As we are currently pushing into the 9th season of this decade’s best medical drama, tension rises in Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital after the heartbreaking and cliffhanger season ender earlier this year. But apart from the edge-of-your-seat shocking developments, cast departure *tears*, stellar acting, and brilliant script-writing from Shonda Rhimes, one of the series’ great strengths is its soundtrack – courtesy of the equally excellent music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas.
From one episode to another, the weight of each gripping scene is exponentially doubled with every well-placed song. It also paved the way for relatively unknown independent acts to reach a wider audience, delivering their music from small screen to chart toppers. Some of today’s biggest hits were actually first heard in Grey’s (i.e., Florence + The Machine and Adele). For huge fans, most of the artists are already household names. Some are regular contributors to the series, but nonetheless, the songs that crop up are like an anchor latched securely to our memories.
Here are my top 15 songs from the show, which mostly, if not all, hail from Grey’s best episodes.
1. ‘Where Does The Good Go?’ – Tegan and Sara (Season 1, Episode 4)
Where do you go with your broken heart in tow
What do you do with the left over you
And how do you know, when to let go
One of the moments where the docs of Seattle Grace save and lose their patients. In the scene where Izzie saved her patient from being potentially castrated by one of the attendings and Cristina called in one of her early casualties (who used to work at the hospital and was Ellis Grey’s scrub nurse for a very long time), the interns are slowly learning the rules of intimacy, letting go, and how to tell the difference.
2. ‘Scratch’ – Kendall Payne (Season 2, Episode 15)
Do you get weary? Do you ever get weak?
How do you dream when you can’t fall asleep?
Scene: Meredith has to take care of a patient who signed a DNR and is only waiting for her time. After calling in time of death, she broke down and Derek tried to comfort her.
One of the most pivotal moments of Meredith and Derek’s relationship (this season is probably the most emotionally charged of all nine), both knew how much they feel for each other but since Derek’s still married and left out that information when he began dating Meredith, the latter has to try and leave the picture.
3. ‘In My Veins’ – Andrew Belle (Season 6, Episode 24)
Everything will changed,
Nothing stays the same,
Nobody is perfect,
Oh, but everyone’s to blame.
Scene: Dr. Bailey and the patient, Mary dragged Dr. Percy to the elevator to transfer him to the OR. Unfortunately, the police officers locked it down. Dr. Percy died in Dr. Bailey’s arms.
In a situation where you are most vulnerable, helpless, and fearing for your life and your loved ones, how can you muster the strength to stand on your feet and face death? The only thing we can do is to never leave a man behind, to never make anyone feel alone in the worst time of their life.
4. ‘Open Your Eyes’ – Andrew Belle (Season 6, Episode 22)
She’ll be a star now
I will follow her lead
She’ll be a scar now
I will still let her bleed
All over me
Scene: Arizona and Callie kissed on the elevator, their relationship is still on the rocks because of Callie wanting to have a child and Arizona not wanting to have one.
The piano opening is just remarkable, and with that emotional scene, where you can feel that things are ending, the song is just all too fitting. The kiss was the one of the saddest goodbyes in this season.
5. ‘Songs from Different Times’ – Jack Savoretti (Season 6, Episode 6)
Has it always been hard for you?
Are you scared of the truth?
Is the wrong way just right for you?
Scene: The residents of Mercy West and Seattle Grace were desperately saving a burn patient who died because of one simple, grave misstep.
While still recuperating from George’s death and with Izzie in the wind, the residents are faced with another grave situation where they must do their best to keep their jobs in Seattle Grace. Working with strangers did not fare well at the beginning as they competed for their spot. April Kepner was fired (and eventually got re-hired).
6. ‘Off I Go’ – Greg Laswell (Season 5, Episode 24)
Off I go
Where I fall
Is where I land
Scene: John Doe, who turned out to be George, and Izzie were both coding at the same time.
