Master showrunner Shonda Rhimes has brought us some of the most heartbreaking, thrilling, oh-no-she-DIDN’T scenes on television. But just as memorable as those moments are the songs that soundtrack them.
No Grey’s Anatomy fan can listen to Anna Nalick‘s “Breathe (2AM)” without tearing up, while for Scandal viewers, just a few keys of The Album Leaf‘s “The Light” are enough to feel woozy. And we shouldn’t even have to mention what the electro-infused rock of How To Get Away With Murder does to amp up the chaos onscreen.
As Rhimes pulls off the most unexpected plot twist of all — her own move from ABC to Netflix, announced today (Aug 14) — we’re taking a trip to Shondaland to run down the best musical moments on Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder, below. Oh, and if you haven’t already guessed: major spoilers ahead.
When Meredith pulls a bomb out of a patient’s chest: “Breathe (2 AM)” by Anna Nalick
Season 2, Episode 17
In one of the most famous Grey’s episodes ever, Meredith is forced to pull a bomb out of a patient’s chest without setting it off. Holding your breath? Us, too. It’s safe to say we all needed a little bit of Anna Nalick’s 2000s melody “Breathe (2 AM)” to make it through this one.
When Denny dies, and Alex carries Izzy home: “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol
Season 2 Finale
Bring out the tissues. Snow Patrol‘s goosebump-inducing 2006 track “Chasing Cars” soundtracks a whole host of drama in the season two finale of Grey’s Anatomy, but Denny’s death scene — and Izzy’s breakdown afterward — is by far the most heartbreaking. If Izzy’s sobs and Alex’s heartfelt monologue about moving on aren’t enough to start tears flowing, the tender chords and emotional lyrics of “Chasing Cars” will. It wouldn’t be the last time Grey’s used “Chasing Cars” to provide the backdrop for a character’s death, either. A cover of the song by Sleeping At Last was also used for (deep breath) Derek’s death in season 11.
When Bailey breaks down in tears: “In My Veins” by Andrew Belle
Season 6 Finale
Grey’s fans faced heartbreak after heartbreak in the show’s season six finale, which was centered around a shooting at the hospital. When Bailey spends hours fighting to save Dr. Charles Percy’s life only to find out that the police have shut down the building’s elevators, leaving Percy no choice but to bleed out in the hallway, Bailey has a break-down — and so do we. All this is soundtracked by Andrew Belle‘s equally heart-wrenching acoustic melody “In My Veins.”
Promo for the episode where Derek dies: “How To Save A Life” by The Fray
Season 11, Episode 21
It’s safe to say fans got worried when Shonda titled one of the last episodes of season 11 “How To Save A Life,” referencing The Fray‘s 2005 song. The show-runner is known for naming episodes after famous songs (though the song itself rarely appears in the episode), and more often than not, those titles foreshadow a major event. This time around, that event was the death of Derek, Meredith’s soul-mate and the original McDreamy. We’re not crying — you’re crying.
When Fitz and Olivia are being Fitz and Olivia: “The Light” by Album Leaf
Season 6 Finale
“The Light,” a tragically gorgeous, piano-helmed track from the Jimmy LaValle’s musical project The Album Leaf, might as well be renamed “Fitz and Olivia’s Theme Song.” The song’s melancholy hook instantly brings to mind the forbidden lovers and the infamous will-they-won’t-they dance that runs through the entire series. Every scene that employs “The Light” is bound to melt hearts, but this moment from the series’ season six finale — where Olivia gives Fitz a tearful goodbye in front of a horde of press photographers — is the biggest tear-jerker of them all.
When Liv gets kidnapped: “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” by Stevie Wonder
Season 4, Episode 9
When Olivia switches on her “favorite song,” Stevie Wonder‘s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” to dance through her living room with Jake in this season four episode, things finally seem to be looking up for the show’s star. But as we should probably expect by now, Rhimes quickly turns the lighthearted song on its head when Jake returns from the bedroom to find Olivia gone.
When the Gladiators are the only ones at Harrison’s funeral: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Aretha Franklin
Season 4, Episode 1
What’s sadder about this scene: the fact that Harrison is dead, or the fact that the Gladiators are the only ones to show up to his funeral? We’re not sure, but we do know that Aretha Franklin‘s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is the perfect song for the scene, which manages to be both uplifting and absolutely devastating.
HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
Annalise and Wes let loose at a club: “Happiness” by IAMX
Season 2, Episode 1
All seems well when Annalise drags Wes out to the dance floor in the closing scene of this episode — that is, until the episode cuts two months into the future to find Annalise bleeding out on the carpet of the Hapstall manor. In the background is IAMX‘s electronica-meets-rock track “Happiness,” which as you can probably guess, doesn’t actually sound all that happy.
Annalise takes off her wig and makeup: “No One’s Here To Sleep” by Naughty Boy feat. Bastille
Season 1, Episode 4
In this now-famous scene, we get a peek at a rare, vulnerable side of cutthroat lawyer Annalise Keating, who (after removing her wig and makeup) delivers one of the series’ most iconic lines to her husband — “why is your penis on a dead girl’s phone?” There’s no better song to soundtrack those plot-twisting words than Naughty Boy‘s “No One’s Here To Sleep,” which perfectly matches the series’ dark, nerve-wracking energy.