No one ever told you life was going to be this way: that moment when you realize it’s been 20 years since Friends first aired. You can still remember exactly where you were the first time you watched an episode. You have vivid memories of taking a photo of a young Jennifer Aniston to the hairdresser and asking for “The Rachel,” or adopting the phrase and precise intonation of Chandler’s catchphrase “Could this BE any more…” You remember when Joey’s “How you doin'” was the pick up line du jour, and hoped some day you and your siblings would be as tight as Monica and Ross. And you found yourself humming the tune of “Smelly Cat” on regular occasion. Actually, let’s face it, you still know all the lyrics.
Friends is one of the most popular and iconic sitcoms of all times, and the music on the show has become just as memorable and legendary as its quirky characters. Phoebe, being the resident musician, is of course responsible for many of these. But let’s not forget the timelessly catchy theme song, or the plethora of musicians (like Hootie & the Blowfish) who lent their music to the show. And then, of course, there’s Ross’ “Sound”. To celebrate Friends 20th anniversary, we’re remembering the 20 most iconic music moments from the show’s history, and yes, we’re singing along to all the Phoebe Buffay classics.
1. “Smelly Cat”
“Smelly Cat” is as essential to Friends as the shows theme song. In fact, we’d go as far as to say it’s the show’s unofficial theme song. “Smelly Cat” gets lots of play time over the ten seasons of Friends, notably getting its own music video (in which another singer’s voice is dubbed over Phoebe performing) in Season Two, Episode 17 (“The One Where Eddie Moves In”) and is even jingle-ified for a kitty litter commercial (in “The One With Phoebe’s Ex-Partner), birthing Phoebe’s sleeper hit, “Jingle bitch screwed me over.”
2. “I’ll Be There For You”
We’d be completely remiss if we didn’t mention the Friends theme by 90s band The Remembrants. Maybe it’s generational, but we still know all the lyrics to “I’ll Be There For You” — and as die hard Friends fans, we even know the lyrics to the second, lesser known verse that didn’t appear in the Friends credits. Do you?
3. “With Or Without You”
Long before U2 was forcefully infiltrating your iTunes library, “With Or Without You” was considered an all time great, as far as romantic ballads go. When Ross made a list about Rachel’s pros and cons in “The One With The List”, as he tried to choose between Rachel and Julie, and Rachel read it (because in what sitcom world doesn’t she read it?), she gave him the silent treatment. Being the 90s, Ross obviously called up a radio station and dedicated a U2 song to Rachel, imploring her for forgiveness, because Friends was born in the age of on air radio song dedications (don’t pretend like you never did it).
4. Ross’ “Sound”
It’s rare to ask someone who their favorite character was on Friends and be told “Ross”. We don’t know why — the hilarity of his sincere misadventures (and his semi-pathetic white guy nature) lends itself to hysterical storylines. Like when he had a “sound”.
A personal favorite of this particular author, Rachel dressed up in a hideous bo-peep style bridesmaid dress and singing Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” to assert herself in a room full of assholes is etched into TV history as one of the most iconic moments not only on Friends, but EVER.
6. Hootie & the Blowfish
It was the 90s so everyone was wild about Hootie & the Blowfish, including the characters on Friends. With Hootie and the gang’s songs featured on the shows official soundtrack, the defining moment for the band was in “The One With Five Steaks and an Eggplant”, where Chandler, Ross and Monica (the “rich” friends) went to a Hootie & the Blowfish concert without the other three. And ending up at the after party (again, sans Rachel, Phoebe and Joey), Monica got suckered by a Blowfish.
7. “Space Oddity”
It was such a small moment you might have forgotten it, but die hard Friends fans will only ever be able to sing “Space Oddity” with the same intonation as Chandler does on the mystery tape he and Joey filmed (to what enigmatic end, we will never be sure) and accidentally showed the gang in “The One Where Ross Can’t Flirt.”
