TOP 10: Nickelodeon Theme Songs

May 31, 2024

BY Curtis Creekmore

Aww, here it goes! Nickelodeon, the cherished children’s network that provided us with countless moments of joy, imagination, and animated marvels, has bestowed upon us a wealth of iconic theme songs that remain etched in our memories. From catchy melodies to unforgettable (and occasionally entirely absent) lyrics, these introductions not only acquainted us with our beloved shows, but also became anthems of our formative years. Are ya ready, kids? Jump on your orange couch, avoid getting slimed, and get ready to dive into some authentic Nick nostalgia. 


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10. “Salute Your Shorts” (1991-1992)

Nothing like a trumpet blaring “Reveille” to get your blood pumping and hormones racing. “Salute Your Shorts” may have only lasted for two seasons, but the theme song will live on forever in our farts. (It’s “live on forever in our hearts,” now get it right, or pay the price!) The theme takes us on a journey of what it was like to spend a summer at Camp Anawana, with one of the few theme songs I’ve come across that is actually performed by the actors of the show. While a large portion of them are…less musically inclined, their rendition of the Camp Anawana theme serves as a memorable introduction to their characters as well as the show.

9. “Doug” (1991-1994)

You may be surprised to see a theme song make this list with no real words, but I hope its presence here underscores how transcendent the theme song for this show was. A simplistic, repeated tune is transformed with multiple variations and layers of sound. This is paired with visuals introducing us to important characters in the show. I love how each variation is perfectly descriptive of the character on screen, with bully Roger Klotz’s variation including a harder rock feel, and best friend Skeeter Valentine’s variation adding a descant of frenetic, zany “na na na” over the theme. It’s a light, easy, toe-tapping song that fits perfectly with the source material.

8. “Danny Phantom” (2003-2007)

This show was technically after my childhood, as I was already in late high school by its premiere. I still remember hearing the absolute bop of a theme song and pausing long enough to sing along each time I came across it. The techno synth beat intro just sucks you in. Layer over that a rhythm guitar slaps and great bars from DJ D-Wrek and you have a very solid theme song for a kid’s show.  

7. “As Told By Ginger” (2000-2009)

If you had told me that late-90s RnB staple Macy Gray would perform a theme song for any show, I wouldn’t have believed you. But THIS theme song for THIS show? Unreal. The show’s theme “I’m In Between” was originally performed by Melissa Disney, Ginger’s voice actor, in a much more up-tempo alt-pop version of the tune. When it came time to air on Nickelodeon, the studio brought in Gray, with her unique vocals and a much more laid-back feel. Nothing against Disney, but Gray’s version allows you to absorb the meaning of the lyrics — the longing for something not yours and feeling stuck in the middle. I feel like this could have been released as a single for radio and it would have charted. 

6. “Hey Dude!” (1989-1991)

Our oldest show to make the list, “Hey Dude!” told the story of a Manhattan accountant, sick of his life in the city, who moved out west to try to make life work on a ranch (basically if Stardew Valley were a kid’s show). The theme song immediately sets a country-western motif with twangy guitar, even twangier vocals, and that odd voice-deepening modification because they couldn’t find anyone who could sing that low. Yippee-tie-yie-WHAT? This song has immense nostalgia for me as an elder millennial, but is also just totally different than anything else out there. 

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5. “Clarissa Explains It All!” (1991-1994) 

Our second basically wordless entry on the list is a darling of mine. I grew up with Clarissa, and the theme song served as my cell phone ringtone for a very long time. I knock off a few points for the repetitiveness of it, but it’s a quintessential 90’s teenage bop consisting of “Na Na”s and “Alright Alright”s. The visuals played during the theme are the Lisa Frank pinks and totally radical neon blues you saw everywhere in that time period, all combining for the perfect representation of Clarissa. Way cool.

4. “All That” (1994-2020)

A lot of readers may know of “All That,” the show that launched many careers of actors and comedians still working today. They may also know the killer theme song. But did you know it was performed by RnB sensation TLC, with lead vocals by the late Lisa Left-Eye Lopez? So sit your booty on the floor or in a chair, because this song is giving it to you. The hip-hop beat playing under the soaring voices screams 90s RnB songs. The original show lasted until 2005, but when it came back nine years later in 2016, I was so glad to hear they kept the original theme (with an updated intro by the “SNL” legend Kenan Thompson, who got his start on the original “All That”). It’s nostalgic, catchy, and puts you in the mood to laugh. 

