The 5 Greatest Forgotten TV Soundtracks You Need to Hear Now
Incredible Music From Your Favorite Late 90s/Early 2000s Teen Dramas
The late 90s/early 2000s were a great time for television 📺 geared towards young people. An influx of shows that featured teens and young adults not only gave their young viewers the opportunity to see themselves in the characters, but spoke to their love of new music 🎵. Shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, One Tree Hill, and The O.C. made a concerted effort to make room for musicians and new bands in the storytelling, so their soundtracks were a huge part of those shows’ fandoms (and still are). These soundtracks helped drive sales for the artists too. But how long has it been since you listened to them? Have you ever checked them out? Since we have been doing watch party rewatches of Buffy, Felicity, and Dawson’s Creek on our programming slate, now is the time! We put together a list of our favorite TV soundtracks from the late 1990s/early 2000s. And before you ask, yes! We made a playlist! It’s our millennial mix-cd, if you will. 💽
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Album and Radio Sunnydale–Music From the TV Series
The year was 1997. The cast was fresh-faced. The network was relatively new. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, based on the movie 🎬 of the same name, graced our television screens on the WB network in March of that year and the rest, as they say, is history. In 1999, a soundtrack album was released featuring mostly unknown artists (although popular artist Alison Krauss and the band Garbage were also on the track list.) The soundtrack covered the first four seasons, though some of the tracks never were even on the show. The music in the show appears throughout the episodes, but some of the musicians on the soundtrack, like Velvet Chain and Splendid, are featured on screen at The Bronze, the music venue that the characters–and more than a few vampires–often hang out at. (The music at The Bronze has such an iconic feel that we hosted Jukebox Jams at the Bronze events during our Buffy slate watch; check out the playlists we built on our Spotify page!) The album contained a few hits, too, like Hepburn’s “I Quit” and The Sundays’ cover of “Wild Horses.” There were two more Buffy soundtracks: Radio Sunnydale–Music From the TV Series which contained music from seasons five to seven and Once More, With Feeling, based on a very special episode of the show. Inexplicably, Cibo Matto’s “Sugar Water” did not appear on any of the soundtracks, except for the Latin American and U.K. versions of the second volume.
2. Songs From Dawson’s Creek and Songs From Dawson’s Creek Volume 2
In 1998, hot on the heels of the success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the WB, the network premiered a new show for teens that wasn’t as dark (literally). Dawson’s Creek is a sweet teen drama about sweaty palms, first loves ❤️💔, and over-analyzing every moment of the confusing time that is teenager-hood. And it has a sweet, introspective lineup of songs on its soundtrack to match. Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Wanna Wait,” which is the show’s theme song, appears on the soundtrack. The subject of the theme song is a touchy one, depending on the fan (or artist). Canadian songwriter and singer Jann Arden was asked to write a song for the opening, called “Run Like Mad.” But at the last minute, Paula Cole’s popular song was picked instead. However the series producers didn’t get the rights for the song in perpetuity, so the DVD releases and streaming platforms featured Arden’s track, at least at first. There’s a bit of a dark history surrounding the use of the song and Paula Cole’s relationship to the show and its history because of this complicated arrangement (she and lead actor James Van Der Beek have one thing in common: they both would run from the song when hearing it in public). But recently, Cole re-recorded the song for streaming platforms to use, so fans could have the track back and she could own rights to the master. The Dawson’s Creek soundtrack also features Canadian star Chantal Kreviazuk, whose music appears in several episodes, and the very popular “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer. Power ballad “Did You Ever Love Somebody” by then-unknown Jessica Simpson appears in a Season 2 episode and on the first soundtrack. The album was a commercial success and was the fifth bestselling album of 1999 in Australia. The second volume featured more hits from Jessica Simpson, Train, Shawn Colvin, Nine Days, Five for Fighting, Pete Yorn, Splender and Evan & Jaron (if that lineup doesn’t scream the year 2000, we’re not sure what does!)
