The 9 Most Iconic Music Moments from 'The O.C.' 

California, here we come. 

A beach village and "The O. C." series text sign

On a recent episode of HBO’s Girls, Marnie has a conniption when her bandmate and husband, Desi, tells her that they got a call from one Alex Patsavas. Her freakout is earned, given that the IRL Alexandra Patsavas is a person who makes artists’ careers by putting their music in movies and TV. She scored episodes of Mad Men, Grey’s Anatomy, Gossip Girl, and, most notably to our generation, she decided who Seth Cohen was listening to on The O.C. The bands who scored a slot playing at Cohen’s favorite local venue, the Bait Shop, enjoyed major success after the O.C.’s fans scrambled to their Gateway PCs to look up their new favorite song. Now that The O.C. has finally hit a streaming service — Hulu — please enjoy the most affecting musical moments that Seth Cohen’s magical mixtapes (and existence) had to offer.

1. “Don’t insult Death Cab!”

Seth Cohen’s favorite band was Death Cab for Cutie, which really put it on the map — in terms of being beloved by gangly scene guys and girls who love gangly scene guys. In this sequence, Summer slings an unparalleled burn at their sound as “Title and Registration” plays. It’s perfect.

2. “Orange Sky”

It wouldn’t be the O.C. without a prison scene in the same episode as a heartwarming “the gang eats chinese food” scene. Get you a song that can do both.

3. Rooney being Rooney

ROONEY THE GODS. Death Cab wasn’t the only band who got a major boost from the show, of course. With Rooney playing “I’m Shakin’,” Marissa and Ryan fight because Oliver (the ultimate worm) is present, being wormy. Marissa’s hair is also crimped. Just soak it in.

4. Youth Group covers “Forever Young,” everyone is sad

The O.C. had iconic sad montages. These were the O.C.’s premiere bars, and oh, did this show have bars! Bars for days. As Ryan and Marissa rekindle their love, Julie cries, and some other sad things go down, and the show introduced “Forever Young” into the lives of millions of teens who had no idea it was anything other than a phrase on a tee shirt at PacSun.

5. Nada Surf’s ‘If You Leave’

Ah, yes. The airport scene—a staple in Patsavas-supervised dramas. Sure, the writing has nothing to do with her touch, but the soundtrack makes this scene one-hundred times better. Anna and Seth say goodbye to each other, in a teenage-as-fuck “I love you, but—” way, and Anna throws down the classic “confidence, Cohen” line, which will forever be the only self-help book we need. There is a lot of hyperbole in this description, but we’re talking about a teenage drama’s airport scene, so please just go with it.

6. The sad finale “Hallelujah”

Sad montage? Check. Sad song? Check. Sad cover of sad song? Check. Boat sailing into the horizon as we wonder if anything will ever be okay again? Absolutely. Masterful.

7. Sandy Cohen has Ryan Atwood all wrong

It’s hard to think about a time when Ryan Atwood wasn’t posted up in the Cohen pool house, but indeed, that day existed in the pilot episode of the series. Here, we have Ryan showing us his hard knock life, to “You’ve Got Me All Wrong,” which is an appropriate song title for a situation full of misconceptions and first impressions. Sweet.

8. Maybe this was a sham wedding, Jem’s “Maybe I’m Amazed”

This scene is worth three hundred words. You don’t need to go through that, though, so let’s just say that this cover is incredible, this wedding was a mistake, and we should all probably have an event in the hills of Orange County with a live band once, because it looks tight.


It’s technically not a moment, but it is the most recognizable theme song of the 2000’s, and you can’t hear it without shout-singing along to it like you’re cresting a hill in the middle of southern CALIFOOOOORNNNIIIIIIIIAAAAAAA. And if you can hear it without doing so, you are a fucking monster.

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