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One-Woman Wail

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"A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted,
because her children are no more."

For the proper reading experience, play the music from this video while reading on.

It's not Ominous Latin Chanting, it's not the Cherubic Choir, but somewhere in between, close to the Ethereal Choir. A solitary, usually wordless wail (possibly to simulate wind or grieving), usually done by either a woman or, for extra poignancy points, a child (usually a boy soprano). The best time to include this trope is during the aftermath of something really dramatic — a battle, natural disaster, etc. Basically, any event where vanilla OLC would just fall short in the sadness department.

Often fills out a Moment of Silence. Kin to the Lonely Piano Piece. This is also what can come to mind when you hear the word "Opera".

You get extra extra poignancy points for cutting out all sound during the epic event, go into Slow Motion, and having the One Woman Wail play over it.

Note that this is explicitly part of the soundtrack, though a Diegetic Switch is allowed. If you're looking for a single character, male or female, screaming in anguish, try Skyward Scream or perhaps Screaming Woman.

Clean-up note: Wordless singing that isn't the otherworldly, often anguished, and even startling wail is not this trope, it's Scatting. Feel free to move examples which would be more at home over there. Melismatic Vocals are a different sort of wailing noise representing actual words being stretched over a rack and tortured.

Subtrope of Simple Score of Sadness.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ah! My Goddess it occurs when Keiichi's wish for the goddess Belldandy to stay by his side forever is granted.
  • During Misuzu's final moments in AIR, the acapella intro of the song "Aozora" starts playing. It evolves into a full-blown song after a while, but it serves its purpose as a One-Woman Wail at that point very well, immensely heightening the impact of an already very sad scene.
  • Features in a few tracks on the Attack on Titan soundtrack (like the tracks "Attack on Titan" and "Bauklötze").
  • Berserk (1997) features a piece known only as "Guts", or "Guts's Theme", which features a wordless, high-pitched lament in its main vocal line. Interestingly, though the vocal sounds female, it is actually performed by the male composer, Susumu Hirasawa, who is renowned for his high tenor vocal range. While it still definitely fits the trope in terms of aesthetics, technically speaking, it's a One-Man Wail.
  • Used in Bleach when Ulquiorra releases his Zanpakuto.
  • Appears frequently in Blood+, where the aria "Diva" is sung by Elin Carlson.
  • In Digimon Data Squad, the Burst Mode evolution theme is an orchestral piece accompanied by a wail.
  • Dragon Ball Z Kai: When Goku dies in front of his friends, the BGM changes to a wail as the episode draws to a close. And also after when Yamcha is killed by a Saibaiman's sacrifice, also before that Tenshinhan it's going to do the Kikoho and sacrifice their life, in the same moment that Kamisama is predicting their own death, when The Saichoro dies, and by consequence, the namek Dragon Balls are turned in stone before the third wish, when Vegeta is dying by the hands of Freezer, and in a filler scene when Goku is having a nightmare during their combat with Freezer, now using the 50% of their maximum power.
  • "Lilium", Elfen Lied's opening theme, is both this trope and Ominous Latin Chanting by being a one-woman Latin wail. When it's used during scenes, it sounds like it's sung by a bunch of monks instead.
  • Prominently featured in Anemone's theme from Eureka Seven.
  • Flag's opening puts a wail over photographs of war and the childhood of the protagonist. It's actually pretty good.
  • The song "Dante" from Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) features a uniquely low female voice echoing Dante's leitmotif.
  • The opening theme to Gatekeepers 21. The second half flips the themes, and this is moved to the ending credits, while the catchy J-Pop song "Ima, Egao ga Areba" in the ending credits plays to a new OP sequence.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, where almost ALL the opening themes are sung by a Russian singer named Origa. The first theme, "Inner Universe" even takes the next step and features Latin vocals from boy soprano Ben Del Maestro.
  • Gundam:
  • The ending credits to Gunslinger Girl has this in Italian, with a second voice occasionally speaking without tone during interludes. The sequence shows a handgun lying on a cobblestone street as it rains and the credits scrolling up, heightening the tragic overtones of the series.
  • Hell Girl uses these to evoke a lot of different moods and emotions. "Ake ni Somaru", for example, features both a woman and a child, mixed with creepy trance music. It did a damn good job of turning mundane, peaceful scenes (like a cityscape at sunset) into spooky panoramas while seeming to kick the characters while they're down. "Mangetsu," by contrast, is a heartwarming theme that plays over some of the few genuinely happy moments in the series. "Kumo To Rouba To Shoujo," meanwhile, is used to evoke feelings of sadness and sympathy both for the Victim of the Week and for Ai and her minions. And that's just from the first season's soundtrack.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure uses this in a few select tracks throughout the series.
