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Award-Bait Song

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"This song I've written for you is so schmaltzy, it'll make 'Moon River' sound like a farting orangutan."
Homer Simpson, The Simpsons, "A Star is Torn"

Or: The Big Damn Bronze Age Disney-Style Award-Baiting End-Credits Power Ballad.

Tropers who grew up in the 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 '90s (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, and if it doesn't, somebody's getting fired.

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, Céline 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 Don Bluth's An American Tail, although Don Bluth's team had also had "Flying Dreams" in the earlier The Secret of NIMH. And even before that, songs unrelated to the story, usually of the love song variety, often sung by popular singers, had been a staple of closing credits for Asian films — particularly anime — for decades.

Award Bait Songs are also found in many live-action films, notably "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic (1997). 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.

Movie Bonus Songs in film adaptations of stage musicals often fall under this trope, since the songs adapted from the stage play aren't eligible for Best Original Song, and this is the filmmakers' attempt at letting the film receive some accolade for its music. Whatever the song's reason for being, 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 the narrative work, 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.

It should also be noted that, while the song may be blatant award bait, that doesn't mean they still can't be really good regardless.

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


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Disney Productions (Including Pixar) 
In chronological order:

    Fan Work 

    Film — Animated 
In chronological order:
It's the kick in the pants you needed
This song will open up your eyes
It's the feeling you can't be defeated
It's an 80's song with synthy vibes
And you know it's super... upbeat, upbeat...

    Film — Live-Action 
In chronological order:

    Live-Action TV 


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

  • CBS has "One Shining Moment", which is traditionally played over a final montage at the end of the NCAA basketball tournament. It was originally intended as a closing montage song for Super Bowl XXI, but the broadcast was running too long and it had to be cut for time. A few months later, CBS decided to re-purpose it (with amended lyrics) for the NCAA tournament, where it has been played ever since.
  • CTV had one for its Olympic Games coverage, "I Believe", which was its official "anthem" for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and also used as the basis for its main theme music. The song was used practically everywhere, from commercials, to montages, and of course, the closing ceremonies. It quickly became a pet peeve for many viewers, especially the ones who wished CBC hadn't had the Olympics swiped from under them like CTV also did with the Hockey Night in Canada theme (CBC did get the Olympics back in 2014, though).

    Studio Ghibli and Pre-Ghibli 
In chronological order
  • Horus: Prince of the Sun has Hilda's songs.
  • Panda! Go Panda! has "Nennen Panda" by Ado Mizumori in The Rainy-Day Circus.
  • The Castle of Cagliostro has "Fire Treasure" in the opening credits and ending, being a much slower and more sombre song for the otherwise action-packed Lupin III franchise.
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind has the titular theme song performed by Narumi Yasuda, which does not play in the film itself but played prominently in promotional material. The film itself has instrumental examples with "Nausicaä - Requiem" during the climax of the film and "The Bird People" during the end credits. The first Cantonese dub also has "Green Water, Clear Wind", a Cantonese cover of "The Bird People" With Lyrics, performed by Sandy Lam (most known for singing a Translated Cover Version of "Take My Breath Away" for Wong Kar-wai's first film As Tears Go By).
  • Castle in the Sky has "Carrying You" as performed by Azumi Inoue in the end credits. Another example would be the Image Song "If I Could Fly in the Sky" by Yohko Obata, which was used in some early promotional material but never played in the film itself nor was included in most soundtrack releases.
  • My Neighbor Totoro has the titular theme, "Mother" and "A Lost Child", both performed by Azumi Inoue, as well as "The Path of the Wind" performed by the Suginami Children's Choir. The former is played during the end credits of the film while the latter three songs are played as instrumental versions in the film.
  • Grave of the Fireflies has "Home, Sweet Home" by Amelita Galli-Curci.
  • Kiki's Delivery Service has two '70s pop songs from Yumi Matsutoya "Message in Rouge" and "If I Were Covered in Tenderness" as the opening and ending themes, respectively. There are also two Image Songs by Azumi Inoue that are definitely Award-Bait Songs, "Turning Seasons" and "The Warmth of Magic", which would be included as instrumental versions in the film. Earlier releases of the American Disney dub additionally add in "Soaring" and "I'm Gonna Fly" from Sydney Forest, replacing the two Yumi Matsutoya songs, though these songs have since been removed in favour of the original Japanese songs.
  • Only Yesterday has "Love is a Flower, You Are the Seed" by Harumi Miyako, a Translated Cover Version of Bette Midler's "The Rose".
  • Porco Rosso has a cover version of "Le Temps de Cerises" and the original song "Once In a While, Talk of the Old Days" both by Tokiko Kato, Gina's voice actress. The film also has instrumental examples with "Bygone Days" and "Porco e Bella"
  • The obscure Ocean Waves has "If I Could Be the Sea" by Youko Sakamoto.
  • Pom Poko has "In This Town of Asia" and "Always, Someone Is", both performed by Shang Shang Typhoon. The former is only used in the film's marketing while the latter is the end credit theme.
  • Whisper of the Heart has a Translated Cover Version of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads", as sang by Yoko Honna, Shizuku's voice actress. Another example would be "The Baron's Song", also performed by Yoko Honna.
  • On Your Mark was made as a music video to such a song from Chage & Aska (of Street Fighter: The Movie fame)
  • Princess Mononoke has the titular theme, sang by Mai Hisaishi (composer Joe Hisaishi's daughter) in the Image Album, Yoshikazu Mera in the Japanese version of the film, and Sasha Lazard in the English version of the film.
  • My Neighbors the Yamadas has Akiko Yano's "Quit Being Alone" and a Translated Cover Version of "Que Sera, Sera" performed by the cast.
  • Spirited Away has Yumi Kimura's "Always With Me" (played during the end credits) and "The Name of Life" (which only plays in the film as an instrumental version). Other examples would be the Image Song "White Dragon" performed by Rikki (of "Suteki da ne" fame), and the instrumental song "Reprise", during the climax of the film.
  • The Cat Returns has the end credit song "Become the Wind" by Ayano Tsuji.
  • Howl's Moving Castle has "The Promise of the World" by Chieko Baisho, Sophie's Japanese voice.
  • Tales from Earthsea has two examples from Aoi Teshima (Therru's Japanese voice actress): "Therru's Song" and "Song of Time".
  • While the titular theme of Ponyo may not count, the Image Song "Rondo of the House of Sunflowers" by Mai Hisaishi, which plays in the film as an instrumental version, definitely does.
  • Arrietty has "Arrietty's Song" and "The Neglected Garden" by Cécile Corbel. The Image Album has more such songs like "Sho's Song", "Forbidden Love", and "Sho's Lament". The American Disney dub also adds in Bridgit Mendler's (Arrietty's American voice) "Summertime".
  • From Up on Poppy Hill has Aoi Teshima doing a new cover version of "Summer of Farewell", originally a theme song for an '80s dorama.
  • The Studio Ghibli-Level-5 video game collaboration Ni no Kuni has "Pieces of a Broken Heart", performed by Mai Hisaishi in the Japanese version and by young chorist Archie Buchanan in the English version.
  • The Wind Rises has Yumi Matsutoya's '70s hit "Vapor Trail" as the Award-Bait Song. An instrumental example would be Nahoko's leitmotif throughout the film.
  • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya has "When I Remember This Life" by Kazumi Nikaido, with instrumental examples in "Flying" and "The Procession of Celestial Beings".
  • When Marnie Was There has "Fine on the Outside" by Priscilla Ahn.
  • Ronja the Robber's Daughter has the "Wolf Song".
  • Earwig and the Witch has "The World is in My Hands" by Sherina Munaf (the Japanese voice of Earwig's mother), with an instrumental example in "Memories are Always Beautiful".


