TV and Film's 20 Best Musical Moments Of 2013
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TV and Film's 20 Best Musical Moments Of 2013

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | December 9, 2013 | Comments ()


It’s not fair, perhaps, to release a “best of” list this far from the end of 2013. But that isn’t stopping anyone else on the internet. There are, however, definitely a few delightful musical moments still in store for us this month. Many of our favorite TV series are already on winter hiatus but some of the heaviest Oscar contenders are still yet to hit the theaters. We can look forward to whatever this is from Anchorman 2. And you should brace yourselves, Benedict Cumberbatch sings AND plays the piano in the upcoming August: Osage County (not the first time we’ve heard him sing…but still). Kristen Wiig will try her hand at some Bowie in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and, perhaps most heart-tearing of all, Joaquin Phoenix will croon a lullaby with his robotic girlfriend, Scarlett Johansson in Spike Jonze’s Her. You can hear the full version of “The Moon Song” sung by Karen O here. Or enjoy it over the last minute of the film’s trailer with a dollop of Phoenix.

As a fan of musicals, I’m most looking forward to Saving Mr. Banks a cornballier version of Adaptation which shows the artistic process behind adapting P.L. Travers’ book into the classic Disney musical Mary Poppins. From this behind-the-scenes featurette you can see that Travers (Emma Thompson) animator Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and the famous composers The Sherman Brothers (the perfectly cast Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak) sing “Let’s Go Fly A Kite.” But I suspect the quieter rendition of “Feed The Birds” will be the showstopper. You can see snippets of both in this video.

But that’s what’s to come. This is a celebration of what we’ve already seen and enjoyed. So here, to wash to taste of The Sound Of Music Live! out of your mouth are TV and film’s 20 best musical moments of 2013.

20. American Horror Story: Asylum
Though Ryan Murphy’s anthology show has a tendency to go off the rails every season, this bit of musical nonsense was right on target. Jessica Lange doing The Frug is precisely why we watch this show.

19. Glee
Most people I know have either stopped watching Ryan Murphy’s other over the top drama or have switched to hate-watching it with a vengeance. But many of us (perhaps ghoulishly) tuned back in to see how the series would handle the death of Cory Monteith. Would it be a fitting, classy tribute or would it be more emotionally manipulative and exploitative? The truth is that it was a little bit of both but when the honest emotions of the cast shone through, it was an arresting piece of art. I think this performance from Monteith’s real-life girlfriend, Lea Michelle, would have been a world-collider if they had broadcast the live, on-set audio rather than a pre-recorded track. The uncomfortably honest emotion Michelle is obviously experiencing here doesn’t come through in her perfectly smooth vocals. Maybe it’s uncouth for me to wish to be privy to someone’s actual emotional turmoil, but if you’re going to do it, why not do it all the way?

18. The Kings Of Summer
As much as I wanted it to love Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ debut, I found it a little uneven. The performances from the kids were fantastic and the cinematography was moody and beautiful, but the story dragged and yawned in parts. But all the best elements came together perfectly in the pipe-drumming montage at the center of the film. The scene is unembeddable, but you can either watch it here or get a sense of it from the trailer.

17. Arrested Development
I suppose I should have picked either “Getaway” or something from the Tobias musical, but the Simon & Garfunkel cue was one of the best gags of the rocky 4th season.

16. Nashville
I want to pay some respect to a show that is trying very hard on a weekly basis to incorporate music into the narrative and character development of the show. Unfortunately, for the most part, the musical interludes fall flat. So here’s a bit of a cheat, a song that originally aired in 2012 but was sung by the actors again at the Opry in 2013, “Fade Into You.” Before the show melted into the soapy guilty pleasure it has become, I really thought these characters and this song promised a much stronger musical series.

15. Saturday Night Live
About a year or two ago SNL became addicted to adding music to their opening monologues and we saw a general ramp-up in music-based sketches. (Josh Hutcherson’s recent Outfield sketch being an excellent example.) But the musical moment that made me laugh until I cried was, hands down, this dance number from Melissa McCarthy, Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan. It reminded me of one of my favorite sketches of all time.

