Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope
ABC

In addition to monologues, mistresses and murder, Scandal's stellar ability to pair a scene with the perfect song is also one of the show's trademarks. Scandal's DJs know that, much like the concept behind pairing certain foods with particular wines, pairing an excellent scene with just the right song will significantly enhance your viewing experience. As we near the end of season 4, let's take a look back at some of its best scene-song pairings:

1. "Sunny," by Bobby Hebb

Episode 1: "Randy, Red, Superfreak and Julia" 

Season 4 started strong straight out of the gate with "Sunny" as we find Olivia Pope and Jake Ballard canoodling on their hideaway island. The sun is shining. Olivia is smiling. (Jake is strolling around half-naked. Why wouldn't she be?) They, er um, "play" as they wait for a shipment of Olivia's favorite wines. As the lyrics let on, life is good and the future is bright.

2. "Bridge Over Troubled Water," by Aretha Franklin

Episode 1: "Randy, Red, Superfreak and Julia" 

In the same episode, Scandal's DJs showed us that while music can lift us up, it can just as easily bring us down when they played Aretha Franklin's version of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" during Harrison Wright's funeral. Not only was Harrison dead (and written off the show), but we also learn that the gladiators were the only family Harrison had.

3. "The Light," by the Album Leaf 

Episode 4: "Like Father, Like Daughter"

"The Light," otherwise known as Olitz's theme song, may be the most recognizable song in all of Scandal. It's the song that plays when Olivia and Fitz Grant are having one of their moments. You know the ones: "I love you so much it hurts … but we can't be together because I'm married … and the president and stuff." If this song randomly came on in your car, you'd instinctively turn around expecting to find Olitz making out in your backseat.

4. "All in Love Is Fair," by Stevie Wonder

Episode 17: "Put a Ring on It" 

Scandal doesn't reserve the sappy music for Olitz. On his sham wedding day, Michael says that he never pictured being forced down the aisle to marry a man who would rather have him killed. Cyrus Beene comforts Michael by telling him that he's not alone: "I may not do it well, but I will do my best to be your someone." Somehow it was actually kind of sweet … for Cyrus. I credit the song.

5. "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing," by Stevie Wonder

Episode 9: "Where the Sun Don't Shine"

In one of the season's most memorable scenes, Olivia and Jake have a dance party for two as Olivia attempts to shimmy her troubles away. As the lyrics say, she's not worried about a thing. She's not choosing Jake or Fitz. She's choosing herself. She's free, she proclaims … just before she gets kidnapped.

6. "Dr. Feelgood," by Aretha Franklin

Episode 16: "It's Good to Be Kink"

As Olivia recovers from her kidnapping, she forgoes traditional therapy and opts instead for some good, old-fashioned self-help when she takes a tall stranger home from a bar. The lyrics speak for themselves. No need to buy her a drink. She's got wine back at the house. 

7. "Lovely Day," by Bill Withers

Episode 5: "The Key"

Scandal also knows how to use music to lighten up some of the show's most harrowing scenes, like the time Fitz mollywhopped Jake for killing Jerry (or so he thought) and sleeping with Olivia. "Lovely Day" plays as Jake taunts Fitz about having been "inside" his girlfriend, and it was unclear who was torturing whom.

8. "Endless Love," by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie

Episode 9: "Where the Sun Don't Shine"

When David Rosen discovers that Abby Whelan couldn't have helped Cyrus destroy evidence of his affair with Michael because she was with Leo Bergen that night—all night—"Endless Love" plays as David's face cracks. For those of us who were rooting for a David-Abby reunion, this was the soundtrack to our dreams being dashed right along with David's.  

Advertisement

The song continues to play as Quinn Perkins discovers that Charlie intended to kill her after she had just slept with him. These two go full-throttle War of the Roses against the backdrop of this ballad, sending the message that love … well, it does end. Abruptly, sometimes.

9. "Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)," by Marvin Gaye

Episode 14: "The Lawn Chair"

Scandal's DJs were at their absolute best during the Ferguson, Mo.-inspired episode. "Mercy Mercy Me" plays as community organizer Marcus Walker leads the protesters in a chant: "Stand up! Fight back! No more black men under attack!" "Mercy Mercy Me," which was written in response to police brutality and violence, is just as timely today as it was when it was released in 1971. 

10. "I Shall Be Released," by Nina Simone

Episode 14: "The Lawn Chair"

If the tears hadn't already started flowing, Scandal wrapped up the Ferguson-inspired episode with "I Shall Be Released" as the unarmed young man's father puts down his shotgun and touches his son's dead body before finally leaving the crime scene. He eventually breaks down under the weight of it all as Fitz consoles him in the Oval Office. The song ends in the final scene as they zip up the young man's body in the body bag. This scene-song pairing sent most of us over the edge and into a pool of tears. Well done, Scandal DJs.

Advertisement

What are your favorite Scandal music moments? Tell us in the comments section below.

Akilah Green is a recovering Washington, D.C., lawyer-lobbyist-politico turned TV and film writer and producer living in Los Angeles. She currently works for Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show, Chelsea. She has also worked as a staff writer for Kevin Hart’s production company, HartBeat Productions, and as a consultant for Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO. In addition, she co-wrote and is producing Scratch, an indie horror-comedy feature film, and is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow Green’s adventures in La La Land on her blog, Twitter and Facebook.