    Video Games 

    Visual Novel 
  • narcissu ~eon~ has all the trappings of one, despite being the theme for the comparatively small-time VN Narcissu 2. Power ballad, check. Sparkly synth, check. Covering a theme of the game itself, check. Being a Tear Jerker song despite the seemingly-hopeful tune, check.
  • 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.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

  • 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.
  • The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has had a few, at least one of which was nominated for the Daytime Emmy Award for Original Song:
    • The earliest known award bait song associated with the parade was "It's Thanksgiving Day", which Ed McMahon would sing at the end of the first hour of coverage, at least since 1979 or so. The last time he did it (1981), he sang it with a girl named Kaleena Kiff.
    • The successor to that song was another Milton and Anne DeLugg composition, "Giving Thanks". It was first performed by Mary Jo Catlett (yes, that Mary Jo Catlett) in 1983, and was reprised the next year by John Ratzenberger (yes, that John Ratzengerger). It was also the parade's closing theme for a few years.
    • "A Wonderful Day Like Today", sung by Clifton Davis in 1988, would be a much straighter example if not for it being more upbeat and having a cheesy talk-singing bridge. Like "Giving Thanks", it too was the parade's closing music until 1993.
    • The same with "Santa Claus Adventure" (1997) by Liz Callaway, minus the A Wild Rapper Appears! bridge (in fact, the song was more Disneylike in feel than "Wonderful Day", helped by Callaway's status as a veteran of Disney and non/Disney animated musicals).
    • "Just Beyond The Dream" (1999), by Lillias White, which was also featured in Macy's 2000 4th of July Fireworks show.
    • "When Hope Was There" (2003), by the USO Troupe of Metropolitan New York and Camp Broadway, written as a tribute to the recently-deceased Bob Hope. It's a bit more upbeat and patriotic than most Award Bait Songs, but it fits into this trope nonetheless.
    • "Free To Dream" (2004), by Deborah Voigt
    • "My Gift Of Thanks" (2005), by Michael Feinstein (who wrote it) and the Highbridge Voices
      • That year's parade also featured the above-mentioned "Remember When", as part of a segment paying tribute to the 50th anniversary of Disney Theme Parks.
    • "Key To This Wonderful City" (2007), by Feinstein and Anika Noni Rose is similar to "When Hope Was There" in that it's more upbeat than all of these examples, but still fits this mold.
    • "I Believe" (2008), by Kermit the Frog and Camp Broadway is one of the more popular examples to come out of the parade. The next parade featured both a Triumphant Reprise of the song and a duet version featuring Kermit and actress Tiffany Thornton. The latter version was also released to iTunes and Radio Disney during the 2009 holiday season.
    • "With You I'm Home" (2009), by Jane Krakowski
      • Cheyenne Jackson's "Play To Win" from the same year would count as well, though it's performed in a swinging Rat Pack crooner style that isn't usually associated with Award Bait Songs.
    • "Yes Virginia" (2010), by Ann Hampton Calloway is notable since it was inspired by the Macy's-funded TV special of the same name (which, bizarrely enough, aired on a rival network), but did not appear in it (the special debuted one year earlier).
    • For the 2012 parade, Thirza Defoe contributed the Pocahontas-esque anthem "Tree of Life".
    • Pat Benatar's "One Christmas Night" debuted in 2015.
    • During Obama's last day in office, Lin Manuel Miranda and Christopher Jackson perform 'One Last Time' from Hamilton and the song becomes an award bait song midway through as seen here [1]


Video Example(s):


"When the World's At Stake"

"When the World's At Stake" is the Mother's heartfelt song about her desire to protect her family and its prosperity.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / AwardBaitSong

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