Ten of the Most Iconic TV Theme Songs From Recent Decades.

Ever miss TV shows having theme songs? Here’s a look back at some of our favorites from the 90s to the 2010s before streaming took over our screens.

For many music lovers and avid TV watchers, a show’s theme song stands out and sets its tone. Oftentimes, theme songs stick with us for years to come. Nowadays, with few shows premiering live anymore amid the rise of streaming services, few productions opt for theme songs. We’re taking a walk down memory lane and reminiscing on some of our favorites.

I Don’t Want to Be by Gavin DeGraw for One Tree Hill (2003-2012)

This pop-rock track skyrocketed to popularity when One Tree Hill premiered in 2003. The song sends a strong message about DeGraw standing firm in his identity as an artist amid the distractions of Hollywood and the music industry. The themes of identity were the perfect intro to the lengthy series that followed two half brothers with dramatically different upbringings on the same basketball team. Singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw even guest starred on the series, which was host to numerous musical guests over the years at the fictional Tric nightclub (including Jimmy Eat World and Sheryl Crow).

I’ll Be There For You by the Rembrandts for Friends (1994-2004)

The song from the 90s rock duo was a huge part of the show during its 10-year-run. It’s the perfect song for anyone living amongst friends in the big city like the characters on Friends, when “no one told you life was gonna be this way.” The unique blend of characters are always there for each other despite the many curveballs life throws their way.


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The Best of Both Worlds by Miley Cyrus for Hannah Montana (2006-2011)

Any Gen Zer knows this song by heart. From what many refer to as the Golden Age of Disney Channel sitcoms, Hannah Montana kicked off Miley Cyrus’ acting and music career when she was only 13 years old. The iconic wig changes and song from the opening sequence stir up happy childhood memories for many.


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The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air by Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990–1996)

The fun hip-hop track served as a backstory before each episode of the sitcom began during its six-year run. Performed by Will Smith (who played himself on the show), the song includes plenty of hilarious details, including Smith saying “smell ya later!” to a smelly Los Angeles cab driver. The song was the perfect funny intro to prepare the audience for another half hour of laughs on his sudden adjustment to an upper-class life.


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I Don’t Want to Wait by Paula Cole for Dawson’s Creek (1998—2003)

The dramatic, free-spirited track by singer-songwriter Paula Cole opened Dawson’s Creek on teenagers’ TV screens for years. This show easily defined teen dramas for decades following its release–some of its actors, including Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton-Morgan, went on to play main characters in One Tree Hill shortly after. The show was full of twists and turns over its many seasons, including many impulsive decisions made by each respective character–they certainly didn’t wait for their lives to be over to start living.


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Everything Is Not What It Seems by Selena Gomez for Wizards of Waverly Place (2007-2012)

The quirky theme song performed by the show’s star, Selena Gomez, became instantly recognizable for kids watching the family of secret wizards navigate high school, running a small business, and life in New York City. The song was the very beginning of a long music career for Gomez, who released her first Spanish language album last year but will always be remembered for this sweet teenage tune.


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Where Everybody Knows Your Name by Gary Portnoy for Cheers (1982-1993)

This track always feels like a warm embrace. The long-running sitcom set in a Boston bar centered around a group of locals who come together every week to socialize, albeit their different backgrounds and daily struggles. The real Cheers bar in Boston still uses this song as a slogan.


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Leave it All to Me by Miranda Cosgrove for iCarly (2007–2012)

This pop track is highly significant in retrospect––iCarly was one of the first TV shows centered around internet culture and the beginning of social media as we know it. Similar to Gomez, this song kickstarted Cosgrove’s music career. Music remained a throughline in the show with stars making guest appearances on main character Carly Shay’s web show, including a then-teenaged One Direction.


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Final Frontier by Andrew Gold for Mad About You (1992-1999)

The old-school love song was the perfect lead-in to this sitcom about an artsy newlywed couple in New York City trying to find a balance between their careers and married life. A contemporary of Friends, this show was a part of an iconic era of young-adult sitcoms before the age of cell phones took over.

Seinfeld Theme by Jonathan Wolff (1989–1998)

This short composed tune doesn’t even have any lyrics–but the funky notes are instantly recognizable for the long running comedy. The “show about nothing” was actually about finding the humor in the mundane.


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Theme songs are sorely missed as of late, and we can only hope that streaming platforms will allow for their comeback soon, so that we can continue to carry new shows into our memories as well.

About the Author

Madison Goldberg

Madison E. Goldberg is a senior at Emerson College majoring in journalism and minoring in publishing and photography. She’s covered numerous topics in news and entertainment as a multimedia journalist.