When you think of circus or carnival music, you probably imagine something old fashioned, like a calliope or a brass band. While these instruments are a staple of circus music, sometimes creators want to give their circus setting a more modern edge. To do that, they need a more modern style of music.
And so, sometimes circuses, carnivals, and clowns in fiction are associated with more modern genres of music, including funk, dance, pop, and anything involving synths or other electronic sounds. Despite utilizing digital sounds, these songs will usually have certain qualities of traditional circus music, like being fun, bouncy, and creating a sense of wonder.
Clowns and circuses in fiction can use electronic music for a variety of effects. For example, clown characters with synth-y leitmotifs can be cheerfully eccentric and quirky, exceptionally powerful in magic, or utterly terrifying, with an edge that can't quite be communicated with only traditional instruments. When a fictional circus uses electronic music, it might be because the performers are trying to appeal to modern audiences (In-Universe or not.) Singers who specialize in pop, hip hop, and similar music genres might make songs or even albums with a circus theme as a way of trying a new aesthetic without breaking away from their signature sounds too much.
- Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted:
- Christina Aguilera's pop album Back to Basics features the songs "Hurt" and "Enter the Circus", which make great use of circus music.
- Panic! at the Disco's album A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, most notably the song "I Write Sins Not Tragedies," the music video for which has the band crashing a wedding of circus performers.
- P!nk's circus-themed pop album Funhouse. Impressively, P!nk herself is a skilled gymnast and acrobat, something she put to great use to capitalize on the circus theme when she did tours for the album.
- Britney Spears' "Circus" has Spears compare her career as a pop singer to a circus performer. Shortly after the release of the song, Spears also went on a tour called "The Circus Starring Britney Spears", which featured stages set up to resemble a traditional circus.
- Take That (Band)'s appropriately titled pop-rock album The Circus. Their tour Take That Presents: The Circus Live featured a circus-like set and costumes, with clowns, balloons, and other props as well.
- T-Pain's album Thr33 Ringz uses the theme of a three-ring circus, portraying the rapper as a confident ringmaster.
- Eminem uses elements of Creepy Circus Music as part of his macabre Subverted Kids' Show style, and his The Eminem Show tour was themed around a circus, with a ferris wheel on stage, firebreathers, a ringmaster and an acrobat. (This set can be seen in the music video for "Sing For The Moment", which ironically is one of the least circusy tracks on the album.) He would come out on stage to "Square Dance" at this time, which definitely fits this trope description.
- The middle section of Jean-Michel Jarre's "Fifth Rendez-Vous" incorporates a circus arrangement of the main melody from the preceding "Fourth Rendez-Vous" with chiptune-esque synth instruments.
- Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled: In true Crash fashion, the music accompanying Koala Carnival is chaotic, making use of electric guitars, trumpets, synths, and a sample of Fucik's Entry of the Gladiators. To top it off, it switches into techno when players enter the tunnel.
- Donkey Kong Country:
- Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest: Target Terror and Rickety Race, the skullcart-riding levels in Krazy Kremland - half-circus, half Amusement Park of Doom - are accompanied by Disco Train, a catchy techno/disco fusion, that nicely reflects the frantic nature of the levels themselves. Unfortunately it can't really be appreciated in-game, as it's obscured by the sound of grinding rails, signals and fireworks, and it doesn't help that both levels aren't exempt from the game's legendary difficulty. The ending music for both Diddy and Dixie also gets a techno treatment.
- Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze: The very first boss level, Big Top Bop, has you fighting an ill-tempered sea lion in a circus tent. You'd think the music would be lighthearted, right? Nope. The theme for this level is straight up metal, with electric guitars accompanied by synths.
- Most of the music in Kirby's Dream Land 3 uses what sounds like a calliope.
- Klonoa: In Door to Phantomile, the plucky, evil little clown Joka is always associated with electronic music of some sort. His normal leitmotif, "Joker Mood" is a bouncy techno tune, while his battle theme, "Facade & Blade" starts out with some Creepy Circus Music before switching to a dance tune with synth strings.
- Ni GHTS Into Dreams: "Jackle, the Mantle" is the funky battle music for Jackle, a Villainous Harlequin who you fight inside a surreal Circus of Fear-like arena.
- Sonic 3 & Knuckles: The music for both acts of Carnival Night Zone features the Sega Genesis' digital synthesizer mimicking a calliope while also pastiching Michael Jackson's New Jack Swing output in the '90s, mixing traditional and modern takes on circus music.
- Super Mario Bros.:
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: The battle theme for Doopliss, a trickster ghost wearing a clown hat, has a Creepy Circus Music style , but it's played on a synth.
- Super Mario 3D World: The battle music for Motley Bossblob, a Villainous Harlequin boss, is a jazz/techno fusion... with electric guitars!
- Super Paper Mario:
- "It's Showtime", the normal battle theme for the twisted jester Dimentio, combines circus horns with a variety of synth sounds. This, combined with the frantic melody, creates an overwhelming feeling.
- "The Ultimate Show", the battle theme for Dimentio's One-Winged Angel form as the Final Boss, has a melody of distorted circus instruments, accompanied by a techno bassline and beat.
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl contains a remix of Marx's battle theme from Kirby Super Star. While the original song used brass and strings to fit the twisted jester Marx, Brawl's remix uses synths and electric guitars, although there are some orchestral instruments still.
- TinkerQuarry uses "Bounce", an electronic pop/future pop tune by Evan Schaeffer, as the theme for the Non-Ironic Clown Camime. It plays inside her carnival-themed room.
- In Sin With Me, the Night of Sin circus has electronic music playing during performances.