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The Teen Drama Soundtracks
All six of the core teen dramas released some pretty awesome soundtracks, proving our favorite shows were more than just great television — they were also sources of great music.
The components of a successful TV series include the casting, the writing, the producing, the directing, the acting, etc., but also the music. The songs chosen can make or break a scene, and for the musical acts featured in episodes or on soundtracks, it can propel careers to new heights. And the musical aspect of creating television is something “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “The O.C.,” “One Tree Hill,” “Gossip Girl,” and “90210” took very seriously.
I had the privilege of interviewing the music supervisors for “One Tree Hill” and “90210,” and most of us are familiar with the soundtrack(s) of at least one of the shows. Well, here’s the complete rundown!
Beverly Hills, 90210
Beverly Hills, 90210: The Soundtrack (1992)
The first teen drama soundtrack naturally came from the show that started it all, “Beverly Hills, 90210.” And just as naturally, this soundtrack included the series’ theme song by composer John E. Davis. Released in October of 1992, this cassette tape came out during the show’s third season. Two of the top artists featured were Color Me Badd, who appeared in a season 2 episode, and Jeremy Jordan, who played over the closing credits of some episodes. The track list also included Vanessa Williams with future “Beverly Hills, 90210” guest star Brian McKnight, Paula Abdul, and Chaka Khan, among others.
My Favorite Track: “Why” by D Mob with Cathy Dennis — Dennis performed this song on the show in episode 3.27, “A Night to Remember,” and she also appeared in the end credits.
Beverly Hills, 90210: The College Years (1994)
Two years after the show’s first soundtrack, this follow-up came out at the start of season 5. That was the second season set in college, with the gang going to school at the fictitious California University. D Mob and Cathy Dennis were again part of the set list, along with Lisa Stansfield, Aaron Neville, and Hi-Five. This one was released on both cassette and CD.
My Favorite Track: “Every Day of the Week” by Jade — The girl group performed this song, along with a really cool dance routine, during episode 5.20, “You Gotta Have Heart.” The track could also be heard earlier in the season, during episode 5.13, “Up in Flames.”
Beverly Hills, 90210: Songs from the Peach Pit (1996)
Though music continued to play an integral role for the duration of the series, the show’s final soundtrack was released in the fall of season 7. And in a departure from the prior soundtracks, this one was steeped in nostalgia. All the songs were inspired by oldies that one might hear in The Peach Pit, which, of course, was a 1950s-style diner. Rather than featuring contemporary tracks, the music on this CD dated back to the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Otis Redding, Sonny & Cher, and KC and the Sunshine Band were among the artists included. Still, the album closed with the show’s theme song, just as the first soundtrack did.
My Favorite Track: “Mony Mony” by Tommy James & The Shondells — This song was featured on the show back in episode 1.13, “Slumber Party,” which is not what the video below shows, ha.
Sadly, many of our favorite songs from “Beverly Hills, 90210” have been replaced on the DVDs, in syndication, and on streaming. Executive producer Charles Rosin has lamented this a number of times and has been pushing for a #RestoreTheMusic campaign to have at least some of the original music restored.
Songs From Dawson’s Creek (1999)
The first of the show’s two soundtracks came out toward the end of the series’ second season. “I Don’t Want to Wait,” the theme song by Paula Cole, was included, along with “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer and “Did You Ever Love Somebody?” by Jessica Simpson. Nearly all of the songs featured were also used during episodes of season 2.
My Favorite Track: “Feels Like Home” by Chantal Kreviazuk — This song, originally written and recorded by Randy Newman, plays as Joey and Dawson get back together in episode 2.18, “The Perfect Wedding.” I love it SO much.
Songs From Dawson’s Creek — Volume 2 (2000)
This follow-up album was released the day before the season 4 premiere. Jessica Simpson was once again one of the artists showcased, this time with one of my favorite songs of hers, “I Think I’m in Love with You.” Evan & Jaron’s “Crazy for This Girl,” Five for Fighting’s “Superman,” and Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” also made the cut. The Mary Beth Maziarz version of “Daydream Believer,” which was featured in seasons 3, 4, and 5, is on here too.