  • The track "Cage of Fate, Circle of Destiny" from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Used in scenes such as the final confrontation with Precia.
  • Mob Psycho 100: In the third season, Dimple stays behind to destroy the divine tree while he sends Mob home, accompanied by a melancholy wail.
  • In My-Otome, "Materialise" starts with this before getting joined by a choir and techno music. It gets played when one or more of the heroes is about to unleash some major ass-kicking on the enemy. Which makes sense, since the title is the command word to activate the Otomes' Dresses.
  • The track that accompanied the opening scenes of the Negima! Magister Negi Magi ~Ala Alba~ OAD's first episode, where Ku:Nel confirmed that Nagi was alive and could possibly be found in the Magicl World and Negi and crew proclaim their intent to search for him there.
  • The "Introjection" track from (disc III of) the Neon Genesis Evangelion soundtrack.
  • The non-chorus parts of "Karma", the first opening to the Phantom of Inferno OVA Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~.
  • Pokémon: The First Movie has an epic one being delivered during the big battle where the Pokémon fight their clones. Unfortunately, in the dub it was replaced by the awkwardly-sounding "Brother, My Brother". The wail was retained in the dub for the 2019 remake, however.
  • Prétear has a creepy wail (accompanied with either clanging piano or doomy sounding kettle drums, depending on the version) titled "Nikushimi no Hate" that's a leitmotif for the Dark Magical Girl. It's one of the best (and creepiest) songs on the entire soundtrack.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena has this twice the first with "Bara No Tameiki" which is Anthy's theme and then again later with "Poison" which uses elements with of Anthy's theme used especially after the dark reveal of the relationship between Anthy and Akio.
  • The Sailor Moon S anime featured one of these every time Hotaru manifested her powers as Mistress Nine. Here it is.
  • Saint Seiya had two different songs with this. One was sung by none other than famous theme song singer Horie Mitsuko, who'd later join the cast as Princess Hilda.
  • Spoofed in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: the track that would normally serve as a wail tends to play during faux-dramatic scenes and sometimes at completely random times, such as during the sponsor message. It's also often cut short when the shot suddenly changes.
  • Used hauntingly throughout Shiki's soundtrack, but especially in its main theme, aptly name "SHI-KI".
  • There are a couple of songs in Soul Eater that fall under this category — usually the darker sounding negative ones played during parts dealing with evil magic users in the show. Particularly notable are Kindertotenlied (translating roughly as "Song of the Dead Children") and Peace be with you.
  • "Autumn of Life" during the final confrontation with Kagato in Tenchi Universe.
  • The track "Libera Me From Hell" from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, instantly identifiable by being an integral part of all the most badass scenes of the second arc. And for being a fusion of opera with Ominous Latin Chanting (the words actually are a Latin prayer) and Rap (although the rap part is skipped the second and third time it plays).
    • The Latin lyrics used thereof are derived from two songs used in a Requiem Mass,a to note:
    • The first Latin line, from the Introit:
      Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine...
    • The second line (The first full Latin stanza) from Libera Me, albeit with a bit of variation:
      Líbera me, Dómine, de morte æterna
      in die illa treménda, in die illa
      Quando cœli movéndi sunt et terra.
      Dum véneris iudicáre
      sǽculum per ignem.
      Tremens factus sum ego, et tímeo,
      dum discússio vénerit,
      at que ventúra ira.
    • The second full stanza, although mistaken for Dies Irae, is actually an altered continuation thereof:
      Dies illa, dies iræ,
      calamitatis et miseriæ,
      Dies illa, dies magna
      et amara valde, et amara valde.
    • The final line, after going back from the Introit, is the last half of the final verse, before going back to the first half of the first stanza:
      Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
      Libera me, Domine...
  • Tiger & Bunny scores Barnaby's flashbacks of his parents' murder with an ominous operatic wail.
  • Much of the score to Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- feature vocalist Eri Ito. The noted examples include, "A Song of Storm and Fire", "Voices Silently Sing", "Ship of Fools" and "Sacrifice", to name a few.
  • A great example is from Uchuu Senkan Yamato. Almost every movie and TV series opening starts with a voice-over narration accompanied by a magnificent wail The Infinity of Space. Example from the Space Battleship Concert 1984.

