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The Best Musical Moments in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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by Marisa Quinn-Haisu (subscribe)
My name is Marisa. I am a fiction writer, a blogger, and a freelance journalist.
Published August 22nd 2020
The popular TV show experimented a lot with music

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a popular American television show that was created by Joss Whedon and aired from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons and had a tremendous cultural impact and influence on popular culture. The show has been praised for its writing, character growth, dialogue and for taking creative risks. One of the ways the show took risks was to use music as a tool to build character development and to add humour, drama or suspense to a scene. The show is famous for featuring real-life bands and musicians to perform at a fictional nightclub in the show called "The Bronze". There were also several moments in the show when the main cast, some of which were professional singers and musicians, burst into song. The most famous episode of the show to feature the main characters singing was the season six episode "Once More, With Feeling" which was filmed as a musical. The musical moments in Buffy the Vampire Slayer were always a lot of fun and added something special to the show. This article lists some of the most memorable musical moments in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and will contain spoilers.

1. I'll Never Tell

Episode Featured:Once More, With Feeling, Season 6, Episode 7

Performed By: Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) and Anya Jenkins (Emma Caulfield)

Xander and Anya's duet "I'll Never Tell" in the episode "Once More, With Feeling" is at the top of this list because of how well written and fun it is. In the episode, Xander and Anya sing a song about the ups and downs of their relationship, and the doubts that they have about their impending marriage. I think Nicholas Brendon (Xander) and Emma Caulfield (Anya) are great in this song. The song takes a lot of inspiration from musical comedies and the two of them made it work. Brendon and Caulfield put a lot of effort into the dancing and singing and pull off the comedy in the song really well. Another reason I am fond of this song is because it includes the line "His penis got diseases by a Chumash tribe" which is just classic Whedon.

2. Standing

Episode Featured:Once More, With Feeling, Season 6, Episode 7

Performed By: Giles (Anthony Stewart Head)

Giles' song "Standing" is arguably one of the best songs in "Once More, With Feeling". You can really tell by listening to Anthony Stewart Head that he has professional experience as a singer as he performs this song. It fits his vocal range really well and is just a really pleasant sounding rock ballad. In the episode, Giles sings the song to Buffy as she trains, but she does not hear him. In the melancholy song, Giles expresses his fears that his father's love for Buffy is shielding her from growing up, and that he is standing in her way from her caring for Dawn on her own. During the song, Buffy works out in slow motion while Giles watches on in real-time, showing the distance that now exists between them. Whedon wanted the song to show how you can sing to someone in a musical about how much you need or love them, and they might not hear you, even if you are standing right in front of them.

3. Under Your Spell

Episode Featured: Once More With Feeling, Season 6, Episode 7

Performed By: Tara Maclay (Amber Benson)

In "Once More, With Feeling" Tara muses about her relationship with Willow and how much it has changed her through a song she sings called "Under Your Spell". Amber Benson demonstrates an amazing singing range while performing this sweet contemporary pop song. "Under Your Spell" is popular among fans. What's interesting about the scene it appears in is Willow does not sing. This was because the actress who plays her, Alyson Hannigan, was apprehensive about her singing ability. Her fear to sing means the focus was put just on Tara in "Under Your Spell". Her confident singing voice is considered among many fans as an example of her quiet inner strength. "Under Your Spell" has received attention from academics and critics for being sex positive and showing an unflinching expression of lesbian romance.

4. Under Your Spell/Standing Reprise

Episode Featured: Once More, With Feeling, Season 6, Episode 7

Performed By: Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Tara Maclay (Amber Benson)

A lot of critics agree that Anthony Stewart Head who plays Giles and Amber Benson who plays Tara demonstrated the best singing voices in "Once More, with Feeling". In "Under Your Spell/Standing" reprise the two of them share a powerful, emotional moment. Tara has figured out that Willow cast a spell on her in a previous episode to erase her memories of an argument they had. This devastates her because in the previous season she suffered a lot of mental trauma at the hands of the villain of that season, Glory, who fed off her brain to fuel her own power. Tara feels violated and disgusted by Willow's betrayal and realises that she has to break up with her. This breaks her heart because she still loves Willow and wants to stay, but she knows that she can't, because she doesn't trust her anymore. As Tara sings about her broken heart, her words blend together with Giles who begins singing "Standing" once more, creating a heartbreaking ballad about relationships falling apart.

5. Going Through the Motions

Episode Featured: Once More, With Feeling, Season 6, Episode 7

Performed By: Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar)

The opening number of "Once More, With Feeling" is "Going Through the Motions" which Buffy sings as she walks through a graveyard. At the end of the previous season, Buffy died protecting her sister Dawn. In the first half of season six, her friends bring her back from the dead, believing her to have been trapped in a hell dimension. Buffy is distraught to be brought back to life, because she was in heaven, and finally at peace. Unable to admit this to her friends, Buffy falls into a deep depression, which is what "Going Through the Motions" is all about. In the song, Buffy talks about how nothing feels normal or right anymore, and that she feels like she is sleepwalking through life. "Going Through the Motions" is a lot of fun. The lyrics do a good job at exploring Buffy's depression and her feelings about being resurrected, while also inserting a lot of humour at the same time. After Buffy punches a vampire, he whirls to face the camera and mutters "She ain't got that swing!" which annoys Buffy who replies "Thanks for noticing!" I also love the part when Buffy frees a muscled, blonde man, who turns to her and sings rapturously "How can I repay…?" but Buffy mutters "Whatever" and walks away from him before he can finish. Sarah Michelle Gellar did a good job pulling off the singing in this song and expressing Buffy's sadness and yearning to the audience.

