Music in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel

Music in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel

The use of music was a key component in the fictional Buffyverse established by the TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.



Buffy theme

The "Buffy theme" is the music played alongside the opening credits of the show. The theme itself has no lyrics; it begins with several notes played by an organ, a signifier for horror in movie culture from the 1930s onwards. This is quickly replaced by upbeat rock music; an electric guitar riff signifies youth culture and a post-modern twist on the horror genre.

The theme was played by the punk rock band Nerf Herder. In an interview they explain how they came to produce the theme:

"They [the Buffy production staff] had hired some famous theme song composer to come up with a theme and they didn’t like the one he came up with so they were kind of on a low budget, and asked local bands to come up with theme song ideas." [1]

In the DVD commentary for "Welcome to the Hellmouth", Whedon explained that part of his decision to go with Nerf Herder's theme was that Alyson Hannigan had made him listen to the band's music.

Nerf Herder later recorded a second version of the theme which was used for the opening titles from season 3 on.

Codo controversy

The song sounds similar to a section of a German pop song from the Eighties called "Codo" by "Deutsch-Österreichisches Feingefühl" (DÖF), but in 2006 Nerf Herder said that they had "never heard of DÖF", and the similarity was coincidental.[2]

Back in 1999, Nerf Herder lead singer Parry Grip gave the background on the writing of the melody. The original melody was not written specifically for the show; it had been in place before Whedon contacted the band asking them to submit a demo for a theme tune:

We did the theme song before the show was on the air. It was a song that had already been written, but we really didn't know where to take it. I had some ideas - it was originally going to have some kind of science-fiction theme, which is weird, because we don't do songs like that. I remember having the title of 'Outer Space Rock' or something like that; that was a working thing.[3]

"Codo" also has a science fiction theme and the lyrics reference an alien and flying objects. Their performances of the song featured outer space themes.

Angel theme

The next year, Angel invited bands to submit demos for the theme music to the show. They asked bands to use "dark superhero ideas" and "Cello-rock".[4] Darling Violetta watched pivotal Angel-related episodes of Buffy like "Passion" and "Becoming, Part One" & "Becoming, Part Two" for inspiration. Eventually Joss Whedon accepted Darling Violetta's interpretation of an Angel theme as that most suitable for the show.

  • The theme has a slower tempo than the Buffy theme. It has heavier use of acoustic instruments such as cello and violin.
  • In 2005, the band composed an extended version of the Angel theme called "The Sanctuary Extended Remix", which featured on the soundtrack of the series Live Fast - Die Never.
  • Joss Whedon and Alexis Denisof sing their own lyrics to the theme song in the DVD commentary to the episode "Spin the Bottle":

Buffyverse discography

A number of CD releases have been released linked to the Buffyverse:

Buffyverse discography Release date
Buffy film soundtrack 1992
Buffy album 1998
Once More, with Feeling 2002
Radio Sunnydale 2003
Live Fast, Die Never 2005
Buffy score 2008


Many people have worked on the scoring of Buffy and Angel. Some of the main composers were:

Christophe Beck

Beck was the main composer on Buffy during seasons 2-4. He continued to compose key episodes after such as "The Gift" and "Once More, with Feeling". An album dedicated to his compositions for the show, entitled Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Score, was released on September 9, 2008.[5]

Memorable tracks include:

  • "Close Your Eyes" plays during the award-winning "Becoming". This song incorporates the "Buffy/Angel Love Theme" that is used significantly throughout seasons 2 and 3. (This appears on Buffy album.)
  • "Remembering Jenny" plays after the death of Jenny Calendar ("Passion"). This song also features backing vocals from Anthony Stewart Head who played Rupert Giles on the show.
  • "Slayer's Elegy" plays during the final assault of "The Wish".
  • "Loneliness of Six", which plays at the end of "Lovers Walk" as various heartbroken characters walk off in different directions.
  • "Sacrifice" plays when Buffy sacrifices herself for her sister and for the world ("The Gift"). (This appears on Once More, With Feeling soundtrack along with Beck's suites from "Restless" and "Hush".)
  • "I'm Game" plays at the end of the penultimate episode of Angel ("Power Play") as the gang decides to go for a surely-suicidal final assault against the Circle of the Black Thorn. "I'm Game" was the theme used throughout the series whenever there was a need for "heroic music," and first debuted in the first episode ("City Of"), when Angel decides to fight evil in Los Angeles.

