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Breakaway Pop Hit
aka: Breakout Pop Hit
One tactic that has been used in the publicity of movies (and other media, but mostly movies) for decades is to produce a radio friendly song to go with the film. By having music intrinsically linked, you can effectively extend the advertising for both the musical artist(s) and the movie by crossing over into the two fields. It often works out pretty well, with both the movie and the artist(s) getting a ton of free publicity from each other. For example, The Graduate and the song "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon & Garfunkel were both major hits when they first came out, with each giving a ton of publicity to the other. (This was the first time a pop hit was used on the soundtrack of a high-profile Hollywood film, and while the trend didn't catch on right away, it's safe to say it eventually became pretty standard practice.)

However, the nature of the entertainment industry means that you really can't be sure what people will or will not like. Most of the time, both the song and the movie will flop. Also common is that a movie will be popular, but nobody cares about the song that got attached. One example of that is the song "You Could Be Mine" by Guns N' Roses from Terminator 2. The movie is still very popular, but the song is pretty much disassociated with it these days (having the Terminator in its video makes the song AND video look extremely dated; having Guns N' Roses suddenly blaring on the soundtrack early on in Terminator 2 sounds odd now).

But in some cases, the song continues to be popular after the movie has gone into obscurity. Sometimes the movie was actually popular at the time, but the song has since become utterly disassociated from its original context. In cases like this, we have what is called a Breakaway Pop Hit. The measure this article will use to gauge is whether or not a song still receives airtime on non-specialized radio stations at least five years after the movie has fallen into obscurity (in other words, people just recently informed of the fact would react with a surprised, "wait, my favorite song is from a movie?") Examples of this should follow these rules:

  1. It has to be a full song, released either as a single or otherwise widely available to radio stations. The song has to continue to receive airplay on the very general radio stations (i.e. an FM oldies station would count, but not a Satellite Radio station specifically dedicated to movie themes from the 1960s). Most FM stations count in this regard, since their entirely free nature means that they have to try to appeal to as wide a group as they can.
  2. It has to have been created alongside a movie (TV show/video game/whatever). One way you can tell if it counts is if the music video heavily advertises the tie-in. It can't just have been tacked on by the studio to try to get more publicity for it (see "Kiss From a Rose" for a blatant example of that). With this rule, it does count if the music was released well in advance but was specifically intended as an intrinsic part of the movie (/TV show/video game/whatever).
  3. The movie (/TV show/video game/whatever) has to fall into obscurity. This is the most subjective part of this entry, but you can tell if it fell into obscurity by the fact that the studio either didn't release a DVD of it (not due only to copyright hell) or they just gave it a "catalog" release (basically a bare bones DVD with just the movie and whatever cheaply available other materials such as trailers or music videos are on hand. The price is usually $14.99 or lower). Just having a special edition version does not automatically mean it hasn't fallen into obscurity (for example, see The Criterion Collection for a TON of obscure movies with the red carpet treatment). If the average person is unlikely to know about a movie (/TV show/video game/whatever), it counts.
  4. Quality of the movie (/TV show/video game/whatever) is irrelevant. Armageddon, for example, is widely reviled. However, due to the fact that it gets referenced a lot (usually in a negative fashion), it has certainly not fallen into obscurity. As such, the song "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith would not yet count as an example (even if most people couldn't tell you that it was tied in to the film). On the flip side, a movie that is considered to be very high quality does not excuse it from obscurity. As mentioned in example 3, see The Criterion Collection for a lot of movies that are academically considered to be very high quality, yet are extremely obscure.

This applies to an insane number of songs from old Broadway and movie musicals. Far too many songs have escaped their original musicals to give a full list, but ones that have become standards, while the shows they hail from are almost never seen, can stand as notable examples.

See Pop-Cultural Osmosis and Breakaway Advertisement for related phenomenons. See also Award Bait Song. Naturally, this can be frustrating for fans of the popular song's source. Compare Covered Up and Weird Al Effect.


Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • Jim Guthrie's song "Hands In My Pocket" was originally written for a Capital One commercial.
  • The Carpenters song ''We've Only Just Begun" was first used in a 1970 Crocker Bank commercial sung and co-written by Paul Williams. Richard Carpenter saw the commercial on TV one night, called Williams and asked if there was a bridge to the song. Williams lied and said there was and he and his songwriting partner worked quickly to write the rest of the song before giving it to Carpenter.
  • Political advertising, but still - Boston mayoral candidate Walter A. O'Brien commissioned a pair of songwriters to write a song supporting his candidacy and protesting a fare hike on the subway system. While O'Brien lost, the song, "Charlie On The M.T.A." was later covered by the Kingston Trio, becaming a hit for the band that was widely remembered to this day. In fact, the fare cards and tickets for the transit authority (now called the MBTA) are called CharlieTickets/CharlieCards, after the song. A plaque in the popular hub Park Street Station explains the story behind the name of the ticket and the song.
  • An Alka-Seltzer commercial from 1964 had a vignette of different peoples' stomachs with a jaunty guitar-led instrumental tune, later becoming a radio hit "No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's On)" by the T-Bones.
  • The Ur Example of this is "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," which was originally written as a Montgomery Ward advertising jingle.
  • Timothy Leary asked John Lennon to write him a song when was running for political office, that song turning out to be The Beatles' hit "Come Together". Subverted, in that John ended up keeping the song instead of letting Leary use it.
  • Coca-Cola's 1970 Jingle 'I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing' had radio callers requesting the commercial, so a longer version was released that was a Billboard Top 10 hit.
  • "Country Sunshine" by Dottie West was also a Coca-Cola jingle first, and released as a single in 1973 based on the popularity of the commercial, becoming her signature song.

     Films - Live Action 

  • One of the most prominent examples is "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan, written for the film Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, one of Sam Peckinpah's lesser known works.
