20 years ago Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered on our TV screens and over the course of seven seasons brought us many moving and memorable episodes.
One of the most unique and unforgettable of those episodes arrived in the form of Season 6's "Once More, With Feeling."
The episode brought the musical format to Sunnydale, with its characters bursting into song and dance numbers as they go about their lives thanks to a newly arrived demon. "Once More, With Feeling" ran longer than a normal Buffy episode but was far from just some fun filler. The demon made the characters reveal what they've been keeping to themselves throughout the season, sharing secrets and thoughts that permanently change things for them. The format is used perfectly as a way for the characters to express what they're going through right then and there and admit to each other what they're feeling.
This is one of the reasons why the episode is so fondly remembered, though the catchy music also helps! The episode earned its own soundtrack release and inspired fans to sing along at screenings. It didn't matter that there was a lack of experience among most of the cast when it came to singing; they gave it their all and the result was impressive. This makes it difficult to choose which songs are the best of the bunch, but revisiting them I found there are some that shine above the rest.
Here's how I would count down the songs in "Once More, with Feeling," focusing on the longer works and not including the shorter pieces like "Dawn's Lament."
"What You Feel - Reprise"
At this point the Scooby Gang has basically defeated Sweet, the demon making everyone sing and sometimes dance so much they die in a fiery blaze. Before leaving, Sweet, played by the talented Hinton Battle, sings a short song that does an excellent job of summing up what everyone's been through. He states how no one can "say this ended well" despite defeating him and even includes the name of the episode in his lyrics. This reprise of "What Your Feel" is too short for me to put higher up on the list, but despite its length the short return to this tune does an impressive job of describing exactly how our heroes are feeling about this victory.
"I've Got A Theory/Bunnies/If We're Together"
As everyone tries to figure out who could be causing the spontaneous singing and dancing, they start to share their theories with each other in this three-part song. It's catchy with quite a few funny moments like Xander theorizing it could be witches only to quickly apologize for that idea and Anya rocking out to how it could be bunnies in an amazing performance. It all wraps up when Buffy finally joins in and sings about how they can face anything together so it doesn't matter what it is. Following her lead, the others join in but they can't see that this is Buffy probably just continuing to fill the part she thinks she's supposed to play and doesn't really feel one way or the other about if they win. It's a good song that brings everyone together, though not as exciting or memorable as the others.
"Where Do We Go From Here?/Coda"
Once Sweet leaves, our heroes start to sing this song as everything that happened sinks in. So much has come to light in this episode that changes everything, so naturally they're left to wonder what's next. The big closing number is a perfect way to summarize the impact of this episode on the characters. The line "understand we'll go hand in hand but we'll walk alone in fear" combined with the imagery of the characters holding hands and then breaking apart is quite powerful. Eventually though, Spike realizes he doesn't have to sing anymore and leaves with Buffy not far behind. This leads into the "Coda," which combines "Walk Through the Fire" and "Rest In Peace" brilliantly as they realize they both want to feel something, leading to the big kiss. It's a great way to end the musical with the ensemble, even though like the previous song, I think the group performance just doesn't stand out as much as other numbers.
"What You Feel"
Then there's this song, which tops the previous ones because of Battle's amazing voice and dancing. Here the demon is finally fully revealed as the one behind all the singing and dancing in Sunnydale. He sings and tap dances in front of Dawn explaining why he's there, who he is, how people combust when they dance too much and his ultimate plans. Dawn eventually joins in trying to inform the demon she can't be his queen for multiple reasons, including her being too young. The two perform well together, though Sweet is really the star of the number and makes this song shine.
"I'll Never Tell"
Anya and Xander deal with the concerns they have about each other and marriage in this song. Forced by the demon to sing, the two reveal things they can't stand about the other person as well as what they're afraid of when it comes to their upcoming commitment. This honesty doesn't bode well for their future but it does lead to some rather fun dancing and memorable lyrics, like "We can really raise the beam in making marriage a hell!" The song captures the personalities of the two as well as what they're going through for a humorous and emotional musical number.
