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From Eminem to Death Cab for Cutie to the Goo Goo Dolls, these 10 songs have captured the hearts of fandoms for their commentary on life, love, and loss.
For as long as fans have been able to edit and make mix tapes, they’ve been creating playlists and fan videos for their favorite stories, characters, and romances, pulling familiar songs out of context and weaving them into the stories of their beloved fandoms. From the bottomless well of fanmixes on Tumblr, 8tracks, and Spotify to the endless sea of fanvids and AMVs (anime music videos) on YouTube, certain songs, albums, and artists have become fandom staples—timeless classics we keep turning to again and again to accent our stories.
Fans love to use fanvids and fanmixes to share their favorite music—but often, even when the fandoms are contradictory, musical tastes are the same. At any given moment you’ll find fans swearing that Placebo’s “My Sweet Prince” perfectly encapsulates any number of pairings which have nothing in common with each other. Vienna Teng is a huge favorite among the instrumental lovers, while on the softer side, it’s not true love until it’s been fanmixed to Snow Patrol or Death Cab.
But while it’s impossible to truly quantify the number of songs that are most often reused and reworked for different fandoms, the longtime fans at the Daily Dot feel we have a pretty good take on which songs have gotten the most action. You might think that older songs would fade out and be replaced with newer, trendier hits, but that’s not the case. The true test of a song’s staying power is its ability to represent character journeys and relationships.
The 10 songs below, as you’ll see from the astonishing variety of fandoms that use them, must surely have something archetypal about them that speaks to fans, whatever the fandom.
1) Coldplay, “The Scientist”
It’s a basic truth of fandom: This song is everywhere. We think it’s because the subject, the simple conflict between the heart and the mind, is as universal and timeless as the song itself.
Fandom: Anne of Green Gables
2) Every song off Florence + The Machine’s Lungs
For about a year after this band’s swift rise to fame in 2009, fanmixes were so saturated with songs from the album that the quest to find a recent fanmix that didn’t have a Florence song on it became a running fandom joke. Though slightly less ubiquitous currently, it still seems as though there’s a Lungs song for every possible fandom scenario.
Fandom: Rizzoli & Isles
Song: “The Drumming Song”
Fandom: The Hunger Games
3) The Goo Goo Dolls, “Iris”
A fandom classic, still universally popular in capturing the essence of fans’ favorite relationships.
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
4) Placebo, “Running Up That Hill”
Placebo is another artist whose lyrics seem eminently transferable onto a variety of pairings, but their cover of this Kate Bush song more than any other seems to encompass the darkness and difficulties of the hero’s journey—at least according to the endless parade of fanvids and fanmixes that use it as a character study.
Fandom: Harry Potter
Fandom: Neon Genesis Evangelion (Note: Contains brief violence/gore. NSFW.)
5) Death Cab for Cutie, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”
The ultimate and enduring fandom love song, this track is so familiar as a pairing anthem that it was a refreshing change for us to discover it being applied rather literally in the gorgeous and haunting Lord of the Rings fanvid that follows.
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Cover Artist: Gavin Mikhail
6) Every artist ever, “Hallelujah”
Alright, we admit this is practically cheating, since this song is already one of the most covered songs of all time. But we’ve seen the national heartbreak anthem applied to everything, everything, from Attack on Titan to an eerily literal Little Mermaid. Fandom isn’t relinquishing this one any time soon.
Fandom: The Vampire Diaries
Artist: Kate Voegele
Artist: Rufus Wainwright
7) The Postal Service, “Such Great Heights”
Probably because everyone loves this song. If there’s a way to make it fit, they will.
Fandom: The Breakfast Club
Fandom: Final Fantasy X
8) Marina and the Diamonds, “Oh, No!” and “I Am Not a Robot”
Marina is another artist whose lyrics get pulled hither and yon in various fandoms, but these two songs have proven particularly flexible. (It helps that fandom has a lot of robots.)
Song: “Oh, No!”
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts
Song: “I Am Not a Robot”
9) Limp Bizkit, “Behind Blue Eyes”
You almost never hear any other version of this song in fandom, but this one has proven to have immense staying power as the theme song of the misunderstood anti-hero.
Fandom: The Devil Wears Prada
Fandom: Black Butler
10) Hercules, “I Won’t Say I’m In Love”
After all the angst in the songs on this list, it’s nice to have something reliably Disneyfied to remind us that fandom, at its heart, is something to sing about.
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Fandom: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Screengrab via YouTube
Aja Romano is a geek culture reporter and fandom expert. Their reporting at the Daily Dot covered everything from Harry Potter and anime to Tumblr and Gamergate. Romano joined Vox as a staff reporter in 2016.