Or, Big DamnBronze AgeDisney StyleAward BaitingEnd CreditsPower 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:
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 (orwhatever), 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.
For other kinds of popular and/or Award-winning movie songs, see Breakaway Pop Hit and "I Want" Song. Compare The Power of Rock.
Pokémon: The First Movie features "We're A Miracle", which fits the trope fairly well, except being a little less epic and sung by a big pop star. Curiously, the Japanese version of the film featured "Kaze to Issho ni", which certainly sounds like one of these. Honestly, every Pokémon movie makes an attempt at this.
The eponymous song from the ending of the 2004 Phoenix anime. May sound like a fairly ordinary anime vocal ending at first, but easily becomes Tear Jerker by the end of the story by sheer stunning context with it. Effect may be amplified if you are particularly moved by the style of The Carpenters.
A group of unofficial Fan Dubbers creating an English track for the movie Arashi No Yoru Ni took it upon themselves to actually pen an all-original Award Bait Song for the end credits, replacing the movie's original end credits theme, "Star". "Watch the Moonrise" is actually quite sweet.
Can also become a Tear Jerker, depending on how you look at it.
Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) has the song Bratya which was featured at the end of the episode where we see Ed's and Al's past. Even though it's in Russian, a language most viewers probably don't understand, it definitely packs a punch.
A fantastic live-action example is Whitney Houston's cover of "I Will Always Love You" from The Bodyguard. It wasn't nominated for the Oscar because it was a cover of a Dolly Parton song from the 1970s. Parton herself sang it in the movie version of The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas in 1982.
"Run To You" and "I Have Nothing" from this film also count, and were both nominated for Best Original Song but lost to Aladdin's "A Whole New World".
Both films were scored by Michael Kamen, incidentally. After Kamen died in 2003, Adams has been suspiciously silent.
In 1996, Adams joined forces with Barbra Streisand for "I Finally Found Someone", which played over the end credits of The Mirror Has Two Faces and didn't fail to get nominated. When Streisand chose not to perform it at the Oscars, Celine Dion stepped in! (that same year, Adams' song "Star" was used on Jack)
Incidentally, Academy rules insist that only the first song from the credits can be considered for an Oscar, so "Wunderkind" lost out as the second song; of three songs included in the credits, only "Can't Take it In" qualified. (And then wasn't nominated, while "Wunderkind" was nominated at the Golden Globes, which is less fussy. Should've put Alanis first?)
Though cut from the theatrical release, The Muppet Christmas Carol had the touching number When Love Is Gone, which was restored to the VHS and fullscreen DVD cut of the film (the widescreen is the theatrical version).
Watch the proper end-credits version by Martina McBride here.
The Muppets did it again in Muppet Treasure Island with the song "Love Led Us Here". This touching ballad of love lost and found is first sung by Piggy and Kermit as they dangle off a cliff edge by their ankles. The song is reprised in the end credits by John Berry and Helen Darling.
"The Rainbow Connection" from the original Muppet movie could stand as an early example. It was indeed nominated for an Oscar that year.
The Weezer and Hayley Williams cover from The Green Album, a tie-in for the 2011 Muppets movie, sounds exactly like a Disney end-credits cover of the song would. Surprisingly, it isn't played over the movie's creditsnote although Kermit and Piggy do sing the regular version of the song during the movie itself, but the movie does bring us "Man or Muppet", despite it not being played over the end credits either. (and being the most award-baity, "Man or Muppet" even won the Oscar!)
The Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes duet "Up Where We Belong" from An Officer and a Gentleman was award-baity enough to win a Golden Globe, Oscar, BAFTA, and a Grammy. All this after the producer of the film tried to get the song cut, insisting that it was "no good and not a hit."
"The Climb" from the Hannah Montana movie is one of these. Too bad it was ineligible for the Oscar because wasn't written for the movie.
Also noteworthy for being the X-Factor Winner's Song for 2009 in the UK which was known to always win the Christmas number 1. Not this year though, as it lost to "Killing in the Name" by Rage Against the Machine.
The Phil Collins-Marilyn Martin duet Separate Lives from White Nights. It was nominated, but lost to another song from the movie "Say You, Say Me" by Lionel Richie, which isn't as award baity of a song.
Phil Collins also has Against All Odds from the movie of the same name.
