Published on February 11th, 2019 | by Alan Cross


Weekly survey: A song or artist you’ve discovered from a TV show or movie

One of Netflix’s trending show these days is Russian Doll, the story of Nadia who keeps dying and being resurrected in a bathroom of an apartment where friends are celebrating her 36th birthday.

Every time she wakes up from her death, the music playing at the party is “Gotta Give Up,” a 1971 song from Harry Nilsson. This nod by the music supervisor has given the song new life. Throngs of people are now into a track that’s nearly 50 years old.

This got me thinking about songs we discover through TV or movies. How about something you heard in a Tarantino movie? They’re always a good source of obscure goodness. Kill Bill was very kind to the 5, 6, 7, 8s.

I’d ignored Nick Drake until “Pink Moon” was used in a Volkswagen commercial in 1999.

What about you? Any examples you want to share?

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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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32 Responses to Weekly survey: A song or artist you’ve discovered from a TV show or movie

  1. Jon Hyman says:

    Old 97’s from The Breakup.

  2. Brian Clarke says:

    Ruby Gloom theme song. Does that count?

  3. Kevin says:

    Gang of Youths “Heart is a Muscle” from Fox Sports Australia

  4. S GOW says:

    So many, but The Blower’s Daughter was so perfectly used by filmmaker Mike Nichols in Closer, I had to go in search of Damien Rice’s debut album.

  5. Scott H says:

    Oh man… I have a strong affinity for songs and music used in TV, movies, and especially in commercials — often to a point that gets me going far more than the media in which they’re played.

    Some favorite examples:
    – The entirety of Moby’s Play album – Specifically in my case the song Run On being used in a cold open for an episode of the show Harsh Realm.
    – A cover of Word Up performed by Willis in an episode of CSI.
    – I thank Spotify for introducing me to The Record Company, but I know a bunch of people found them through an episode of Orphan Black.
    – One of my all time favorite songs is Dry the Rain by the Beta Band featured prominently (if briefly) in the movie High Fidelity.
    – Psychotic Girl by The Black Keys being used in an early ad for the show Lost Girl
    – Not quite TV or movies… but the Borderlands game franchise introduced me to Cage the Elephant (with Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked) and The Heavy (with Short Change Hero).

    Jeez… I could go on a looooooong time with this. I’ll end it there.

  6. Jenii says:

    One of the best shows I watched that had regularly introduced me to be music was Kingdom. Deer Ticks, Mozes and the firstborn and many more.

  7. Jen says:

    Sun Heat – Running out of Time. from the netflix dynasty reboot

  8. Call Me Snake says:

    Wye Oak and Ben Howard from The Walking Dead
    The Presets from Son of a Gun
    The Reverend Horton Heat from Love And A .45
    Fastway from Trick or Treat (1986)
    Portishead from Little Criminals (1995 TV Movie)
    Plenty more but that’s all I got for now

  9. thef3k says:

    I was introduced to Extreme way back in the day thanks to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Soundtrack.

  10. Kevin says:

    Check out This Will Destroy You’s atmospheric “Mighty Rio Grande” featured in the movie Earth to Echo, lots from Californication, Breaking Bad, Parenthood, Scrubs, Offspring. Many many songs in my playlist I can shamelessly say I first heard on TV shows, and many already loved songs with perfect placement in TV shows.

  11. Scottie McGrath says:

    Soundgarden. I first heard them watching the movie Pump Up the Volume.

  12. Stef says:

    Lord Huron – The Night We Met from the show 13 Reasons Why.

  13. Colin says:

    There soooo many! What immediately come to mind is “Girls” by Death in Vegas from the Lost in Translation soundtrack

  14. Leslie says:

    A song from an emerging Sia ended the show Six Feet Under.

  15. Doug says:

    James Taylor’s “Your Smiling Faxe” at the end of an episode of WKRP. No Shazam back in those days, so it took me until the late 80s to discover what song it was, and who sang it.

  16. Dave Breakenridge says:

    Wolf Alice, courtesy the inclusion of their song Silk from the T2 Trainspotting trailer.

  17. Anthony DAngelo says:

    The Kills – The Future Starts Slow was on Person of Interest

    Alt-J – tesselate was on Sons of Anarchy

    And then a lot of the music from Numbers, as Charlie Clouser was in charge of the music

  18. markosaar says:

    I have a feeling this happened a lot, but all that comes to mind at the moment is PiL thanks to Miami Vice using The Order of Death.

  19. fred says:

    Abandoned Pools – Maybe then Someday – Was in a show called Love Monkey where Tom Cavanagh played an A&R rep. The song was apparently written by a difficult but brilliant singer/songwriter (or so the episode went) but was really the Pools. Was a show I had big hopes for. Lasted 8 episodes. The intro was Odds “Someone who’s cool”. The key “artist” Tom was repping was a kid who named Wayne (Real life Teddy Geiger). Ben Folds, Aimee Mann, James Blunt, Paul Shaffer, Lisa Loeb, John Mellancamp, LeAnn Rimes and Paul Shaffer all had guest spots

  20. Charlie A. says:

    Heavy Young Heathens – Being Evil Has A Price from the TV show Lucifer, which then took me to a great cover version of House Of The Rising Sun from the Denzel Washington remake of The Magnificent 7.

  21. I discovered the Beatles as a young child by watching Captain Kangaroo. They had an Octopus’ Garden song segment. My parents liked the Guess Who and Isaac Hayes, so I wasnt exposed to the Beatles.

  22. Dan says:

    The Black Keys, from TV show Hung. Intro was “I’ll Be Your Man”.
    Michael Kiwanuka, from HBO’s Big Little Lies. Intro was “Cold Little Heart”.

  23. Tim says:

    Alabama 3 or A3 doing the theme song for the Sopranos. “Got myself a gun…got myself a gun…”

  24. Mark says:

    Migas 2000 by Luminanas from Russian Doll

  25. Harold says:

    I’ve discovered lots of bands and songs through video games too…. games like the NHL series as well as FIFA.

  26. Marty Murray says:

    Chris Isaak, from an old TV series called “The Detective,” from an episode about an up-and-coming rock & roll star that used a lot of music from his first album.

  27. Christopher Bean says:

    The TV show Lucifer has been good for discovering some good indie bands (Battle Tapes). But the FIFA video game series definitely wins…Kings of Leon, Kasabian, Catfish and The Bottlemen…as well as tons of tracks/artists from genres I don’t generally gravitate towards.

    And I definitely fell in love with Danish pop band Asteroid Galaxy Tour because of their Heineken commercial a few years back.

  28. Cara says:

    The Blacklist has an amazing soundtrack; Fav find in that was Sunns. Up Past the Nursery was the song in the show.

  29. Matt says:

    I discovered Choir of Young Believers when “Hollow Talk” was used as the theme song for The Bridge.

  30. Joe says:

    The The – This Is The Day from Empire Records.

  31. Jeff says:

    The Black Keys from the Black Snake Moan sound track, Charles Bradley from Daptone radio on Sleeping Dogs, Nina Simone from the Saboteur Video game

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