Letting the Air out of the Band
Things are going great for the heroes! They are being lauded as the greatest thing since sliced bread, people are throwing them parties and giving them medals, and nothing can knock them down now! But then—something goes wrong. The background music, which had been sounding triumphantly along suddenly falters and peters out. Sometimes the music slows from its normal upswing to a bass line and finally silence. Other times, the various members of the band seem to realize something is going on, and one by one randomly stop playing until it's only the one guy—and then he gets it and stops suddenly.
Letting the Air out of the Band is a variant of the Record Needle Scratch
. Instead of swiftly pulling the needle across the record album, the people running the background music pull the plug on the record player, allowing the turntable to slow until it finally stops rotating.
Ostensibly, this trope shouldn't be played straight anymore because most (if not all) music players these days are digital, and when you pull the plug on a digital player, the music just stops abruptly rather than just fading. Yet it persists due to The Coconut Effect
. And because (as suggested above) sometimes the music is diegetic and therefore wouldn't necessarily stop instantaneously.
Occasionally, a non-musical variant is used in science-fiction movies involving marauding robots and world conquering computers
. When they are smashed, their voice synths goes from "DESTROY! DESTROY! DESTROY!" to "DE-struuuunh"
. The same thing happens with answering machines loudly playing back an embarrassing message and any other electronic thingamajig.
As much of a Comedy Trope
as the Record Needle Scratch
. It's occasionally been used in serious situations, as an indicator that something
has gone wrong.
See also Musicalis Interruptus
, for the instant version.
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- This AT&T commercial inspired by "Hansel and Gretel" pulls off the live-musicians variation of this.
- A British anti-smoking PSA does this. Most of the spot depicts children imitating their parents activities, with "I Wanna Be Like You" playing, but when it shows a mother smoking a cigarette and her daughter imitating it with a crayon, the music slows down like a warped record as an announcer gives the message.
Anime & Manga
- Happens in Spice and Wolf, of all shows.
- Lucky Star often fades out the background music like this.
- For example, the cake buffet scene where it fades as the girls go from moaning in delight over all the cake they're eating to moaning in pain as they get full and still have a lot more to finish before their time is up to avoid getting charged for "an excessive amount of leftovers".
- Tsukasa's Expressive Hairbow moment in episode 18 comes to mind.
- Used for great comedic effect in Pokémon. Team Rocket had been masquerading as a very tall man in an overcoat. When they inevitably reveal themselves and start to do their motto, the air is let out and James (who had been on the bottom) collapses under Jesse's weight and whimpers pathetically.
- Used with perfect timing in Kimi ni Todoke. When Sawako starts telling the story of her life, the standard sentimental music plays. It's all very sweet till we see that she spent a lot of time on her own; then the music drags to a stop as she hears herself and, Blue with Shock, wonders if she's killing the mood.
- Occurs in episode 6 of GUN×SWORD, when the episode's villain appears to be starting up his armor, complete with Dann's Theme playing in the background. When it turns out the villains armor is really just a car, the music winds down. Considering how serious the context for the music has been used up until this point, this comes as a humorous surprise to the viewer, even though the idea of mislabelling a car as an armor was brought up previously in the episode.
- One Piece:
- With Brook and the crew he's part of: they're all dying of a poison (or something of the like), and decide to go out playing "Bink's Sake". As the crew slowly succumbs to the poison, each instrument drops out until only Brook is remaining.
- An example like Bleach's happens when Paulie attacks Rob Lucci after discovering his betrayal. The fight music starts up, and then stops five seconds later when he's beaten in one hit.
- A more recent example happens when the G-5 marines attack a slime monster on Punk Hazard. Fire seems to be it's weakness and battle victory music starts playing when it's suddenly revealed it explodes when exposed to fire after a short while.
- A more humourous version occurs in episode 519 when Franky and Robin see each other for the first time post-timeskip and Franky starts... being Franky
- Persona 4: The Animation:
- Ebihara Ai suddenly begins to pour out her love in front of Narukami Yu, to suitably stirring music...only to peter out when she clarifies that he isn't the one. "I see."