  • "Invincible" by Pat Benatar, which was in the movie The Legend of Billie Jean. Pat Benatar often mocks the film before going into the song in concerts.
  • "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" by Bryan Adams, which was featured in Don Juan De Marco.
    • Bryan Adams' "Heaven" is one of his best-known songs. But does anyone remember A Night In Heaven, the movie it was made for?
    • Another Bryan Adams example: "All for Love" (which he co-wrote), performed with Rod Stewart and Sting, became a #1 hit in the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, and many European countries. Raise your hand if you remember the 1993 film adaptation of The Three Musketeers that it came from. We're waiting...
  • "New York, New York" by Liza Minelli (Covered Up by Frank Sinatra), from the film of the same name. Not to be confused with a similarly named song that was featured in the film On the Town and parodied by The Simpsons, or with a similarly named song by Moby.
  • Garth Brooks has had his considerable star power carry two songs out from the movies he recorded them for: "Make You Feel My Love" (a Bob Dylan cover) from Hope Floats, and "When You Come Back to Me Again" from Frequency.
  • "Come and Get It", composed by Paul McCartney and performed by Badfinger for the soundtrack of the largely forgotten Peter Sellers/ Ringo Starr vehicle The Magic Christian.
  • "Unchained Melody" was originally written by composer Alex North and lyricist Hy Zaret for the little known 1955 prison film Unchained. A decade later the Righteous Brothers recorded a cover which topped the charts. That version gained new popularity when it was used in the movie Ghost in 1990. Today, it's much more associated with Ghost than with Unchained.
  • "A Little Less Conversation" was an obscure Elvis Presley song from his film Live a Little, Love a Little. A remix by JXL in the early 2000's turned it into a smash hit.
    • That's the most dramatic example, but many Elvis songs qualify for this. He started making films not long after he was discovered and didn't stop making them until about 1970. All of those films were musicals, and most of them were forgettable—but his songs still charted for a while despite that. So there are likely some Elvis songs from, say, the early '60s or even late '50s that most of us know, that originally went with a musical, but which only serious Elvis or bad-film fans would recall which musical.
  • AC/DC's "Who Made Who" still gets play on rock radio stations and is one of their more well-known songs, long after the movie for which it was recorded, Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive, has been more or less forgotten.
  • One of the first songs most people learn on the piano, "Heart And Soul", is from the short film A Song is Born (1938).
  • The Gene Wilder comedy The Woman in Red was a modest success, but Stevie Wonder's theme song "I Just Called to Say I Love You" became an Oscar-winning megahit.
  • Raise your hand if you remember that Eric Clapton recorded "Tears in Heaven" specially for the Rush soundtrack. [no hands] Raise your hand if you remember it as a standalone song. [all the tropers raise their hands]
  • Dan Hartman's song "I Can Dream About You" was used in the the movie Streets of Fire, which was somewhat of a disappointment at the time of its release.
  • Covered Up Breakaway Pop Hits: "You Light Up My Life" was originally written for the movie You Light Up My Life. Since the song's writer, Joe Brooks, also wrote and directed the movie, you could argue that the movie's sole purpose was to generate a Breakaway Pop Hit. But the version from the movie, by Kasey Cisyk, flopped. Then a few months later Debby Boone covered it and it became the biggest hit of the '70s.
    • "That's What Friends Are For" was originally recorded by Rod Stewart for the Ron Howard-directed, Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton-acted 1982 hit Night Shift, where it played over the closing credits. A couple years later Dionne Warwick was watching it on TV and decided to cover the song herself. Although Night Shift is still considered an early 80s comedy classic, very few people know its connection to the song; in fact, more than a few people have probably just thought that it was Rod Stewart covering a Dionne Warwick song.
  • The Glenn Miller Band's recording of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" was the first ever record to go gold. They appeared on screen as a Fake Band to introduce the song in Sun Valley Serenade, a not so legendary Sonja Henie vehicle. Nevertheless, the song had been written by songwriters under contract to the studio.
    • For the next Sonja Henie movie, Iceland, the same songwriters wrote "There Will Never Be Another You."
  • "Time for Miracles," a song by Adam Lambert which was used in the movie 2012 and whose music video heavily references the film.
  • "Gangsta's Paradise"—which Sampled Up "Pastime's Paradise" by Stevie Wonder—was an inescapable, insanely popular (if uncharacteristic) crossover hit for Coolio, while the film Dangerous Minds has largely faded from public memory.
  • The song "White Christmas" is far more well known than the movie it first appeared in, which was Holiday Inn.
    • Which also named the hotel chain, which is also better-known than the movie. (Breakaway Defictionalization?)
    • Holiday Inn is not so much "obscure" as just old. It stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire doing what they respectively do best (crooning and dancing), and your grandparents (or great-grandparents) no doubt remember it fondly. It's also shown in most markets at least once a year (around Christmastime, naturally).
  • 40 years later, Dusty Springfield's "The Look of Love" still gets airplay on light rock stations, while Casino Royale (1967), wallows in well deserved obscurity, known primarily only by Bond fanatics.
    • The instrumental theme from Casino Royale was a modest hit for Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (#27 on the Billboard Hot 100; #1 on the "Easy Listening" charts) and probably is better known today than the movie itself is.
  • "When I Fall In Love (It Will Be Forever)" was originally from the 1952 movie One Minute To Zero.
  • From the same era, the old standby "Mona Lisa" comes from - and was never sung or played completely through in - a minor action flick called Captain Carey, USA.
  • "Would?" by Alice in Chains was originally released with the movie Singles before it appeared on their album Dirt. The movie is fine, but the song is one of their most famous and even ranked at #89 on VH-1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs of All-Time. Singles is a great example of this trope, because the soundtrack album was and remains more popular than the movie itself! It featured bands such as Soundgarden and Pearl Jam at a time when grunge was growing in popularity.