6. Rest in Peace

Episode Featured:Once More, With Feeling, Season 6, Episode 7

Performed By: Spike (James Marsters)

After being resurrected, Buffy grows distant from her friends, because she feels like she cannot tell them about her depression. She ends up becoming friends with Spike, despite not liking him, because she feels like she can tell him the truth about how she really feels. This starts to anger Spike. His frustrations boil over in "Once More, With Feeling" and cause him to burst into a rock song called "Rest in Peace". Spike knows that Buffy only comes to him because she knows she can't tell the ones she loves how she really feels. She thinks if she whispers her truths in his ear that it doesn't make it real. He tells Buffy that if she cannot love him, or even just be friends with him, to leave him alone so he can rest in peace. James Marsters pulls off this song and Spike's frustrations and thinly veiled violent side really well.

7. I'll Be Mrs

Episode Featured:Selfless, Season 7, Episode 5

Performed By: Anya Jenkins (Emma Caulfield)

In the season seven episode "Selfless" Anya has returned to being a vengeance demon after being dumped by Xander at the altar. We are treated to several flashbacks in the episode that explore Anya's character and the various roles she has fulfilled in her life. In one whimsical flashback, we see Anya back during the events of "Once More, With Feeling" perform a solo number called "I'll Be Mrs" about her future role as Xander's wife. It's a sad flashback because we see how much she was in love with the idea of becoming Xander's Mrs. The lyrics of the song also shed some interesting light on Anya as a character. She jokes that she "boned a troll" and "wreaked some wrath" but also asks the question "But who am I? Now I reply…" which tells the viewer that Anya has always had a role to lose herself in. At the end of "Selfless" Anya is made mortal again and is left facing a future where she is uncertain what her purpose will be.

8. I've Got a Theory

Episode Featured: Once More With Feeling, Season 6, Episode 7

Performed By: Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), Anya Jenkins (Emma Caulfield), Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon)

After Buffy sings "Going Through the Motions" in the grave yard, she visits the Magic Box the next morning and asks the rest of the gang if they also burst into song. Her friends reveal that they also burst into song which leads the group of them to start singing a song called "I've Got a Theory" about what might be going on. An exposition scene is something that appears in almost every Buffy episode. "I've Got a Theory" pokes fun at that trope with a whacky little musical number that is a little bit all over the place. There's so much to love about this song. I like how it begins with Giles whipping his glasses off and muttering "I've got a theory that it's a demon! Hmm, a dancing demon, no something isn't right there…" we see Tara doing jazz hands, Xander rambles some nonsense about witches, and Anya's hard-rock verse about her fear of bunnies is great.

9. Walk Through The Fire

Episode Featured: Once More With Feeling, Season 6, Episode 7

Performed By: Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan), Anya Jenkins (Emma Caulfield), Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon), Spike (James Marsters), Sweet (Hinton Battle)

What I like about "Walk Through the Fire" is how the lyrics describe the depression that Buffy is feeling. Buffy talks about the fire "freezing" her and looking into it and seeing it as black. She wonders why she cannot feel the fire burning or cracking her skin and wishes she could have the fire back again. This is a great description of what depression feels like. Depression is not about feeling sad. A lot of the time you feel numb. Buffy talks about feeling drawn to the fire and letting it burn her because she wants to feel something, anything, even if it is just pain or self-loathing. The saddest line in this song is when Buffy wonders if she will "save the day or maybe melt away" and wonders if they are both the same. Buffy feels alienated from her friends and is angry about her resurrection. Her self-destructiveness draws her to the fire because she feels like she has no where else to turn. The song concludes with Buffy angrily kicking down a door to face the demon causing all of the musical madness.

10.Giles' Exposition Song

Episode Featured: Restless, Season 4, Episode 22

Performed By: Giles (Anthony Stewart Head)

I had to include "Giles' Exposition Song" in this list because I find it so god damn funny. Giles bursts into this delightful diddy in the season four episode "Restless" while trapped in a dream and being stalked by the spirit of the First Slayer. In Giles' dream, he meets Xander and Willow at The Bronze, where Anya is on stage failing as a stand-up comic. Willow and Xander are looking through books trying to find out what is haunting their dreams. Giles figures it out but instead of just telling them, he bursts into song, and gets on the stage to sing his theories. This is such a fun song. I love how the lyrics are written like a stream of consciousness, which makes sense since it is all a dream. Giles drops hilarious lines like "Willow look through the chronicles for some reference to a warrior beast" and "Xander and Willow try not to bleed on my couch I just had it steam cleaned." Xander and Willow holding up cigarette lighters while not looking up from their books is great for a laugh and how sexy is Giles when he grabs the mic and really starts channeling his inner rock god?
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