3. “Kenan & Kel” (1996-2000) 

Just edging out its sister show, “Kenan & Kel”’s theme — performed by none other than the late, great Coolio — could have been released as its own EP and succeeded. I am not nearly cool enough to use the words “dope” and “fire,” but this song is both of those things. I especially love the subversive call out to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew in the lyrics, two franchises that were largely devoid of diversity in their cast of characters and narratives. At just 16 years old, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell became the first Black actors to star in their own sitcom on Nickelodeon, and this rap anthem does them every bit of justice they deserve. My only qualm is that it ends so abruptly. It feels like Coolio got a call and had to be somewhere else. 

2.  “CatDog” (1998-2005)

Who would have thought a show about an animal with no anus would have such a bop of a theme song? The lyrics speak to the story of these two animals, forced to walk together through life and the tribulations they face as an abomination. Perhaps these outcast lyrics speak to me on a deeper level, and that is where my love is borne. I appreciate the country feel to the instrumentation with the bouncing mouth harp and twang in the performer’s voice (show creator Peter Hannan wrote and performed the theme song), and I love the musical nod to the idea of separation as the main voice and background voice sing rising and descending arpeggios on “alone in the world was a little CatDog.” The booming drum and banjo strumming brings it home. It’s an excellent theme. 

Seriously, how do they poop?

Before we reach No. 1, I have a few honorable mentions — some a bit different than others.

Honorable Mention: “Spongebob Squarepants” (1999- )

You might be surprised that this song didn’t make the Top 10, but while it is catchy, memorable, and attached to the longest-lasting of all the shows on the list, it just doesn’t slap like the others. It’s right on the edge of annoying, just like Spongebob himself.  

Honorable Mention: “Hey Arnold!” (1996-2004)

I don’t like jazz. There, I said it. The “Hey, Arnold!” theme, like a few other entries on this list, is largely devoid of lyrics (with the occasional “Hey, Arnold!” thrown in by bully-and-love-interest Helga Pataki). While I appreciate it for being different and bringing a style of music rarely-if-ever associated with children’s programming, it just misses our list.

Now for a curveball. There are two shows released by Nickelodeon whose outro theme songs are far superior to their intro themes. If I were more of a rule-bender, these two would have absolutely been on my Top 10:

Honorable Mention: “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005-2008)

I adore this show, and I actually looked forward to every episode ending because I knew I was about to get pumped with the outro. The fast-paced percussive beats with airy, squealing woodwinds are such an excellent way to end an episode and, in the age of binge-watching shows, prepare you to jump right into the next one. The entire soundtrack of this show is beautiful and worth listening to, but if you’re about to do something that requires a lot of energy, put this outro in your playlist.

Honorable Mention: “Roundhouse” (1992-1995)

If “All That” was the kid version of “SNL,” “Roundhouse” was MadTV. The theme song for “Roundhouse” was honestly not great – I think they were going for an “SNL” feel with some of the electric guitar plucks and the overlapping sounds to emulate city noise. But at the end of each episode, the entire cast would come out and “reprise the theme song and roll the credits,” performing an outro version of the theme fully acapella. You cannot help but sing along, and while it may only be 15 seconds, I looked forward to it every Saturday night. 

Finally, my top pick:

1. “The Fairly OddParents” (2001-2017)

That seven-note brass intro is everything you need to know about this song. The theme has a mod swing-music feel to it, written in the key of D Minor to add a layer of mystery while still remaining upbeat. The quick turns of phrase and wild lyrics make it an exciting, descriptive theme for a show about a young boy surrounded by magic. “Obtuse, rubber goose, green moose, guava juice, giant snake, birthday cake, large fries, chocolate shake!” It’s the catchiest of ear worms, one you’ll be humming long after the show has ended. BAH!

So what do you think – did we get it wrong? Sound off in the comments below and tell us which Nickelodeon theme song you’d have ranked number 1!

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