Best of the Year: The Best Music Moments and Performances of 2015

Although there's no data to back this up, it does feel like television is finding better ways to use music than just to evoke a temporary feeling or emotional responses. So much related to TV this year was quite wonderful, but the variety of great scores, needle drops, and performances produced an embarrassment of riches. We're here to turn the spotlight on some of our favorite music-driven moments of 2015, but, as usual, know that there were many more that didn't make the cut. For the most part, we tried to select musical flourishes that spoke to significant moments for a character or a story—as opposed to songs we simply liked. But just use our list as the starting point for your conversation; let's hear your favorite musical moments of the year in the comments. 


THE "DRIP DROP" AND "KEEP YOUR MONEY" MASHUP, EMPIRE


Although the ratings continued to rise, Empire reached its peak musically in "Dangerous Bonds," with this slammin' dual-tune that told a story in of itself. A fusion of Jamal's protest over his father's financial control and Hakeem's street-wise stomper, it set up the brothers as opposites while also linking them as family through a steady beat. Jamal recorded in a dumpy studio, while Hakeem was filming an ostentatious video of booty girls and champagne. Yet combined together, it killed. That, and the beat was nasty, yo!


AFTER THE FIRE'S "DER KOMMISSAR," iZOMBIE


iZombie is full of magical music moments (think the use of the Cure's "Friday I'm in Love" or even the show's theme song, "Stop, I'm Already Dead" by Deadboy and the Elephantmen), but nothing stands out quite like the brilliant use of After the Fire's "Der Kommissar" during Major's zombie-killing rampage in the Season 1 finale. Not only did it just sound cool (we'd like every badass moment in our lives to also be scored to this song from now on), but for a series that's based in a contradiction as wild as the living dead, pairing the song with Major's actions worked perfectly to highlight how far his character had evolved since the beginning of the series.


BOYZ II MEN'S "END OF THE ROAD," FRESH OFF THE BOAT


Sitcoms' use of music has the potential added benefit of being very funny, something that was definitely on display in this standout moment from Fresh Off The Boat's fall run. The Huang men's performance of "End of The Road" was everything you'd want from a comedic nostalgia trip: funny, character-driven, and still perfectly performed. Fresh Off spent the fall shifting into a more rounded ensemble piece and this segment nicely highlighted the rapport and chemistry between everyone in the lead cast. Glee may have soured you on acapella, but you should let one of TV's best families shower you with the love of vocal harmonies. 


LADY GAGA'S "THE EDGE OF GLORY," BROAD CITY


This scene, with Abbi discovering she was alone in her apartment and subsequently dancing in the nude to celebrate, was intended to be funny. And it is very funny. But it's also, like most great comedy, supremely relatable. Maybe you haven't actually danced around your apartment in the nude, that's fine. What you have done, however, is feel the euphoria of being alone in your space for the first time in what feels like forever. Maybe you just did a small jig. Maybe you turned the music up a little louder. But we've all been there.


KANYE WEST'S "GOLD DIGGER," BLACK-ISH

For whatever reason the clip isn't on YouTube so we can only embed this trailer, but Black-ish's use of one of Kanye's most notable tracks worked on so many levels. First, Jack's school talent show performance was like a comedic bomb just waiting to go off—you knew the lyrics were coming, but that didn't make the audience's horrified response any less funny. Second, it lead to a productive series of conversations about parental influence and discourse that isn't commonly found on network TV. You know, the kind of stuff Black-ish does on the regular.


TIME ZONE AND JOHN LYDON'S "WORLD DESTRUCTION," MR. ROBOT


You can make a claim for the Cure's "Pictures of You" to be highlighted here (Shayla!!!), and ditto for the iconic piano-strumental version of the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" (but that's too Fight Club-y and Leftovers-y), but the anarchist celebration of "World Destruction" was the perfect choice for the finale—and everything Mr. Robot stood for—after Elliot essentially set the world on fire. Change is cyclical, and the same truths John Lydon and Afrika Bambaataa spouted back in 1984 rung true for our times and for what Mr. Robot was selling. That, and it's a hell of a fun song about the end of the world. 


SIMON AND GARFUNKEL'S "HOMEWARD BOUND," THE LEFTOVERS


This was the most important karaoke rendition of the year, narratively speaking. We've written a lot about the greatness of The Leftovers Season 2 this month, but of all the heart-wrenching moments in its 10 episodes, we keep coming back to this, an off-key and confused performance of a cheeseball song that was so completely literal that it moved beyond dumb and circled back to emotional importance. Everything about the scene—from the extreme close-ups on Justin Theroux's blubbering face to the sniffling to the montage of the other characters—was calibrated to produce an overwhelming emotional response, and that it acted as the backdoor to real life for a character who has struggled to find and be himself made that response even more overwhelming.