    • Similarly, more people cared about their song "What The Hell Have I" than the movie it was attached to, Last Action Hero for years after its release before the film began to pick up a following. Now no one cares about the song.
  • "Happy Days are Here Again" was first featured in an early MGM musical called Chasing Rainbows.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers' cover of Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster" was recorded hastily for the Beavis And Butthead Do America soundtrack and became a hit single. The band refused to capitalise on this and have never done it live. "Soul To Squeeze", a Blood Sugar Sex Magik outtake that was previously released as B-Side to "Give It Away" was contributed to the Coneheads soundtrack and became a hit, being played live and later appeared on their Greatest Hits.
  • Neptune's Daughter had "Baby, It's Cold Outside," which had in fact been written five years before the movie came out as a party song, and not for the movie, which was set in southern California. "On A Slow Boat To China" would count as a Breakaway Pop Hit from the same movie if it wasn't a Cut Song.
  • The Phil Collins song "Against All Odds" still gets a fair amount of airplay on '80s stations, but the movie of the same title is pretty much forgotten.
    • Speaking of Phil Collins, "Two Hearts" and "Groovy Kind of Love" are two of his best known songs. But does anybody remember the film Buster?
      • "Groovy Kind of Love" may not count; it was in that movie, but it (performed by the Mindbenders) had been a #2 hit 20 years earlier. The movie is set in the 1960s when the song originally came out, but it wasn't made (and Collins didn't record his version) until 1988.
    • Yet another Phil Collins example: "Separate Lives", from the now mostly forgotten and very strange film White Nights — which also spawned Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me".
      • Though White Nights has niche appeal for dance fans who know it because of Mikhail Baryshnikov's and/or Gregory Hines's starring roles in the film, or Helen Mirren superfans who'll recognize this as one of her breakout films. Still, the Lionel Richie megahit "Say You, Say Me" is inarguably far more well known than the film from which it originated.
  • Henry Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk" from Hatari! is a rare instrumental example of the Breakaway Pop Hit.
  • "Jingle, Jangle, Jingle" from The Forest Rangers.
  • Not exactly a case of this trope, but Eric Clapton covered Wynonna Judd's "Change the World" for the soundtrack of the 1996 film Phenomenon.
  • "Ugly Bug Ball" by Burl Ives comes from the Disney flop Summer Magic.
    • Burl Ives' most beloved song might be his cover of the folk song, "Lavender Blue". He sings it in the Disney film, So Dear To My Heart, which only a very few people, mostly hardcore Disney fans and animation historians, are even aware of.
  • David Bowie examples:
    • "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)". The name of the song is virtually the only giveaway that it was made for a movie — and not Inglourious Basterds! This case was "helped" by the fact that he re-recorded it with a different, poppier arrangement for his album Let's Dance.
    • His Title Theme Tune for Absolute Beginners (1986) went to #2 on the U.K. charts, making it one of his bigger hits in The Eighties. But the movie — which he had a One-Scene Wonder role in — was barely released beyond its home country and was briefly notorious as a flop big enough to be a Creator Killer for its studio.
  • The Counting Crows cover of "Big Yellow Taxi" can still be heard on radio stations to this day, while the movie it was recorded for, Two Weeks Notice, is largely forgotten.
    • Not quite. "Big Yellow Taxi" was originally on their album Hard Candy (released six months previous) as a hidden track (at least, it was hidden in the original release; later releases un-hid it). Granted, it didn't originally feature Vanessa Carlton's voice, but still.
  • "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)" from The Sky's the Limit.
  • In 1998, two hit singles "Uninvited" by Alanis Morrisette, and "Iris" by Goo Goo Dolls) were all written for and first appeared on the soundtrack of City of Angels, a not very well received remake of the acclaimed German film Wings of Desire. Another song was also a hit having been released as an album track a year before -("Angel" (sometimes mistakenly called "In the Arms of the Angel") by Sarah MacLachlan,
  • "Puttin' on the Ritz" was originally sung by Harry Richman in an early movie musical of the same title. The familiar lyrics, however, were first sung by Fred Astaire in Blue Skies. (And there are probably viewers of younger generations who only know the song at all via Young Frankenstein and/or Taco's cover version in The Eighties.)
  • "The More I See You" from Diamond Horseshoe.
  • "You Make Me Feel So Young" from Three Little Girls in Blue.
  • The pop standard "More" originated as the theme from the Italian Shockumentary Mondo Cane. In an interesting inversion of Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics, the original song was an instrumental.
  • "I Remember You" and "Tangerine" from The Fleet's In.
  • Earth Wind and Fire did a fine, lively cover of The Beatles' "Got To Get You Into My Life" that charted well. Aerosmith also has a pretty popular version of "Come Together." You could hardly believe that both were spawned from the turgid, Bee Gees-heavy musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
  • The song The Happening was a number one hit for The Supremes and became a staple on oldies stations. The film The Happening (no, not that one), has sank into almost complete obscurity; it's generally remembered only for being one of Anthony Quinn's worst roles.
  • A rare example of an entire album falling victim to this trope; Stevie Wonder's Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants is well remembered for being one of the first New Age albums and for the polarized reaction it got from fans. However, how many people have actually seen The Secret Life of Plants? It's an odd little documentary (the book, a history of the scientific — or not — study of if and how plants are aware of their environment, is much better known) that it was made as the soundtrack for.
  • "I Finally Found Someone" by Bryan Adams and Barbra Streisand is an Award Bait Song from The Mirror Has Two Faces, which she also produced, directed and starred in.
  • "Tip-Toe Thru' The Tulips With Me" comes from The Gold Diggers of Broadway, an early movie musical which is mostly lost. Standard Snippet "The Gold Diggers’ Song (We’re in the Money)" comes from the 1933 loose remake Gold Diggers of 1933, a "culturally significant" work that sits at the lower extremes of Mainstream Obscurity
  • The song "Georgy Girl," which was a #2 hit for The Seekers (and co-written by The Narrator), came from a not-so-remembered (at least in the US) film starring Lynn Redgrave.