Personally, this is still my favorite season ending so far. From the moment that Meredith figured out the ‘007’ written by George on her palm to Chief Webber saying, ‘Screw the DNR!’, I was at the edge of my seat. The most moving part was the metaphor of the elevator. George was outside in his military uniform, while Izzie’s still in, wearing the dress she wore when Denny died, both of them just staring at each other, knowing where both will end up going. If that didn’t break your heart…
7. ‘Love Will Come Through’ – Travis (Season 3, Episode 12)
If the world isn’t turning
Your heart won’t return
Anyone, anything, anyhow
Scene: Alex and Addison almost kissed, Izzie tries to help her patient who’s reluctant to accept any, Meredith ignores Thatcher, and Cristina and Burke are still not speaking with each other.
In the middle of the season where everything seemed to be hazy and just out of place, people who are know science all their life is forced to face situations where most of the time, emotions get the best of them. And that they too, are just people with scalpels running around.
8. ‘Grace’ – Kate Havnevik (Season 2, Episode 27)
Nothing comes easily
Fill this empty space
Nothing is like it seems
Turn my grief to grace
Scene: At Chief Webber’s niece’s prom, Meredith and Derek sneaked in one of the exam rooms and did it.
Just a few moments before this season’s gripping ending, Meredith and Derek just proved to each other that neither Addison nor Finn can keep their feelings shut in the past.
9. ‘Love More’ – Sharon Van Etten (Season 7, Episode 21)
She took the time
To believe in to believe in what she said
And she made me love, she made me love, she made me love more
Scene: Henry was about to tell his feelings to Teddy, but he was cut off by Teddy telling him that he’s going away to Germany with the trauma specialist, Andrew Perkins.
Flat out heartbreaking. This song cannot be more well placed in this specific scene. These two might have the shortest love story, and frankly, an unconventional one, it was nonetheless a good one, and probably as unfortunate as Izzie and Denny’s.
Bonus: Bon Iver did a cover of ‘Love More’, watch it here.
10. ‘Skin’ – Zola Jesus (Season 8, Episode 10)
In the city, you find pain
And the people you see there
That remind you of your own
Let it go
Scene: Teddy finally learns that Henry’s dead, and went to see her husband’s body.
Owen and Webber kept the truth from her and Cristina (who operated on Henry, without knowing it was him). Henry died on the table anyway. Knowing fully well that your husband’s health is unstable does not in any way prepare you, nor make you contemplate on the fact that he can die any time. And that another fact that the muse of sadness herself, Zola Jesus, singing with her haunting voice, does not ease up any of the baggage.
11. ‘In Front Of You’ – The Quiet Kind (Season 7, Episode 22)
Why can’t you ever see
What’s in front of you?
Scene: Owen throwing Cristina out of their house, Alex drinking at Joe’s, and Meredith bringing Zola to an empty house.
Many would argue the fact that this is the most underwhelming season finale yet, but the song for me, was the saving grace of this episode. Looking at the lyrics, it was quite simple. But the slow pacing and with everyone’s relationships just falling apart, Shonda Rhimes got a good pass with this one.
12. ‘How To Save A Life’ – Grey’s Anatomy Cast, Original By The Fray (Season 7, Episode 18)
Let him know that you know best
Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you’ve told him all along
And pray to God, he hears you
The whole cast singing this song that cannot better define this series. Enough said.
13. ‘Atlas Hands’ – Benjamin Francis Leftwich
I will remember your face
‘Cause I am still in love with that place
But when the stars are the only things we share
Will you be there?
Scene: Susannah and Danny reunite; Cristina patches Alex up after almost killing him.
In its stripped down glory, its simplicity is just stunning. Benjamin Francis Leftwich ended up writing other songs that were featured in Grey’s (like Andrew Belle), which was not surprising given that his songs’ themes are perfect for most melodramatic episodes in the series.
14. ‘Got It, Lost It’ – Big Scary (Season 8, Episode 6)
Think you could
Thank you god
Think you lost what you had
And never get back to you
Scene: Derek tells Clay the good news, Teddy lectures Karev about being scared, Callie shares the good news with Tyler and Tyler yells at his parents.
It wasn’t a big of a scene, but this song caught my attention because of its big percussion and overall morose tone. Again, I praise Alexandra Patsavas for her excellent indie rock choices.
15. ‘Chasing Cars’ – Snow Patrol (Season 2, Episode 27)
I don’t quite know
How to say
How I feel
Those three words
Are said too much
They’re not enough
Everyone who’s watched Grey’s long enough knows this scene and I had to include it with the song itself to remind us how great this series is.