After All from Chances Are by Cher and Peter Cetera
In Dreamgirls the Movie Bonus Song "Listen" stands out as an attempt to give Beyoncé a big showstopping number to rival "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" (itself not eligible for Best Song). The fact that it was so blatant, and featured Beyonce straining against her usual range, is probably why the song flopped. Ironically, the Glee cover by Charice was much better recieved.
"Christmas All Over the World" was performed by Sheena Easton for the end credits of Santa Claus The Movie (1985). The link is to the full-length version of the song; the first verse doesn't appear in the film, which means it skips past the "soothing and mellow" part. New Edition recorded their own version of this for their '85 Christmas album, and it adds tons of sparkly synth.
2012 has one titled "Time For Miracles". It's especially jarring after seeing a film about death destruction and sacrifice, to hear a Celine Dion-esque song performed by someone from American Idol. And it's Adam Lambert at that!
John Mayer's "Say" from The Bucket List is more low-key than most award bait songs, but it counts too.
By the time Robin Hood: Men in Tights was made in 1993, this was ubiquitous enough to be parodied with an end-credits reprise of "Marian". It was most directly a parody of the song from the other Robin Hood movie from the 1990s, Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You", which was nominated back in '91. In any case, future tropers tended to laugh harder at that than most other people in the theater.
"Love Lives" by Steven Tyler (a solo effort by the Aerosmith frontman), written for the Japanese film Space Battleship Yamato, adapted from the anime series. It feels a good deal like "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing", and is so shamelessly sappy it's utterly fantastic.
"Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" from Don Juan De Marco, sung by Bryan Adams. It was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1995 Academy Awards, but lost to "Colors Of The Wind".
"Only Hope" from A Walk to Remember has the original version by Switchfoot over the end credits and a very award-baity cover by Mandy Moore during the movie. It wasn't eligible for awards though, since the song had already been on one of Switchfoot's albums a few years prior.
The song Together in Electric Dreams, by Georgio Moroder and Philip Oakey of the Human League fame, was actually the ending theme song from the movie Electric Dreams, but the song ended up outshining the movie it was supposed to complement.
The title song from Absolute Beginners (1986), written and performed by David Bowie (who has a One-Scene Wonder role in the movie), is a feel-good love song that bookends the musical via the credit sequences. The full-length version linked to above — with a video that doubled as the movie's theatrical trailer in the U.K. — is almost eight minutes long, with a long, dramatic instrumental finish. (No award nominations.)
Irene Cara's "Flashdance (What a Feeling)", from, well, Flashdance.
The title song from Xanadu, sung by Olivia Newton-John. Also a Breakaway Pop Hit, since the song and soundtrack album were far more popular than the film itself, which was a flop.
"The Day I Fall In Love" from Beethoven's 2nd, performed by James Ingram and Dolly Parton, was actually nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy for Best Song from a Motion Picture.
"Suddenly Seymor" from Little Shop of Horrors. One interesting trait it averts from the standard list is the "not being directly about the story but about vaguer themes" one—the music writers of the musical they knew they could write a vaguer version of the song ("Suddenly Someone") and sell it as a pop hit, but they refused because they knew it wasn't true to the characters.
"As the World Falls Down" from Labyrinth. Although the song itself fits the criteria, including the ballroom dance, its actual meaning in the movie is more subversive—it's the song that plays to show that Jareth has fallen for Sarah, and is attempting to seduce her into giving up her quest. She realizes she's fallen into a trap, and shatters the illusion to prove the Goblin King has no power over her.
Team Starkid's Twisted parodies this with a slowed down pop-version of the main love duet over the end credits, which sounds exactly like every Disney credits song of the 90s.
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".
Halfway through Hadestown is "Why We Build The Wall," a sequence of Hades brainwashing the dead into thinking the wall is keeping them free... by explaining that the impoverished living are trying to get in. You know, the living who can get in at any time. Even for brainwashing, it makes little sense, but perfect sense played out of context as a commentary on capitalist ethics... especially since it doesn't contain a single mention of the album's mythological elements other than the unidentified wall.
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.
After Shawn Michaels left the WWF for a number of reasons (Shawn said it was due to a knee injury, and famously gave a promo on one of the WWF's programs saying that he had also "lost [his] smile", while the Smart Marks insist it was really because he didn't want to lose to Bret Hart), they aired a special tribute video set to an Award Bait Song, "Tell Me a Lie".