Anthony Stewart Head is wonderful in this solo number as he brings all of Giles' emotions and concerns for Buffy to the forefront. It's here that he realizes his presence is holding Buffy back. She depends on him for everything, which is keeping her from accepting her responsibilities and reaching her full potential. Giles is clearly torn by this because of how much he loves Buffy; he wishes he could make everything better, help her and stay but he decides he has to leave. It's a big moment for the character and Head captures all the feelings that go with that beautifully in one of the most important character-driven songs of the episode.
"Going Through the Motions"
This is the first song to kick off the musical episode and it does an excellent job of giving us an idea of Buffy's mindset. Since returning from the dead, life just doesn't make Buffy feel anything any more. Whether it’s slaying or something else, she finds it hard connecting. That's very clear here as she nonchalantly kills vampires, not really impacted by anything happening around her, and even ignoring a handsome guy she rescues. Even the demons, who hilariously join in the song and even dance, can tell Buffy's heart really isn't in the fight anymore. It's a fun number featuring Buffy and the demons; I even don't mind the cheesy end with Buffy singing through the dust of a vampire she's just slain because it fits so well!
"Under Your Spell/Standing - Reprise"
When two talented singers come together, the result is an amazing piece like this one. Here Tara sings a very different version of "Under Your Spell" as she realizes what Willow has done to her. The whole song takes on new meaning and the pain and sadness she's feeling about the realization come through in every line. It's heartbreaking and thus a perfect match for Giles to join in with "Standing." This is a big moment for both of these characters and it's expressed so well in this reprise as they both realize they have to leave the person they love behind. It's a powerful and haunting duet.
"Something To Sing About"
When confronting Sweet, Buffy starts to sing and dance as she fights his minions. She starts to reveal a little bit about what she's going through to her friends and ultimately makes the big confession that they didn't pull her out of hell but out of heaven. This is why she is having trouble feeling anything again despite how hard she tries. Desperately she starts to dance and comes very close to combusting until Spike intervenes, singing to her that life is not a song and the only way she'll ever be able to feel again is by just continuing to live. Sarah Michelle Gellar shows off some impressive dance moves and does a great job of bringing all of Buffy's frustration through in her singing. It's such an important song for Buffy and the gang as it changes things for them, and thankfully the song is executed flawlessly.
"Rest In Peace"
Buffy visits Spike to see if he knows anything about everyone singing and it doesn't take long for him to break out into this song. His frustration with the whole situation between the two of them comes across very clearly as he sings to Buffy. He spells out exactly how it feels to have Buffy near him, asks her to stop visiting him since she can't reciprocate and is obviously using him, yet also admits how even knowing this he can't stay away. Spike sings as they move from his crypt into the cemetery where he starts to attack people until Buffy intervenes and they end up in a grave. Spike's constant movement adds to the desperate nature of the song and James Marsters does a fantastic job with it all, including the fun parts like when he realizes he's singing and rolls his eyes at the entire situation.
"Under Your Spell"
Amber Benson has a gorgeous singing voice that's on full display in this song about Tara's relationship with Willow. Everything from the lyrics to the dancing is full of emotion as the two make their way back to the house. It all seems very sweet and romantic, but of course the audience knows Tara is right in more than one way about being under Willow's spell. This gives the song a bit of a sad tone as Tara is being so genuine about her feelings yet doesn't know the truth. It all sets the stage for Tara's discovery later on in the episode and this song's sadder reprise. Even with this knowledge, though, the song is beautiful, very memorable ... and one of the numbers that's hardest to resist singing along to!
"Walk Through the Fire"
Buffy heads off to save Dawn on her own after Giles decides the gang shouldn't go with her to help. He thinks this might help snap her out of her current state, but Buffy starts to sing this song lamenting how she wants to feel again but can't so she'll just keep going forward whether she wins or dies. The song then moves between all the characters as they make similar realizations. We see Spike contemplate how he'd be free without Buffy but he still leaves to help her and Sweet comments on how she's "drawn toward the fire." Giles and the gang then realize they need to go and help her in case she can't beat the demon on her own. From here it interweaves everybody and even includes a great callback to "If We're Together" as they all move towards the same place, walking down streets with dancing people and actual fire. It's an interesting number that draws everyone to the big reveal. "Walk Through the Fire" is my favorite song in the episode for how well it brings together all the characters and unlike the other group numbers gives each section a decent amount of time before combining them into a powerful song with powerful imagery to match.
Which song from “Once More, with Feeling” is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!