The show made some iconic choices to use tracks by the biggest names in music, from U2 to Madonna to Hootie & the Blowfish (hey, they were massive in the '90s). There were musical guest stars and, of course, a theme song that started as 45 seconds of show music and turned into a hit single.
The Rembrandts "I'll Be There for You"
The most memorable song from Friends
has to be its theme song, which inspired millions of clap-clap-clap-claps (things are going great) and has a chorus nearly everyone in the Western world can sing.
In an unusual move, this song was written specifically to be the show's theme song, with the band co-writing with Michael Skloff
, the Friends'
theme composer. As such, it was only 45 seconds long — only later, after the show was a success, did the band turn it into a single.
The Tokens "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"Call it Marcel's theme: this earworm of a song played for the first time in episodes 18 and 19 of season 1 when Marcel pushed play on the CD player (it was the '90s). It was his favorite song! The show brought it back in their season 2, episode 12 Superbowl special when the whole gang sing it to remind Marcel who they are when they visit him filming on the set of Outbreak 2.
Madonna "Take A Bow"In a heartbreaking moment, this haunting track from Madonna plays as Rachel waits for Ross at the airport when he's returning from China, only to find he's come back with a girlfriend.
Hootie & the Blowfish "Hold My Hand"In the entire ten seasons of Friends, the group went to one concert. And that was to see Hootie & the Blowfish for Ross's birthday in 1995 on season 2, episode 5 — an on-point choice, considering they had one of the biggest and best-selling albums of the year. The band were front and center in this episode, kind of — while we heard their music and saw the friends dancing to it a bit, we didn't actually see Hootie or any Blowfish. Fun fact: the tickets to see Hootie were $62 each. You'd be hard-pressed to find a ticket that cheap these days (apologies to Rachel, Chandler, and Phoebe, who found that to be a rather steep price).
U2 "With Or Without You"Early on in their relationship, this became like Ross and Rachel's theme song. It's in season 2, episode 7 when, after pining over Ross and agonizing over his relationship with Julie, he finally finds out Rachel is in love with him. It plays when they kiss in the kitchen, FINALLY getting together.
It pops up again episode 8 when Ross makes a radio request and dedication to Rachel.
Then, it shows up again in season 3, episode 15 — aka the infamous "One Where Ross And Rachel Take A Break." It's playing while Ross kisses Chloe on the dance floor. Understandably, that was the end of Ross and Rachel's love affair with U2.
Chris Isaak "Wicked Game"
"The One Where Ross And Rachel...You Know," need I say more? Yes? Fine, this very sexy '90s song was playing season 2, episode 15 while Ross and Rachel "you knowed" for the first time in the Natural History Museum.
moment: Chris Isaak himself had a guest spot
as Phoebe's love interest a few episodes before in episode 12 — the show's Superbowl special.
Phoebe Buffet "Smelly Cat"The legendary "Smelly Cat" was a recurring bit on the show, sung by Lisa Kudrow's character — but did you know a real rockstar co-wrote it? Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders (who was also a guest star on "The One With The Baby On The Bus") helped pen the music along with Kudrow and a couple of Friends writers. From the moment we first heard it in season 2, "Smelly Cat" has been a coffee house legend.
Eric Carmen "All By Myself"The very same episode that brought us "Smelly Cat" also brought us one os the funniest music moments in Friends history. In "The One Where Eddie Moves In," Chandler gets a new roommate after Joey moves out. At the end of the episode, Chandler and Joey both stare out of two different windows into the rain, while this gold AM classic plays. It's funny because there's no way they listen to this music.
Barry Manilow "Copacabana"Remember when Rachel ended up being the maid of honor when her ex-fiancé Barry got married in the season 2 finale? And then she found out Barry's parents told everyone she left him at the altar because she'd gone insane from syphilis? She only lent credence to the rumors when she got up and unexpectedly sang this Barry Manilow gem with Ross at the reception. It was an odd song choice, even at the time, that confirmed that Rachel was probably not that cool in high school.
David Bowie "Space Oddity"Friends liked this song enough to bring it back as a recurring joke. We first hear it on accident when the gang and Joey's grandmother are surprised to watch Chandler sings it on a VHS at the end of season 5. It made a return in the premiere episode of season 6 when Joey sings it to Phoebe as an apology. What we don't know is: how much time did Joey and Chandler spend in their apartment listening to Bowie?
Loreta "The Trouble with Boys"This highly forgettable pop song soundtracked one of the most unforgettable moments of Friends: when Ross and Monica did The Routine. Yup, this is what was playing when they were dancing on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve and desperately trying to get on the platform so they could land some air time.
Tony Bennett "The Way You Look Tonight"Ah, remember the one where Chandler recycled a mixtape for Monica — and it turned out that Janice made it for him and threw some special Janice commentary in? Yeah, the song they slow danced to in season 6, until it was ruined anyway, was "The Way You Look Tonight." And Monica specifically mentioned she hoped it was on there!
There are a lot of versions of this song, so if you want to put it on a mixtape (or playlist) of your own, make sure you get Bennett's version.
Eric Clapton "Wonderful Tonight"Chandler may have lost Monica's love with a song, but he got it back with one too. This song plays in the season 6 finale when Chandler proposes to Monica. Spoiler alert: she said yes!
Eve feat. Gwen Stefani "Let Me Blow Ya Mind"Monica had a stripper at her bachelorette party, but Chandler didn't. When he finds out, they have to even the score. So, Monica strips (kind of) for him to this early '00s track in season 8.
Sir Mix-A-Lot "Baby Got Back""The One With Ross's Inappropriate Song" is another Ross and Rachel classic — centered on their baby, Emma. This season 9, episode 7 plot finds them in competition to do firsts with the baby (they're still broken up/not together). And Ross got Emma to laugh first by singing this early '90s rap staple to her. Rachel was appalled at first, but by the end of the episode raps it herself. It's clear that Emma, even as an infant, already has a well-developed sense of irony — she's gonna need it with those on again/off again parents.
Tanya Tucker "Delta Dawn"In the strangest musical choice since Rachel sang "Copacabana," Monica sings this '70s country hit by Tanya Tucker in the aptly titled "The One Where Monica Sings." We never find out why she picked this track to sing at Mike's (Paul Rudd) karaoke night, but we do find out she's a hit because her shirt was see-through. Oops.
Interpol "Untitled"Remember when there was the whole storyline where Rachel and Joey hooked up? Me either, but this decidedly early '00s rocker soundtracked their big kiss in season 9, episode 2. It was a big step away from Ross and U2.