"The Song That Goes Like This" from Spamalot is largely a spoof of this type of song, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber ballads (there's some overlap between them stylistically); "Find Your Grail," meanwhile, plays it 100% straight.
Most of the ballads in Jekyll & Hyde, in particular "This Is the Moment" and "A New Life", seem written only to be showstopping applause getters.
"Simple and Clean" / "Hikari" and "Sanctuary" / "Passion" (the Japanese versions have different names as well as the entirely different lyrics) from Kingdom Hearts. Both play in the openings of their respective games ("Simple and Clean" / "Hikari" also appear in Chain of Memories and Birth by Sleep), then have a longer, slower version that plays over the end credits.
"Aria Di Mezzo Carattere" from Final Fantasy VI. It starts as Celes' show-stopping number in the Opera House performance, and then becomes Locke and Celes' love theme, and only grows more and more into award bait along the way.
The concept reaches its logical conclusion with the albums "Pray" and "Love Will Grow" which consist of nothing but attempts to adapt Final Fantasy songs into this style. Though some of them have little to no connection to the source, such as Matoya's Theme from Final Fantasy becoming a French song about prince traveling the galaxy...
Fatal Frame has this going for it as well, starting with the second game and the song 'Chou' by Amano Tsukiko. This was followed with the rather hauntingly beautiful 'Koe' from the third game, again performed by Amano; and then the fourth game had TWO of these songs: 'NOISE' which plays over the end credits on easy/normal difficulty, and 'Zero no Chouritsu' which is the actual 'theme song' of the game.
While not related to the games themselves, the now extinct indoor theme park Sega World Sydney had a horribly cheesy stage show called "Sonic Live In Sydney", obviously geared towards younger children. Of all the songs in that show, "Sonic, Thank You For Being You" stands out the most, and has even been used in countless Sonic X Sally fanvids.
The credits music from Kirby Super Star lacks vocals (obviously, given the SNES's sound limitations), and is about twice the tempo of your average Award Bait Song, but hits pretty much every other aspect on the list.
"Kokoro" from Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht.
"Song of Mana" from Legend of Mana. A bit more folksy and energetic than most of the songs in this trope, but pulls it off with considerable grace and feasibility. As a song about love, longing and life passion, it avoids being merely an "I Want" Song by capturing both the motivation and the happy ending of the story. This song is notable for being sung entirely in Swedish by native Swedish vocalist Annika Ljungberg, but as the crowning song of a game never published in Swedish.
Although SimCity isn't really much of an emotionally driven game, Sim City 4 Rush Hour gives us an orchestral version of this trope with the ''The Morning Commute''. Considering most of the music in the series is either jazz or jazz-inspired, this piece stands out greatly.
Persona 3 has probably the best example in the series with Memories of You. Bonus points for the lyrics actually having something to do with the ending.
Persona 2 is also a possible contender for the best example in the series with Change Your Way, the ending song for Eternal Punishment which has lyrics relating to the themes of the game.
Because the 2009 A Boy and His Blob deliberately set out to emulate a Disney-esque feel, they couldn't let the end credits go without one of these. The ending song, "Everything to Me", is exactly the sort of friendship song that fits best—though a sad sort of one.
"One World" From Endless Ocean: Blue World fits this trope perfectly.
The song "Further" at the end of Iji is basically this.
Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete had Tsubasa/Wings and Wind's Nocturne, which both falls squarely into this trope. The lyrics of the North American PSX version was even Woolseyised to sound like something that was created at Disney. However the North American PSP version was retranslated to keep with the original meaning of the Japanese lyrics.
On the topic of Moons, Everything's Alright from To The Moon squarely fits this trope.
A somewhat odd example from Homeworld. The music piece itself was not written for the game, but plays at key moments. I am of course referring to Agnus Dei. To re-iterate: It is first played during the epic launch of the Mothership. The second time it accompanies when the player first returns to Kharak and witnesses their burning home (Tear Jerker right there.). The third and final it plays during the final montage showing the Kushan people returning to their homeworld Hiigara after millennia of exile. After this final piece, progressive rock band Yes' song Homeworld (The Ladder) plays.
The closing song to the first .hack//G.U. games as well as the third game closer.
