Award Bait Song

"Give me an Oscar! We have this whole song, and there's no point for it except for a cheap 'Best Song' nomination!"
Todd in the Shadows mocking Cher's solo song in Burlesque

Or, Big Damn Bronze Age Disney Style Award Baiting End Credits Power Ballad.

You Tropers who grew up in the early 1990s know what we're talking about, right? It's the kind of song which plays over the end credits (usually) of an animated (usually) Disney (usually) movie (usually) from the 1990s (usually). They each share a distinctive style and, as per the title, once you hear it you just know it's going to get nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song.

They generally have at least four of the following distinctive traits:

  • Tends to start out soothing and mellow.
  • Instead of describing events that happen directly in the movie (as the songs in animated musicals tend to), they cover the more sweeping themes of The Power of Love, The Power of Friendship, and so on. May be a Silly Love Song. Indeed, most Award Bait Songs have absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the film, and are rarely referenced during the film itself.
  • Extremely feel-good and/or touching; may be a Tear Jerker.
  • Tend to have a lot of "sparkly" synth.
  • Towards the middle, it gets more and more triumphant and builds to a big, epic finish.
  • For some reason, they are often penned by past-their-prime pop/rock stars, especially if the film isn't actually a musical. If the song is a hit, it may prompt a comeback.
  • If it's a musical, it may appear in the film, but it's occasionally a Cut Song, as in the Pocahontas and Hunchback examples.
  • A Falling in Love Montage is a likely context for the song. Bonus points if it's also a ballroom dance.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change. And a soaring electric guitar solo.
  • Especially in the modern era of filmmaking in which opening credit sequences are almost unheard of (except in James Bond films), the Award Bait Song is not necessarily considered the film's theme song.

The distinguishing trademark, however, is when the song has a reprise, frequently a duet, done over the end credits. Bonus points if you can get Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion (or someone who sounds like her), Whitney Houston, Peabo Bryson, or Bryan Adams to sing it.

Sounds like the kind of song popularized by nineties Disney films, yes? The funny thing is that the film that probably helped to make this sort of thing popular during this particular part of movie history would be "Somewhere Out There" from An American Tail.

Award Bait Songs are also found in many live-action films, notably "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic. Many, many films from the late-70's through late-90's had a song like this, leading some critics to call this period the last really amazing time for movie songs. This has been exchanged for "hip" pop songs from the popular artists at the time, and/or more commonly the movie soundtrack.

Note that not every end-credit song is one of these! Movie Bonus Songs in film adaptations of stage musicals are often not these, though they're often accused of being Oscar bids since pre-existing music isn't eligible for Best Original Song. Furthermore, the "Award-Baiting" part isn't the important part, nor is the "End Credits" part. The important part is that the song is strongly associated with a film (or whatever), serves as a fitting capstone, and is in the style described above.

One tactic when trying for an Award Bait Song is to take an existing, usually famous, song and record a Softer And Slower Cover.

Incidentally, although it may seem like an innovation created by Disney in the 1990s, in fact the use of unrelated-to-the-story songs, usually of the love song variety, often sung by popular singers, has been a staple of closing credits for Asian films - particularly anime - for decades.

For other kinds of popular and/or Award-winning movie songs, see Breakaway Pop Hit and "I Want" Song. Compare The Power of Rock.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Disney 

    Fan Work 

    Film 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer parodied this in "Once More with Feeling", when Anya complained that her song with Xander would "never be a Breakaway Pop Hit". That would be reserved for Tara's "I'm Under Your Spell".
  • Glee usually just does covers, but they also churned out a few original songs that qualify as award baity.Get It Right, Pretending, and As Long As You're There.
  • Three Wishes from Hi 5.
  • Don't Forget Me, the finale song to Smash.
  • On Johnny and the Sprites, the songs were all written by composers from Broadway shows, many of them Tony award-winning, but "Brightly Shining" stands out as this. It was going to be part of the stage show Magical Holiday, but that was canceled and rescheduled as a more general non-holiday-themed stage show.

    Music 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Goldust's theme, true to his film-obsessed gimmick, sounds like an instrumental mashup between an Award Bait Song and a more traditional symphonic score.
  • Shawn Michaels was injured at one point in a real life altercation in which he suffered a concussion in the mid-90s. He collapsed mid-match a few weeks later and when the medical report on why it happened came out, it was revealed that he was suffering from post-concussion syndrome. Apparently the doctors (and for that matter pretty much everyone) Failed a Spot Check, since nobody knew about this at the time, and even Shawn thought he was back to full health at the time. Anyway, it was briefly feared that Shawn would be forced to retire due to the incident both in-universe and out. To really drive home the point that Shawn's career might be in jeopardy, they aired a special tribute video set to an Award Bait Song, "Tell Me a Lie".