  • "High Hopes (Rubber Tree Plant)" came from an obscure late-period Frank Capra movie starring Frank Sinatra, A Hole in the Head.
  • You know that cute song you associate with The Muppets, "Mah Na Mah Na"? Originally from an Italian pseudodocumentary, exploitation film called Sweden, Heaven or Hell.
  • "That Old Black Magic" from Star Spangled Rhythm.
  • Donna Summer's "Last Dance" from Thank God It's Friday.
  • Vangelis has lived this trope at least twice. First with "Chariots of Fire" for the equally named movie and then again with "Conquest of Paradise" for Ridley Scott's 1492: Conquest of Paradise (Yes, that Ridley Scott)
  • "Am I Blue?" was introduced by Ethel Waters in the 1929 movie musical On with the Show!
  • "Blues in the Night" and "This Time the Dream's on Me" were originally written for Blues in the Night, an obscure movie musical made in 1941 and starring future director Elia Kazan.
  • Evanescence got their breakout hit "Bring Me To Life" on the soundtrack of the utterly-forgettable Daredevil movie.
  • For great justice, the Space Jam soundtrack makes the cut. R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" is today largely assumed by younger basketball fans to have been written to celebrate Michael Jordan's career. Likewise, a lot of people like Seal's cover version of "Fly Like an Eagle" as well as Monica's "For You, I Will", a surprisingly actually heartwarming song written by the otherwise not-so-well-liked Diane Warren. Meanwhile, the movie is remembered for being a spectacular Base Breaker. Once again, music videos never forget: Bugs Bunny has a cameo in each of them ("Fly Like An Eagle" is itself a Video Full Of Film Clips).
    • Also, another Covered Up example: the album features All 4 One's version of the Warren-penned "I Turn to You". Which people only really fell in love with after Christina Aguilera covered it.
  • The first Pink Floyd song that got any sort of airplay on US pop radio was the jangly "Free Four". With the exception of diehard Floyd fans and fans of French filmmaker Barbet Schroeder, no one has seen La Vallee, the obscure French hippie film that the song is from the soundtrack of. The soundtrack itself (Obscured by Clouds, which doubled as the band's seventh studio album) is similarly more well known than La Vallee.
    • The band's 1969 third album, Soundtrack from the Film "More" is similarly more well known than the film More (another French hippie film by Barbet Schroeder). In fact, the film wasn't released in the United States and the album was just known as More upon release.
  • The film Gothika was successful upon release. But it is nowhere near as famous (well, maybe notorious is a better word here) as the song recorded for the film: Limp Bizkit's cover of "Behind Blue Eyes".
  • Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow's cover of Smokey Robinson's "Cruisin'" was a major Adult Contemporary radio hit in 2000, and remained a radio staple long after the movie the cover was from, Duets, bombed at the box office.
  • Although the fact that the song is called "Going Home: Theme from Local Hero" is a pretty good giveaway that it's a theme from something, it's arguable that more people have heard and can recognize the iconic theme by Mark Knopfler than have actually seen the movie.
  • "Touched by the Hand of God" by New Order from Salvation!. The song isn't one of their bigger hits, but because of its video - which features the band dressed up as a hair metal group - its much better known than the movie it came from.
  • "One Tin Soldier" as recorded by Coven on the soundtrack of Billy Jack, which would also prove to be a Black Sheep Hit for what was otherwise a Satanic hard rock band. Though the song was originally recorded two years earlier by The Original Caste.
  • At the height of his career, Chuck Mangione won scored a hit with and won a Grammy award for his soundtrack to a little-known movie called Children of Sanchez.
  • In one of the most prominent examples of this trope, Boyz II Men performed "End of the Road" for the Eddie Murphy romantic comedy Boomerang. While Boomerang made back its budget, it is not particularly remembered or acclaimed, while "End of the Road" is the highest selling Motown single of all time.
  • Legendary R&B group Earth, Wind & Fire broke into the top 40 with the album That's the Way of the World. Most people don't know that it's actually a soundtrack for a movie of the same name.
  • The Kelly Clarkson song Breakaway was first part of the soundtrack for The Princess Diaries II. It slowly climbed the charts and became her biggest hit since Miss Independent. It also prompted her record company to title her second album Breakaway when it was released later in the year.
  • "I've Got You Under My Skin" written by Cole Porter was first heard in Born To Dance, an MGM musical starring Eleanor Powell. "Easy To Love" was introduced in the same movie, but since 1987 it's more likely to be heard in revivals of Anything Goes, which was in fact the show for which Cole Porter originally wrote it.
  • Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street" became popular for young viewers when it was played in the opening credits of Jackie Brown. However it was originally the title song to an early 70s crime drama of the same name, starring Yaphet Kotto and Anthony Quinn.
  • "No More Lonely Nights", a big post-Beatles, post-Wings hit for Paul McCartney, was first recorded as part of the soundtrack for his 1984 movie Give My Regards To Broad Street, which was a critical and commercial flop.
  • "Hooray For Hollywood" came from a musical called Hollywood Hotel. The movie's not very well known now but it does feature a great performance of "Sing, Sing, Sing" by Benny Goodman's band.
  • Other than featuring the late Tupac Shakur, the film Above The Rim is mostly remembered for the hit songs Regulate by Nate Dogg and Warren G and Anything by SWV and the Wu-Tang Clan.
  • "Foolish Games" by Jewel was released as the third single from the Batman & Robin soundtrack, months after the film itself had been laughed out of theaters, and eventually became the second-best selling single of 1997 in the United States. Sure, it originally appeared on her megahit album Pieces of You, but it wasn't slated to be a single until it was to be included on the Batman and Robin soundtrack two years after Pieces of You was released.