- In the same vein another episode, Yu's cousin and surrogate little sister Nanako visits his school. She then proceeds to struggle to remember what a fortune teller called Yu... Before revealing it to everyone, and causing this to occur.
- On meeting Kanji's shadow, Yu and Yosuke summon their Persona to the standard epic music only for it to slow to a stop when Chie reprimands them for going overboard. Then Chie summons her Persona to the music which peters off when Teddy tells her to calm down. Shadow Kanji really got under their skin.
- Happens in Amagami at the end of Kaoru's arc.
- Happens in an episode preview for Umineko: When They Cry when it gets hijacked by EVA-Beatrice.
- Happens in Zero no Tsukaima
- In the Season 2 finale when, after seemingly dying in battle against the enemy, Saito is reunited with Louise, during a heartfelt reunion... the music continues... until Saito mentions he was saved by a fairy, after which the music peters out showing Louise's reaction to this
- In Season 3, Louise is dreaming of her and Saito, while the music plays a dreamy sequence... until an explosion from outside ruins the moment, immediately after which the music slows as we see Louise's irritated face.
- Has been used a few times so far in Smile Pretty Cure!:
- In the first episode, when Cure Happy first tries to use her Happy Shower attack, the dramatic music that had been playing since her Transformation Sequence comes to a stop in this manner when nothing comes out.
- Episode 7 features Reika standing on a tower atop Mt. Fuji explaining her reasons for choosing it as their secret base, complete with appropriately dramatic music. Cue the rest of the girls being unable to hear her as the wind sucks the air out of the band.
- In Kin-iro Mosaic, this happens in episode 2 when Shinobu talks about dying her hair blonde when she graduates, as well as in episode 3 when the promise Karen made to Alice when they were younger was merely to return a borrowed pencil.
- Fairy Tail had Lullaby(basically a flute turned into a gigantic beast) about to play it's song that kills everyone who hears it, with everything beginning to build. And then what should play other than a few wheezing whistles. This is due to Team Natsu punching so many holes in it that it's pitch is gone.
- Fullmetal Alchemist has epic battle music playing during Mustang's final confrontation with Envy. Then Mustang starts tearing into his virtually defenseless victim and the music stops fifteen seconds before Envy's body is finally destroyed.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- Used for dramatic effect in Apollo 13. At the beginning of the mission, the music was full speed, everyone was happy, and all was right with the world. By the time the tape recorder was running out of battery power, the astronauts were in serious trouble.
- Another dramatic use is in 2001: A Space Odyssey when HAL 9000 sings "Daisy Bell" (better known as the "Daisy, Daisy" song, or "A Bicycle Built For Two"). It is an indicator that HAL's mind is going. He can feel it.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Happens a few times to the music when the opening credits are interrupted, and also whenever Prince Herbert wants to sing an "I Want" Song, the music swells, and his dad cries "Stop that! No singing!"
- Happens in Not Another Teen Movie every time a dramatic moment is made awkward. "No need to wear blindfolds when we're jerking each other off!" (music fizzles out)
- The film version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has a diegetic example with a real brass band playing a celebratory tune for the winner of the Triwizard Cup... which falters out when they notice Harry screaming and crying over Cedric's body.
- Back to the Future:
- When Biff marches in to throw George McFly out of the diner, someone else in the room apparently had enough sense of dramatic tension to unplug the jukebox at that exact moment.
- An even straighter example at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance near the end of the film, when Marty is playing Johnny B. Goode with the dance's live band. Marty gets so into the music that he starts playing insanely — the other band members, confused and somewhat appalled, simply stop following along and Marty continues solo. He finally notices when his last ear-piercing note ends and the ENTIRE room is just staring at him gormlessly like he's a crazy person.
- In Blazing Saddles, the townsfolk have a band playing when the new sheriff arrives in town, which peters out suddenly when they see it's a NI-DONG!
- In Dragonslayer, the villagers are celebrating after Galen seals up the entrance to the dragon's lair. When Tyrian and his men arrive, the dancing of the villagers and the playing of the musicians falters and stops.
