The beloved ’90s-era sci-fi series The X-Files has a famous tagline, “The truth is out there,” and those words were recently proved 100 percent accurate by internet sleuths who solved a decades-old mystery involving an unidentified song heard in the show’s sixth season. This strange, twisty tale is like something out of The X-Files itself, so buckle up ...
Part of the 1998 episode “Dreamland II” (season 6, episode 5) takes place in a rural bar, and during a segment that runs for about one minute, a retro-sounding country song plays in the background. Featuring slick pedal steel and lyrics like, “Now I’m staring at the stars / wondering where you are,” it’s a pretty good tune—at least that’s what Lauren Ancona thought.
Ancona is a Philadelphia resident and user of X (formerly known as Twitter) who, on December 4, 2023—after watching the episode in question—started a thread about how she loved the song but was unable to ascertain the title or artist by using Shazam. After Googling the song’s lyrics, she learned that a segment of other X-Files fans has been obsessed with the mysterious ditty for years.
The thread went viral, and someone who knows Jeff Charbonneau, the music editor of that specific episode, wound up chiming in. Alas, Charbonneau didn’t remember the song, and it seemed like things had reached yet another dead end. But then someone found the original cue sheet from the episode, and soon after, film and TV music supervisor Jonathan Leahy revealed the song’s authors: Los Angeles-based musicians Dan Marfisi and Glenn Jordan, who worked together on film and TV music in the ’90s.
Marfisi and Jordan were shocked to learn that their long-forgotten song, which is called “Staring at the Stars,” was suddenly a major topic of conversation. Jordan found a copy of the song on CD, and the two men met up and gave it a listen for the first time in a quarter-century.
As Marfisi told The Washington Post in a story that ran just two days after Ancona started her social media thread, he and Jordan were given a specific directive by the producers of The X-Files. They were told to compose a country song “that could be about an alien or a human being.” Hence the line, “With big dark eyes that send me out of sight.”
“What they wanted us to capture was something that just said ‘country bar,’” Jordan said. “Putting the lyrics on about [aliens] was just kind of a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek thing.”
Marfisi and Jordan now plan to release “Staring at the Stars,” a move that should close the book on this particular case once and for all.
“It’s so weird and wonderful,” Marfisi said of the whole bizarre phenomenon. “I’m just kind of loving what’s happening. People are talking about Glenn’s and my song? That’s what you want when you’re a musician. You want people to listen and get something from it.”