DAVID CARBONARA'S "LIPSTICK," MAD MEN


Peggy's confident, defiant entrance to McCann Erickson was one of the year's most indelible and meme-able moments, but longtime Mad Men fans know its efficacy comes from more than just Elisabeth Moss' dope performance. The song choice was "Lipstick," a piece of music by David Carbonara that was originally deployed in Season 1's "Babylon," where, you guessed it, Peggy's copywriting talents were first "discovered" by her male superiors. The score therefore signifies a decade of character development for Mad Men's most progressive regular and serves as the ultimate mid-century "Started From The Bottom, Now We're Here." It's the kind of successful callback that only long-running and smart shows can properly fashion.


SIA'S "CHANDELIER," TRANSPARENT


Here's another tremendous instance of dance functioning as a transformative moment for a character. Transparent's Maura, struggling with her identity and how to feel comfortable among her trans peers, was exemplified by the first half of this scene at a local club. That discomfort eventually turned into a sudden burst of self-assuredness, thanks in no small part to a nearby mirror and Sia's triumphant earworm "Chandelier." While Transparent Season 2 was littered with awakenings and becomings like this, Maura's discovery on the dance floor, however temporary, was the show's most powerful.


ESTELLE'S "STRONGER THAN YOU," STEVEN UNIVERSE


It took 52 episodes for the show let Estelle (who voices Garnett) sing—by that point, everyone of the main cast pretty much had at least one song—so the song needed to be good. "Stronger Than You" was great. It encapsulated not only everything about Ruby and Sapphire's relationship (as well as Garnet as a being) but it pretty much summed up the entirety of Steven Universe: working and being together, whether through gem fusion or supporting each other, was the key to being happy... and stopping evil gems from taking over the planet, natch. Really, just about any song from Steven Universe this year could've made the cut, but the sheer anticipation and emotion behind "Stronger Than You" puts it just (barely) above, say, "Do It For Her."

What were your favorite musical moments and performances from 2015?

thekaitling:list:tvcoms-best-of-2015/
Comments (62)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Jan 11, 2016
Did you ever get a song stuck in your head and you don't know where it came from? 'Sense8' (Netflix) shows what that would be like if you were psychically linked to seven other people in S01E04. The choice of "What's Going On?" by 4 Non Blondes was particularly appropriate. :)
Reply
Flag
Jan 08, 2016
def not Greys Anatomy, the music this year was horrible with all those weird shitty cover songs
Reply
Flag
Dec 29, 2015
I'm agreeing with many of these, and the comments. Also, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's California Christmastime was one of the more fun songs of the series, and may be one that sticks around longer than the series.

Not Top 10 stuff, but Halt and Catch Fire's upbeat season-opening Birds Fly with long tracking shot was fun (video).

On a sad note, The Flash's musical episode(s) has not yet happened.
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
I hate Empire but some reason i love some of the soundtrack - i cannot wait till season 2 is over to download the soundtrack

Homeward Bound from The Leftovers and LoveCrime from Hannibal's epic series finale would be my favourite
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
Rick and Morty

Get Schwifty

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ctK1aoWuqY
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
Lovecrime from Hannibal. That was music used in an amazing way. Loved that.
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
GALAVANT!
3
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
AND WELCOME TO THE MACHINE FFS

Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
Rick And Morty's version of Hurt, that was probably the best one. Also the Tiny Rick episode. And of course Get Schwifty.
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
The weird electronic music on the Knick By Cliff Martinez. But i got a thing for experimental electronic music so i'm super biased.
1
Reply
Flag
Staff
Dec 28, 2015
It was in the mix! Hard to pick one though.
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
Well, obviously, Sense8 karaoke hit in episode 4 belongs in this list. Obviously!
Reply
Flag
Staff
Dec 28, 2015
OH MAN!!! I just got to that part of the show after writing most of this. Totally great.
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015

Ray Donovan - Hotel California Scene


I seriously loved it!
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
How on earth is Feeling Kinda Naughty from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend not on this list? That was one of the best songs of the year. So hilarious.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
There was a moment during a TV show where a musical interlude made me stop merely enjoying the program but made me actually fall totally and irrevocably in love with it.