My Favorite Track: “Never Saw Blue Like That” by Shawn Colvin — Colvin was also featured on the first “Dawson’s Creek” soundtrack, but this song, which plays in episode 4.03, “Two Gentleman of Capeside,” can bring me to tears.
One of my favorite websites for a long time was “Dawson’s Creek Music,” which included a guide to every single song featured on the series, as well as the ability to make your own custom soundtrack with whichever of the songs you wanted. Unfortunately, these days, the site is only accessible through the Wayback Machine. But if you don’t mind the janky formatting, it’s still an amazing resource.
Like with “Beverly Hills, 90210,” a lot of the songs have been replaced on the DVDs and on streaming. But as I shared in a January edition of “Teen Drama Links,” Cole is in talks to have the theme song restored.
Music From The O.C.: Mix 1 (2004)
The first of six soundtracks for “The O.C.” (a show that only had four seasons, mind you) was released in March of season 1. Like its predecessors did, the theme song, “California” by Phantom Planet, was included, as were other songs heard throughout the first season. Featured artists include Jet, Spoon, and The Dandy Warhols. (The Dandy Warhols track, “We Used to be Friends,” also served as the “Veronica Mars” theme song). I’m particularly fond of Alexi Murdoch’s “Orange Sky” and Finley Quaye & William Orbit’s “Dice.”
My Favorite Track: “Honey & the Moon” by Joseph Arthur — This song plays in the pilot, when Sandy takes Ryan back to Chino at the end of the episode. I could’ve just as easily chosen “Orange Sky” or “Dice,” though.
Music From The O.C.: Mix 2 (2004)
After the success of the first soundtrack, this one followed just months later, coming out only days before the start of season 2. Unlike with the first installment, however, most of the songs weren’t featured on the show. A college fling turned me on to a number of the tracks, though, including “Trouble Sleeping” by The Perishers and “Eastern Glow” by The Album Leaf.
My Favorite Track: “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Jem — The singer performs this beautiful cover of the Paul McCartney classic in the season 1 finale, episode 1.27, “The Ties That Bind.”
Music From The O.C.: Mix 3 – Have a Very Merry Chrismukkah (2004)
On the very same day “Mix 2” was released, fans were also treated to this holiday-themed compilation. None of the tracks were actually featured on the show, but the series was trying to capitalize on the popularity of Chrismukkah, which it had introduced the year before. Rooney, The Eels, and Ben Kweller were among the artists who contributed.
My Favorite Track: “Last Christmas” by Jimmy Eat World — I’m not a big fan of Christmas music, but there are a few songs I enjoy, including the many covers of this Wham! hit.
Music From The O.C.: Mix 4 (2005)
Even though two soundtracks came out in October 2004, there was apparently a rush to get this next one out only months later, in April 2005, in the midst of season 2. The set list was comprised entirely of songs that were featured during this season. That said, Modest Mouse, Imogen Heap, Beck, and Sufjan Stevens were probably the artists most familiar to listeners.
My Favorite Track: “Champagne Supernova” by Matt Pond PA — This special cover, heard in episode 2.14, “The Rainy Day Women,” was commissioned specifically for “The O.C.”
Music From The O.C.: Mix 5 (2005)
Two months into season 3, this soundtrack hit the shelves with a number of notable songs. For example, there’s Phantom Planet’s “California 2005,” a reimagining of the theme song, and the Youth Group cover of “Forever Young.” LCD Soundsystem, Kasabian, and Gorillaz also contributed to the album.
My Favorite Track: “Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap — I mean, could I have really picked anything else?! This song became an instant classic when it was used in the season 2 finale, episode 2.24, “The Dearly Beloved,” and as I mentioned a few months back, I also love its usage in “Normal People.”
