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Iconic Sequel Song

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Soundtracks are one of the most memorable things about a work. Often, a work will have one (or many) tunes that, when you hear them, just immediately make you remember the work in question. And then there are those tracks that you associate so much with the work that the absence of it feels like Early-Installment Weirdness.

This could be related to many things. For instance, a particular theme could be associated with an Iconic Sequel Character (such as the theme of Rohan from the The Lord of the Rings trilogy), it could result from a particular composer just penning something magnificent that so happened to come later in the series, or it could be because one particular track just struck a chord with audiences. Whatever the case, if you hear a song from a score and it makes you instantly think of the series as a whole, and it doesn't appear until after the first installment, you have yourself an Iconic Sequel Song.

As mentioned above, related to Iconic Sequel Character, where it's the character him/her/itself that appears late. See also Bootstrapped Theme, which is when a particular song unofficially becomes the main theme of a particular franchise, as many of those listed below are bootstrapped themes for their franchises.


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  • Dragon Ball:
    • The most iconic song from the franchise is "Cha-La Head-Cha-La", which is the second opening theme in the franchise, used for the majority of Dragon Ball Z.
    • "Rock the Dragon" counts as Funimation briefly dubbed the original Dragon Ball with its own unique intro song before moving on to Z.
  • The signature Lupin III theme which has featured some variant most adaptations since wasn't introduced until the second TV series. The first TV series featured a radically different theme.
  • The best well known theme from Lyrical Nanoha, "Eternal Blaze," made its debut in the second season of the anime, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's.
  • The best-known theme songs of Naruto are "Haruka Kanata" and "GO!", which are the second and fourth themes, respectively.
  • The most iconic theme from the Slayers anime is "Give a Reason," which is the theme of the second season, The Slayers NEXT.
  • The song most associated with Fullmetal Alchemist is "Again". It is the first opening theme from its second and more faithful adaption to anime, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Before Brotherhood existed, many American fans thought of the second opening "Ready Stady Go" as the first opening, mainly because for whatever reason [adult swim] skipped the actual first opening "Melissa" in favor of "Ready Steady Go" when they showed the series.

    Films — Animated 
  • "Happy" from Despicable Me 2. Pharrell Williams, the singer of "Happy" did the Title Theme Tune to the first film, but it was never as popular due to having a less universal context beyond the scope of the movie. After all, the former was the #1 song of 2014, while the latter never charted anywhere at all.
  • The Lion King:
  • While not quite living up to the momentous popularity of "Let it Go" from the first movie, or even that of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?", "Into the Unknown" and "Show Yourself" from Frozen II are easily among the most iconic and popular Disney songs of The New '10s.
  • "Just Sing" from Trolls: World Tour is just as popular, if not more, than "Can't Stop the Feeling!" from the first Trolls movie.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • What is perhaps the DC Extended Universe's most popular theme, "Is She With You?", debuted in the film franchise's second entry, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The song is Wonder Woman's Leitmotif, herself an Iconic Sequel Character.
  • The Fast and the Furious:
    • "See You Again" is by far the most famous song in the series, despite it not appearing until the seventh film in the series. The reason the song became so popular is because it was written as a tribute to star Paul Walker, who died in a car crash during filming. As such, it spend twelve weeks on the top of the pop charts.
    • From the third movie, the main theme, "Tokyo Drift" by Teriyaki Boyz was also fairly popular, though this might be an inversion, since instead of the song reminding people of the franchise, mentioning the franchise will bring the song to mind immediately.
  • As mentioned above, the motif for Rohan and the theme of Gondor didn't appear until The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Return of the King, respectively, as Rohan didn't become a major focus until Two Towers, and despite Gondor briefly appearing in Fellowship, it didn't become a major point of focus until Return.
  • "It's Been a Long, Long Time" is Captain America's Character Signature Song in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, yet it doesn't make an appearance until his second solo film.
  • The hit song "Eye of the Tiger" (pictured above) is most commonly associated with the Rocky franchise and is rivaled only by the original instrumental theme "Gonna Fly Now" in fame, but it didn't debut until Rocky III.
  • Star Wars: While the famous opening theme has been around since A New Hope, a number of themes did not appear until later films.
    • Most notable is "The Imperial March," which didn't appear until The Empire Strikes Back. The Empire's theme was a sinister, brassy triad in a minor key in A New Hope.
    • "The Asteroid Field" also appeared in The Empire Strikes Back. It has been used several times in the franchise, particularly since Disney bought Lucasfilm.
    • "Duel of the Fates" is one of the most signature themes from the films, which didn't appear until the fourth film and first prequel, The Phantom Menace.
    • Ditto "Battle of Heroes" from Revenge of the Sith.
  • The X-Men Film Series' most popular theme is that of the second film.

