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Four men in a band stand together for a publicity photo shoot in this image from Columbia Pictures.
Fictional artists like Dewey Cox are just as fun to listen to as real bands. (Image: Columbia Pictures)

When I’m not streaming a show or movie at home, I’m listening to music. No matter where I’m going or what I’m doing, chances are I’ve got my headphones in. Every show and movie needs music, and some utilize it better than others. What I especially love is when something I’m watching tells a story about the people making the music, whether those people happen to be real or not. In fact, a lot of films and TV shows with fictional bands put out very real tunes that hold up well even when listening out of context. If you need some new music for your playlist, check out this list of fictional bands that rock especially hard.

Chip Skylark — ‘The Fairly OddParents’ (2001 to 2017)

The early 2000s was the apex of the boy band era. Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, and countless smaller groups ruled the airwaves. At the same time, Nickelodeon was experiencing a golden era of animated hits, including “The Fairly OddParents.” I remember plenty of school mornings watching Timmy Turner (Tara Strong) use his fairy godparents Cosmo (Daran Norris) and Wanda (Susanne Blakeslee) and their ability to grant wishes to get up to all sorts of mayhem.

What really stands out about “The Fairly OddParents” is the multitude of guest characters, most notably Chip Skylark. Voiced by actual *NSYNC member Chris Kirkpatrick, Chip is every boy band stereotype turned up to 11. And when I say he has some tunes, I mean he has some of the catchiest songs you’ll ever hear. “Icky Vicky” is a nice little bop, but any millennial kid or boy band lover will lose it for “Shiny Teeth,” an ode to good dental hygiene that doubles as one of the best pop songs of the 2000s.

You can stream the first three seasons of “The Fairly OddParents” (including Chip’s musical appearances) on Netflix.

Dewey Cox — ‘Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story’ (2007)

If you ask me for John C. Reilly’s funniest film, I’m going to point you toward “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.” A pitch-perfect parody of the musical biopic genre, “Walk Hard” follows the fictional musician Dewey Cox, a man who seems to always be at the center of musical and cultural movements throughout the 20th century. Backed by bandmate Sam (Tim Meadows) and on-again, off-again wife Darlene (Jenna Fischer), Cox establishes himself as the musical legend of the 1900s.

Cox is hysterical, but his music is also impressively good. As he moves through the decades, his sound changes dramatically to go along with the times. His titular breakout track “Walk Hard” embodies early rockabilly gusto and songs like the delightfully raunchy “Let’s Duet” and the Bob Dylan send-up “Let Me Hold You (Little Man)” expertly toe the line between funny and catchy. By the time an elderly Cox reflects on life’s “Beautiful Ride,” he’ll have won over not only your heart but your ears, as well.

“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” is available in all its musical glory to buy or rent on Amazon Prime Video.

Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem — ‘The Muppets Mayhem’ (2023)

The Muppets are deeply ingrained in American culture due to their mix of warmth and hilarity, so it should come as no surprise that their in-house band absolutely rocks. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem has had various lineups over many years, with Dr. Teeth himself and crazed drummer Animal being the group's two most recognizable members. The band has been with the Muppets since the beginning, appearing on the very first episode of “The Muppet Show” in 1975 and in numerous movies and shows since.

“The Muppets Mayhem” is the band’s biggest time in the spotlight yet, as the series follows the group as they attempt to really make it big in the music industry. Naturally, the show is full of the band’s tunes, which are overwhelmingly influenced by funk and psychedelic rock. Originals like “Rock On” are perfect pump-up songs I use on my workout playlists, and covers of hits like “True Colors” and “All You Need Is Love” rival the originals for how much I love them.

‘The Muppets Mayhem” and many other delightful Muppets shows and movies are available to stream on Disney+.

Mouse Rat — ‘Parks and Recreation’ (2009 to 2015)

“Parks and Recreation” is one of the most beloved shows of the 21st century and one of the many feel-good comedies created by Michael Schur. The show's residents of Pawnee, Indiana, quickly made their way into viewers’ hearts; it even feels like everywhere you turn on the internet, you can find memes and quotes from Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) or Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman). Dim but charming Andy was Chris Pratt’s biggest role at the time before Marvel came calling, and he delivered both the laughs and the music.

Mouse Rat, Andy’s often renamed band, is a lot like his character. The music is not all that intelligent, but it can’t help but make listeners smile. “The Awesome Album,” officially released in 2021, contains many of the staple tracks from the show. “5,000 Candles In The Wind” is still a crowd pleaser, the saxophone on “Catch Your Dream” goes harder than it has any right to, and getting to hear all of “Sex Hair” and confirm it would be a terrible choice for a kid’s birthday is good for a big laugh.

“Parks and Recreation” is currently streaming on Peacock.

Sex Bob-omb — ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ (2010)

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is a movie chock-full of love for other forms of entertainment. As Scott (Michael Cera) makes his way around Toronto attempting to win Ramona Flowers’ (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) heart by defeating her Evil Exes, the movie pays tribute to numerous video games and anime series. Part of Scott and Ramona’s bond comes from music, and the film features numerous fictional bands that absolutely kick butt.