    Films — Animation 
  • Frozen:
    • Frozen (2013): Used over the end of For the First Time in Forever (Reprise) after Anna is struck in the heart by Elsa's ice magic. It really drives home how screwed she is. Oddly, the wail is absent in the soundtrack version of the song.
    • Frozen II has this for the Voice of the Mountain in "Into the Unknown", courtesy of Norwegian singer Aurora.
  • The animated adaptation of Harmony features a One-Woman Wail in its final soundtrack: "Harmony", the moment where people are robbed of their consciences to create an utopia.
  • Used to great effect in The Prince of Egypt: "Deliver Us" and several other tracks feature vocals by Ofra Haza, who also voices Moses' mother, Yocheved.
  • Mocked in Team America: World Police, during the scene after the dam bursts and everyone drowns.
  • In The Red Turtle, "She Is Dead" plays first plays during the red-turtle-floating vision, then when the man and the woman get romantically involved for the first time and also at the end when the turtle leaves the beach.
  • Sleeping Beauty: During the scene where Maleficent lures Aurora to the top of the tower to prick her finger on a spindle and fulfill her curse, if you listen closely to the background music, a woman's voice can be heard calling ominously, "Aurrrroraaaa...". Flora hears this, which alerts her to Maleficent's presence.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the opening sequence of The Amazing Spider-Man, a boy soprano sings mournfully over the score as Peter Parker is handed over by his parents to his Uncle Ben and Aunt May.
  • Apollo 13 features Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics wailing away as the titular ship disappears into radio silence behind the far side of the Moon and Marilyn Lovell finally breaks down crying. She sings several other times, but usually with accompaniment.
  • Apocalypse: The Second World War uses this trope (accompanied with the rest of the orchestra) as part of its credits theme, over video clips of the war.
  • Used in the climax of Gravity as Dr. Stone re-enters Earth's atmosphere in the Shenzou.
  • Blade Runner has this. It was a great effect with the blue light filtering in from overhead.
  • Blown Away opens with "Prince's Day", a wail-like reprise of the Irish song "Though Dark Are Our Sorrow" rearranged by Alan Silvestri and sung by a soprano boy (instead of a woman) with an ethereal choir in the background. Thomas Moore originally wrote the lyrics.
  • Heard for a while in Borat, after Azamat leaves.
    • This same piece of music, Ederlezi, was first used in Emir Kusturica's Time of the Gypsies during Perhan's dream on the river.
  • Chika Fujino's score for Boys Love repeatedly features a string heavy piece with a soaring soprano part (sung in Latin, of course) particularly during the film's bittersweet climax.
  • Several cues in the score for Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula featured an especially ghostly female vocalist.
    • A One Woman Wail provides an "eerie vampire sadness" motif in Dracula 2000 as well.
  • Inama Nushif from Children of Dune, which plays over the Cleansing of the House montage towards the end of the first film. For added points, it's in Fremen
  • There's a bit in the end credits music of Cloverfield.
  • The trope is used many times in the movie Crash (the one without James Spader or fetishism) to make some scenes more moving.
  • Not surprisingly, the Graeme Revell score for The Crow has a lot of this going on.
  • This happens in The Day After Tomorrow, as the camera lovingly pans over scenes of meteorological destruction.
  • DC Extended Universe:
  • Heard during the execution sequence in Dead Man Walking.
  • The main theme for Death Wish V: The Face of Death.
  • Drop Zone has one right after the hero's kid brother is shot and yanked out of the depressurized airplane cabin.
  • Denis Villeneuve's Dune: Part One and Dune: Part Two has Paul's Leitmotif, which Hans Zimmer calls “the cry of a banshee”, made by vocalist Loire Cotler. One can assume it is Fremen language, though the effect is similar to Ominous Latin Chanting. Some scenes, such as the departure from Caladan, have the instruments imitating the wail.
  • The Field of the Dead from Alexander Nevsky.
  • The Fifth Element: The Diva's song starts with a melancholic chanting, but becomes more upbeat during Leeloo's fight against the Mangalore soldiers.
  • Flash Gordon: The scene in which Aura resurrects Flash after his execution is sung solo: by Freddie Mercury.
  • The soundtracks of Gladiator is responsible for lending the trope much of its considerable current momentum. This kind of wailing, not always on soundtracks, constitutes some 75% of Lisa Gerrard's career.