Music From The O.C.: Mix 6 – Covering Our Tracks (2006)
This final offering came out in December 2006, more than a year after the prior soundtrack, marking the longest gap between the show’s soundtrack releases. The album dropped about a month after the season 4 premiere and was made up solely of artists covering songs by others. For example, Pinback took on Black Flag’s “Wasted,” while Goldspot put their spin on Modest Mouse’s “Float On.”
My Favorite Track: “California” by Mates of State — This cover was featured in episode 4.07, “The Chrismukk-huh?,” one of my favorites of the whole series. Since the storyline dealt with an alternate universe, as I talked about in my “Favorite Teen Drama Holiday Episodes” post, it was only fitting there was an alternate version of the theme song to go with it.
If you need proof of how popular “The O.C.” was, especially as it related to music, look no further than the fact that it put out six soundtracks in less than three years. It seems bonkers now, and maybe it did then too, but it did help make music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas become known as one of the best in the business — and she now has three Grammy nominations to her name.
One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill – Music from the WB Television Series, Vol. 1 (2005)
This compilation album, which was released about halfway through season 2, kicked off with a live version of Gavin DeGraw performing the show’s theme song, “I Don’t Want to Be.” There’s also an acoustic version of Sheryl Crow’s “The First Cut is the Deepest,” which she also performed on the series, and an acoustic track from Tyler Hilton called “Glad.” Other featured artists include Jimmy Eat World, The Wreckers, Story of the Year, and The Get Up Kids.
My Favorite Track: “When the Stars Go Blue” by Tyler Hilton and Bethany Joy Lenz — I’m not a fan of this storyline, but I am a sucker for duets, so…
Friends with Benefit: Music from the Television Series One Tree Hill, Volume 2 (2006)
The title of this compilation, which dropped in February of season 3, gets its name from the benefit album put together by Peyton (Hilarie Burton) and Ellie (Sheryl Lee) on the show to raise money for breast cancer research. The plot in episode 3.15, “Just Watch the Fireworks,” also involved a benefit concert featuring performances by Lenz, Fall Out Boy, and Jack’s Mannequin (fronted by Andrew McMahon, himself a cancer survivor). All of them appear on the soundtrack, for which a portion of the proceeds actually did go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
My Favorite Track: “Halo” by Bethany Joy Lenz — I feel like this song could’ve easily fit in the Coyote Ugly world too. I’m a big fan of “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” and “The Right Kind of Wrong.”
The Road Mix: Music from the Television Series One Tree Hill, Volume 3 (2007)
This soundtrack was inspired by the road trip the gang takes to Honey Grove in episode 4.17, “It Gets the Worst at Night.” The album, released more than halfway through season 4, features songs by Hilton, The Wreckers, and Band of Horses, along with Dashboard Confessional, Gym Class Heroes, and even Lupe Fiasco. The latter actually performed on the show in episode 4.04, “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started.”
My Favorite Track: “Non-Believer” by La Rocca — This was actually a hard choice. I was torn between “Non-Believer” and “Heartbeats” by José Gabriel González. The former is the backbone of such a powerful sequence in episode 4.10, “Songs to Love and Die By,” while the latter is integral to the Leyton love story.
Music from One Tree Hill (2008)
This album was a collaboration with iTunes that dropped about two months into season 6. With 27 tracks, it’s quite long, and some of the usual suspects are included: Fall Out Boy, Nada Surf, La Rocca, etc. There’s also two songs by Kate Voegele (Mia), a collaboration between Lenz and Grace Potter, and an offering from Angels & Airwaves, who perform during the USO concert in episode 6.10, “Even Fairy Tale Characters Would Be Jealous.”
My Favorite Track: “Feel This” by Bethany Joy Lenz — This song was originally recorded by Enation, a band that featured Lenz’s then-husband and appeared on the show. I just adore Lenz’s version of it.
