Digital art illustration of a CD labeled “theme songs.” A thought bubble comes out of the CD. Inside the bubble are two people dancing with cartoon characters including the Little Einsteins, Patrick from SpongeBob, and Goku from Dragon Ball Z.
Design by Hannah Willingham.

It’s hard to remember if I did anything routinely as a child. I remember that Sundays were dedicated to cleaning up around the house — dividing the tasks of sweeping, dishes and laundry among my siblings to get everything in order by Monday morning so my mom wouldn’t panic. I remember having Saturday school dedicated to learning different languages because my mom was so insistent on the benefit of learning a foreign language outweighing the cost of a Saturday morning to a child.

However, most of all, I remember that every weekend, without fail, I would watch a show with my siblings so intensely that any outside onlookers would think it was our lifeblood. We would set a weekly alarm on our phones, set up the living room for the occasion and were only willing to move from our seats for some sort of divine intervention (or our mom calling us to do something we had forgotten, which might as well have been the same thing to a child). I have vivid memories of my brother making popcorn while my sister and I would rearrange the seats in our living room to watch “Gravity Falls.” We’d check with one another that all of the chores were done before settling in on the same couch to glue our eyes to the screen and scream the theme song together and out-of-tune.

I now have a hard time remembering things that I used do as a child, but I can still recite half the opening to “Dragon Ball Z: Kai.” Whenever I happen to be reminded of a show’s theme, my brain catapults me back to the early 2010s, and I have no choice but to recite as much as I possibly can of it from memory — and if I’m lucky, other people around me join in on this too. With theme songs come social agreements that certain songs follow you from your childhood, and that the memories along with those songs are more often than not shared across households as certain big reveals, heartfelt moments and incredible action sequences touch all who watched it in similar ways. A sort of mutual understanding is established in this acknowledgment and connecting with others begins to seem easier. I often think about how I made my first friend in middle school by humming the opening to the anime “Parasyte” under my breath, leading me to immediately rattle on about the show to the person next to me when asked about it. And of course, though it’s not technically a theme song, it would be criminal to not mention the Pavlovian response that singing the beginning of “All Star” by Smash Mouth can cause in any person who has even heard of “Shrek.”

With community comes understanding, and mutual knowledge of theme songs offers a sense of inherent understanding that is difficult to conjure otherwise. The implementation of a song in a show can dictate what that sound is supposed to mean to others who are also familiar with it, like how “Steel Licks” from “SpongeBob SquarePants” is indicative of an unfortunate event or how “Love Like You” by Rebecca Sugar softens the hearts of all those who know the significance of it to the show “Steven Universe,” melodies guiding our minds to places and emotions they would never be otherwise. The ability of music to repave paths in our brains long forgotten to late-night television and droopy eyelids is something that isn’t fully recognized or appreciated. That is, until a theme song that you remember from when you were seven is played and you somehow know all the words without having remembered the song in ages. Such is the human mind, and such is the wonderful phenomena of music that we are privy to.

The power of memory that comes with music is nothing new, but it’s still nice to take a pause and consider the things theme songs have given us and continue to give us: lost memories of me begging my mom to take me back to Saturday school later than she should so I could finish the newest episode of “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” with my sister, singing battles with my brothers over who could recite the entirety of the 2014 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” theme song faster and spending summer nights learning the “Gravity Falls” theme on the piano to pass the time. I still remember these moments because of the music that played with it, the passion that came with it and the people I shared them with. And I couldn’t imagine capturing them in a more perfect way.

Daily Arts Writer Avery Adaeze Uzoije can be reached at