14. Behind the Candelabra
Despite the fact that the HBO miniseries was about one of the world’s most famous musicians, we didn’t get a ton of musical performances. But this boogie-woogie scene (Scott’s introduction to Liberace) was phenomenal.

13. Raising Hope
This is one of those middle of the road sitcoms that largely goes unnoticed by critics but it’s always good and sometimes great. Their glam rock performance of “Rock The Torah” was the icing on one of the best musical episodes of television I’ve ever seen.

12. Much Ado About Nothing
Joss Whedon’s delightfully low-key foray into Shakespeare wasn’t my favorite version of Much Ado, but this might be my favorite version of “Sigh No More.” The sweet, jazzy take was played over luscious party footage and dazzling aerialists. Maurissa Tancharoen and the Whedon brothers nailed it.

11. Stoker
Watch this scene between Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode and tell me it’s not one of the sexiest things you’ve seen on film all year. Apologies for the terrible quality, many thanks to Phillip Glass.

10. The Sapphires
This sweet film flew under the radar this year but it’s definitely worth a rental. The true story of an indigenous Australian girl group who entertained the troops in Vietnam has oodles of fantastic Motown numbers but this performance of “What A Man” was my favorite. Watch the girls find their groove and forget all about Stax, En Vogue and Salt ‘N’ Pepa.

9. Sound City
I just want to pay tribute to Dave Grohl’s entire documentary which is packed to the brim with new performances from talents like Stevie Nicks and Paul McCartney. A must-watch for any music lover.

8. This Is The End
Best movie ending all year? Without a doubt. I might have squealed aloud in the theater.

7. The Great Gatsby
I hate to say this. I’m afraid it will destroy all my musical credibility. But not only did I love Baz’s soundtrack, I think this Lana Del Ray song is the best track on it. I know! This is an actual lyric “Oh that grace, oh that body/ Oh that face makes me wanna party.” I KNOW! But it’s so hauntingly perfect. Accept it. Move on.

6. Breaking Bad
I’m a huge fan of Dave Porter, the composer on Breaking Bad. His musical cues have added so much flavor to the show throughout its entire run. But the moment that stopped me dead was the end of Granite State when the full Breaking Bad theme plays over Walter’s disappearance. It was a hint of the Heisenberg to come. I believe I actually applauded its use.

5. Frozen
It’s no secret that I loved this movie. I consider it the finest musical Disney has put out since the early 90s. There are a lot of enjoyable numbers to choose from (“Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People” is a personal favorite), but I think we have to pay proper respect to the power of Idina Menzel’s enormous voice. Queen Elsa, like a frosty little Maria Von Trapp, wanders the hills and finally gives in to her special gift. Both her vulnerability and pride come ringing through in Menzel’s performance.

4. Boardwalk Empire
This show, in their infinite wisdom, cast the lovely and talented Margot Bingham as nightclub singer Daughter Maitland. Bingham’s beautiful performances throughout the season made this one of the show’s best. There are a wealth of options to choose from but I think I have to pick this pas de deux between Margot and the captivated Chalky. It positively crackles.

3. Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers and T-Bone Burnett know how to put on a musical. To date over 7 million copies of the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack have been sold. The songs from this folk music homage are just as delightful. Anchored by the film’s star, Oscar Isaac, the album also features Justin Timberlake, Chris Thile, Adam Driver, Carey Mulligan and her husband (I did not know this!) Marcus Mumford. It’s hard to pick the best track from the album (though the one I keep playing on repeat is the Peter, Paul and Mary cover “500 Miles”). That being said, it’s hard to imagine a moment more delightful than this silly novelty song from Isaac, Driver and a wounded Timberlake.

2. Game Of Thrones
I thought long and hard about this one. The more rational choice from this season of Game Of Thrones would be The Hold Steady’s raucous rendition of “The Bear And The Maiden Fair.” But even though it was originally introduced last year, I think I have to give this spot to “The Rains Of Castamere.” One of the most famous musical cues in modern literature was integral to the success of the most unforgettable television moment of the year. So for chilling our blood during The Red Wedding, the number two position goes to that haunting Lannister tune.

