Skip to navigationSkip to content

Ten scenes that show how music can elevate television

Breaking Bad
Listen close now.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

While many of TV’s best scenes feature no music or merely ambient sounds, a smart song selection can turn what would be an otherwise ordinary moment into an extraordinary one.

Here are the Quartz staff’s picks for the best uses of music from the last decade of American TV:

“DLZ” by TV on the Radio (Breaking Bad)

“Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits (The West Wing)

“Make Your Own Kind of Music” by “Mama” Cass Elliot (LOST)

“Breathe Me” by Sia (Six Feet Under)

“I Will Follow You into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie (Scrubs)

“The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash (Generation Kill)

“You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra (Mad Men)

“Feel Like Funkin’ It Up” by Rebirth Brass Band (Treme)

“Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey (The Sopranos)

“Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, Apocalyptica cover (The Leftovers)

Here’s a Spotify playlist with all the songs mentioned, and, for good measure, a few extras added from other shows. The last four songs appear in Justified, The Walking Dead, Turn, and Friday Night Lights, respectively.

And here is just a small sampling of all the excellent original music composed for TV:

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.