Supernatural has been a staple of horror television since 2005, due in large part to the popularity of the characters and the actors who play them. Before the series began, however, those actors were hardly household names- so, there had to be something else to draw in viewers. Sure, it helped that Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki were dreamy young heroes capable of snatching hearts with their charm, sensitivity, and inner turmoil; but for me, personally, my attraction to the show stemmed from two specific loves: horror and classic rock.
In the early stages of the series especially, rock music was just as integral to the Supernatural aesthetic as saving people and hunting things. The music never served as “background noise” for a scene, but rather a doorway to understanding the anatomy of our beloved characters and the horrifying situations they frequently find themselves in. The use of classic rock as a score felt true to the show and its characters, and today we’re highlighting 10 of the greatest moments in which the musical genre has been utilized.
10“Hey Man, Nice Shot” (Filter)
“Hey Man, Nice Shot” is a dark, ominous song that appears in the season one episode, “Skin”. In the episode, Sam and Dean are hunting a shape-shifter who is adopting the look of innocent people and going on a killing spree. Unfortunately for the Winchester brothers, one of the shapes it takes on is that of Dean, which stirs up a significant amount of trouble for them while they’re in town trying to save the day.
The song begins as “Dean” is preparing to kill a young woman, but is instead pursued by the police. He manages to escape, and the song hits its stride as the shape-shifter sheds Dean’s skin. In the gnarly scene, we see fingers contort, teeth fall out, and flesh fall apart- all while being accompanied by the perfect song.
9“Rooster” (Alice in Chains)
Special Agent Victor Henriksen had a rough go at things in his stint as a recurring Supernatural character. It seemed that every time he got close to catching the Winchester boys and putting them away for crimes he thought they committed, they either managed to evade him, or something… supernatural… worked out in their favor.
In season two’s “Folsom Prison Blues”, the brothers intentionally get themselves arrested to rid a penitentiary of an evil spirit, only to have Henriksen arrive and complicate their stay. By the end of the episode, however, the brothers manage to escape the FBI agent in a great scene in which “Rooster” by Alice in Chains is playing. I’d argue that Alice in Chains makes everything better, but when the atmosphere of the song matches an episode so incredibly well, I don’t even have to tap into my favoritism to prove a point.
8“Bad Moon Rising” (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
“Devil’s Trap”, the season finale of Supernatural‘s first season, ends on an intense cliffhanger. Though they’re all banged up, the brothers have finally reunited with their father and are planning their next step in their fight against the yellow-eyed demon. Fittingly, “Bad Moon Rising” is playing on the radio, because in a quick, unexpected moment, the Winchester luck ran out.
The passenger side of the Impala is suddenly plowed into by a semi-truck being operated by a demon, and the screen momentarily cuts to black before resuming the song and showing us the aftermath of the crash. The three Winchesters are bloody and unresponsive, and we’re left to fret over whether or not they would be okay. Spoiler alert: only two of them would make it out of the hospital alive.
7“Simple Man” (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Make no mistake about it, there has been a fair amount of conflict between Sam and Dean Winchester- especially after Sam became addicted to demon blood and brought on the apocalypse. Oops.
In the season five episode “Free to Be You and Me”, Sam decides to give up hunting and try to live a normal, quiet life working at a bar. “Simple Man” plays during the scene as we bounce back and forth between Sam settling into his new life and Dean hunting monsters and demons. The song allows for an effective contrast between, not only Sam and Dean, but Sam and himself.
6“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” (Blue Oyster Cult)
This song choice may be a bit more on the nose, but it’s inclusion in the season one episode “Faith” is entirely effective. While attempting to save Dean, the brothers come across a faith healer who seems legit in his work. Though Dean is skeptical, the healer makes him better, and appears to have healed many others as well. Since this is Supernatural, though, it’s mandatory that these impressive powers come with a certain darkness.