Scott’s own band, Sex Bob-omb, is named after an enemy in the “Super Mario Bros.” series and will probably remind listeners of the band that was popular at their own high school. Tracks like “Garbage Truck” are chunky and dense garage rock, irreverent and gleeful. An extra special shoutout goes to rival band Clash at Demonhead, fronted by Scott’s ex Envy Adams (Brie Larson), and featuring one of Ramona’s exes, Todd (Brandon Routh). The band performs a cover of Metric’s “Black Sheep,” and I would strongly argue this is the definitive version of the song. Larson’s voice matches the track so well, and it’s a testament to “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” that it can usurp a real band’s song like this.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is available to stream on Netflix, along with the new “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” series.

Dethklok — ‘Metalocalypse’ (2006 to 2013)

If you’re anything like me, at some point at an impressionable age you stumbled upon Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block of shows way too young. This key event in your life shaped your tastes and sense of humor forever. In my case, this period in my life involved watching a lot of “Metalocalypse,” a show I absolutely adore. It follows the group Dethklok, a death metal band (where all members are voiced by series creators Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha) with the perfect blend of talent, popularity, and stupidity to essentially run the world.

When not bumbling their way into various worldwide crises, Dethklok makes legitimately fantastic metal music. With five albums out, there’s something for any metal fan in the fictional group's catalog. “Dethalbum II” is a staple, but I really enjoy “Dethalbum IV,” as well, with tracks “Gardner of Vengeance” and “Aortic Desecration” serving as an incredible one-two punch to start your day off.

“Metalocalypse” is available to stream on Max.

Daisy Jones & The Six — ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ (2023)

When adapting Taylor Jenkins Reid’s hugely popular novel “Daisy Jones & The Six,” the show of the same name had big shoes to fill in the music department. Set in the 1970s, the series follows the rise and fall of the titular band, especially the tumultuous relationship between Daisy (Riley Keough) and The Six frontman Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin). The band’s sole album “Aurora” is described as an era-defining masterpiece, a piece of art with a level of brilliance and success that disastrously combines with the volatility of the band members to shatter the group after only one record.

To the show’s immense credit, the screen version of “Daisy Jones & The Six” more than lives up to the hype. If you’re like me and enjoy classic rock, you’re going to love “Aurora.” “Let Me Down Easy” is a fun, groovy earworm I play all the time. But if you’re looking for something that’s going to tear your heart out, Keough and Claflin put their all into “Look At Us Now (Honeycomb),” the defining track of Daisy and Billy’s complicated relationship.

The Emmy-nominated “Daisy Jones & The Six” is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Boyz 4 Now — ‘Bob’s Burgers’ (2011 to Present)

In its impressive 14-and-counting season run, “Bob’s Burgers” has never shied away from the musical talent of its writers and cast. The Belcher family themselves have plenty of opportunities to sing, as the musical gift Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda (H. Jon Benjamin) possess also resides in their children Gene (Eugene Mirman), Tina (Dan Mintz), and Louise (H. Jon Benjamin). Whether singing about burgers or farts, every tune is good for a laugh and is pretty catchy to boot.

As a pop music lover, my favorite “Bob’s Burgers” tunes come from the show’s superstar boy band, Boyz 4 Now. “I Wanna Hear Your Secrets” is the catchiest pop song you’re likely to hear on a television show, and hearing a boy band ask “Any allergies?” never fails to make me laugh. On a spookier note, “I Love You So Much (It’s Scary)” is a “Thriller”-esque Halloween track that goes on my playlist every single October.

“Bob’s Burgers” is streaming on Hulu.

The Hex Girls — ‘Scooby-Doo! & The Witch’s Ghost’ (1999)

The Hex Girls are by far my favorite band on this list. During the 1990s, the Scooby-Doo cartoon enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, leading Hanna-Barbera to create a series of direct-to-VHS movies following the Mystery Gang. The second film in that series is “Scooby-Doo! & The Witch’s Ghost,” which follows Scooby (Scott Innes) and the rest of the gang to Salem with the task of confronting the titular specter.

During their time in Salem, the group comes across Wiccan rock band The Hex Girls, made up of Thorn (Jennifer Hale), Dusk (Jane Wiedlin), and Luna (Kimberly Brooks). They play perfectly grungy ‘90s rock, with songs like “Hex Girl” and “Earth, Wind, Fire, and Air” filling the movie’s soundtrack and embedding themselves deep in my brain. Between their music and their goth fashion, I had a huge crush on these cartoon singers as a kid. Frankly, I still have a huge crush on them. I have Hex Girls art in my home, and they’re the lock screen on my phone. The Hex Girls made more appearances with Scooby in the 2000s, but their original appearance and music from “The Witch’s Ghost” will always hold a special place in my heart.

“Scooby-Doo! & The Witch’s Ghost” is available to rent or buy from Amazon Prime Video.

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