- The Naked Gun 2½ had this happen to "Hail to the Chief" when the good guys in disguise showed up in place of the President of the United States.
- The plug is almost literally pulled on the titular band in Toomorrow — the no-fun squares running the arts college cut the power on the band as they rehearse without permission in the school commons. But instead of sounding like a bunch of performers trailing off, it sounds like a record slowing to a stop — underlining the fact that the performers are miming their studio recordings.
- In This Means War, Tom Hardy shoots Chris Pine with a tranq dart, and the background music (The Beastie Boys' "Sabotage") gets slower and slower and slower as he slowly falls unconcious.
- Used for one of the very few instances of (characteristically dark) comic relief in No Country for Old Men: after a long, intense chase scene/shootout, protagonist Llewelyn Moss wakes up in the streets of a south Texas border town to the strains of a mariachi band singing a jolly tune... only to deflate when they see that his clothes are covered in blood.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, when Bruce Wayne is making his second attempt to escape the Pit, when he fails to make the jump and falls, the music slowly winds down.
- In The Green Hornet, heroic music plays as Britt rushes in to save Kato, and he nearly succeeds... but the music slows to a halt as he falls flat on his face while rushing in wielding a chair.
- The original The Evil Dead (1981) does this at the very end of the ending credits, oddly enough, with the charleston music slowling and darkly echoing until only flies' buzzing can be heard.
- In Stardust, the scene where the princes and the bishop drink a toast, unaware that a few of their goblets have been poisoned. First, the Bishop drops dead like a stone. Tertius, Septimus and Primus exchange accusatory glares at each other, then they shrug, then Tertius is poisoned and dies. Septimus manages to exclaim, "YOU!" before choking and collapsing. As the only one still standing, Primus assumes this means he is the king of Stormhold now that his brothers are dead. He picks up the crown, and the music starts to swell.....only to peter out when Septimus suddenly stands up, alive and well, laughing madly at the practical joke he has pulled.
- In Annie, this happens during the finale when Miss Hannigan gets a little too excited with the song.
- Something like this happened once on LOST as a kind of Left the Background Music On gag... a dramatic song was playing in the background, then the scene shifted to Hurley listening to his CD player, and the song skipped out and stopped in the middle as the CD player ran out of batteries.
- The Twilight Zone TOS episode "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up" had this occur with an old-style jukebox, one with real records in it.
- Doctor Who:
- "The End of Time" does this horrifically: after surviving the Master and the Time Lords, the Doctor thinks he's cheated the four knocks prophecy that had been following him for the past eight/twenty months, and when he realizes Wilf is doing the knocking, the music fades into the show's now familiar discordant snippet that's code for "oh, shit".
- Inverted in "Asylum of the Daleks", when Rory encounters all of the decommissioned Daleks and they start to wake up. One of them, the first one, stares at him and starts saying "EGGS... EGGS... EGGS..." When Rory tries to figure out exactly why it's asking about eggs, that's when the Dalek fully wakes up. It's only then that Rory realizes that the Dalek was trying to say "EXTERMINATE"...
- Samurai Sentai Shinkenger does it when Richard Brown interrupts the standard roll call sequence.
- A bagpiper does this in a video clip watched by the main characters of a How I Met Your Mother episode, although we the viewers don't see the clip.
- On an April Fools' Day episode of The Price Is Right, various random sounds played during the Showcase Showdown when the wheel was spun. One of them was the yodeling music from the game Cliff Hangers, which slowed down as the wheel came to a stop.
- In "Like A Virgin", dramatic music plays as Dean tries to yank out a Sword In The Stone, only for this trope to occur as he fails miserably. The music cranks up again as he has another go. Nope, he still can't get it out.
- Dean giving the Rousing Speech from Braveheart before a mock battle at the end of "LARP and the Real Girl". Events are interrupted when someone throws a Frisbee between the two armies, then the music cranks up again so Dean can finish his speech.
- Helix, a Sci-Fi/Horror Thriller, has a dissonantly cheery Bossa Nova Instrumental Theme Tune that ends this way, warping and slowing to a stop as Bad Black Barf drips off the "X" in the Title Card. The effect is inverted as its companion end credits theme begins, then played straight again as it ends.
