Those Theme Songs that Stick
By ACRN Staff
What is it that initially pulls us into a television show? For most, it isn’t the lusty male/female lead bouncing down the beach in a wet bathing suit, but the theme music that introduces every first scene.
In this modern era of television, theme music has become pretty eclectic. From those that are preexisting popular songs, to full instrumental pieces, to songs sung by cast members, theme music has become one of the most diverse parts of television.
In the past, some of the most catchy themes have been “Yo Home to Bel-Air” from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” from Cheers (which many sites refer to as the greatest theme song of all time). Instrumentally, the music from Night Rider andThe A-Team have become some of the most memorable.
But, whether you enjoy a theme song for its corresponding television show or because it's a genuinely good song can be up for questioning. Regardless, here are some of ACRN's favorites--and we're proud of them.
“Way Down in the Hole” – Tom Waits (Featured on The Wire)
If you still consider television art and if the purpose of art is to strive for truth, then HBO’s The Wire is undoubtedly a masterpiece; a testament to the segmented, grand narratives we call TV shows. Every aspect, from the characters to the sociological examination of the story, shows how the program's creators were always very deliberate in portraying Baltimore in all its gritty realism.
The level of dedication and craft is on display even in the opening sequence, making it a part of the show's fabric, subtly exuding The Wire’s themes as they changed from season to season.
The song in question, “Way Down in the Hole,” was written by Tom Waits in 1987. His version was used for the second season, but each new season provided an alternate interpretation of the song set to quick cuts from moments of that particular season.
Each version of the song is vastly different; from The Blind Boys of Alabama to The Neville Brothers to Steve Earle and even a few lucky local Baltimore musicians; each group or musician does the original justice and then some.
There’s no favorite or best here--each version of “Way Down in the Hole” acts as its own entity. They aren’t different just for the sake of variety (though that is nice), they change appropriately just as the characters, plotlines and focus of The Wire does.
-Scott Smith, Reviews Editor
“I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts (Featured on Friends)
I pretty much grew up watching Friends. I have seen every episode and every rerun, never to be disappointed. I always loved every single character on the show, and I spent so much time wishing I had their lives. The ups and downs the characters had throughout the show are so relatable to real life.
"I'll be there for you." Those are the words from the song and the words that I live by. I think friendship is so important and the show proves how lasting it can be.
-Nadia Kurtz, Staff Writer
“Go Go Power Rangers” by Ron Wasserman (Featured on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Every kid needs a hero on television to look up to. I didn't just look up to one hero though. I looked up to six of them. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were my idols when I was a little kid. I have very fond memories of playing with action figures and video games based on the series and, as I pretended to be my favorite heroes, I always listened to their theme music. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme song is a guitar-driven monster of a tune that will always be one of my favorites.
-Justin Silk, Staff Writer
“Thank You for Being a Friend” by Cynthia Fee (Featured on The Golden Girls)
Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia. The Golden Girls was a fabulous television program about four senior citizen women 'kickin' it' and proving that age is just a set of numbers. Like the show itself, the theme song, sung by Cynthia Fee, never gets old. Not only will the lyrics stick to you like the humidity of Miami (where the show is set), but the poppy beat will also have you embracing your buds around a Kumbaya circle passionately belting the famous line, "Thank you for being a friend!"
-Capri Ciulla, Staff Writer
“Hey Girl” by Zooey Deschanel (Featured on New Girl)
Let's get real here ... the days where the stars of the show were the ones singing the theme tune, a la "The Brady Bunch," are long gone. These days, many intros are short instrumentals or pop-rock songs borrowed from the charts. But the made-for-TV theme? A nostalgic idea at best.
But, of course, there is the lady for days of yore in the pop culture world nowadays ... Ms. Zooey Deschanel. That actress/singer is now the star of FOX's new TV show, New Girl, and this show has an original, quirky theme song to go along with its original, quirky star. Written and sung by the "She" half of She & Him herself, "Hey Girl" perfectly captures the fun, light personality of the show and the main character, Jess. Additionally, it calls back to old-school television, where customized theme songs sung by the stars reigned supreme, further displaying the personality of the show. But, to add a modern twist, the track also has a killer interactive video!
-Carolyn Menyes, Managing Editor
"Little Boxes" - Malvina Reynolds (Featured on Weeds)
Say what you will about me, but I love the Weeds theme song. I know. How ever so cliché and hipster of me to choose the indie-est of TV theme songs for the indie-est of TV shows. Don’t I appreciate the classics? Yes, of course I do, but not their theme songs. I’m not going to pretend I love the opening to Full House just because it’s one of the greatest shows in television history.
That being said, the introduction to Weeds can (and does) stand on its own as a truly catchy and snarky song. Malvina Reynolds coined the original version in 1962 and from then, the song has been covered many times for the purpose of Weeds by the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Regina Spektor and The Shins. It was a pleasant surprise hearing those versions, and it became even more obvious that the makers of the show put as much effort into the theme song as they did the show (that is, if you don't consider the later seasons).
Not only that, but it’s perhaps the most fitting of songs for the show. It’s almost like Reynolds made the song for the show, or maybe they made the show based on Reynolds’ wisdom. Either way, it symbolizes just how rehearsed and resembling the world can be, and no one can deny that gets a little tiring. At least Nancy Botwin, a mother of two, was different and daring enough to sell drugs in suburbia, right? Maybe that’s not what Reynolds was getting it, or maybe it was. Regardless, it’s a great song in and out of Weeds.
-Hannah Cook, Editorial Director
“The X-Files” composed by Mark Snow (Featured on The X-Files)
Try this at your next party: throw on the theme from the X-Files and see how many people check behind their shoulders. They can't be blamed--that song is paranoia in a sound wave. If that song had been written earlier in history, it might have been blasted out of helicopters to scare citizens of developing countries. Luckily for them, it has so far been featured only on television and the dance floor.
But the dance remix does seem cruel. There has got to be some poor club kid who had a bad trip when the song came on and tried to tear down a strobe light, probably screaming the entire time about clones, aliens, cigarette smoke and alien-clones. Security came and tried to grab him, but he thought he could squeeze through one-inch cracks like that guy from season one, and so he only electrocuted himself on a non-grounded wire dangling between the strobe light's support beams. Actually, play it safe. Don't play this song at your next party.
-Duncan Shaw, Contributor
“Get Crazy” by LMFAO (Featured on Jersey Shore)
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the television show for its insightful information on the “Italian” lifestyle, or the homely advice from orange people with low IQs. The show is entertaining to me because of the sheer stupidity of it. I mean, who doesn’t like to see short drunk girls fall on their faces or get punched? I know who does: people who like reality. And who better to be picked for the biggest joke in television but the biggest joke in music, LMFAO.
Yes, we only hear the lyrics “Get crazy / get wild / if you wanna have and do something crazy,” but the song has more lyrical gems. Out of every single grouping of lines, my favorite would have to be, “When I was a baby I was suckin' on titties / Now that I’m older still suckin' on titties.” I know, the music is awful. But, it’s one of the few songs that jog my memory of Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi drunkenly face planting into the sand during season three.
-Kyle Rutherford, Staff Writer