    Live-Action TV 
  • "Daybreak" is a recurring song in Community and is essentially Abed Nadir's Character Signature Song. It does not pop up until the Halloween Episode of Season 3.
  • The Game of Thrones theme song has been used since the first episode. The fan-favorite recurring song "The Rain of Castamere", however, did not show up until the penultimate episode of Season 2. The other famous piece of music, the best-selling instrumental "Light of the Seven" didn't show up until the finale of Season 6, quickly becoming a Bootstrapped Leitmotif used in alteration with the theme tune.
  • The most popular songs from How I Met Your Mother, intro music aside, are all absent during the inaugural season. Robin's "Let's Go to the Mall" and Marshall's favorite road jam "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" were both introduced in Season 2, while Barney's "Barney Stinson, that Guy's Awesome" and "Nothing Suits You Like A Suit" were respectively introduced in Seasons 4 and 5. Also, the titular Mother's acclaimed rendition of "La Vie en Rose" was sang in the final season.
  • Star Trek is often associated with the theme of Star Trek: The Motion Picture/Star Trek: The Next Generation despite the original theme being something else.
  • The signature theme song of the The Twilight Zone (1959) didn't debut until its second season. The first season featured a different, more slower piece.

    Professional Wrestling 
Usually, it takes a while for a professional wrestler to find a theme that's truly iconic. In most major promotions, wrestlers usually are given generic instrumental stock music as they rise up the card. Once they become a big deal, then they probably get a more distinctive theme song. You can tell that a wrestler has found their definitive theme if they decide to keep it for the rest of their career:
  • A.J. Lee's most popular theme is "Let's Light it Up" by Kari Kimel. It was her third entrance theme, which she would keep until his retirement.
  • Batista's fourth solo entrance theme, "I Walk Alone", is the song he is most associated with, and it has remained his theme ever since he started using it. His third solo theme, "Animal", is also fondly remembered.
  • Becky Lynch's third overall entrance theme, "Celtic Invasion", is her most popular, and will likely remain her theme for the rest of her WWE career.
  • The Big Show's theme "Crank It Up" is far better known than its predecessor "Big", even though it is merely a cover of the latter. And both songs are certainly way better known than any themes he used before than.
  • Bryan Danielson is identified with two entrance themes. For his independent days, Europe's "The Final Countdown" is his most remembered theme, even though it was his third. For his WWE tenure as Daniel Bryan, his fourth theme, "Flight of the Valkyries", which he started using around the time he won the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time and used for the remainder of his WWE career, is the most associated with him.
  • Chris Benoit had to go through several instrumental themes before settling on "Whatever" by Our Lady Peace in 2002, which he would use up until the murder-suicide.
  • Chris Jericho's most popular theme is "Break the Walls Down", which he will not use until the ninth year of his wrestling career, and has been his theme for almost his entire WWE career.
  • Christian's definitive theme is considered to be the Story of the Year version of "Just Close Your Eyes", his fifth and final theme in his overall career (not counting his AEW run in which he just went back to using his TNA theme).
  • Living Colour's "Cult of Personality" is CM Punk's most definitive theme in both his independent and WWE careers. The song was actually his fourth theme in the indies before reusing it in the WWE during his final two and a half years with the company and kept it for his comeback in AEW.
  • Cody Rhodes' most popular theme is the second version of "Smoke and Mirrors" that debuted in late 2011. It was his eighth theme in WWE.
  • Diamond Dallas Page's most iconic theme, "Self High Five", made its debut in May of 1996.
  • Dolph Ziggler's "Here to Show the World" theme was actually his fourth under the Ziggler gimmick, and he's kept it for nine years and counting.
  • Drew McIntyre's most popular theme is "Broken Dreams" by Shaman's Harvest, which was only the third song he used in WWE. Fans were understandably outraged when WWE decided not to bring it back after he returned to the company in 2017.
  • Eddie Guerrero's most popular theme is unquestionably "Lie, Cheat, Steal". He actually only used this theme from March 2004 to April 2005 after a Face–Heel Turn, and again upon turning Face in October 2005 up until his unexpected death the following month.
  • Edge's definitive theme is "Metalingus" by Alter Bridge, his seventh and final theme in his overall career and the theme he used during his entire run as a main eventer.
  • The iconic "Real American" was actually Hulk Hogan's third theme, which he didn't start using until about halfway through his first WWF World Championship reign. His previous themes were "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor from Rocky III, which Hogan appeared in, and an instrumental song in between. While "Eye of the Tiger" is the most well-known song of the three, hardly anyone associates it with Hulk Hogan.