- Done with the "Tiki Tiki Tiki Room" song once Iago interrupts the proceedings while the Magic Kingdom's Enchanted Tiki Room was "Under New Management".
- In Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress, flowery, giddy music plays as the 1890's daughter tells her father (and us, hinting at her slight indecency) about her date for tonight. As her father admonishes her to be home by nine, we hear a dissonant "womp-womp" effect from the orchestra.
- Final Fantasy V uses this a few times, most notably when you first try to fly on the black chocobo. Key word being 'try'.
- Used as a tension breaker/builder in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time, the party reaches the end of a library-themed dungeon and runs into a spacious arena-style gallery as the boss fight music strikes up, then peters out as the heroes look around and no boss monster is evident. Of course, then one of the bookcases grows teeth and claws, and the boss battle music kicks in for real as it attacks.
- Chrono Trigger does this twice with Ozzie. The first time you meet him, he brings up a series of monsters with a crank, and they drop onto a conveyor belt. The battle music starts, and your characters even get into their battle poses... then the enemies fall into a pit at the other end of the conveyor belt. Insert "record winding down" sound here. Then, the second time you meet him, the boss theme starts playing, and then a small cat comes in and trips a lever, and the boss theme fades out as Ozzie drops into the Bottomless Pit. Possible third time: if you lose the race against Johnny, the music breaks down.
- Donkey Kong 64: Watch around 2:08 to 2:30 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KIObmo4rSM
- New Super Mario Bros. Wii:
- As you beat Bowser and save Princess Peach, the victory music drags to a stop as she reveals herself to be Kamek the Magikoopa in disguise. He then promptly supersizes Bowser for a second round.
- Also applies in multiplayer if all the players trap themselves in bubbles, whether by pressing "A" or respawning in one after losing a life, or the remaining players on screen put themselves in a bubble at the same time to avoid death.
- In Super Mario 64, during the Game Over screen, a section of the music for Bob-Omb Battlefield will play normally at first, then will turn to minor, then do this. Then the effect is then reversed building up to the title theme, making it more realistic to continue.
- In Mario Kart 64, finishing a Grand Prix in fourth will cause the music to turn to minor, then do this.
- A decidedly not comedic version appears in Super Mario Galaxy, during the second-last chapter of the storybook. The music plays as normal, a calm, soothing nursery tune, even during the most heartbreaking scene yet where the unnamed girl living at the observatory gets homesick, being particularly sorry she can't visit her favorite tree. It's all quite sad, though not altogether unexpected for the storybook, until we find out the reason she's so attached to the tree is because her beforehand unmentioned mother is buried under it. Cue the music stopping, and not coming back until the next chapter.
- Happens when you fail a song in Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero II.
- It also happens when you fail a song in either Parappa The Rapper, PaRappa The Rapper 2, or UmJammer Lammy. Or osu!, that fanmade clone of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan.
- RollerCoaster Tycoon:
- The music your rides play do this whenever they break down. Actually justified with the carousel, as they often contained mechanical organs that ran on compressed air. The various other styles of recorded looping music that other rides can be set to play... not so much.
- Inverted when the carousel breaks down due to a control failure. The music speeds up while the carousel spins rapidly, trapping the riders.
- In the original FEAR has a sparse soundtrack, but sometimes major set-piece battles have great dramatic music swell to emphasise them. If the player is killed during them however, the BGM slows and stops in a comical fashion.
- Happens in the original Fable, if you try to remove the sword in the stone outside the Temple of Avo when your character isn't strong enough.
- Happens in Super Mario RPG when your party is defeated.
- Happens to the sad music in Chapter 5 of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door once the gang realizes that Bobbery's just sleeping.
- In Dungeons And Dragons Shadow Over Mystara, it happens after you beat the goblins' War Machine. When they try to ram you one last time but automatically miss, the contraption rolls right off a cliff. It pauses in the air long enough for the music to start wobbling to a halt, then it plummets along with all the goblins. You even get to hear it crash at the bottom.