"You and I" and "Love Forever", both from Ragnarok Online. You won't hear either song anywhere in the game, but they're part of the official soundtrack and have been part of its promotional campaign during the early years.
"In Your Belief" From Asura's Wrath. A beautiful somber song by the singer of Aura's Theme from .hack, Tomoyo Mitani, it manages to be used both for the epic beginning in episode 1, The heartbreaking second half of episode 12 and the credits for the end of the final act. Both of them.
The Look of That Day, the song that plays over the credits of Talesofthe Abyss, could be considered an instrumental version of this. The song starts with calming piano, but has a buildup into an orchestral end.
The Last Story has The Flying One, the vocal version of its main theme, which plays over the end credits. It shares a number of stylistic similarities with the end credits songs favored by Studio Ghibli, but it's still distinctly Award Bait-y.
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.
Which almost became a Cut Song because ONE boy yawned during the test screening. The director and Howard Ashmen(Executive Producer and Lyricist) fought tooth and nail to keep the sequence, even pointing out the ludicrous idea of "one snot-nosed brat" being the the only reason to cut it.
"If I Never Knew You" from Pocahontas. Curiously, in the original theatrical version it was only featured during the end credits (the animated sequence didn't perform well with the test audiences); another insert song, Colors of the Wind took the Oscar.
Some would argue that "God Help The Outcasts" is the better Award Bait Song example even if it didn't get end credit billing. The music got "Best Score" Golden Globe and Oscar nominations but no "Best Song" nods.
The Disney Princesses, given their origin, actually have a whole Award Bait Song of their own. It's called "If You Can Dream", and it features the original Princess' voice actors returning to reprise their roles.
Their new theme song, "The Glow," is just as award-baity, if not more.
"A Boy Needs a Dog" from the feature film of Teacher's Pet is more or less a parody of these types of numbers. Though the mood is played straight in the reprise (which is not played in the credits, nor nominated for any awards).
Another Don Bluth example: The Land Before Time showed us how to do this right with "If We Hold On Together". Throughout the film, the song appears as a by-turns plaintive, hopeful, and triumphant instrumental, finally building to Diana Ross' vocal version - over the end credits, naturally.
Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston's "Dueling Divas" collaboration, "When You Believe" from The Prince of Egypt. (The original version of the song that's featured in the movie, is performed by Michelle Pfeiffer and Sally Dworsky.) It won the Oscar over two other examples in the page, "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" and "The Prayer".
Pixar, which broke early on from the Disney musical formula and tends to have few (if any) songs in their movies, save for the credits song, often written by Randy Newman:
"A Dream Worth Keeping" from FernGully: The Last Rainforest. A little unusual in that it appeared during a lovey-dovey sequence in the movie and was not reprised over the end credits.
Played painfully straight by "Far Longer Than Forever" from The Swan Princess, which rips off "Beauty and the Beast" to the point that they almost have the same melody on their respective title lines. There's another award bait song over the end credits, "Eternity", performed (in English) by the Japanese group Dreams Come True.
A more traditional example is "Through the Eyes of a Child", played over the end credits. It's performed by Michael McDonald (of the Doobie Brothers) for an extra parody kick. ("Sure, life is kinda gay/But it doesn't seem that way/Through the eyes of a child...")
Ironically, it was "Blame Canada" that was nominated for the Oscar... and it lost to the aforementioned "You'll Be In My Heart". Matt and Trey did not react to this well...
The nomination of "Blame Canada" over the more normal Oscar Bait option of "Up There" is even funnier given that the latter is about the only song in the entire movie lacking profanity. The idea of "Blame Canada" even being performed at the Oscars was a bit controversial back in 2000 with some of the content. And Robin Williams was equally awesome and hilarious singing it!
The first Rugrats lacked this, but not the second film, giving us "When you love". by Sinead O'Connor! (Didn't get nominated, and at least one newspaper review even expected it to be snubbed for the above mentioned Grinch song, which also wasn't nommed either.)
David Bowie had actually written Safe (the B-side for his 2002 single Everyone Says 'Hi' ) for the first movie, but its removal (presumably) resulted in the first movie's lack of an Award Bait Song.
"It's All Too Much," which caps off the animated part of Yellow Submarine. While the song itself didn't get any Grammy nods, the movie's soundtrack did get nominated for Outstanding Original Score for Motion Picture or Television.
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 itnote because this is an imaginary film.