1. 12 Years A Slave
Something that director Steve McQueen has done well, historically, is put his trust in the strength of his actors and their ability to perform. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that he works with the best (Fassbender, Mulligan, Ejiofor). But a signature McQueen move is to leave his camera on an actor’s face in tight close-up loooong after we in the audience are comfortable. He forces you to look, really look, as his talented actors deliver heart-cracking and discomfiting performances. This is the case in both of his previous films Hunger and Shame.

McQueen is much less likely to use flashy camera work or editing tricks to manipulate you. He wants you to marinate in the moment. The most beautiful example of this technique in 12 Years A Slave is when Solomon (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), surrounded by his fellow slaves, listens to them sing the spiritual “Roll, Jordan, Roll.” The song repeats and repeats until finally Solomon, who has, this entire time, held himself as separate and a little above the rest, joins them. Ejiofor’s grief-stricken face both speaks to Solomon’s hopelessness of being rescued and the solace he finds in finally being a part of the community around him. He relaxes into the despair. Leans into it. You can get a glimpse of Ejiofor’s phenomenal performance (and lovely singing voice) in the trailer, or enjoy John Legend’s silkier version from the film’s soundtrack. I strongly advise you do both.

Aca-Believe It, Awesome Nerds: 'The Sing-off' Returns | 5 Shows After Dark: Just This. Lots and Lots of This.

Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Art3mis

    Uh, you missed the Rural Juror song that closed out the 30 Rock finale. That's my number one for the year.

  • LwoodPDowd

    ummmm Treme?

  • El Grande

    Great list. Only thing I would add would be "All The Faces," the original song Creed Bratton composed for The Office Finale. Beautiful song.

  • I needed that Backstreet shot in the arm tonight.... daisies and creampuffs to you, Ms. Robinson.

  • prince_of_montagu

    Decent list but everything that involved Megan Hilty in Smash (if you're one of the five people who watched the show) deserves to be here.

  • prince_of_montagu
  • Pentadactyl

    Every few weeks Megan Hilty on Smash clips tend to take over my youtube history. I keep cycling back to it. And with good reason

  • prince_of_montagu

    Ah, she's so amazing. I would literally end up smiling like a complete buffoon after any of her performances. She was the best thing about that show. McPhee's blandness only made Megan more luminous.

  • Target_Blonde

    Holy sh*t. I need to start hate-watching Smash just for Megan Hilty alone.

  • John W

    Honorable mention: Breaking Bad, Badfinger's Baby Blue.

    I hope we see more of Margot Bingham.

  • kushiro -

    I know a lot of people don't get to see it, but Misfits does a great job with music. The third episode this year had a terrific scene using "The Power of Love" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. One of my favourites of the series.

  • apsutter

    I'm an unapologetic Lana Del Rey lover and I don't care what anyone says about her. "Paradise" is just so perfectly melancholic and has helped me get through a complete shit show of a year. And even if that line is cheesy, Young and Beautiful is still gorgeous

  • Ryan Ambrose

    May I also add the final scene from Hannibal where Dr. Lecter visits Will Graham at the Baltimore State Hospital for The Criminally Insane and some soft opera starts playing.

    The song was Hans Zimmer's beautiful rendition of "Vide Cor Meum" followed by the most diabolically perverse half-smile by Mads Mikkelsen.

  • Inspired list, really. I was thinking the ending of the second season of Alphas had a nice moment. I was looking for a link on YouTube, but foiled in a modest effort. It's a nice cliff-hanger as well, provided there's anything more forthcoming.

  • Maddy

    The Sapphires is a great movie - Deborah Mailman is a fantastic actress. I still remember when they closed the doors and the Rains of Castamere started playing. I knew what was going to happen the whole episode, but that gave me chills. I thought the Bear and the Maiden Fair version in the actual episode was better than the Hold Steady version, but maybe that's just me.

  • alwaysanswerb

    Just popping in to offer support for the LDR selection. That's all!

  • rio

    I've been signing the Rain of Castamere non stop this summer, I tried to convince my mother to have it play in our cave while we were selling sangria for our local medieval market but she wouldn't bulge, party-pooper!

  • Jen

    One of my favorite musical moments of 2013 was Michelle and Ginny singing "It's a Perfect Relationship" on Bunheads.