- You can actually invoke this, if you want, in Mother 3 while playing as Salsa. Once he learns the dance that opens the door in Osohe Castle, as you approach the door, the start-up to what would be the main melody of the dance plays. However, press the wrong button, and...
- In Myst III: Exile, this happens with part but not all the music when you trap Saavedro between the shields.
- Happens in a cutscene in Starcraft II: in a Bar Brawl, an enraged Tychus Findlay rips the cantina's jukebox from its socket overhead, causing the music to warp and die out. The scene then plays out without music for a while, returning when Raynor gets the upper hand.
- Kirby's Epic Yarn and Kirby's Return to Dream Land do this, the former after beating the final boss's first form and the latter after finding a major plot coupon that is suspiciously unguarded. Then the boss appears and takes it away, making you fight for it like you're supposed to.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- Done in Mega Man 7's introductory cutscene when Auto gives Mega Man a Metool helmet◊ instead of his trademark blue helmet.
- Done to the villains in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha As Portable: The Gears of Destiny. Menacing BGM plays as Stern and Levi return from the dead to protect Lord Dearche from the heroes after the latter was mysteriously drained of her overwhelming powers... then stops when Dearche realizes that Stern and Levi's revival was the reason for the Power Level drain that caused her loss, leading to a quick scene where she berates her minions.
- In Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure, should you cut down the pillar in Lake of Lava, instead of burning it with, you know lava, you're treated to some early victory fanfare as the level's treasure falls to the ground, wobbles for a bit, and then, along with the fanfare, falls off a cliff, earning you a Non Standard Game Over.
- Persona 3 has a "robot voice breaking down" example, with a KO'ed Aigis saying an extremely garbled "I'm sorry" as she seizes up and falls over.
- In Lunar: The Silver Star, this happens during the balloon ride as the balloon starts losing air.
- In Sonic Unleashed, getting a D or E rank on a mission will cause the normally orchaestraic version of the main theme to be replaced by a tune that sounds like a horrible elementary/high school band trying to play the same theme after the initial lead up.
- In Yoshis Island if you touch or eat a Fuzzy, you suffer an Interface Screw. Not only does the whole scene goes wobbly for a while, but the music also slows down and plays off-key for as long as the effect lasts.
- In Portal 2 this happens to the smooth jazz soundtrack that plays during one of the tests.
- Happens in the Mario Party series:
- In the first game, this happens when you get a Ztar in Mario's Rainbow Castle.
- In the second game, it happens when you get a Bowser Item (Bowser Bomb, etc.) from the Item Minigames. And it's not just the music, either; it also happens to the words "Got item!" ("Got- iiiiiteeeeeem...??").
- In Luna Game 3, the catchy Eurobeat music slows down as the playing field darkens, ending with a burst of static noise.
- In 2, the boss music for Jellyboy screeches to a halt upon his defeat. There's also a section of the Rain zone that slows the music down until the protagonist leaves.
- Homestuck song "Time On My Side" breaks down early on and slows down before picking back up again (somewhat appropriate, seeing as the track was written for a character with time-based powers.)
- The use of this trope in the cartoon series Sheep in the Big City was blatantly periodic and continual. Not only did it happen in every episode, but it also happened every five minutes.
- SpongeBob SquarePants does this a few times:
- In "Tea at the Treedome" as SpongeBob unspectacularly returns to his seat after triumphantly convincing himself that he doesn't need water to live.
- A quicker variation occurs twice in a row in the first "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy" episode, the first time being when MM and BB screw up putting their rings together, and the second time being when they succeed in the aforementioned action but MM briefly forgets to say the oath.
- In "Squid's Day Off" as Squidward realizes that he's wasting his time running back to the Krusty Krab
- In "Squidville" during the montage of Squidward's life in Squidville quickly becoming a rut.
- In "Dunces and Dragons" as SpongeBob tires himself out running up Plankton's extensive stairway.
- In The Ren & Stimpy Show, Ren is hit by a tranquilizer dart, and as his voice slows down the music does too.
