song associations

Weaponized Music

The other day Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now by Starship came on the radio and it got me thinking about the associations we form with certain songs. In this particular case, it made me realize that ever since seeing The Skeleton Twins, whenever I hear it now all I can see is Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig dancing on living room furniture. Associations are powerful. Even if we already have a personal history with a song, a television show or a movie can utilize it in such a way that it wipes out all previous associations. Here are 5 examples of television scenes that took songs I already knew and completely re-wrote what my brain feels when I hear them. I’m sure you all have plenty of these so feel free to share them in the comments!

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Goodbye to You (Tabula Rasa)

Michelle Branch was big in the early 2000’s. I wasn’t particularly a huge fan but Goodbye to You was catchy. It didn’t evoke any emotion in me but I thought it was a cute pop song. Then someone who worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer said to themselves (I’m assuming), “How I can make it so that any time a Buffy fan hears this song it feels like their heart is being pulled out of their chest?? ...wait, I KNOW!” The result was this scene. Never have I ever been able to hear this song in the 17 (17?? JESUS.) years since without thinking of Giles abandoning his surrogate daughter to return to England, Willow and Tara’s heart-shredding breakup scene, and Buffy’s profound loneliness leading her to make a truly self-destructive choice. Thanks, Tabula Rasa.

 

Supernatural: Do You Love Me (The End)

I know, I know. Carry On My Wayward Son. Eye of the Tiger. Heat of the Moment. The Holy Trinity of songs that Supernatural has co-opted and now might as well own. But everyone knows those! Those are too easy. So I thought about another really great one that hasn’t been talked about as much. The only music my mom and I could agree on while I was growing up was oldies, so I heard this song A LOT. But SPN used it in such an awesome and unexpected way (in one of its best episodes of all time) that now this is what the song is to me. Running from Croatoans (SPN’s version of zombies) and getting rescued by a bunch of post-apocalyptic soldiers. Who knew this song could be so fucking badass?? Well Ben Edlund, I guess.

 

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Just a Friend (Dennis and Dee go on Welfare)

Oh boy is this show a multiple offender for song associations, usually hilarious and sometimes awful. There were so many to choose from. Motownphilly, Vacation, Jessie's Girl (OH MY GOD THIS ONE), I Can’t Wait, Hollaback Girl, Take My Breath Away, Pretty Woman, Runaway Train... the list goes on and on. In the end I went with this one because it was the first of the many songs the show would use to create ridiculous new associations in my head. Dennis and Dee’s failed attempt to go on welfare and their subsequent crack addiction was one of the funniest things the show has done and now, goddamn it, a song I have always loved makes me think of these two assholes getting day-drunk and thinking they could play the system so that they never had to work again. The end when they turn the song up while Mac yells at them cracks me up every time. These goddamn assholes.

 

Black Mirror’s San Junipero: Heaven is a Place on Earth

I almost want to tell you not to watch this video if you have not seen the episode because this scene is so moving and profound if you have, but if you haven’t then it’s just sort of cute. The first time I watched San Junipero this scene made me weep. And a previously boppy, fun 80’s song now makes me tear-up thinking about a love story between two women that a television show developed beautifully, and that WAS ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO END HAPPILY. It was a bittersweet story overall but the ending was uplifting and glorious. And the choice of this song was perfection. If you have not seen it, please head over to Netflix and fix that.

 

Sense8: What’s Up (What's Going On?)

This 4Non-Blondes song now forever belongs to this show in my mind, and after Linda Perry showed up to the premiere of the series finale at the ArcLight theater in Hollywood and let the audience join her onstage to sing along with it, it belongs to the fans as well. I’ve mentioned previously that whenever all of the Sense8s appear in the same scene it is the best thing 100% of the time, and this is no exception. These pockets of joy in the show were always so well-placed and carried the audience through the tougher times. I used to like What’s Up because it reminded me of the 90’s, now I love it because it brings me actual joy remembering this scene (P.S. Kala and Wolfgang forever).

So, what song associations have been created, altered, or ruined for you by television??