The Best Songs on The O.C Soundtrack


The ORANGE county, yeah.

Henry: We are Michael-less today! He’s literally heading off to The O.C (or somewhere in America, whatever) but we’ve got a more than adequate fill-in in the form of Guy; old-school friend, American-college-attending extraordinaire. Anyway to celebrate a) having someone of almost-American-descent and b)the 10th birthday of The O.C, we’re driving down Nostalgia 101 into the best songs of the seminal show. I think, on reflection, what surprises me most about the show was just how final it all seemed back then. When Seth sailed away on that boat, I thought it was forever (not just, you know, for a summer vacation). And when Marissa and Ryan broke up (each time), it seemed like they’d never ever be getting back together. And when Ryan carried Marissa’s body out of the car crash – well, that one was pretty final. So it’s not much of a surprise to me that what lingers most happily for me is the music. Because as much as each song is tied to a certain memory – an upside-down kiss, a ferris-wheel, a gunshot – they’re still the most transferable elements of the show. Thoughts, Guy?

Guy: The O.C was the first show I really got into. I was pretty young at the time and a lot of what I saw had a strong impression on me and set my standards for anything remotely similar I watched in the future. I think I actually became friends with Henry during season 3, and I still remember an MSN messenger conversation I had with him about my shock at seeing a video of Marissa’s death on someone’s Bebo page before it aired in the UK. In fact, at my Bar Mitzvah, Henry embarrassed me in front of all my family and friends by revealing my (and our) love for Summer. Fortunately, our friendship has outlasted the show and Summer is still The Dream. It has been a pleasure, and actually quite emotional, looking back on a show that will forever have a special place in my life.

H: That wasn’t so much a reveal as an … announcement. And agreed, one or two tears may have splashed onto my MacBook during editing.

Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley

H: Massive confession but I didn’t start watching the show until the first season’s finale so this sequence of yacht-faring, letter-reading, car-driving anguish was my first glimpse of the show. And as far as hooking your audience, I guess it did the job. Looking back, the most jarring element of this scene isn’t the eight-hundredth use of this song but the fact that Kirsten was doing the cleaning. Yeah, right.

Champagne Supernova – Oasis

G: Seth and Summer were always my favorite couple (sorry Kaitlyn and Chris Brown) and the Spiderman kiss between them was one of the most satisfying moments of the show. It even made me briefly like Oasis and buy one of their albums.

H: The best thing about Chris Brown’s appearance is that he was some kind of empathising, amiable, A-grade student. Nothing wrong with a bit of Oasis.

Smile Like You Mean It – The Killers

H: This is the raddest nostalgia trip you’ll see all day. Brandon is wearing khakis and a pastel shirt; this is like carbon dating, 21st indie-rock band style. Also, a triumphant ha! to seeing Lindsay there. Cohen’s ‘I’ve redefined rock bottom several times tonight,’ might just be my favourite line of his all season.

If You Leave – Nada Surf

G: Although Alex (played by Olivia Wilde) is probably the most memorable short-term cast member, my favorite was Anna, who formed part of a complicated love triangle with Seth and Summer in Season One. Nada Surf’s If You Leave played during their goodbye, definitely one of the O.C’s most emotional departures. Interestingly, Samaire Armstrong, the actress who played Anna, went to star as a prostitute named Summer in an episode The Mentalist.

H: I’ve gone on record (frequently) saying that Nada Surf’s one of my favourite bands of all time. Let Go is a masterpiece and this OMD cover has a playcount of at least 100 on my teenage iPod mini. FYI, Samarie also went on to star in Daniel Powter’s Bad Day; a stellar career.

 Orange Sky – Alexi Murdoch

G: As much as Ryan’s brother Trey screwed him over in the first place by getting him arrested, if you think about it, if it wasn’t for Trey, Ryan would have never ended up living with the Cohens. This song, also made popular in the film Garden State, plays in a rare moment of reconciliation and tenderness between the brothers.

H: Trey is also played by Logan Marshall-Green who, as well as being a dead ringer for Tom Hardy, was the scientist-Tarzan in Promotheus.’

Speeding Cars – Imogen Heap

G: Imogen Heap had several songs on the show, with the most famous being her cover of Hallelujah, which played as Ryan carried Marissa’s dead body out of the car in the season 3 finale. However, in the same episode Speeding Cars underscored one of the last happy scenes amongst the big four characters as they graduated from high school. Upon rewatching this scene, the lyrics (let alone the song name) seem to foreshadow what is to come so soon after this moment where the group seem finally happy and ready for the rest of their lives.

Forever Young – Youth Group

G: This beautiful cover of Alphaville’s “Forever Young” by Youth Group becomes Ryan and Marissa’s “song” during the final days of her life in season 3. Although the scene that the song appears in lacks the dramatic significance of many others on this list, I think that part of the show’s greatness came from Josh Schwartz and co.’s abilities to find an obscure song to perfectly accompany the smaller moments.

H: You know, I’m a massive fan of the cover and Youth Group’s video but I just can’t get down with how it was incorporated on the show. And the show couldn’t even get down with its incorporation – Marissa’s little giggle at picking an inappropriate song before ‘Forever Young’ (because, like, it was too black?) – speaks volume. Like most Marissa plot-lines, it just makes me so irrationally angry.

Paint the Silence – South

H: I heart the Model Home. It’s seriously one of the elements of the show that’s aged the best. Anyway, South’s Paint the Silence is a pretty cool sequence and an advert for 90s style chokers, apparently:

Running Up That Hil l- Placebo

G: This cover of Kate Bush’s 80s hit played during the opening scenes of season 4. Its slightly eerie tone contrasts with the indie rock we viewers were used to hearing on the show and set the tone for Ryan and Julie’s struggles in dealing with Marissa’s death.

H: Hands down, one of my favourite moments for the entire show. I’d make a joke that season 4 never got past this high but I actually think season 4 is the bomb, dude.

West Coast – Coconut Records

G: This song didn’t stand out to me when it played on the show, but after subsequently becoming a fan of Coconut Records, I was surprised to hear it whilst rewatching season four a couple of years ago. It came during the rather amusing story arc of Ryan vying with a sophisticated French intellectual for Taylor’s affections. I know Michael and Henry have already provided some definitive summer playlists, but, for what its worth, Coconut Records always make their way onto my own.



Sometimes, I write about music. Pretty cool. You can follow me on Twitter @henellenthorpe, find on Instagram @hennnners or even go old school and e-mail me at

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