  • rio

    Pretty much any musical moment in Bunheads deserves praise, man I miss that show!!! I wanna see Frankie the banana getting his ass kicked!

  • JoannaRobinson


  • Guest

    Where's Bob's Burgers? Electric Love!

    "Lindapendant Woman", "Topsy", "Broadcast Wagstaff School News"
    and I'm sure I'm missing a few others.

    'They'll say 'Awwww Topsy' at my autopsy'

    For Raising Hope - The Old Girl - Ain't No Sunshine was probably my favorite TV music moment of the year with young Jimmy, Jimmy and Sabrina all singing the song. (also Burt's Arbor Day song).

  • ed newman

    You set the bar pretty high when you placed The Name Game song at #20. I haven't seen most of these so I am looking forward to 19 moments better than that one.

  • Sean

    Wasn't that from 2012 as well? And seriously, how could there be 19 things better than that?

  • Michelle

    YES. 500 Miles is one of my favorites on that soundtrack as well.

  • Ryan Ambrose

    Phenomenal list, great entries, no objections.

    My personal addition would be the beautiful yet unsettling karaoke scene near the ending of the masterful Only God Forgives, which was one of my favourite films this year and had one of the most terrifying silent antagonists I've ever seen since Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men.

  • Maguita NYC

    I've been meaning to watch this, have not yet found the right moment to handle all that violence...

  • Colleen Griffin

    I opened this link hoping for that August: Osage County Clip. Shenanigans!!

    You haven't heard Cumby sing until you've heard this, though:

    Be sure to get a drool bucket before playing.

  • Maguita NYC

    Jeebus that voice just hits you right there! And than lower...

  • BWeaves

    I really enjoyed The Sapphires. The DVD has a lovely featurette on the real Sapphires. They were spunky.

  • So glad The Sapphires is getting some attention beyond Australia. Debra Mailman is a national treasure, and that cast in its entirety is fantastic.

    If you're keen for more of our fantastic Indigenous actors strutting their stuff, track down Redfern Now ( it's incredibly great and has just finished its second season on our national broadcaster, the ABC.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I have got to get out/stay in more. I only know three.

  • narfna

    I have been listening to that Frozen track (and watching it on YouTube) on a loop since Saturday night. I think there might be something wrong with me, and it's warping my perception of reality. Any moment now, I'm convinced I'm going to walk outside and just start freezing things with the power of my mind and the song in my heart.

    I kind of can't believe I just typed that.

  • ViciousTrollop

    My four year old niece believes the same thing. She said I wasn't allowed in her "frozen ice castle."

  • chanohack

    My Worst Call Moments of 2013 include choosing that song as a good time to run to the bathroom when I went to Frozen with my cousins. FAIL. (There's a "Let It Go" joke in there somewhere.)

  • narfna

    You need to go see it again just for that scene on the big screen. I was watching it with my mouth open.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    so the cold snap is YOUR fault.

  • narfna


  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I love your list, especially because I thought Stoker was a super sexy/super creepy movie that a lot of people overlooked this year.
    My only addition would be Isaac's version of Hang Me, which was one of the more haunting things I've ever heard.

  • FireLizardQueen

    I had such high hopes for Nashville based on those characters too. I loved their duets and actually bought the season 1 album. I still watch the show but there haven't been a lot of stand out songs this season.

  • Ted Zancha

    I agree wholeheartedly with your number one choice. So many scenes in that movie were heartbreaking but that one really hit home.

  • Allijo

    Great entries on this list, but the Messiah "Hallelujah Chorus" ending of this season of The League was pretty spectacular. I have to sing it all this week, and will not be able to keep a straight face. Damn you Ruxin.

  • AmazingE

    "Hey Brian, who's this Kevin guy? He sounds like a real piece of shit!" That's two seasons in a row that the finale for this show made both me and my husband laugh uncontrollably for at least ten minutes after it was over.

  • Samantha Klein

    Oh, I was hoping you would include the 12 Years scene, which I thought was the emotional climax of the film. I'm so glad it's #1. Just amazing.

  • Kristalbailey

    Posting this list before the Psych musical airs on USA? Bold move.

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  • Sara_Tonin00

    Thank you for reminding me to set my dvr!

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