For every person that is healed, another life is taken by a reaper. The reveal of Sam and Dean discovering what they’re dealing with is spliced together with both the faith healer saving a life, and the reaper stalking a young woman and claiming her life. In part, it may seem like a cliched choice to use “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” during this scene, but come on. It’s one of the greatest songs ever made, and honestly, why wouldn’t you take advantage of it?
5“Heat of the Moment” (Asia)
“Mystery Spot” is a fantastic episode of Supernatural. Much of the third season focuses on Dean’s impending death after making a deal for Sam’s life in the season two finale. The eldest brother has only a year to live, and this is the episode that started to drive home the idea that Sam would not be able to save him.
In the episode, Sam is forced to relive the same day over and over- with Dean dying in each iteration. The premise is initially used for laughs as “Heat of the Moment” is the song Sam wakes up to each morning, and we see Dean die in incredibly funny ways. After a while, though, viewers enter the headspace of Sam as he begins to realize that he can’t save his brother. While initially amusing, the song takes on a maddening effect, and, like Sam, we’re so relieved when it finally changes.
Special Agent Henriksen may not be a lucky man, but the episodes of Supernatural that he’s in feature some damn good music. In the season two episode “Nightshifter”, Sam and Dean are stuck in a bank with hostages and a shape-shifter. If that’s not a dicey enough situation, though, there’s also a SWAT team outside who are prepared to take the Winchester brothers into custody for crimes they are believed to have committed.
After a long night of running around and playing hero while also trying to evade Henriksen and his team, the Winchester brothers execute a genius plan and escape while “Renegade” plays over top of the scene. The song meshes seamlessly with the events taking place, the overall story arc of Henriksen’s search for the brothers, and the Winchesters never-ending life on the road.
3“Rock of Ages” (Def Leppard)
“Swan Song” is arguably the greatest hour of television that I’ve ever seen. Though Supernatural continued past season five, the finale episode could have also served as a perfectly satisfying stopping place. Sam saved the world; end of story.
In the episode, Sam finally agrees to let Lucifer use him as a vessel, hoping that he can get all hopped up on demon blood and defeat the devil. Lucifer proves much stronger than the brothers anticipated though, and the plan results in the archangel gaining total control over Sam. Rather than simply letting the world end, however, Dean travels to the battleground of Lucifer and Michael, intending to either save Sam or die alongside him. In typical Dean fashion, he pops in a cassette tape and jams “Rock of Ages” by Def Leppard while rolling onto the scene. With lyrics about going for broke and not fading away, the song choice was true to Dean’s character and the situation itself.
2“Wanted Dead Or Alive” (Bon Jovi)
As mentioned earlier, season three was built around the looming death of Dean Winchester. There was never any real hope of saving him, but the boys took every means necessary to try. In the season finale, “No Rest for the Wicked”, the brothers attempted to momentarily ignore that issue when Dean played “Wanted Dead Or Alive” on the radio, proving that Bon Jovi rocks… on occasion.
The song fits the tone of both the story and the trouble Dean has found himself in, but it also serves as one of the greatest moments between the Winchester brothers that Supernatural has to offer. Sam and Dean jam out to the song together, releasing their burden for one slow moment in time, and Dean experiences his last true moment of happiness before leaving his brother behind forever.
…well, until season four.
1“Carry On Wayward Son” (Kansas)
There are three undeniable facts in life: God is a dinosaur, peanut butter and jelly is best when mixed together in a bowl, and though it was created nearly 30 years before the show aired, “Carry On Wayward Son” was made for Supernatural. The song is present in each season finale, and the lyrics seem tailor-made for the lives of Sam and Dean Winchester.
In many ways, “Carry On Wayward Son” serves the series as its own character. The song highlights the lives and emotion of the story in such a way that you can’t imagine the show even existing without it. Though the Kansas track was perfect in its 29-year pre-Supernatural existence, it shouldered a great purpose for the series that elevated both the song and show to unrivaled heights of emotional resonance. Don’t you cry no more.