8. Phoebe’s Shower Song
Another Phoebe classic (and classic Rachel “getting to know” Phoebe moment) is her shower song in “The One With The Baby On The Bus”. We’ll never forget: “Tegrin spelled backward is Nirget”.
9. Phoebe Meets David
When Phoebe meets the first love of her life, David the Science Guy (Hank Azaria), she’s playing a Christmas show at Central Perk featuring some characteristically oblivious but definitely darkly inappropriate lyrics.
10. Chandler Gives Monica A Mix Tape
On “make your own present” Valentine’s Day, Chandler panics and gives Monica a mixtape he finds in the closet, without listening to it first. Obviously, a romantic moment dancing to “The Way You Look Tonight” is interrupted by the original maker of the mixture, Chandler’s ex girlfriend and cameo favorite, Janice.
11. “The Cow In The Meadow Goes Moo”
Chris Isaak makes a guest appearance on Friends in “The One After The Super Bowl”, playing Phoebe’s love interest and curator of musical guests at the public library. When Phoebe’s inappropriate songs don’t go over well with the parents, he asks her to sing more songs about “barnyard animals”. The result is unforgettable.
12. “A Horse With No Name”
In “The One With Joey’s Big Break”, “A Horse With No Name” plays out Joey’s ultimate disappointment and make for one of Friends’s more poignant moments.
13. “Night & Day”
Because the last one made us a bit sad, we’ve included Joey’s ballroom dance romp on the roof with the Super, Mr Treeger. Even though the show wasn’t shot in New York, Sinatra’s classic “Night & Day” makes for an epic New York moment, where two unlikely characters bond for a brief moment.
14. “I Am Bee”
Ross becomes unreasonably panicked when his son Ben, being raised by his ex wife and her lesbian life partner, starts playing with dolls, because intense homophobia wasn’t a complete taboo yet for television in the 90s (we’d love to see how this one would go over in the age of Twitter!). But in “The One With the Metaphorical Tunnel”, Ross gets his, as Monica calls back memories of Ross as a child, dressing up as a woman and having pretend tea parties while singing the “I am Bee” song.
15. “Angel of the Morning”
Chrissie Hynde made a guest appearance on Friends as “Stephanie Schiffer” in Season 2, stealing Phoebe’s spot as Central Perk’s resident musician. While we’re team Phoebe for life, her rendition of “Angel Of The Morning” was pretty beautiful.
15. “In The Jungle”
When Ross finds his ex-pet monkey Marcel is famous, the friends visit the movie set so see the primate. Given that Marcel is a monkey, he doesn’t give much of a crap that these weird humans want to hang with him. That is until they start singing “In The Jungle”, with some amazing harmonies from Joey.
16. Phoebe’s Christmas Song
When Phoebe can’t rhyme your name with anything… Well… She wont. As evidenced in her Christmas Song, where she’s got nothing to rhyme with Chandler and Rachel.
17. “All By Myself”
Joey and Chandler have some funny, albeit poignant, moments of loneliness when the pair parts ways as roommates (temporarily, duh) in “The One Where Eddie Moves In”. The montage of their autonomous living situations plays out to “All By Myself”, which is quite hilarious when paired with the bouncing breasts of Baywatch.
18. “Their Bodies”
At the end of Season One, in “The One With The Birth”, Phoebe, Ross and Susan find themselves trapped in a janitor’s closet while Carol goes into labor. This is the prime time for Phoebe to sing some inappropriate improvisation with her songs, and so she sings “They found their bodies the very next day…” Creepy!
19. “Baby Got Back”
Fast forward to the birth of Ross’ second child, Emma, with Rachel, no less, and the only way to make the infant smile is to sing Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” in “The One With Ross’ Inappropriate Song”. It’s a pretty great moment when Ross and Rachel start singing it together, with Rachel slapping Ross’s booty as he twerks it.
20. “Delta Dawn”
In “The One Where Monica” sings, she gives the karaoke bar a face full of nipple when the spotlight renders her top see through. Not a great time to go sans bra, according to Paul Rudd.