    • Batman Forever, the Batman film before Batman and Robin, also has a Breakaway Pop Hit, U2's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me". Batman Forever itself has been largely forgotten for not being as good as the Burton films that preceded it, or as bad as the next movie. Batman Forever's other big soundtrack hit, "Kiss From A Rose", however is not an example of this trope: it was already a minor hit before it was tacked onto the soundtrack (and not an obscure album track that initially had no hopes of being issued as a single, like the aforementioned "Foolish Games"). Both videos have Batman in them (the former is an Animated Music Video with U2 performing in Gotham, the latter has Seal singing next to the Batsignal).
  • It's probable that more people are familiar with Neil Diamond's song "America" than the movie it was originally from, the widely-panned 1980 remake of The Jazz Singer. In fact, that Non-Actor Vehicle yielded three big hits for Diamond, the others being "Hello Again" and "Love on the Rocks".
  • The Irving Berlin standard "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" was introduced by Dick Powell and Alice Faye in the movie musical On the Avenue (1937).
  • "Teenage Dirtbag" by nerd-rock band Wheatus was a Top 5 hit in the United Kingdom and on American alternative radio. The song originally appeared on the soundtrack to the film Loser, which was a box office failure.
  • "FM (No Static At All)" by Steely Dan is a fondly remembered single released while the band was promoting their best selling album, Aja. The film it was written for, FM is now obscure and largely only remembered for the Steely Dan song written for it.
  • "Charmaine" was originally theme music for the 1926 silent movie What Price Glory?
  • "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship is very well remembered and frequently played on the radio and music channels but the movie it was featured in, Mannequin, is mainly remembered because of clips of it appearing in the music video (and the stars of the movie also appearing in the video).
  • "That Old Feeling" from Walter Wanger's Vogues of 1938.
  • Digital Underground's "Same Song", from Dan Aykroyd's comedy Nothing But Trouble. The movie was panned by critics and was a box office flop, but the song was a hit.
  • "'Til I Hear It From You" by The Gin Blossoms was among the band's biggest hits. It originally appears on the soundtrack to the commercial flop "Clerks in a record store" movie Empire Records. Another song from the soundtrack, "A Girl Like You" by Edwyn Collins achieved success in the United States after appearing on the album's soundtrack, but its not an example of this trope, because it was already a hit in his native UK the year before the movie was released.
  • Green Day's "J.A.R." was originally featured on the soundtrack for the movie Angus. The film didn't do too well at the box office, but the song was a hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and appearing on their greatest hits album.
  • The Cole Porter song "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" was originally from Something to Shout About, a 1943 movie musical starring Don Ameche and Janet Blair.
  • "Cocktails For Two" from Murder at the Vanities.
  • "Pennies From Heaven" from the 1936 Bing Crosby movie of that name. (The 1981 movie Pennies From Heaven with Steve Martin is unrelated aside from the title song.)
  • The Beatles' film Magical Mystery Tour was a critical and commercial failure in England, and only won popularity as a Cult Classic years later in America. The accompanying soundtrack album was a number one smash from the get-go.
  • Though the 1942 Judy Garland vehicle Meet Me in St. Louis can hardly be considered a flop, one of the songs from it, the holiday chestnut "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", a song written for the movie, has definitely gained a life of its own beyond the movie it came from.
    • The movie also has "The Trolley Song" ("Clang, clang, clang went the trolley...") which is known by a lot of people who have never seen the movie.
  • The 1946 Disney live action/cartoon film Song of the South (based on the Reconstruction-era Uncle Remus stories) has never been released on DVD, due to certain scenes in the film being... problematic when viewed today. As a result, not many people could identify it as the source of "Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah", even though it won the Oscar for Best Song.
  • X Japan's "I.V." remains a permanent fixture in their live set long after Saw IV has faded from memory.
  • Chicago's 1982 hit "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" went to Number One on the Billboard singles charts. Less well remembered is the film from which it came, Summer Lovers.
  • "The One and Only" may have been UK teen-idol Chesney Hawkes only hit, but he was briefly massive, and the song still enjoys major nostalgic popularity today. Yet not even the fact that Hawkes himself starred in it seemed to help "Buddy's Song" (the film the song came from), which was barely known at the time and is all but forgotten nowadays.
  • The 1998 American version of Godzilla has a few: the Grammy-winning cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" by The Wallflowers, Puff Daddy's Led Zeppelin-inspired "Come with Me", and Jamiroquai's sole #1 in the UK, "Deeper Underground". The only connections to the film are Godzilla's shriek in "Come with Me", and Zilla turning up in all three videos.
  • Sarah McLachlan's adult contemporary staple "I Will Remember You" came from the pioneering (but since forgotten) indie film The Brothers McMullen.
  • Michael Jackson's "Ben" is a heartfelt ballad written about...the killer rat of 1973's Ben. The remake of predecessor Willard reminds viewers of the song's origins by using it twice — using the original version within the film, and then having protagonist Crispin Glover sing it over the end credits!
  • Almost no one remembers the 1959 movie A Summer Place. Almost everyone can recognize the theme song by Percy Faith's orchestra, which spent nine weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 to become the number one song of 1960, as well as the Record of the Year at the 1961 Grammy Awards. And that wasn't even the original version of the theme, nor the original main title song.
  • Xanadu barely broke even at the box office, and recieved rather negative critical reception, but the soundtrack album was certified Double Platinum and five songs charted on the Top 20: "Magic", "Xanadu", "All Over The World", "I'm Alive", and "Suddenly".
  • Lovers and Other Strangers is only known today due to the Carpenters' cover of "For All We Know".
  • Buck Privates was the Star-Making Role for Abbott and Costello in the movies, but only their committed fans are likely to recall it. It is also the movie in which the Andrews Sisters introduced "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," one of the iconic songs of the era.
  • Vision Quest is better known for having two hit singles off its soundtrack, Madonna's "Crazy for You" and Journey's "Only the Young".
