32 musical moments from The O.C.

by Mark Teo

August 7, 2013






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The O.C. debuted 10 years ago this week. Here are 32 musical memories from the show.

It’s been a decade since The O.C. premiered, and while plenty are commemorating its impact on the teen-drama genre, the show arguably had its biggest impact on how mainstream audiences listen to—and love— music. Josh Schwartz, the show’s creator, famously said he wanted the music to “be a character” on the show, and he largely achieved that goal thanks to music supervisor Alex Patsavas (who’s since worked on the soundtracking side of Mad Men, Twilight, Grey’s Anatomy, and Gossip Girl).

None of those shows, though, feature(d) music as prominently as The O.C.. The show’s soundtrack felt almost as important as the plot itself, and the show picked genuine independent bands to back the show—everyone from the Album Leaf to Rufus Wainwright had places on the show’s score. With the Bait Shop (the show’s signature venue), the characters’ frequent musical references, and its penchant for premiering A-list singles (see: Coldplay), The O.C. became a veritable musical force on TV, connecting the dots between mainstream tastes and independent bands. So, in honour of its 10th anniversary, we’ve compiled a (very incomplete) list of our favourite musical moments featuring Seth, Summer, Ryan, and pre-gun nut Marissa. Please share your favourites in the comments below!

1. That incredibly catchy theme song. Which is the biggest hit Philadelphia rock act Phantom Planet had. In some instances, the song’s also credited to Al Jolson, and it’s not hard to see why.

2. Or the Mates of State interpretation. If Phantom Planet’s rendition of “California” wasn’t sentimental enough, try Mates of States’ cover—with weeping strings and boy-girl vocals—on for size. The inner emo kid approves.

3. Rewind, here. Any discussion of The OC‘s music should, perhaps, start with the Seth Cohen starter kit. Seth Cohen was undoubtedly the arbiter of The OC‘s musical tastes. To get an idea of what he listened to, we refer to the Christmukkah episode, where he gives two competing girls the same gift: A kit featuring The Shins Oh, Inverted World, Bright Eyes’ Collection of Songs, Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism, The Goonies, and The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Now, Amazon carries the bundle.

4. The next step: Figure out the band posters on Seth’s wall. In this image, we spot posters featuring Atom and His Package, Ben Folds Five, Rooney, and long-forgotten skacore act Falling Sickness. In other episodes, the Ramones and Death Cab (predictably) held spots on Seth’s wall of fame.

5. But it’s not all love for Death Cab. Like, for example, when Summer calls them “one guitar and a whole lot of complaining.” Funny thing is, she’s kind of right.

6. But Seth wasn’t the show’s only musical character. The biggest surprise? That Marissa was a punk. “Avril Lavigne doesn’t count as punk,” Seth says, when learning of Marissa’s taste for punk rock. “Then how about the Cramps? Stiff Little Fingers? The Clash? The Sex Pistols?” YOU GOT TOLD, SETH.

7. Then, of course, there’re all the bands that appeared at the Bait Shop—like, uh, Death Cab For Cutie. Because even if they’re not Summer-approved, Ben Gibbard and co. were Seth’s favourite band.

8. But Ben Gibbard wasn’t the biggest star to appear on the O.C. That distinction goes to the Killers. Seth Cohen’s blase response? “The Killers. Awesome, huh?” The O.C., in some circles, was actually credited for helping launch their career.

9. Of course, Modest Mouse were no slouch either. Although their appearance on the show had some YouTube commenters calling MoMo greedy. But, as commenter TheCruddyBug writes, “at least MM weren’t on One Tree Hill.” True say.

10. But the stages weren’t only filled with big-ticket acts. See: The Subways.

11. Ditto for Rooney. And they played directly underneath a California flag! How fitting.

12. Or the Thrills.

13. Or Rachel Yamagata. This track might be The OC‘s answer to Dawson’s Creek’s Paula Cole obsession.

14. But let’s not forget Ryan Atwood’s favourite band. Which was Cobra Verde, who Seth jokingly calls “a Foreigner cover band.”

15. The Bait Shop wasn’t only for established musicians—Sandy Cohen graced its stage. Seeing the Cohens go through marital problems was as hard as seeing your own folks fight. But Sandy made up for his foibles by covering Solomon Burke’s “Don’t Give Up on Me” at the Bait Shop.

16. Which helped launch Peter Gallagher’s solo music career. I mean, we knew he had dreamy eyebrows, but who knew he had a set of lungs?

17. A forgotten fact about The O.C.: It premiered new songs on the show from established artists. U2, Gwen Stefani, and Coldplay all had tracks premiered, the latter in a dramatic scene where Caleb suffers his fatal heart attack. CHILLS, STILL, GUYS.

18. And The Beastie Boys. It’s hard to believe they were promoting To the 5 Boroughs when The OC was still on-air.

19. Even Beck got in on the action. And he premiered a bundle of new songs on what was called “The Beckisode.”

20. “Don’t Give Up on Me” might’ve been the Cohens parents’ song, but Ryan and Marissa’s? Alphaville’s “Forever Young.” Who? Right.

21. And remember that time when Chris Brown appeared on the show? And they called him “little drummer boy?”

22. The show also had a healthy obsession with Oasis’s What’s the Story Morning Glorythey had two bands covering songs from the LP. The one below? Matt Pond PA’s rendition of “Champagne Supernova,” soundtracking the monumental upside-down Spiderman kiss scene. Captain Oats forever.

23. Or this cover of “Wonderwall.” By Ryan Adams, no less!

24. More Brits: There’s also this Jem cover of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

25. Or that time Seth Cohen got down to the Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends.” And it became a de facto bedroom-dancing anthem.

26. What would this list be without some dramatic Marissa moments? Like this one, from season one, where Ryan leaves Chino, and Marissa watches him go. More a foreshadowing to Marissa’s upcoming dramatics, but, still.

27. Marissa’s classic TJ overdose. It’s like Mazzy Star was made for this?

28. And of course, Marissa’s death. Had the series remained as perfect by this point this might have been more impactful. But it’s an Imogen Heap callback and, most importantly, a “Hallelujah” callback, so.

29. Two words: Confidence, Cohen. Okay one more word: BAWLING.

30. Hide and Seek. Perhaps the show’s most definitive musical moment, Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” was another one of those O.C. premieres, and was an instant star-maker. It was used in the second season’s finale not once, but twice: First, for Caleb’s funeral:

31. And second, for the episode’s final seven minutes, when Marissa shoots Ryan’s brother Trey.

Of course, even the show’s most poignant moment can’t fight the piss-taking of a Lonely Island SNL Digital Short. “The Shooting AKA Dear Sister” lives on as one of the group’s best. The song would never be the same. Featuring Shia LaBeouf!

32. And last, if for nothing else than chronology’s sake, the series’ final moments ended with “Life is a Song.” Patrick Park’s whimsical-yet-yearning acoustic track made for an uber-memorable closing scene, even if many of us had stopped watching the show by its finale.

Tags: Music, Lists, News, Beastie Boys, Beck, Ben Gibbard, Bright Eyes, Chris Brown, Cobra Verde, Coldplay, Dandy Warhols, Death Cab For Cutie, Gwen Stefani, Mates of State, Mazzy Star, Modest Mouse, Oasis, Phantom Planet, Ryan Adams, shia labeouf, The Clash, The Killers, The Thrills






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