Today marks The OC’s 10 year anniversary. We celebrate the occasion by reminiscing over our 10 favorite musical moments from the show.
What would The OC be without its groundbreaking soundtrack? Sure it would have still been a fantastic show – but think about what it would have lost if the music was taken away.
Somehow, the creators of The OC managed to make the soundtrack into its own character. An element that was just as important as Ryan, Seth, Marissa, or Summer. The music had its own identity and attitude. It was there for every fight, moment of goodbye, party, wedding, and death. Framing it and taking the experience to another level.
Phantom Planet – ‘California’
There are theme songs and then there are songs that define a show – Phantom Planet’s “California” is the latter. Whether you were a casual fan or a avid watcher, the first few notes that open the song will have anyone remotely familiar swimming in nostalgia. “California” is more of an anthem than it is a song. And Phantom Planet managed to capture the spirit of The OC with their song in a way that transported the audience to Orange County week-after-week– a miraculous feat, especially considering Phantom Planet penned the tune years before the show even existed!
Ryan Adams – ‘Wonderwall’
This was the moment where every girl in the world was swept off their feet by Seth Cohen and had their hearts broken by Ryan Atwood. “Wonderwall” was originally performed by Oasis in 1995, but this Ryan Adams cover gave a whole new generation of kids a song to cry their eyes out to. Covers were frequently used, and they were extremely successful because they never tried to be carbon copies of the original. Instead the cover artists, most of whom were hand picked by music supervisor Alexandra Pastavas, seemed to pay respect to the original while adding a new contemporary layer that served to fit the new song into the musical landscape of its time.
Rooney – ‘I’m Shakin’
You can’t talk about California inspired music without bringing up Rooney. Their self titled album has a quintessential west coast sound, and they quickly became the poster boys for the beach music scene. And if their west coast sound isn’t enough for you, there’s the subtle tribute to the California state flag on the cover of their album– what’s more west coast than that? Rooney is one of the many indie bands that got their big break on The OC back in season 1 when the kids went to watch the band perform live. Their music became a staple to the series as a whole, and they even contributed to the infamous Chrismukkah soundtrack the show released later in season 3.
Youth Group – ‘Forever Young’
Any OC fan worth their weight will know exactly what this song represents. Every pairing needs to have an anthem and this song defines Ryan and Marissa. It’s hard to know if the producers knew what was coming for the couple in years to come – if they knew the two really would wish to be forever young. But as we look back it’s evident how this bittersweet song fits the couple so perfectly.
Finley Quaye & William Orbit – ‘Dice’
Speaking of Ryan and Marissa… This song/scene moment may be the best for the couple in the history of the show. (But I could be biased, seeing as I spent my sophomore year playing this on repeat and crying over the boy I had a crush on.) Alas, this is some pretty dramatic and fulfilling storytelling. Two people madly in love with each other spending their entire New Years wishing to be with the other – meeting with seconds to spare for their midnight kiss. If that isn’t picture perfect and swoon worthy, then nothing is. And the song, THE SONG. It builds to this sultry climax that fits so perfectly with the moment you could cry.
Jem – ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’
Once again The OC manages to find an artist that can take an iconic song and turn it into something with its own identity. Jem performs the song herself on the show – cementing her status as the coolest wedding performer in the history of the world. “Maybe I’m Amazed” is one of those tunes that can still break a heart no matter how many years it’s been since you last listened to the track and this heartbreaking version by Jem tugs at our heartstrings like no other. OC fans will never forget Ryan and Marissa’s tear felt dance in the middle of another Julie Cooper wedding while Jem performed this Paul McCartney tune in the background.
The Killers – ‘Mr. Brightside’
The OC managed to kickstart a lot of up-and-coming bands and musicians but few have been able to take that momentum and turn it into a career with staying power. The Killers are one of the few exceptions. This band not only managed to rocket to stardom after their music premiered on the show, but they’ve withstood the test of time. These Sin City rockers continue to make brilliant and popular music and sell out world tours today. They proved that indie bands can transition into the mainstream without having to sacrifice their independent sound. Not to mention they had resident music snob Seth Cohen’s seal of approval and really, isn’t that all you need to know an indie band is worth listening to?
Imogen Heap – ‘Hide And Seek’
Imogen Heap had several very successful songs tied to The OC. But we picked “Hide and Seek” to be a part of our top 10 because of the power behind the season 2 finale. No one watching was prepared for that moment. The combination of the gunshot triggering the start of the song still gives us chills to this day. No other sounds break the silence, apart from Imogen’s haunting voice playing over top of the last moments of the season. The show fades to black, and every single watcher screamed out in frustration that they had to wait three whole months before they would get any resolution.
Modest Mouse – ‘Float On’
Let’s talk about how The OC exposed a whole generation to music they probably wouldn’t have heard otherwise. Modest Mouse is the perfect example of this. This band originally formed in 1993 but didn’t acquire widespread success until their album Good News For People Who Love Bad News came out in 2004. Off that record “Float On” was used in the show’s first season and the band made an appearance on the show later in season 2. The unique and quirky band proved that the mainstream was ready for new types of popular music, and we see effects of their success today.
Death Cab For Cutie – Entire Discography
Ok so we’re cheating with this one a little bit. But liberties have to be taken for Seth Cohen’s favorite band. This group was literally woven into the fabric of the show. Posters of the band hung on Seth’s wall, show writers incorporated references to the band into the dialogue of the show, Death Cab songs served as a soundtrack to pivotal moments in the plot– Cohen even burned mix CD’s with Death Cab songs on them for all his potential love interests that truly mattered. If that isn’t a ringing endorsement, nothing is. And fans of The OC paid attention. As the show grew in popularity, so did Death Cab’s fanbase. Once again an indie band was pushed to the forefront of the music scene and given a platform on which to showcase their songs. And while you could argue that Death Cab was doing decently on their own, you can’t deny The OC served to thrust the band into the spotlight.
10 Years Later
From the generation that grew up on boy bands and pop princesses, The OC was our first grown up experience with music. So if you didn’t live through the era, it might be hard to understand how a show like The OC reshaped the way a lot of us interacted with music.
Seth Cohen was the original music hipster, and he made it cool to LOVE music. Not just popular music but music that had been hidden from the mainstream. Suddenly you were cool if you listened to stuff few people had heard of. Some of us might have even bought our first iPods because we saw that Cohen had one. But all of that aside, it was the respect and appreciation for music that changed things. Something that will long outlive the series itself.
We tip our hats to the creator of the series, Josh Schwartz for believing that music should be a character in and of itself on The OC and to the best music supervisor in television history, Alexandra Pastavas for introducing us to bands and songs that we may have never given a second glance had they not been incorporated into memorable story lines with memorable characters.