What Happened To The Hell's Kitchen Theme Song?

Very few shows have theme songs anymore. If you dig back into television history, nearly every show had a theme song. Not only was the song there to help open the show, but as GQ clarifies, those theme songs were also there to explain the show's setup and themes. With binge-watching and the ability to look up anything online, should someone need to get up to speed on a show, there's no call for a song.

Then there's the fact that show producers are worried about retaining viewers. "Producers feel, rightly or wrongly, that interruption, if you will, is going to lose viewers," TV historian Tim Brooks told Today when asked about the loss of theme songs. This may be true. Anyone who has ever been forced to listen to a theme song play over and over is likely to find something else to do.

A few shows still hold on to the theme song, but Brooks estimates only about 10% do so, and those songs are frequently far briefer than the 30 or 60 seconds ones attached to shows before the days of streaming. "Hell's Kitchen," which long had one minute of Ohio Players' "Fire" as the theme song for 18 seasons, suddenly went over to a basic instrumental for season 19, according to its Fandom Wiki. It's natural to ask if this is an intentional trimming to make the show leaner or something else entirely.

The Fire is out in Hell's Kitchen

Since "Hell's Kitchen" began, it's been accompanied by the funky, brassy beats of the Ohio Players with lyrics advising listeners to "back up." It was the ideal type of theme for a show that focused both on avoiding the literal heat in a kitchen, and the verbal flames that chef Gordon Ramsay would spit at the hapless cooks working under him. It set the stage and helped put listeners into the mental groove of the show.

However, as one Reddit user noticed, the dulcet tones and engaging brass was distinctly absent from more recent episodes of "Hell's Kitchen." "Rewatched HK and noticed they ripped the theme song out," lamented the poster. "Does anyone know what gives?"

A few commenters chimed in with, "Rights issues," and "I think they had a licensing issue." These suggestions turned out to be prescient, as the Hells Kitchen Wiki explains that "Due to the cost of streaming rights, the original theme song from the series was replaced with another unknown instrumental theme." Amazon Prime is one of the places where the theme was replaced. As the New York Times notes, several shows have replaced or gutted popular songs when moving to streaming due to rights issues. One Redditor on another thread said that the theme song on the DVDs was, "a cheap cover version," created to save money. So, "Fire" fans may be out of luck.