I actually interviewed Enation (including frontman Jonathan Jackson, an actor-musician best known for “General Hospital” and “Nashville”) for the original TeenDramaWhore back in 2010. Shortly after, I did a fun fill-in-the-blanks interview with Lindsay Wolfington, the show’s music supervisor. Among the things she revealed was that INXS only licensed “Never Tear Us Apart” to be used in the original U.S. broadcast of episode 5.12, “Hundred,” which is why it’s replaced on the DVDs, international airings, and streaming.
One resource I’ve particularly loved all these years is oth-music.com, an incredibly comprehensive guide to the music featured on all nine seasons of the show.
OMFGG – Original Music Featured on Gossip Girl No. 1 (2008)
Props to whichever marketing genius came up with “OMFGG” as the shorthand for the title of this album, which was released digitally just one day after the second season premiered, followed by the physical CD dropping nearly two months later. Perhaps the most mainstream artist on the track list — and this is saying something — is Phantom Planet, who, as we well know, provided the theme song to “The O.C.” Here their contribution is a song called “Do the Panic.” The Kills, The Ting Tings, and Albert Hammond Jr. also made the cut.
My Favorite Track: Can I say none? I’m going with none.
In hindsight, it’s kind of funny that this album was named “No. 1” because it ended up being the show’s only soundtrack. I’m guessing that wasn’t the intention when this was released, especially given that “The O.C.” music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas was at the helm here too. But I suspect fashion was more a priority for “Gossip Girl” than cranking out soundtracks while it was kind of the opposite on “The O.C.” Crazily enough, though, “OMFGG” recently inspired a covers album, so that’s an accomplishment.
Soundtrack 90210 (2009)
The show’s only soundtrack release was timed to the second season and kicked off with an artist named Adele. Maybe you’ve heard of her? Also featured were the likes of Owl City, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, N.E.R.D., and Jet. The album closed with the series’ second remix of John E. Davis’ original “Beverly Hills, 90210” theme song, which I wrote about extensively here. I was able to run a contest on the original TeenDramaWhore and give the album away to some lucky fans.
My Favorite Track: “Sierra’s Song” by The All-American Rejects — This track wasn’t actually featured on the show itself, but the band did perform in episode 4.15, “Trust, Truth, and Traffic.” I am a pretty big AAR fan (at least their first two albums) and have some crazy stories about meeting them.
In 2010, I interviewed “90210” music supervisor Scott Vener, who was also working at the time on “How to Make It in America,” starring Bryan Greenberg (Jake, One Tree Hill). When I asked if there would be a second volume of “Soundtrack 90210,” Vener said, “The soundtrack was CBS’s idea. The show really lends itself to being a music-driven show. So, having a soundtrack made sense. I’m not sure if we’re going to do a new one.” And sure enough, they didn’t.
While, like most things in the genre, “Beverly Hills, 90210” started it all and the soundtracks are no exception, I really appreciate this Nylon article that asserts, “The Teen Dramas of the Early 2000s Set the Bar for TV Soundtracks.” I couldn’t sum it up any better than this:
“With shows like ‘The O.C.,’ ‘Gossip Girl,’ ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ and ‘One Tree Hill’ defining pop culture, it was the music that made for some of the most iconic scenes — and helped these series cultivate lifelong fanbases. For viewers, ‘The O.C.’ was a tastemaker of indie rock, ‘Gossip Girl’ curated a world of rising and mainstream pop icons, and ‘One Tree Hill’ found its footing in the emo and singer-songwriter space, establishing music areers for both burgeoning musicians and the stars of the show. These series not only created memorable plotlines, but they also helped serve as a launching pad for a variety of up-and-coming artists.”
The article features keen insights from Patsavas and Wolfington, as well as “Dawson’s Creek” executive producer Paul Stupin (whom I interviewed back in 2009). If my soundtrack guide above whet your appetite for more, definitely take a few minutes and give the Nylon story a read!
What’s your favorite teen drama soundtrack or featured song?
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