  • "Cavatina" from The Deer Hunter (1978) is a slightly convoluted example, made famous by a film, but not the one it was originally written for. Composer Stanley Myers wrote it for The Walking Stick, an obscure 1970 film, and basically bought back the rights while working on The Deer Hunter so he could reuse it there. note 
  • Giorgio Moroder & Phil Oakey's "Together in Electric Dreams", from the obscure film Electric Dreams.
  • Madonna's hit song "Vogue" appeared on the Dick Tracy soundtrack, it was the B-side to the song "I'm Breathless"
  • Faith Hill's "Where Are You, Christmas?", from the soundtrack to the live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas! movie.
  • Frank Sinatra originally sang "Time After Time" in the 1947 movie musical It Happened in Brooklyn.
  • Enrique Iglesias' "Bailamos", a staple of Latin & Dance stations, was originally written for the Will Smith vehicle Wild Wild West. It originally had a western-themed video, but when the movie underperformed, a new one was shot set in a modern dance club.
  • Remember Judas Priest's thrilling speed-metal cover of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode"? Of course you do. Remember the 1988 Anthony Michael Hall movie that version was originally in? Didn't think so.
  • "Young, Wild and Free" was a hit in 2012 for Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars. The film it was recorded for, Mac and Devin Go to High School, limped to a direct to DVD release and was immediately forgotten. This is despite the fact that Snoop and Wiz rap the song in character as their characters from Mac and Devin.
  • "Jeepers Creepers" originated in the 1938 film Going Places, a film that isn't quite as popular as the song.
  • You all know "That's Amore". Not so many of you know its original film, The Caddy.
  • "Forever", by Drake featuring Lil Wayne, Kanye West and Eminem, was originally made for a 2009 documentary about LeBron James and other basketball players called More than a Game.
  • Several examples that wound up in Singin' in the Rain fit into their original films:
    • "All I Do Is Dream of You" from Sadie McKee (1934).
    • "Beautiful Girl" from the Bing Crosby film Going Hollywood (1933).
    • "Should I?" from 1930's Lord Byron of Broadway.
    • "Would You?" from 1936's San Francisco, which also had a hit with the title song.
    • The title track from The Hollywood Revue of 1929.
  • The ending song from The Rose is more familiar to anyone who's been to karaoke or an audition than the film is. If Beaches's "The Wind Beneath My Wings" is any indication, Bette Midler can do this to a song.
  • "Love (Can Make You Happy)" by Mercy was a million selling hit and still gets some airplay on oldies stations. Fireball Jungle, the movie it was written for, on the other hand...
  • "If You Asked Me To" was originally made for the James Bond film Licence to Kill where it was performed during the closing credits by Patti LaBelle. It became a much bigger hit a few years later when it was Covered Up by Céline Dion.
  • "Why", performed by Carly Simon for the film soundtrack Soup for One. Chic's title song may qualify too, by virtue of being Sampled Up on Modjo's "Lady (Hear Me Tonight)".
  • Avril Lavigne's "Keep Holding On" from the Eragon movie.
  • Footloose isn't exactly obscure, but its soundtrack is certainly better-remembered (and regarded) than the film. In particular, "Holding Out for a Hero" became so popular, and subsequently has been covered so many times, that few remember it was written for this movie.
  • Cocktail is one of the less memorable films of Tom Cruise, but it spawned two #1 hits: "Don't Worry Be Happy" for Bobby McFerrin and "Kokomo" for The Beach Boys.
  • The movie version of Super Mario Bros. is more memorable as an object lesson on how not to adapt a property for the big screen than anything else, but it did manage to spawn a chart-topping hit in "Almost Unreal" by Roxette. Though perhaps appropriately enough, Roxette treats the song with the same attitude that many of the actors had for the movie.
  • The theme songs for James Bond movies. The Roger Moore era in particular is often seen as a "golden age" for Bond movie themes songs thanks to hits like Paul McCartney and Wings' "Live and Let Die", Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" (from The Spy Who Loved Me), Sheena Easton's "For Your Eyes Only" and Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill", despite the Moore-era films themselves often being remembered as a Dork Age among Bond fans. This trend continues to this day; Adele, for instance, scored a hit with "Skyfall".

     Films - Animated 

  • Although Space Jam was a big success, the single from its soundtrack album - "I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly - completely eclipsed it and is now considered a modern standard, whereas the movie is mostly popular with people who grew up with it.
  • The main pop culture contribution of the 1998 imitation-Disney animated film Quest for Camelot was "The Prayer", a ballad sung by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli (Bocelli doesn't actually sing it in the film itself; he only appears on the end credits reprise) that has since become a staple, covered by, among others, Josh Groban. Most people are stunned to learn that (a) the song is from a movie and (b) exactly what movie said song is from.
    • LeAnn Rimes' "Looking Through Your Eyes", which reached #4 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, was also written for the film and was the song that got the big radio push at the time, making "The Prayer"'s success that much more impressive.
  • Remember "Who Let the Dogs Out?" The Baha Men recording was made for Rugrats in Paris: The Movie. The song itself was Covered Up from Fatt Jakk and his Pack of Pets.
  • Although Paul Simon's "Father and Daughter" gained a life of its own as an inspirational tune, it originally began on the soundtrack to The Wild Thornberrys Movie (and received an Oscar nomination for Best Song).
  • Bryan Adams' 2002 hit "Here I Am" reached Top 10 charts across the world when it was released, won a Golden Globe Award, and still continues to be played at major events (an instrumental version was used for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics bid) years after it was released. Still, how many of you remember the Dreamworks film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which opened in fourth place when it debuted in theaters and barely registered a blip in the weeks afterwards? This track was the lead single from it; Adams provided a whole song score for the film.
  • "I Still Believe" by Hayden Panettiere, from Cinderella III, a DTV sequel.
