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The Best of TV’s Bardcore Music (And Other Songs to Play in a Fantasy Tavern)

Forget vinyl and 8-tracks, these songs are truly old-school.

When the bardcore phenomenon took the world by storm in 2020, it began, like most things do, with a meme. After one YouTuber posted a “tavern” style cover of the EDM song “Astronomia” accompanied by imagery from a medieval tapestry, the trend spread like green wildfire.

Inspired, some musicians then spent their quarantine recording covers of popular songs, like “Pumped Up Kicks” and “Bad Romance”—using only instruments you’d find in a medieval tavern. Who doesn’t love a good hurdy gurdy?

But there’s an adjacent musical movement harnessing that same desire for fantasy tavern escapism— one that comes straight from Hollywood. Lots of fantasy TV shows have been composing original music, from mournful ballads of heroes long departed to silly pirate shanties.

We’ve taken the liberty of compiling our favorite bard-y party music—perfect for brightening the spirits of a gloomy tavern, telling sad stories by firelight, or entertaining your adventuring party as you ride into the unknown.

Keep scrolling to read about some of our favorites, or skip to the end for the full playlist.

Explore far-off realms with killer soundtracks

Find your new favorite fantasy series with our guide to shows and movies like Game of Thrones.

“Toss a Coin to Your Witcher”—The Witcher

We couldn’t make this list without highlighting “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher.” It became a hit as soon as Netflix dropped the first season of The Witcher in late 2019 (just months before the bardcore meme movement started). This song also ruined many a Spotify Wrapped in 2020.

If you’re unfamiliar, the bard Jaskier composes this song for the main character, the witcher Geralt, to advertise his monster-hunting exploits. The earworm makes Geralt famous across the Continent.

Ciri and Geralt find shelter in season 2 of The Witcher.
Ciri and Geralt find shelter in season 2 of The Witcher.

“This Wandering Day”—The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

You’ll find Bear McCreary’s name in this playlist several times. The composer is most known for his work on Outlander, but he has also contributed to the worlds of The Lord of the Rings and The Witcher.

In Rings of Power, the traveling people known as the Harfoots have to migrate to stay alive. One Harfoot, a young girl named Poppy, sings this song as she helps her friend’s family pull their wagons along the long path to their new home.

Nori Brandyfoot with her father and her friend Poppy Proudfellow.
Nori Brandyfoot with her father and her friend Poppy Proudfellow.

“For the Dancing and the Dreaming”—How to Train Your Dragon 2

This song came out nearly nine years ago, if you can believe it. Who would have guessed the best song of 2014 would come from the sequel to an animated film about dragons? (Sorry, Nicki Minaj).

Valka, the main character’s mom, disappeared years before the first movie, and returns for the first time in How to Train Your Dragon 2. This song represents his parents reuniting, and it makes us cry every time.

Hiccup's family reunites and bonds over a song.
Hiccup's family reunites and bonds over a song.

“Jenny of Oldstones”— Game of Thrones

Hey, remember that time Ed Sheeren was in Game of Thrones? This wasn’t that time. This one was Florence + the Machine. Man, Game of Thrones really was a microcosm of 2010s pop culture, wasn’t it?

In-universe, Podrick sings this song as the surviving characters prepare for a harsh battle at the end of season 8. Florence + the Machine covered the haunting melody for the credits instead of showing up for “The Long Night.” Missed opportunity, really.

Samwell Tarly and his family wait for winter to come in season 8 of Game of Thrones.
Samwell Tarly and his family wait for winter to come in season 8 of Game of Thrones.

“The Black Rose”—The Witcher: Blood Origin

The Witcher: Blood Origin is a four-episode limited series that premiered at the end of 2022. It expands upon the world of The Witcher, and each episode introduces a new song as part of the story.

But the songs aren’t all sung by Jaskier like in previous Witcher titles—most of them come from Éile the Lark, the main character of the prequel story. She’s also a bard, but one with a dark history and some killer fighting skills. “The Black Rose” is the song she sings to inspire lowborn elves, and the ensemble echoes this song back to her several times during her quest for revenge.

The three main characters of The Witcher: Blood Origin; the warriors Scían, Éile, and Fjall.
The three main characters of The Witcher: Blood Origin; the warriors Scían, Éile, and Fjall.

Listen to the full playlist

Now that we’ve got you excited about bardcore, here’s the full playlist of the best original music from recent fantasy TV series. We might have tossed in a couple of our favorite real-world bardcore hits as well—hey, “Holding Out for a Hero” was in Shrek 2, which should definitely count.

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