, as I know The Dandy Warhols have fans. My point, though, is that Joe Public can’t name a Dandy Warhols song. Hell, they probably don’t even know that this song was by a band called the Dandy Warhols. They all signed those “Save Veronica Mars” petitions, but never learned who performed that great theme song.
Remy Zero – Save Me
This, hands down, is the only redeemable part of Smallville. I honestly tuned in just to hear this, and then I’d change the channel. The visuals also really help, but this is part of my gym mix. It’s THAT damn good. I, honestly, don’t even need anything else from Remy Zero. They came to Earth, like the Phoenix Force, to bestow this musical badassery upon us. When they were done, they ascended to the Elysian Fields or Narnia or whatever ethereal utopia in which you believe. Mission accomplished.
Aimee Allen – Revolution
Ms Allen contributed the theme to Birds of Prey, the show about Batman’s daughter and her wheelchair-bound partner. Oh, and there was a psychic blonde girl who was the daughter of Aunt Becky from Full House. I know I’m not selling it here, but it’s not that bad. People hate the idea of it on paper, but it’s no worse than the idea of Superman wearing flannel, as pieces of the SAME damn 10 yr old meteor storm proceed to fuck up his life on a weekly basis. I’ve gotten into fights over this, but BoP was NO WORSE than Smallville. It’s just that Bat fans seem to be more protective than Superfans, so they jumped ship early. Anyway, the show lost a little of what made it special, as this theme wasn’t cleared for the DVD release.
Phantom Planet – California
Yeah, The O.C. was one of the most popular shows of the early ’00s. Now, name another Phantom Planet song. You can tell me that it’s Jason Schwartzman’s band, and you can probably tell me that they came and played at your college, but you can’t name another song.
Honorable Mention: Dido – Here With Me
This song was actually Dido’s first US single, and was used as the theme for Roswell. Dido wouldn’t really become much of a “name” until Eminem samples her song “Thank You” on “Stan”. Even though Dido isn’t exactly huge these days, I feel like she’s an artist who was able to establish herself in spite of her theme song placement. I don’t think that it helped her, but it certainly didn’t hinder her.
Winner: Gavin DeGraw – I Don’t Wanna Be
I think Gavin’s the first one to do it right. I will say that Gavin completely benefited from having his song as the One Tree Hill theme. Ask any fan, and they will tell you that this song is as much a character in the show as Lucas or Brooke. When it disappeared in the 5th season, it was missed. When it reemerged in the series finale, actually performed by DeGraw, it brought things full circle. The WB always prided itself on trying to break new artists, which is why most of the shows ended with the “This episode of ____ contained music by____” tag. At the moment, DeGraw stands as The WB’s biggest musical alum, and I honestly think a lot of that can be traced back to his exposure from One Tree Hill.
By no means is this a definitive list, and I’m sure I forgot some, so feel free to chime in down in the comments!