  • Jeff Hardy didn't use "No More Words" until his ninth year as a wrestler, and his brother Matt only debuted "Live for the Moment" a few years beforehand. Jeff's previous theme "Loaded" is also iconic, but more associated with the brothers as a team than his solo career.
  • John "Bradshaw" Layfield's best-known theme is undoubtedly "Longhorn", which he only started using upon debuting the JBL gimmick.
  • John Cena's third ("Basic Thuganomics") and especially fourth ("My Time is Now") entrance themes are significantly more popular than his first two themes, which were instrumentals. Fifteen years after its debut, and "My Time is Now" has stuck around.
  • John Morrison didn't start using "Ain't No Make Believe" until after he ditched the Johnny Nitro name roughly three years after his debut on WWE's main roster.
  • Kane's most popular theme is "Slow Chemical" by Finger Eleven, his fifth overall theme. Unlike other examples, it didn't become permanent. None of his subsequent themes since have received love from fans.
  • "Lovefurypassionenergy" is considered to be Lita's most definitive theme, as it has been the one she has used the longest. It was actually her second theme, which she didn't even use until her third year as a wrestler.
  • Mark Henry's iconic "Some Bodies Gonna Get It" theme did not come into use until 2006, nearly a decade after his debut.
  • Mick Foley's definitive theme is "Wreck", his seventh overall theme and the song he uses when he pops up on WWE programming.
  • Paige's definitive theme is "Stars in the Night", which is actually her second WWE theme (third overall, as she used "Faint" by Linkin Park in the indies) and remains her theme to this day.
  • Randy Orton's third ("Burn in my Light") and especially fourth ("Voices") entrance themes are more popular and remembered than his first two solo themes, which were instrumentals. "Voices", which debuted in 2008, remains his theme to this day.
  • Rey Mysterio Jr.'s most popular theme is "Booyaka 619", which he didn't use until 2006 (he debuted in 1989) and has always used in WWE since then.
  • "One of a Kind" was the fifth theme Rob Van Dam used in WWE, and it goes back even farther when counting his ECW themes.
  • While "Sexy Boy" has always been Shawn Michaels' solo theme, the second version (that he sings himself) is the most remembered, and it's been in active use for nearly three decades now.
  • Subverted with Sheamus, whose first WWE theme "Written in my Face" was far more popular than its replacement "Hellfire". Although it's played straight when taking into account any songs he used on the independent circuit.
  • "I Wont Do What You Tell Me" is undoubtedly "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's most remembered theme. The song debuted in late 1998, whereas Austin's wrestling career began in 1989, and he continues to use it whenever he pops up on WWE television. "Glass Shatters", Disturbed's remake of his old theme, didn't debut until near the end of the Attitude Era.
  • The Rock's definitive theme is considered to be "Know Your Role", his fourth overall theme, or "Electrifying", which he used ever since he returned to WWE programming in 2011.
  • The Miz's definitive theme is "I Came to Play", his second which he will not use until the seventh year of his career, as his first was an instrumental. "I Came to Play" continues to be his theme more than a decade after its debut.
  • All three members of The Shield are primarily associated with either "Special Op", the stable's theme, or their subsequent solo themes (Roman Reigns' is merely a variation of the Shield's).
  • The Undertaker's definitive theme is "Rest in Peace", his thirteenth overall
  • "The Game" by Motörhead is actually Triple H's seventh theme.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • A few songs out of Red vs. Blue go this way (partly due to only bringing in Jeff Williams to do the music for Seasons 8-10).
    • Despite being there from nearly the beginning and having a simple leitmotif, Tex's titular theme didn't come round till Season 8.
    • Songs associated with the Meta, such as "When Your Middle Name Is Danger..." or "Plagam Extremam Infligere" didn't premiere until he did (naturally). The former came around in Season 6, the latter in Season 8.
    • While Washington was involved in the series since the hiatus between Seasons 4 and 5, he didn't have a proper theme of his own until Season 9, as a recycled theme of the Project Freelancer faction. It didn't become exclusively his until Season 11, when the series was well past the Project Freelancer arc.
    • Carolina's theme "Spiral", one of the series' iconic themes, didn't appear until she showed up in Season 9.

    Web Original 
  • "Your Turn to Roll", the first official vocal theme for Critical Role, first appeared halfway through the second campaign, but has become the show's most iconic song, even being used for the reveal of the animated series and appearing as an instrumental motif within it.