“Grey’s Anatomy” returned to the airwaves the Thursday before last when its new season got under way. But for a music industry buffeted by shifting tastes and evolving technologies, the release of the show’s third soundtrack two weeks ago was the more newsworthy event. McDreamy, McSteamy and the whole “Grey’s” crew have been responsible for breaking many pop hits to an audience—adult women—that might not have heard them otherwise.
From the Fray’s “How To Save a Life” to Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” television has been more responsible than radio in pushing some songs into the national spotlight. This year, it looks like a relatively unknown Swedish trio, Peter Bjorn & John, may be the recipient of similar TV-induced good fortune. Their whistling pop charmer “Young Folks” has moved from indie-rock radio fave to the leadoff track on “Grey’s Anatomy, Vol. 3,” while becoming a Hollywood standard in the process. It can be heard in at least three new series this season.
With this in mind, we take a look at 11 recent notable rock songs that moved from TV series to pop favorite. We stayed away from tunes used in ads (those iPod commercials alone could fill a book) and instead focused on shows.
Where you’ve heard it: ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother,” and last week’s premiere episode of The CW’s “Gossip Girl.” It’ll also be in the upcoming debut episodes of “Dirty Sexy Money” (10 p.m. EDT Wednesday, ABC) and “Big Shots” (10 p.m. EDT Thursday, ABC).
With apologies to one-hit wonders the Hives, PB&J is now Sweden’s most popular pop export, and this three-piece indie-rock outfit has come up with a song that TV producers just can’t stop using. The initial single from their 2006 disc “Writer’s Block” seems to be everywhere. Maybe it’s the whistling. Maybe it’s the overall feel-good vibe. It’s become TV shorthand for “our characters are young, cool and oh-so good looking.”
Where you’ve heard it: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scrubs,” “The O.C.,” “Cold Case,” “One Tree Hill”
No title seems better suited to the surgical and emotional shenanigans that grace “Grey’s Anatomy” than this track by Denver’s the Fray that became a global sensation last year. Certainly, it was the one-two punch of the mournful, mid-tempo ballad being used in “Grey’s Anatomy” and in NBC’s “Scrubs” in spring 2006 that earned “How to Save a Life” (from the band’s 2005 disc of the same name) attention beyond the Fray faithful. But its use in ABC promos for the series’ third season and a special “Grey’s” video of the song truly pushed it into national consciousness. The song peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in the fall of last year.
Where you’ve heard it: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Hills,” “Ugly Betty,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “The Devil Wears Prada”
Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall proved inescapable through much of this year and last, thanks to this Top 30 Billboard hit. As with so many performers who are getting their break through TV shows, she can thank “Grey’s Anatomy.” “Suddenly I See,” from her 2006 disc Eye to the Telescope,” was used in a fall 2005 episode, though she can thank the big screen for the song’s success, too. In summer 2006, the folky anthem of self-determination was booming out from theaters showing “The Devil Wears Prada.”
Where you’ve heard it: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “ER,” “Cold Case,” “One Tree Hill”
When this British quintet first hit the American scene, with the 2004 album “Final Straw,” they could’ve gotten lost in the wave of U.K. bands coming over at the time like Keane and Muse. But the track “Run” became an alt-rock anthem, and it was the band’s follow-up album, “Eyes Open,” that really broke down doors. Like many of the other songs on this list, the “Eyes Open” track “Chasing Cars” owes much of its popularity to its appearance on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Another Snow Patrol song, “Open Your Eyes,” has popped up in Grey’s, “The Black Donnellys” and “ER.”
Where you’ve heard it: “American Idol,” promos for “October Road”
Though a hit overseas, this song from the “I’m Not Dead” CD was originally a flop when released in the U.S. in 2006. Then it got picked up by ABC, which used it in promotion for the series “October Road.” Downloads reportedly spiked after that, but the song really took off last May when Pink performed it on “American Idol.” The song is currently in Billboard’s Top 20.
Where you’ve heard it: “Six Feet Under” finale
The exposure this dreamy slice of electro elegance received in the finale of HBO’s “Six Feet Under” shows just how being heard once on TV can radically lift a song’s profile. Before the last chapter of “Six Feet Under” aired, Sia was a relatively unknown Australian-born, British-based acid-jazz/dance-music singer who achieved some renown as one of the vocalists for the down-tempo/chill-out Zero 7 project. After the HBO airing, her “Colour the Small One” disc was released in the U.S. by Astralwerks, and she toured, promoting herself and the “Six Feet Under” season five DVD.
Where you’ve heard it: “Third Watch”
The makers of the NBC paramedic drama “Third Watch,” which ran from 1999 to 2005, threw musical caution to the wind when they decided to go with this pounding techno anthem for the show’s theme, bringing the song up from the underground to a wide audience. It helps that this 1997 track is one of the great electronica club hits of all time, a cascade of building rhythms with snatches of a well-known speech from Jesse Jackson.
Where you’ve heard it: “The O.C.,” “Fastlane”
Before there was “Grey’s Anatomy,” there was “The O.C.”—a show that played a similar role in bringing previously unknown rock to the masses. The prime example is this 2002 track by the L.A. band that once claimed actor Jason Schwartzman (“Rushmore”) as a member. This was the theme and signature track for “The O.C.,” though it was previously heard on TV in an episode of the short-lived 2002 Fox show “Fastlane.”
Where you’ve heard it: “The Sopranos”
HBO’s “The Sopranos” would be just a little less notable without its “got yourself a gun” theme song, and certainly the English outfit A3 (short for “Alabama 3”) would be nothing without “The Sopranos.” The electro-gospel-rock group’s only major exposure in this country has been through the use of this 1997 track in the opening credits of the hit series.
Where you’ve heard it: “Lost,” “Alias”
This Irish singer-songwriter probably has gotten more exposure on TV than radio. Various tracks of his have been in “The Black Donnellys,” “ER,” “One Tree Hill,” the HBO film “The Girl in the Cafe” and, of course, “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Where you’ve heard it: “Veronica Mars,” “The O.C.,” “Wonderfalls”
Portland, Ore.‘s, Dandy Warhols have long been an underground favorite. But aside from being featured in the documentary “DiG!,” they provided this theme for the cult TV hit “Veronica Mars,” a song that also got picked up by “The O.C.” and “Wonderfalls.”