Robert Duncan

Duncan is credited as composer for Buffy episodes 7.02 and 7.04-7.22. Memorable tracks have included:

  • "Chosen", Buffy and Spike's love theme, Faith and Robin's theme, and the theme of Slayer Victory (during the fight in the Hellmouth).
  • "Every Girl, A Slayer", which plays whilst Buffy proposes her idea to overcome the First.

Robert J. Kral

Kral was the main composer for the series Angel, writing the music for 112 episodes for seasons 1 through 5. Initially hired by Christophe Beck for Season 1 with shared credit, Kral was employed by 20th Century Fox directly for Seasons 2 through 5. Kral worked for Beck on initial episodes, with Kral then writing most of the episodes for season one. Kral employed Zoran Boris and Douglas Romayne to write additional music for the final two seasons. The soundtrack Live Fast, Die Never mostly consists of his scores from throughout Angel. Fans were asked via internet and email for their favorite tracks and the resulting poll determined the bulk of the soundtrack released by Rounder, EMI and 20th Century Fox Television.

Memorable music scenes and themes by Kral for Angel include:

  • "Hero" for the character Doyle
  • "Darla's Theme" which recurs throughout the series
  • "Rebellion" for an episode with crossover plots and characters from Buffy
  • "Home" for Angel's son Connor, as he eventually lives out his life with no memory of his father
  • "Darla's Sacrifice" for an intense change in the story arc of the series
  • "Pylea", which features a score style change for several complete episodes in a different "dimension" of medieval style fantasy
  • "Vespa Chase" featuring a comedic motorcycle chase through Italy
  • "The End Of The World"

Douglas Romayne

Douglas Romayne was hired by Joss Whedon to score episodes of Buffy season 7. He scored additional music for 33 episodes of Angel seasons four and five for Robert J. Kral. He was Associate Music Director on the Buffy musical "Once More, with Feeling," which was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Music Direction (C. Beck and J. Tobias nominated). He also arranged Joss Whedon's song "Mrs" in "Selfless". Memorable tracks have included:

  • "In Westbury Field" which plays when Giles is introduced in England ("Lessons")
  • The suite of "Istanbul" "Just In Time" and "Lesson One" is the score to the opening sequence of the season - from a slayer being chased and murdered in Turkey to Buffy training Dawn to fight vampires to Buffy's worries about the new school ("Lessons")
  • "On The Mend" which plays when Buffy helps Willow heal from the Gnarl ("Same Time, Same Place")
  • "Another Way Out" which plays when Angel, Wes, Lilah, Fred and Connor are trying to escape the Beast, set loose at Wolfram and Hart ("Habeas Corpses")
  • "Chasing Lilah" ("Calvary")
  • "Cordy's Journey" which plays over a montage of scenes showing that Cordy is possessed ("Inside Out")
  • "The Hellmouth" which plays when Spike magically appears in Angel's office straight from the Buffy series finale ("Unleashed")
  • "Puppet Fight" which plays when Angel, transformed into a puppet, has a showdown with evil puppets taking over the lives of children in LA ("Smile Time")
  • "One Day To Live" which plays while Angel and the gang try to save Fred from dying of a mystical disease ("A Hole in the World")

Music from Buffy, Angel and other television series and films can be heard at Romayne's official website.

Thomas Wanker

The main composer for the majority of the 5th and 6th seasons of Buffy. His work tended to be subtle, and he thrived in "unassuming mysterious underscore".[6] Some of his best work appears in "Shadow" and "Into the Woods", more specifically, the tragic melodies which are used in musical montages shown along with Buffy's and Dawn's coping with their mother's illness, and Riley's feelings of alienation from Buffy.

The Bronze

The Bronze is a nightclub in Sunnydale. It hosts live music and serves as a key place which the Scooby Gang spend time for leisure. In the opening episodes, Sprung Monkey and Dashboard Prophets establish that much of the music featured at the club is of the alternative rock and roll, though numerous styles of music are also later heard.

The Bronze appears in 66 of the 144 episodes of Buffy. The Bronze acted as a way for the production team to showcase new bands from the Los Angeles area, as well as more well known artists and bands such as Aimee Mann, Cibo Matto and Michelle Branch.