    Sports 
  • CBS has "One Shining Moment", which is traditionally played over a final montage at the end of the NCAA basketball tournament. It was originally intended as a closing theme for Super Bowl XXI, but their coverage of the game was running too long, so it got sent to the cutting room floor. That is, until it got re-purposed (with amended lyrics) for March Madness a few months later.
  • CTV had one for its Olympic Games coverage, "I Believe", which was its official "anthem" for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. So much so that it was played in every other commercial leading up to the Games, the main theme for the coverage was based on it (although thankfully in a more orchestral style), and then, yes, it got used on montages and as the sappy credits music after the Closing Ceremonies in both Vancouver and London. It quickly became the Most Annoying Sound for many viewers, especially the ones who wished CBC hadn't had the Olympics swiped from under them as quickly as CTV also did with the Hockey Night in Canada theme.

    Theater 

    Video Games 

    Visual Novel 
  • All the Yarudora games have memorable Ending Songs, but the one that fits the trope out them all is "Kisetsu o Dakishimete", from the game of the same name. A love ballad sung by Oto Fumi in 1998, it's the only song in the Yarudora games to have entered the Japanese weekly Oricon charts, reaching the #64 rank and being charted for four weeks.
  • narcissu ~eon~ has all the trappings of one, despite being the theme for the comparatively small-time VN Narcissu 2. Power ballad, check. Sparkly synth, check. Covering a theme of the game itself, check. Being a Tear Jerker song despite the seemingly-hopeful tune, check.

    Western Animation 
Pixar, 20th Century Fox, Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, Universal, etc.

    Other 
  • Disney loves this trope soooooo much, that they finish EPCOTs Big Damn Pyrotechnics Show Illuminations: Reflections of Earth with one of these.
    • This trope extends into the other parks, at the Magic Kindgom its in the form of a duet reprise of the song Wishes played after the fireworks show of the same name, and at the Beauty and the Beast Show at Disneys Hollywood Studios guests exit the show while the Celine Dion version plays.
    • If you visit a Disney Theme Park during a Milestone Celebration, and decide to buy one of the soundtracks the gift shops are selling, expect it to include a brand-new Award Bait Song. One example includes "Remember the Magic", sung by Brian McKnight and written for Walt Disney World's 25th anniversary. A rewritten version now plays during the "Believe...in Holiday Magic" fireworks show. Disneyland's 50th brought "Remember When", sung by LeAnn Rimes and written by Richard Marx. The latter song plays after the "Remember...Dreams Come True" fireworks show, and was sung live at the park by Rimes on May 5th, 2005.
    • Naturally, World of Color has its own song with all sugary-sweetness we expect and love from Disney. (Although the portion played during the finale sounds less like an Award Bait Song.)
    • Hell, Disney is so in love with this trope that for a while Space Mountain had its own Big Damn Bronze-Age Disney Style Award-Baiting Exit Tunnel Power Ballad. Something surprisingly moving about believing in dreams and reaching for the stars. Not to be outdone, Mission: Space has a similar theme song, entitled "Destiny", about courage and hope and whatnot.
  • Award Bait Songs were so pervasive that in 2003, the Academy revised the rules. Nominees must be written specifically for the film and occur during the main action or as the first song in the credits. A later revision is that only two songs are eligible per movie (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Dreamgirls, and Enchanted had hogged the categories with three nominations each prior to this; the last two actually lost the category presumably due to vote splitting).
  • In the '90s, a pair of artists and a composer created an internet poll to gauge people's opinions of various musical elements. Then, based on the data gathered, they created "The Most Unwanted Song", filled with the most unpopular elements on the survey, and "The Most Wanted Song", filled with the most popular. The latter is total award bait.
  • Disney's Anne Frank has "Living Free (Until the Nazis Find Us Again)" and "The World I See (from My Secret Window)". However, the songs haven't been recorded since its release so you can't hear it note .
  • The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has had a few, at least one of which was nominated for the Daytime Emmy Award for Original Song:
    • "Just Beyond The Dream" (1999), by Lillias White, which was also featured in Macy's 2000 4th of July Fireworks show.
    • "When Hope Was There" (2003), by the USO Troupe of Metropolitan New York and Camp Broadway, written as a tribute to the recently-deceased Bob Hope. It's a bit more upbeat and patriotic than most Award Bait Songs, but it fits into this trope nonetheless.
    • "Free To Dream" (2004), by Deborah Voigt
    • "My Gift Of Thanks" (2005), by Michael Feinstein (who wrote it) and the Highbridge Voices
      • That year's parade also featured the above-mentioned "Remember When", as part of a segment paying tribute to the 50th anniversary of Disney Theme Parks.
    • "Key To This Wonderful City" (2007), by Feinstein and Anika Noni Rose is similar to "When Hope Was There" in that it's more upbeat than all of these examples, but still fits this mold.
    • "I Believe" (2008), by Kermit the Frog and Camp Broadway is one of the more popular examples to come out of the parade. The next parade featured both a Triumphant Reprise of the song and a duet version featuring Kermit and actress Tiffany Thornton. The latter version was also released to iTunes and Radio Disney during the 2009 holiday season.
    • "With You I'm Home" (2009), by Jane Krakowski
      • Cheyenne Jackson's "Play To Win" from the same year would count as well, though it's performed in a swinging Rat Pack crooner style that isn't usually associated with Award Bait Songs.
    • "Yes Virginia" (2010), by Ann Hampton Calloway is notable since it was inspired by the Macy's-funded syndicated TV special of the same name, but did not appear in it (the special debuted one year earlier).