3. Felicity and Senior Year
The year 1998 was a big one not so much for teen angst, but teen anxiety 😬. While the kids of Dawson’s Creek were stressed about first crushes and whether or not they’d make it out of their small town, Felicity Porter was headed from California to a New York City college to follow her high school crush. Of course, if you’re a fan of Felicity (created by J.J. Abrams), you know that’s not *quite* the whole story. The show stars a young Keri Russell, who convinces the audience early on that she can’t really be put in a box: she’s brainy, but beautiful; totally naive, yet has an old soul; quiet and studious, but prone to outbursts of frustration. The soundtrack is equally difficult to define. New songs from artists of the time like Heather Nova (who also appears on the Dawson’s soundtrack) and 90s superstar Sarah McLachlan are seated right next to Aretha Franklin, Peter Gabriel, and Kate Bush on the track list. And Amy Jo Johnson, the actress who plays Felicity’s new best friend Julie, has a track on the album as well. In the show, Julie is a songwriter and performs “Puddle of Grace” at an open mic night 🎤. A second volume of music from the show, Felicity: Senior Year, featured more music from Shawn Colvin, Chantal Kreviazuk, and Sixpence None the Richer–all artists that had tracks on other concurrent WB teen dramas.
4. One Tree Hill–Music From the Television Series, Vol. 1, Friends With Benefit and The Road Mix: Music From the Television Series One Tree Hill, Volume 3
The teen drama One Tree Hill, starring Chad Michael Murray (Gilmore Girls’ Tristan) and Moira Kelly (say it with us now: “toe-pick!”) and launched the careers of Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton, and Bethany Joy Lenz was incredibly focused on music. You might think it’s a show about warring brothers on the same basketball 🏀 team (and, it is), but music is such a part of One Tree Hill that there’s an official website dedicated to the music in the show. There are three soundtrack volumes. These kids don’t have The Bronze to see the newest musical acts, but they do have TRIC, an all-ages club where musical artists are always coming to play. In fact, the writers introduced the club into the storyline in order to get more bands onto the show. Burton’s character Peyton Sawyer uses music as her solace, and books bands for the club. In one episode she arranges a concert for breast cancer awareness, and produces an album 💿 featuring artists from the performance. Fans could buy the album, Friends With Benefit, and proceeds also went to the cause. (Friends With Benefit, started by fans, exists today as an active real-world charity organization that runs One Tree Hill-themed events that take place on the site of TRIC. Events benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, among others. You can buy tickets to see TRIC or attend a benefit show there if you’re ever in Wilmington, NC!) In the show, TRIC had artists like Fall Out Boy (the band’s Pete Wentz actually had a cringey multi-episode character arc), The Wreckers (Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp), Sheryl Crow, Jimmy Eat World and Gavin DeGraw (whose iconic “I Don’t Wanna Be” was the theme song of the series) come through. The show launched music careers for both Bethany Joy Lenz, who plays Haley James, and Tyler Hilton, who plays Chris Keller. The characters connect as musicians and go on tour together in the narrative of the show, while Lenz and Hilton actually went on tour in the real world. They still play charity events together!
5. Music From The O.C.: Mixes 1-5
It’s hard to argue that the TV show The O.C. was a cultural reset. The show premiered in 2004 and of course starred Mischa Barton, Adam Brody (another Gilmore Girls alum), Rachel Bilson, Peter Gallagher and Ben McKenzie. Set in Southern California’s affluent Orange County, it followed a few wealthy 💸teens–and one kid from the “wrong side of the tracks”–with grown up issues. It was no Dawson’s Creek, that’s for sure. The O.C. set off a domino effect of interest in the real lives of teens who live in these picturesque places, and Laguna Beach, a reality show that followed teens in Laguna Beach, CA, quickly followed. In the same tradition as teen shows like Dawson’s Creek, Buffy, and One Tree Hill, the music of The O.C. was a feature of the storytelling. It’s been argued that The O.C. changed TV soundtracks forever, because the role of a music supervisor evolved into contemporary music tastemaker. The O.C. soundtracks came in the form of six separate mixes, released after seasons (though there were only four seasons of the show). There’s even a holiday themed Chrismukkuh mix. Countless “best music from The O.C.” compilations appear all over the internet. No, really.) Artists like The Killers, All American Rejects, Liz Phair, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie and tons more are featured in the show. Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” is the stunning audio companion to a pivotal scene that nobody can forget–or separate the song from in their minds. In short, The O.C. took what previous shows did with music and went even further, making the soundtrack akin to another character on the show.
What soundtracks from TV shows do you love? Head over to our Discord to find fans who love discussing the shows we mentioned here, or host a Jukebox Jam of your favorite TV or movie soundtracks! To hear the music from these soundtracks, check out our playlist on Spotify, and follow us for more fannish playlists!
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