Some key musical moments at the Bronze:

  • Buffy and Angel dancing to Sophie Zelmani's "I'll remember you" ("Angel")
  • Buffy taunting Xander by intimately dancing with him to Cibo Matto's "Sugar Water" ("When She Was Bad")
  • Buffy and Faith flirtatiously dancing to Curve's "Chinese Burn" ("Bad Girls")
  • Jonathan, the superstar, performs various hits from Royal Crown Revue ("Superstar")
  • Oz along with the other Scoobies hears the band, "Shy" (a fictional front for the real-life band, T.H.C.), and their lead singer Veruca ("Beer Bad"/"Wild at Heart")
  • Giles performs 'Giles's Epiphany' along with Christophe Beck and Four Star Mary ("Restless")
  • Willow and Tara dance together during Melanie Doane's "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You" ("Family")
  • Michelle Branch plays "Goodbye to You" - A performance which became particularly well noted amongst fans due to the meaning of the episode ("Tabula Rasa" featured the break-up of Willow and Tara; the departure of Giles to England; and the beginning of Buffy and Spike's relationship). The version used on the show was slightly different from the radio version. ("Tabula Rasa")
  • The Breeders performed in the episode "Him" that aired November 5, 2002.
  • Angie Hart performs "Blue" with her band Splendid. The song was co-written by Hart and Joss Whedon ("Conversations with Dead People")
  • Aimee Mann performs "This Is How It Goes" and "Pavlov's Bell" ("Sleeper")

Dingoes Ate My Baby

  • Oz's band, Dingoes Ate My Baby appeared on the show many times:
Episode Location Songs
"Inca Mummy Girl" The Bronze "Fate" & "Shadows"
"Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" The Bronze "Pain"
"Dead Man's Party" Buffy's House "Never mind", "Pain" & "Sway"
"Homecoming" The Bronze "She knows"
"Band Candy" The Bronze "Violent"
"Revelations" The Bronze "Run"
"Living Conditions" Buffy's dorm room "Pain" (on stereo)
"The Harsh Light of Day" The Bronze "Dilate"
"The Initiative" The Bronze "Fate"

Lorne and Caritas

Main articles: Lorne & Caritas

Lorne was born in a dimension called Pylea, a world without music. In 1996, he happened upon a dimensional portal and was sucked through it. He landed in Los Angeles and discovered music and culture. Soon after he opened up a karaoke bar, Caritas. He had honed the ability to read people's auras when they sung, and he could give them direction.

Some key musical moments include:

  • The first song from Caritas seen on screen is Lorne singing Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" ("Judgment"). Lorne was seen in many more Season 2 episodes singing at his bar.
  • In the same episode, Angel, a long-time fan of Barry Manilow, sang "Mandy". When he needed guidance once again he chose Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" ("Dear Boy").
  • Cordy, Wes and Gunn drunkenly sing Queen's "We Are The Champions" after they have been sacked from Angel Investigations ("Redefinition").
  • Darla sings Ella Fitzgerald's "Ill Wind" when asking Lorne for advice. ("The Trial") .
  • Lindsey McDonald sings "L.A. Song". The music and lyrics written by David Greenwalt ("Dead End"). Eve also sang a little bit of this to Lorne to make sure she didn't have anything to do with what was happening to Fred ("A Hole In The World") .
  • The last performance seen at Caritas was Patsy Cline's "Crazy" sung by Fred ("That Old Gang of Mine").
  • After the destruction of Caritas, in the Angel finale, Lorne visits another bar and sings Regina Belle's "If I Ruled The World" ("Not Fade Away").


Velvet Chain

The Buffy EP was released by Velvet Chain in February 1999, following their appearance in "Never Kill a Boy on the First Date". The title track, "Buffy" is a retelling of the relationship between Buffy and Angel during seasons 1 and 2 of the show. The album also features the songs, "Strong" and "Treason", the two songs the band played during their appearance on the show.

Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan's music is used twice on Buffy at two key moments (finales of Season 2 and 6).

  • Full of Grace
    In Becoming, Part Two "Full of grace" plays when Buffy leaves Sunnydale. The song and Buffy's abandonment signify the character reaching an all-time low.
  • Prayer of St. Francis
    At the end of the sixth season in Grave, "Prayer of St. Francis" plays as Buffy climbs out of the ground with Dawn. The song is all about overcoming that which is wrong, and renewal.
    "The song, appears in the U.S. version of the Radio Sunnydale (12 songs), but not in the UK one (21 songs).

Notes and references

External links


Darling Violetta

Nerf Herder


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