- Tex Avery MGM Cartoons:
- In the Tex Avery short Lucky Ducky, the characters run past a sign that reads "Technicolor ends here" and into a black-and-white setting, and as they stop running the music dies down to nothing. As the chase resumes, the background music fades in again.
- Avery did it in Dixieland Droopy as well, most noticeably as "John" runs through goopy cement and the flea band slows down, strains, then returns to normal when he extricates himself.
- In Cartoon Planet, Space Ghost is asked by a fan letter how he became so funny. As he attempts to tell a joke to demonstrate his humor, it falls flatter as he goes on, with the music slowing tempo to match.
- On Family Guy, Peter has a band so they can play a Sentimental Music Cue during an appropriate moment with his father. They start when his dad says he loves his son only to stop when he adds that he doesn't like anything about him. Peter tells them to keep playing as that is the best he can probably get.
- The Megas XLR episode "All I Wanted Was a Slushie" brings us REGIS Mk. V, a Large Ham regenerating robot with his own Leitmotif. When Coop finally manages to defeat him by cutting off his power supply, his leitmotif slows at the same rate as he does.
- Done in the Adventure Time episode "Prisoners of Love". Finn tries to spear the Ice King with a beat-up old flute. Dramatic music plays as Finn hurls it through the air, but peters out as the flute falls apart in mid-flight and lands in pieces at the Ice King's feet.
- ThunderCats did this in an episode where Mumm-ra learns how to manipulate time and energy. Cheetara does her speedy thing with her usual triumphant horn motif, only to have it slowly trail off sadly as she slowed down to a stop.
- In South Park, in the season one episode "Tom's Rhinoplasty". When Mr. Garrison comes back to school, Wendy is relieved because she thinks that means the end of the class's substitute teacher Miss Ellen. Cue the happy fanfare music. Then Mr. Garrison announces he's quitting his job as a teacher. Cue fanfare music deflating like a tire.
- Throughout the first episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic the background music hits a sour note whenever anypony refers to wanting to be friends with Twilight Sparkle.
- Phineas and Ferb:
- In one episode, Doctor Doofenshmirtz hits Perry the Platypus with a device that slows him down to a crawl, and a comically slowed-down version of Perry's theme song plays.
- In "Doofenpus", Doctor Doofenshmirtz turns himself into a platypus in an effort to beat Perry at his own game, and an impressive "Platypus Fight" song plays as they do battle. As the fight drags on and the two become exhausted, the "Platypus Fight" song plays again, but slows and distorts before coming to a stop.
- Samurai Jack: Jack's first meeting with the Scotsman. The Scotsman has just insulted Jack and cut his hat in half, causing it to fall from the bridge. Jack responds by stabbing the man's bagpipes, which spend a whole 10 seconds with a long deflating note.
- Used regularly in Wakfu, with some backround music suddenly puttering out along any Mood Whiplash. For example:
- In season 1 episode 9, when McDeek finds out that he's shooting chocolate instead of energy.
- The heavenly music during Enutrof's "Divine Intervention" in season 1 episode 16 derails when the god shoots down Ruel's expectations.
- At the start of season 2 episode 5, the idyllic BGM is interrupted by the heroes' Stomach Groans.
- One of the Justice Knight's rants has his leitmotif weakening when he stumbles on a word, to triumphantly resume afterward.
- An in-universe example with the saxophone player in the bar who suddenly stops at the mention of Kriss' name in episode 10 of season 2.
- In many music ensembles (especially those with a more relaxed group dynamic), this is rather similar to what it sounds like when the director cuts off the band unexpectedly — the people who didn't have an eye on the conductor keep going, and the sounds gradually deflates to nothing.
- You can achieve this kind of sound with any regular song in Audacity by using a "Sliding Time Scale/Pitch Shift" and setting the final speed to the lowest possible and also using the lowest pitch change possible and implementing it on the last part of a song.
- A disastrous 1975 Devo concert ended in the band getting kicked off the stage by the promoters. One by one, the instruments petered out until the drummer was the only one still playing.
- The Spirit of America Dance Team's videogame-themed performance in the 2014 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade ended with the Tetris theme dying down in this manner (i.e. Game Over).