That was "What's Up?" from Sense8 and this list is poorer for the lack of it.
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
NOOOOOO!!!!!!! How in god's green earth did you leave out "Welcome to the Machine"!?!?! Hands down the best music moment of the year! Perfectly fitting for a perfect scene of POI.. I think I rewatched it 12 times
3
Reply
Flag
Staff
Dec 28, 2015
Don't watch it! And — Tim didn't suggest it! Blame him!!!!
Reply
Flag
Dec 30, 2015
My beef is now with Tim. Thanks for the clarification. :)
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
Seriously, how could you leave off "Backstreet's Back" from Scream Queens???!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qTCYCaOrmI
Reply
Flag
Staff
Dec 28, 2015
didn't make it that far in the season!
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
My favorite music moment was Glee leaving the air.
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
Music to my ears.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
Fargo--"War Pigs" in final episode.
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
Sense8 - What's Up

*drops mic*
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
I'm kinda loving Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Nashville has great music too. Grey's Anatomy has good music.
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
I did watch a little Nashville this year. Jane St. John "The Real Thing" and "Shotgun" were great.

Country Xtina &3
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
For me it would be the entire season of Galavant with the high points being "Hey, Hey, We're the Monks" and "Secret Mission". I was also a huge fan of the Blackish episode "The Word"
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
Galavant "Maybe Your Not the Worst"
4
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
Definitely this one from Crazy EX-Girlfriend! It's hysterical. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkfSDSfxE4o

2
Reply
Flag
Dec 29, 2015
(Sexy Getting Ready Song)
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
I'm gonna say the same thing I said on Alan Sepinwall's nearly identical list: The fact that Crazy Ex Girlfriend isn't on there is a crime. Not a single series uses music as effectively as that show does in every single episode. Sure, there were some great moments on your lists, but Crazy Ex Girlfriend makes great moments with original songs on the regular.

What's Up from Sense8 also should be on every list like this.
Reply
Flag
Staff
Dec 28, 2015
Was in consideration for sure! I had a hard time cutting the list down to 10. It was at 13-14 for a LONG time.
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
I have to go with Ash dancing to Space Trucking in the opening scene of Ash vs Evil Dead. It was just too funny. The Juice Box gets me every time.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 28, 2015
New Phone, Who dis?
1
Reply
Flag
Staff
Dec 28, 2015
ooooooooh fuck so good!
Reply
Flag
Dec 27, 2015
What up's in sense8.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 27, 2015
Yeah, Steven Universe! "Do It For Her" is also really neat, too.
Reply
Flag
Dec 27, 2015
I prefer "Crazy XGF" song, especieally the 4 Josh song.
Reply
Flag
Dec 27, 2015

Maybe not the best song on Empire, but definitely the most significant to the story.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 27, 2015
Are all these random lists really less work than just making the usual "Top 100" countdown?
3
Reply
Flag
Staff
Dec 28, 2015
We'll have to evaluate the metrics to see, BUT:

1. The top 100 was far less read than you might think.
2. These lists aren't really random.
3. They allow us to write about different things in a little more detail than the top 100. We're experimenting.
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 29, 2015
Thanks for the reply/explanation. I really look(ed) forward to the Top 100 and hope it comes back next year. What do y'all do with the metrics? How do they work? An article about about the inner workings of tv.com could be pretty cool. (Assuming the metrics are real and not something said to mollify a complainer lol)
Reply
Flag
Dec 29, 2015
Thanks for the explanation. I look forward to the top 100 list every year (even though I never agree with it) but all the other lists have been fun too.
Reply
Flag
Dec 27, 2015
Simon and Garfunkel are still making music?
1
Reply
Flag
Staff
Dec 28, 2015
lol, no
Reply
Flag
Dec 27, 2015

Selfie - Sia, Chandelier

2
Reply
Flag
Dec 27, 2015
Pink Floyd's "Welcome To The Machine" in Person of Interest is definitely worth mentioning, as well as Siouxsie Sioux's new song in Hannibal. That was something.
5
Reply
Flag
Dec 27, 2015
And where is karaoke night from The Muppets?! The Swedish Chef busting out Rapper's Delight is a laugh riot.

3
Reply
Flag
Dec 27, 2015
I'm older than you, Cory, so I've gotta go with all the music from Fargo and Ash vs Evil Dead. Long live Rock 'n' Roll!
2
Reply
Flag
Dec 27, 2015
AHS Freak Show- Jessica Lange performing Lana del Ray - Gods and Monsters
1
Reply
Flag
Dec 27, 2015
Sense8 - Karaoke of 'What's up' by the 4 non blondes. This was really the moment that the show clicked for me.
3
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook