Yeah, I can't believe I'm holding a mic
We're both off-key
But it's the part of the film
That everyone likes
It's our gratuitous karaoke moment
We sound really bad, but look! We're starting to sway
Who doesn't love a good musical? While the songs are always fun, they usually also push the story forward in some way. One way they can do this is by revealing the emotional state of the singer- maybe they're angsting about their ex or declaring their dreams, or any other number of possibilities. The audience gets to learn about their feelings and beliefs with a catchy musical number.
Sometimes a character won't be feeling very confident about themselves. They're having a rough go of it — insecurities abound. This may be the result of a failure or struggle that leads the character near the Despair Event Horizon, but it could also just be the character suffering from low-confidence or Stage Fright. When they sing, be it diegetic or non-diegetic, they'll start out being nervous about it. If they're performing in front of others, it's especially stressful, as they're being judged for skills they may not be very confident in. Even if it's just them singing alone, their nerves will get the better of them. The song starts out slowly and often stiffly, with the character not moving around much or putting much energy into it.
And then, something happens. Over the course of the song, the singer will start to enjoy it. Maybe it's symbolic of them breaking out of their shell and realizing their strengths. Or, maybe they're just loosening up with an encouraging crowd to energize them. Either way, the song picks up speed and power. The character begins to dance, passionately performing and having a good time. They'll start to please the audience, if they have one, or they'll just please themselves.
The intent here is to show the character slowly triumph over their insecurities, told through music. It may not be a permanent change, although it can be — the point is that the character starts to gain confidence and loosens up, symbolized by them starting to enjoy themselves, rather than be held back by the issues plaguing them, even if only temporarily.
Sometimes overlaps with "I Am Becoming" Song and "I Am Great!" Song, and can occur during a Karaoke Bonding Scene. Compare and Contrast Pep-Talk Song, in which other characters sing to make the sad character feel better, and Small Start, Big Finish, which has a similar build-up but without the emotional metaphor.
- All Dogs Go to Heaven 2: Inverted. The song "Easy Street" has David performing as a street magician in front of an audience, as David tries to keep their attention. The song starts cheery and upbeat, but after David falls into the water fountain and it begins raining, running everyone else off, the song ends on a slower, somber note.
- In Frozen, Elsa sings "Let It Go" where she first laments how her power has led her becoming basically an outcast, but then she embraces her powers and basically declares "This is me? Deal with it." Played with, however, as she still isolates even after her big confidence boost and still has no idea how to undo her magic.
- It's Anna's turn in Frozen 2. "The Next Right Thing" starts off with her despondent and alone after hitting her Darkest Hour with the deaths of Elsa and Olaf, not sure if she can go on at all, but she steels herself to finish the job that they started.
How to rise from the floor
When it's not you I'm rising for?
- Hercules: Hercules is ostracized by his peers because he is unable to control his own strength, so he somberly sings "Go The Distance" to express his desire to be accepted. Halfway through the song, his adoptive parents advise him to visit the Temple of Zeus in order to learn about his past, which fuels him with optimism and causes him to happily sing that he will not give up until he finds the place where he belongs.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame: "Out There" begins as a soft, melancholy song about how safe but miserable Quasimodo is in the bell tower. By the end, he is singing about how much he is willing to give up or risk for one day "out there."
- The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: When everybody gets stuck in the Bin of Storage to seemingly waste away for eternity, they all begin singing "Everything's Not Awesome," a slow, depressing Dark Reprise of the franchise's theme song. However, Lucy realizes midway through that things are not "hopeless and bleak." Once they all realize what she's saying, everybody becomes more hopeful and sings about sticking together even when times aren't awesome, motivating them to try and escape.
- Moana: During the film's Darkest Hour, Tala's spirit appears to the protagonist and starts singing the "Song of the Ancestors". The first few verses are soothing whispers, as Tala tells Moana to reflect on her journey and who she really is. However, the protagonist then sings about the hardships she has overcome, growing progressively more confident as she realizes how much she has accomplished through sheer determination until she proudly proclaims "I am Moana!" and decides to resume her journey.
- In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack reaches his Darkest Hour when his attempt to be Santa Claus failed and left him alone in a graveyard. He sings "Poor Jack", which is at first him moaning about how he'll just hide away and die somewhere due to his horrible mistake. Then, he begins to tell himself that he still tried his best and that he still accomplished something amazing- and ends the song declaring that he is, in fact, "The Pumpkin King" and regains his love for Halloween, as well as a determination to rescue Santa.
- In Sing, Meena is a painfully shy elephant with a gorgeous singing voice. When it's time for her on-stage debut, she freezes up before slowly starting to sing "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing". Her performance is initially slow and almost ballad-like, but as she sees the crowd enjoying it, her pace picks up and she gains more confidence to sing louder and more passionately until she literally brings the house down by collapsing the wall behind her with her jumping and powerful voice. But instead of suffering from stage fright from this mishap, she simply shrugs it off and continues singing to thunderous applause.