  • Despite the film it comes from being a rather big hit, many people seem to forget that Pharrell Williams' #1 hit "Happy" originally came from Despicable Me 2. Unless, of course, they watch the music video, which has dancing Minions in it.
  • "Somewhere Out There" from An American Tail, which was released as a single performed by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, ended up being a hit on the Billboard Top 100 and a Top 40 radio hit, reaching #2 on the latter in March 1987.

     Live Action TV 
  • An interesting case is "How Do You Talk to An Angel" credited to the fictional band The Heights from the early '90's FOX show of the same name (Jamie Walters, later of 90210 fame, who sings lead on the track, is the only member of the cast who performs on the track) . The show was canceled a few weeks before the song hit #1 on the US pop charts.
  • While the Buffy musical episode, "Once More With Feeling", doesn't contain a Breakaway Pop Hit, the trope is discussed by Anya complaining that the song she and Xander sing will never be a breakaway pop hit.
    • Obviously, Tara's song "I'm Under Your Spell" is the one that would have been the BPH, and was intended as a play on this trope.
  • The Johnny Rivers song "Secret Agent Man" is better remembered in the US than the show to which it was the theme song, Secret Agent (originally known as Danger Man in the UK). At the very least, people will be more familiar with the show's Spiritual Successor The Prisoner, or its animated parody Danger Mouse.
    • In the rest of the world, it's probably more famous for the cover by Devo.
  • Similar to the Heights example, the theme song to the sitcom Makin' It - sung by star David Naughton - peaked at #5 in the US four months after the show itself had been canceled
  • The theme to The Greatest American Hero is more popular now than the show, which lasted only a few seasons.
  • The "Peter Gunn Theme" by Henry Mancini. Nobody remembers the original show but everybody recognizes the tune.
    • This one could also be an inversion of this trope combined with Covered Up, since it was covered and used again as a theme for The Blues Brothers, and again as the soundtrack for Spy Hunter, which are where many people who recognize it as coming from a soundtrack will probably identify it as coming from.
      • The melody was also reused unintentionally for "Planet Claire" by The B-52's which, whilst it rarely gets airplay, did lead to a lot of people pointing out its similarity to the Peter Gunn theme despite the show being obscure.
  • The theme song from Minder, 'I could Be So Good For You', still ends up being played on radio sometimes.
  • The obscure cop show The Protectors would be almost entirely forgotten if not for its theme tune, "Avenues and Alleyways" by Tony Christie.
  • "For You I Will (Confidence)" by singer/songwriter Teddy Geiger originated as the theme song for the failed (but critically well received) 2006 CBS dramedy Love Monkey, which Geiger had a small recurring role in. A few months after CBS ditched the show, the song made the Top 30 of the US pop charts.
  • Country Music singers Johnny Lee and Lane Brody co-wrote and recorded "The Yellow Rose", set to the old folk song "The Yellow Rose of Texas", and recorded it as the theme to the NBC soap opera The Yellow Rose. The song hit #1 on the country charts a couple months before the series ended.
  • The theme to Hawaii Five-O. If that doesn't sound familiar, this will. It's been used in everything from commercials to Bill Nye the Science Guy, usually accompanying surfing or anything to do with the ocean.
  • Rawhide might not exactly be obscure, but one thing you'll remember about it (other than Clint Eastwood) is its theme.
  • The song "Tongue Tied" from the Red Dwarf (from the Series II episode Parallel Universe) was so popular amongst fans that it was released as a single (complete with remixes) in order to coincide with Series 6, several years (and four series) after the episode aired. This is especially impressive because the show never spawned an actual soundtrack album. The episode is one of the most popular of Series II largely because of this song.
  • The song "Best Friend" by Harry Nilsson ("People, let me tell you 'bout my best friend...") used commonly as Stock Music for montages these days, was originally recorded for the 1969-1972 American Sitcom The Courtship of Eddie's Father.
  • An obscure case is Patrik Pacard, a Christmas series produced by public broadcaster Second German Television, which centered around a boy inventor. The series had a decent reception and was translated into English several years later, but it never made any impact. However, the title theme (sung by Lady Lily) went on to reach #11 on the German pop charts. It was later released as a single (in both English and extended formats) and had a rerelease in 2004, and gained infamy years later as an internet fad related to Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • The Sesame Street song "Sing" gained this title when The Carpenters covered it in early 1973, and it eventually hit #3 on Billboard's Top 100 (and #1 on their Easy Listening chart) that Spring.

    Music 
  • The melody known as Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring from J.S. Bach's sacred cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (BWV 147). The former title, by the way, appears nowhere in the translated text of the cantata. In fact, the melody of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring is actually from two, almost identical movements of the cantata (Wohl mir, daß ich Jesum habe and Jesus bleibet meine Freude respectively). The melody is very famous in both religious and secular circles; in the latter, the melody often appears stripped of its religious lyrics and any hint of its Baroque origin.

    Theatre 
  • "You've Got Possibilities", covered by Barbra Streisand and Peggy Lee among others, originally came from a Broadway musical about Superman. (Yes, this happened.)
  • "Ah! Sweet Mystery Of Life" from Naughty Marietta
  • "One Night In Bangkok" and "I Know Him So Well" from Chess. While the soundtrack was released as a concept album at first, it was always intended to eventually be staged.
    • It was written by Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus from ABBA, there's even a performance with them and one of the girls from ABBA as backup singers. Too bad (for ABBA fans) the other girl is not there and the main singer is Murray Head so there's not an ABBA version.
  • The endlessly covered song "All The Things You Are" was originally written for a poorly-received Broadway musical called Very Warm For May.
  • "September Song" from Knickerbocker Holiday. Didn't know it was from a musical? Neither did the girl from the play The Seven Year Itch.
  • Right This Way, an extremely obscure Broadway flop of 1938, produced the hit "I'll Be Seeing You (In All The Old Familiar Places)." The same songwriters wrote the near-standard "I Can Dream, Can't I?" for the same show.
