6 TV Songs That Could Have Been Real-Life Hits: From 'Empire' to 'Atlanta' & More

Matthias Clamer/FX
Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred Miles, Keith Standfield as Darius and Donald Glover as Earnest Marks in Atlanta.

Original music for TV shows often adds to the authenticity of a syndicated story line and the pseudo-world the characters inhabit. However, no matter how comical or unnecessary some made-for-TV tracks may seem, the score often becomes as relevant as the show itself.

With the new fall TV season underway, Billboard shouted out some small-screen hits that could have been real-life hits.

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“Paper Boi" - Atlanta

Just one episode into Donald Glover’s FX series Atlanta, viewers were left with an earworm. The catchy trap song whose hook goes "Paper boi, Paper boi, all about that paper boi." Performed on the show by Alfred "Paper Boi" Miles (the cousin of Glover’s character, Earn and a drug-dealing hustler with a budding rap career), the song is straightforward, unpolished and even inspired by Atlanta rapper Rocko’s 2008 hit “Umma Do Me.”

“He’s trying to capture that vibe of pure Atlanta hip-hop scene, which seems to be a dying one -- or maybe not a dying one but a changing one -- that sound really comes from 2003 or 2008, when most of those synths were developed, those heavy horns and electronic synths,” said producer Chemist of Stephen Glover, Donald's brother, who is also a writer on the show, a real-life rapper under the name Steve G. Lover, and the actual voice behind “Paper Boi.”

Chemist, who has worked with artists like Freeway, Nipsey Hussle, and Tory Lanez, added, "I used that whistle, which was very popular with Shawty Lo's D4L tracks. I was just trying to capture the essence of Atlanta."

"Drip Drop" - Empire

While the Twitter-verse cringed in unison at the Empire hit, the hook alone -- "She make that thang go/ Drip, drop, drip drippity drop" -- stuck like putty and even topped Billboard + Twitter Emerging Artists chart (it also hit No. 37 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and No. 11 on Rap Digital Song Sales). The show, which featured original music by Timbaland, found rap star Hakeem Lyon (played by Bryshere Y. Gray, a.k.a. Yazz) employing a playful tone on the track that isn’t actually talking about a leaky faucet.

"Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (Theme Song) - Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

A rising actor/MC at the time, Will Smith took on the task of writing and performing the theme song for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, composed by Quincy Jones III. Originally airing on Sept. 10, 1990, the track became a classic reminiscent of the carefree, Cross Colours style of the early '90s. The infectious theme song, which preceded Smith's real-life releases "Summertime" and "Boom! Shake the Room," was quite popular overseas with a full-length version being released in 1992 in the Netherlands and hitting No. 3 on the country's music charts.

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“Girls" - Girls

Santigold is known for her new wave, genre-fusing sound that mixes electronic, reggae and hip-hop influences. When Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO comedy Girls, tapped the artist to grace its season one soundtrack, the singer/songwriter/producer delivered a catchy girl power anthem that showcased her unique rhymes: "I’m the cat’s meow, ain’t afraid of y’all/I’m a winner though I lose I ain’t afraid of defeat/All my girls make up an army knock ‘em dead off their feet." Just a thought: How dope would Nicki Minaj sound on this?

"Milk, Milk, Lemonade" - Inside Amy Schumer

Before Fergie make milk look super sexy (see: "M.I.L.F. $), Amy Schumer used it in the title of her hip-hop parody tribute to every woman’s behind. Providing comedic relief for her sketch series, the song feels like an unapologetic re-up of Jennifer Lopez’s "Booty."

"Used to be concerned that my booty was too fat/But now I know the truth and that worry has been shot/ Big booty's what they want and big booty's what I got,” Schumer, an avid rap ran, rhymes. While the lyrics get T.M.I. with references to bowel movements, the song also features Amber Rose’s sultry guest verse and Method Man’s spoken word outro. "Milk, Milk, Lemonade" also generated more than seven million views on YouTube and hit No. 19 on Billboard + Twitter Top Tracks

“We Are Living Single" - Living Single

The '90s Fox sitcom is certainly classic television as is its theme song, written and produced by Queen Latifah. Featuring elements of R&B, jazz and hip-hop, the song features Latifah’s hardcore flow centered around women empowerment. Having started her own solo career with her 1989 debut All Hail the Queen and 1991’s Nature of a Sista, both of which tackled topics and issues surrounding black women, Latifah's work with "We Are Living Single" should be considered part of her uplifting discography.

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