Number Five: Jessica Lange’s “Name Game.” American Horror Story’s first season, Murder House, was very much about the struggles of the Harmon family either in terms of their relationships with each other or the ghosts that inhabited their new home. It was everything you would expect in a TV show with horror in the name When season two, Asylum, focused on a mental institution, brutal murderer, and aliens among other things, it seemed slightly out of place to throw singing into the bunch, but that’s exactly what they did.
Jessica Lange’s Sister Jude was once the head of Briarcliff Manor, but after several things go awry, she is removed from the position and admitted as a patient. A dazed Jude hallucinates being in the day room, singing Sherry Ellis’ “The Name Game” with the help of the other patients and staff. With this, Lange proved she is more than just an actress even if it appeared slightly out of place at first.
Number Four: Adam Levine’s Haunted Honeymoon Tour. While American Horror Story: Asylum may not be Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s debut television role—that honor goes to a 1997 episode of Beverly Hills 90210 where his former band, Kara’s Flowers, played a school dance—it was his first legitimate acting role where he doesn’t just portray himself. Levine is Leo, half of a horror-loving couple with Jenna Dewan-Tatum who spend their honeymoon traveling the country to visit the most haunted places in America.
The modern-day duo initially appears in the first scene of the season’s premiere episode to check Briarcliff Manor off their list. This is the insane asylum in which most of the show takes place in the 60s where chaos had ensued and apparently still does as viewers are shown in flash-forwards of Levine and Dewan-Tatum in two other episodes throughout the season. Levine may not sing or play guitar like he did at West Beverly Hills High or in his next original role of a rock superstar opposite Keira Knightley in 2014’s Begin Again, but it was still cool to see the musician cross over into the acting realm and give it a successful shot.
Number Three: Stevie Nicks’ Storyline. Stevie Nicks has been making music since the late 60s, but like Levine (whom she coincidentally advised the team of on The Voice this past summer), American Horror Story was her first original role despite just playing a fictionalized version of herself. On season three, Coven, independent, coven-less witch Misty Day (Lily Rabe) is obsessed with Nicks and her music. Misty believes she is a witch just as many people do in real life and have expressed throughout Nicks’ career.
On the season’s tenth episode, “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks,” Supreme—a.k.a, the head of the coven—Fiona Goode (Lange) baits Misty by inviting a White Witch—her good, old friend Nicks—over. Nicks plays her band Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” on the piano for the cover before teaching Misty how to properly twirl with the shawl she gives her. She appears again in the same episode to play her solo track from 1985, “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You?,” to Fiona as the episode fades to credits and one last time in the season finale.
Her finale appearance is simply a performance that begins the episode. Nicks wanders throughout the coven’s home singing 1987’s “Seven Wonders” from Fleetwood Mac, an appropriate track for the episode where coven members must perform tasks of the same name in order to earn the title of the next Supreme. While her appearance for this episode is less of an acting job and more of a music video, it all still added a cool twist to the season overall.
Number Two: Jessica Lange Covers David Bowie. Jessica Lange’s Elsa Mars is the owner of a traveling freak show in the appropriately titled fourth season of American Horror Story: Freakshow. Mars’ freaky feature is a lack of legs lost in a tragic accident since replaced with wooden replicas that no one knows about as she sings on stage each night. Lange shows off her vocal abilities with several tracks as the fame-hungry Mars, but it was the season premiere’s interpretation of Bowie’s “Life on Mars” that proved most successful, especially after a performance of the same track later in the season does not prove to be received as well by the fictional audience.
Number One: Evan Peters Takes on Nirvana Unlike Jessica Lange. Evan Peters had not yet proven his vocal abilities in previous episodes of American Horror Story. That all changed when Peters’ lobster-clawed Jimmy Darling took on Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” in Freakshow. While the track was relevant to the plotline of accepting people (and “freaks”) as they are, it also continued with Murphy’s theme of using songs by artists who self-identified as freaks, which in this case is the late Kurt Cobain.
Although the show was set in the early 1950s, Freakshow put a spin on everything from Lana Del Rey’s “Gods and Monsters” to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” and of course the aforementioned Bowie. The choice of the 90s grunge band for Peters’ performance almost appears as a reference to his arguably most popular character of Tate in Murder House. Tate is a bleached-blonde, grungy, sweater-wearing high school student from the 90s who is trapped in the house and asks Harmon family member Violet if she has any Cobain on her iPod. Either way, Peters’ performance is one of the best of the season and series overall.