  • "If I Ruled The World" from Pickwick.
  • "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" from Promises, Promises.
  • Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" and "Just One of Those Things" originally came from the musical Jubilee (1935), a show which was largely forgotten after it sunk under its exorbitant production costs. Interestingly, though the songs became two of Cole Porter's biggest hits, this was not the case until years after the show closed.
  • Another Cole Porter example: "It's De-Lovely" from Red, Hot and Blue. (You're more likely to hear it in revivals of its spiritual predecessor Anything Goes, since it's become Ret Canon there.)
  • The political-satire musical I'd Rather Be Right was a success in 1937, but has rarely been revived since due to its reliance on topical humor about the F.D.R. administration. The show's enduring legacy is the song "Have You Met Miss Jones?"
  • "I Wanna Be Loved By You" was originally from Good Boy, a 1928 Broadway musical remembered for little else.
  • "Feeling Good" from The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd.
    • From the same show, "On a Wonderful Day Like Today."
  • "Too Close For Comfort" from Mr. Wonderful.
  • "Mack the Knife" is a crooner classic, but who remembers it's from a musical that brutally criticizes the frivolities of capitalism? Easily the best remembered song from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera; double points for being translated from the original German.
  • "Once Upon A Time (Never Comes Again)" from All American.
  • "Comes Love" from Yokel Boy.
  • "Here's That Rainy Day" from Carnival in Flanders, a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation which bombed horribly in 1953.
  • "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" from Roberta.
  • "Hey, Look Me Over" from Wildcat, a Lucille Ball vehicle on which Desilu Studios lost a good chunk of money.
  • A number of Stephen Foster songs that most Americans think are "folk songs" (such as "Oh Susannah", "Camptown Races", etc.) were originally performed in 19th century minstrel shows.
  • "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" from Oh, Look!. (Of course, its principal motif was lifted from the even older Fantaisie-Impromptu by Frederic Chopin.)
  • Most of George M. Cohan's famous songs, with the exception of his World War I song "Over There," hailed originally from the stage musicals he created in the earlier part of his career:
    • "The Yankee Doodle Boy" and "Give My Regards To Broadway" from Little Johnny Jones (1904).
    • "Mary's a Grand Old Name" from Forty-five Minutes from Broadway (1905).
    • "You're a Grand Old Rag" (not a typo ... that was the original name, before Cohan changed it to the more PC "Flag") from George Washington, Jr. (1906).
    • "Harrigan" from Fifty Miles from Boston (1908).
  • "Rule, Britannia" was originally composed for the 18th-century masque Alfred.
  • "Makin' Whoopee" and "Love Me Or Leave Me" from Whoopee. ("Love Me Or Leave Me" was a Set Switch Song irrelevant to the plot and didn't even appear in the film version.)
  • Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" was almost certainly not written specially for Betsy (1926), but the show's producer, Florenz Ziegfeld, could get away with pretending that it was. It was far more popular than either the show (which was a flop) or the songs Rodgers and Hart wrote for it.
  • Broadway musical revues practically deserve their own category. They were plotless Sketch Comedy shows and ephemeral to the point that many of them put the production year in the title, and were not meant to be revived. They also were more likely than ordinary musical comedies to throw in songs which were already popular to sell tickets. On top of all that, they often kept their Sketch Comedy routines entirely separate from their potential hit tunes. Nevertheless, they produced some enduring tunes:
    • "Shine On, Harvest Moon" from Follies of 1908.
    • "Poor Butterfly" from The Big Show (1916).
    • "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" from Ziegfeld Follies of 1919.
    • "Say It With Music" from Music Box Revue of 1921.
    • "Somebody Loves Me" from George White's Scandals of 1924.
    • "The Birth of the Blues," "Black Bottom" and "Lucky Day" from George White's Scandals of 1926.
    • "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" from Blackbirds of 1928.
    • "Get Happy" from The 9:15 Revue (1930), a particularly short-lived show.
    • "Memories Of You" from Blackbirds of 1930.
    • "On the Sunny Side of the Street" from Lew Leslie's International Revue (1930).
    • "I Found a Million Dollar Baby in a Five and Ten Cent Store" from Crazy Quilt (1931).
    • "Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries" from George White's Scandals of 1931.
    • "Alone Together" from Flying Colors (1932).
    • "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" from New Americana (1932). This song even came to define The Great Depression era.
    • "Autumn In New York" from Thumbs Up! (1934).
    • "I Can't Get Started" from Ziegfeld Follies of 1936.
    • "How High the Moon" from Two for the Show (1940).
    • "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" from Seven Lively Arts (1945).
  • "I Enjoy Being a Girl" is popular with drag queens everywhere. Flower Drum Song, with its offensive depictions of Asians, is not so.
  • "Lazy Afternoon" from the Acclaimed Flop musical The Golden Apple.
  • Cole Porter's timeless song "Night and Day" originated in the 1932 musical Gay Divorce, a show that reputedly became a hit mostly on the popularity of that song. It was the only song retained in the film version, The Gay Divorcée.
  • "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" from Leave It to Me!.
  • "Bilbao Song" from Happy End.
  • "Make Someone Happy" from Do Re Mi.
  • The work of Stephen Sondheim is suspiciously absent of these for the most part, mostly due to his difficult rhythms and specificity of lyrics...with one notable exception: "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music.
  • "It’s Only a Paper Moon" did this twice. Originally titled "If You Believed in Me", it was written for the otherwise non-musical 1933 play The Great Magoo. (The play was produced by Billy Rose, who as usual demanded and got joint credit for the lyrics.) This flopped badly, but by the time it closed, Hollywood had come calling in a big way for composer Harold Arlen, and he was able to sell the song on. It soon reappeared, under its now-familiar title, as a new number in the film version of the stage musical Take a Chance. This was a hit on release, remained well known through the rest of the 30s and 40s and then slowly sank out of sight.

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