“Woke up this morning, bought yourself a gun”
If you can’t recognize that lyric, then you probably shouldn’t be reading this. But then again, you’d only be depriving yourself of finding out about the best not-so-hidden gems in TV.
If you’re asking yourself why you should care, especially if you never have and don’t plan on ever watching these shows (huge mistake), this is the beauty of these theme songs. They are good enough on their own to keep in your music library.
Now, usually people like to list in a top 5 fashion, but it’s really hard to place one song over another. They’re all great in their respective ways, and fit different themes depending on the show they’re representing. So let’s break it down according to my own random preference. Oh! And before we start, I would like to make one disclaimer that we’re talking about real songs here. Not themes- though those have their own special place on a list of best-somethings out there. Ok, now I’m ready to begin:
1. The Wire: The Blind Boys of Alabama- “Way Down in the Hole”
Now, technically, this song is originally written and sung by Tom Waits, however, this is the version that you’re introduced to when watching the first season. The deep bass in the background, the high chirp of the distorted guitar, it almost makes you sad when the episode begins, because you know the song ended.
During the show’s 4 other seasons, they play different versions of the songs (including Tom Waits’), which is actually one of the greatest and rarest uses of the theme song that I’ve seen on television. Since every season focuses on different aspects (parts of the system that are corrupt in Baltimore) and a different story, it only makes sense to have different versions of the same theme song. The show is still in unison over its overarching story/morale, but it emphasizes that there are different players and pieces of the puzzle that altogether are the cause of the war of drugs (and yes, I specifically used “of” instead of “on”) in Baltimore. But if you want to know more about that, you’ll just have to watch it.
2. True Detective (Season 1): The Handsome Family- “Far From Any Road”
I must admit, this instantly got my attention. Could it have been because the opening scene of True Detective was so great and I was just blinded by its genius that I conformed to the theme? Nope. This is a great folk-western song that sets the mood for the Louisiana backdrop of the show so perfectly, I can’t even put sentences together to be able to describe it. So I won’t- just listen.
3. Luther: Massive Attack- “Paradise Circus”
Yes, that’s a name you probably already recognize. And it may even be a song you already know-and yes, they cut/edited it for the show. But it’s still brilliant. Dark and breathy, it is the butter to the toast for the mental games this show plays, and I mean, that voice…can’t find that anywhere else on TV.
4. Scrubs: Lazlo Bane- Superman
Ok, ok. So I really love Scrubs. Like, a lot. Enough to binge watch all 8 (refusing to count the 9th) seasons at least twice a year. Now, I will admit that the full version of this song is probably not one I would keep in my music library, but damn. That song gets stuck in your head for the rest of the day every single time it plays…and it has its own charm- also, I feel like I needed to break up the dark and moody feel of this post a bit, don’t you agree?
5. The Sopranos: Alabama 3- “Woke Up This Morning”
Now, this song is sexy. Absolutely hands-down the best theme song in a TV show (according to my opinion with my limited theme song knowledge). I currently have this downloaded in my library, which is a daily reminder of how influential and incredible this show was. But also, it’s a badass song that deserves its own credit.
So there it is. My list of some of the best TV theme songs of all time. And yes, I know there will always be the Friends and Cheers of the world, but can you listen to any of those without the context of the show? Didn’t think so.
I would also like to point out some honourable mentions, since this list of 5 is not the be-all and end-all of TV:
Community: The 88- “At Least It was Here”
The Affair: Fiona Apple- “Container”
Narcos: Rodrigo Amarante- “Tuyo”
Wet Hot American Summer: Jefferson Starship- “Jane”
If any of you know of any themes that you believe belong on this list, feel free to let me know in the comments! Maybe we can make a part 2 with a new list 🙂