- Ella Enchanted: While at a bar, Ella ends up having to sing "Somebody to Love" for everyone. She's at first uncomfortable and isn't really into it, jerking around each time someone asks her to dance. However, by the end of the song, she's enjoying herself and getting into it, going above and beyond.
- The Greatest Showman: "This is Me" starts out slowly as Lettie and the other performers walk through a party of people who think they're embarrassing at best, as she tries to claim she's not bothered by it. Then the others join in, and the song starts to pick up speed and power as the performers are all singing about being proud of who they are, with it sounding far more honest than in the early verses.
- High School Musical: Troy and Gabriella go through this twice as a sort of Book-Ends to the first film. They're first forced to sing karaoke together, neither of them thinking of themselves as a singer, but end up enjoying the experience and discovering their interest in music, symbolized by them dancing and engaging with the audience. At the end, they're singing at the climatic audition, and Gabriella's Stage Fright threatens to get the better of her- but they once again end up getting into the song and blow away the crowd.
- In Lemonade Mouth, the band's first concert starts out on a bad foot, as Olivia's Stage Fright threatens to get in the way. Her singing starts out slowly and nervously, earning mocking yawns from some members of the audience. Once the song picks up speed though, the crowd goes wild and Olivia's stage fright is no longer an issue.
- Rags: This affects both Kadee and Charlie at different points in the film:
- Kadee's struggle during the film is to be herself and sing the music she wrote, rather than what the label wants her to. Charlie takes her out to perform on the street like he does, which makes her very nervous. Over the course of the song, she gets over her fears and ends up with an engaged, dancing crowd and some decent tips- cut short only because a cop showed up.
- Charlie had been practicing his music for ages and even produced a CD with Shawn. However, when Shawn makes him go on stage at the Masquerade Ball, he's terrified — his stepbrothers just had an underwhelming performance that ended up with booing, and despite being in disguise, he was still scared to mess up. Then, as the song progressed, it became obvious that the audience was enjoying it- and Charlie started to as well, with the song picking up strength and his energy heightening, ending up with a performance so good it leads Kadee to hunt for "Rags" and sign him up with the label.
- In the 1965 film version of The Sound of Music, "I Have Confidence" has Maria start out afraid of the challenge ahead of her as she leaves her cloistered abbey for the first time to be a governess to seven children. As the song progresses and she gets closer and closer to the Von Trapp house, she assures herself she can handle the challenge, practically skipping to the gates. This song has since been added to the stage version.
- Parodied in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's "Gratuitous Karaoke Moment". Maya and Nathaniel both start out shy and squeaky-voiced, and the lyrics mention that they are both "relatably off-key". Later, they sing that "it makes no sense but we're gaining confidence", which is reflected in Maya and Nathaniel's increasingly self-assured singing throughout the song.
- Schitt's Creek: In "Life is a Cabaret", the characters stage a production of Cabaret with the prosaic, shy wallflower Stevie forced in the role of Sally Bowles. Her rendition of "Maybe this Time" starts out with a shaky voice and irregular pacing, but as she finds her own, her voice gets steadier and she ends the song bombastically. This echoes her character arc, where she slowly became more confident in herself throughout the course of the show.
- Invoked in an episode of Victorious. To get revenge on two Alpha Bitches who cheated Jade and Cat out of a singing-competition victory, they had Tori dress up as a Hollywood Homely nerd and get her chosen as their next competitor. Playing the role, Tori first started the song out as if she had no idea what she was doing, only to gradually remove her disguise and get more passionate as the song went on, easily defeating the antagonists and thrilling the audience.
- "We Are the Champions" by Queen begins with mournful lyrics about how much hardship and injustice the singer has had to endure, but as the song progresses he sings more about how much stronger that hardship has made him. By the end, he calls it "a challenge before the whole human race, and I ain't going to lose!"
- Be More Chill: "Loser Geek Whatever" is primarily about Jeremy's self-loathing and isolation, and his questioning how far he'll go to become popular. A deconstruction, as it turns out, the answer is "far enough to callously abandon his Only Friend," and the first act ends with him loudly proclaiming that he'll never be the "loser, geek, or whatever" ever again.
- Death Note: The Musical: A very dark version with Light's "I Am Becoming" Song, "Hurricane." The first verse is soft as Light realizes that, yes, he can in fact kill people with the notebook he found by writing their names, before building in a truly spectacular manner. By the last verse, he's belting out, "I am the God of a brand-new world!"
- Gypsy has "Let Me Entertain You," (alternatively known as "The Strip" or "Gypsy Strip Tease") charting the transformation of Louise Havoc into Gypsy Rose Lee in a single song. Shy, tomboyish Louise, pressured into doing a striptease at a burlesque after her Stage Mom volunteers her for an open slot, starts out stiff, quiet, and awkward, but ends up starting to like the positive attention, ending the act by removing a single glove. As the act moves on to bigger and better burlesques, Louise, now Gypsy Rose Lee, becomes brasher and more confident, until finally, she ends the number at the high-class Minsky's burlesque, a true star (and fully naked).
- In Newsies, Katherine's "Watch What Happens" starts out with her unsure how to write the newsboys strike article that she hopes will be her big break. Her confidence wavers throughout the song, but she ultimately finds the courage to start writing not just for herself, but for the newsboys who need their story to be heard.
- In Once Upon a Mattress, Princess Fred's "Happily Ever After" starts off as a slow and rueful number about how other fairytale princesses have had unfair advantages over "normal" princesses like her, then slowly becomes a more raucous and confident number as she decides that her own challenges have made her stronger and determined.
- The SpongeBob Musical has "I'm Not a Loser", sung by Squidward. It starts out as a Suspiciously Specific Denial, in which Squidward says he isn't a loser and when people look at him, they "don't see the nobody which isn't there", but he secretly believes he is a loser. As the song goes on though, he starts to genuinely believe he isn't a loser and confidently sings that he isn't one.
- Starship: The song "Status Quo" begins softly as Bug, newly in a human body and accepted by his heroes, the Starship Rangers, reflects on how everything he's doing goes against everything he's been told he can be. His voice becomes louder and more enthusiastic as he decides to enjoy the ride and take his shot at the life he always wanted.
I kick down the walls around me.
They don't know how strong I am!
I'm not defined by boundaries!
They could never understand,
I'm so much more than status quo.
- A Very Potter Sequel: Hermione's solo "The Coolest Girl" is about her status as a Cool Loser, starting with her softly singing about her isolation from her peers and ending with her belting that she doesn't care; she knows she's awesome.
- Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure: Unable to figure out a way to stop the Big Bad's plan, Raphael nearly succumbs to despair, but Marie plays the "Melody of Hope" to encourage him. The song is divided into three segments, each of them reflecting the protagonist's psyche as he slowly regains his composure: The first part sounds ominous to denote his hopelessness; the second one is soothing and comforting to represent his renewed determination; and the third one is a triumphant reprise of "Moon Princess", the game's Recurring Riff.
- "An Awkward Duet", sung by Dodie Clark and Jon Cozart, is Exactly What It Says on the Tin- an awkward, uncomfortable duet between two nervous singers, singing about how nervous they are to sing. Toward the end, they start to get into the song and proudly claim that they both sound pretty good...until Dodie goes for a bold, unscripted bit that stops Jon's singing. The duet returns to being awkward as a result.
- The Nostalgia Critic: The first commercial special features a parody of ""Poor Jack" after Critic gets depressed over his career and wastes his day watching commercials. It begins with Critic slowly lamenting how he feels useless and unappreciated, but he soon begins boasting about how he is a good reviewer, dons his trademark jacket, and gets back to work.
- Central Park:
- In "Episode One", Owen's and Molly's sections of "Own It" count as this. Owen starts out saddened that he is the only one who cares about Turtlehead (Flower) Day at the park, while Molly starts out wondering if it's weird how much she's stalking her crush. Both realize it's better if they own up to their passions and embrace them, a precursor to their character arcs for the rest of the season as Owen has to become more confident in order to defend Central Park from outside sabotage, and Molly has to face up her crush.
- In Season 1's "Hat Luncheon", Owen sings to himself "Don't Think About the Failures", after Paige tells him to not think about his failed past speeches and only think about the future, he sings to himself to focus on giving a good speech.
- King of the Hill: Needing to escape his Jerkass father-in-law who's staying over at his house, Kahn goes to a karaoke bar and sings "The Morning After". At first, he's uncomfortable and nervous. But as the crowd gets into it, Kahn gains more confidence and enjoys himself. He becomes a hit with the audience, finding this to be a good outlet for him. Unfortunately, his karaoke days end when the aforementioned father-in-law sings his own rendition of the song, to out-stage Kahn for good.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Pinkie Pride", the song "Pinkie's Lament" begins with Pinkie depressed because visiting party pony Cheese Sandwich has made her party-planning talents irrelevant. But she reminds herself of the success of her past parties and finds the strength to prove herself as the best party planner.
- Phineas and Ferb: In "Dude, We're Getting the Band Back Together", the brothers find Swampy, the former drummer of Love Händle who stopped making music after an accident left him without a sense of rhythm. However, everything he does is done rhythmically. Phineas tells him he does have rhythm, but Swampy insists, "I Ain't Got Rhythm". By the end of the song, the brothers have shown him that yes, he does have rhythm and the old Swampy is back at his drum set.
- In She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Scorpia goes undercover at an ultra-exclusive Bad-Guy Bar to find Prince Peekablue to help out with the Rebellion. She accidentally winds up on stage and is forced to maintain her cover by pretending to be a performer. She's pretty shaky at first, but quickly gets the hang of it despite presumably improvising the entire song.