  • "Godzilla's Requiem" in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah plays with this, by having a whole choir sing alongside Akira Ifukube's Orchestra. This is especially striking, as the notes continue to be sung, even as Godzilla's death is played out in full.
  • Is a recurring theme throughout the soundtrack of The Grudge 2.
  • Used at the start of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 as Snape overlooks the soulless military camp that Hogwarts has become. For bonus points, it's "Lily's Theme". Later used twice more to great effect: the tracks are called "Snape's Demise" and "The Resurrection Stone". While "Lily" and "Snape" are very mournful lamentations that complement each other, the warmer, more hopeful "Stone" plays as Harry prepares to join his loved ones in the Forbidden Forest, bringing the Marauders' strand of the story to its close.
  • The Hunger Games: One-woman wails are used several times throughout the series. Notable uses include the opening scenes of the first film, where ethereal vocalizations are heard as we are introduced to Katniss and her impoverished home in District 12, as well as the final film during the rebel siege of the Capitol.
  • The opening sequence of I, Frankenstein features this.
  • The Insider: Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance provides ephemeral wailing over soft synthesizer that sounds at times like it was lifted straight out of her single "The Host of Seraphim."
  • In Journey 2 The Mysterious Island, there's a one-woman wail during the giant bee chase when Kaylani falls off the bee and plummets to the jungle floor below, until she is caught by Sean astride his giant bee.
  • Used in The Karate Kid (2010) during the cobra scene (and whenever it makes reference to it).
  • In King Arthur (2004) with Clive Owen. While Bor's... wife? Wife-to-be? is singing what appears to be a Sarmatian song, her voice gradually fades out as the scene cuts to the other knights, who are mouthing the words.
  • Appears in-universe and to chilling effect (though there was more than one woman performing it) while the Harif army in Lawrence of Arabia is setting out to cross the Nefud and attack Al-Aquaba. The shot from the top of the cliff with the mourning women drowning out the stirring battle songs from below.
    • It's called "ululation", which is different from a wail and could also be interpreted as the women giving the men an encouraging send off.
      • That's what it is when Native American women do it (well, that and to scare the enemy). Lakotah holy man Black Elk refers to it as the "tremolo". It's also a way of showing respect or honor and is done in many other world cultures.
  • The Lord of the Rings series has several moments like this:
    • A boy soprano cutting in at dramatic moments like Gandalf's escape from Orthanc and the Ents breaking Saruman's dam, and almost any other moment when nature shows resurgence.
    • Faramir's apparent death is accompanied by a One Hobbit Mournful Solo that Pippin is singing elsewhere for Denethor.
    • Female solos accompany several significant scenes:
      • Gandalf's fall from the bridge of Khazad-dum.
      • Leading a chorus of other singers during Gandalf's lament in Lothlórien, and as Haldir and the other Lórien elves are cut down at the Battle of Helm's Deep.
      • The resurrecting dream Arwen sends to Aragorn after his tumble fighting the wargs.
      • When Gollum recovers the One Ring.
      • When the Eagles rescue Frodo and Sam at the end.
      • In the extended version, Éowyn's lament at her cousin Théodred's funeral provides this.
  • The Matrix: while they're giving Neo acupuncture as part of his transition into the real world.
  • Mission: Impossible II has Injection and Mano a Mano.
  • The entire ending sequence of The Mist, starting after they escape the food mart and continuing to the Downer Ending.
  • One of these is delivered near the end of the "Shiver My Timbers" opening number in Muppet Treasure Island, shortly before we're reminded that dead men tell no tales and Flint opens fire on his crew.
  • Ennio Morricone likes this.
  • Mercedes' lullaby to Ofelia in Pan's Labyrinth.
  • Passion in the Desert features this heavily on the soundtrack.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: The teaser trailer ends with a haunting, melodic wail before the skull-and-crossbones logo is shown.
  • Lestat's song "Forsaken" (as sung by David Draiman) in Queen of the Damned features this.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Ark's theme has it at certain points. When it shows up, really bad things start happening to people.
  • Battle Adagio from Rambo.
  • In The Red Violin, a woman humming, called "Anna's Theme" on the soundtrack, introduces the titular violin. In a subtle transition, the woman's hum becomes the sound of Joshua Bell the violin. And if you pay attention, during the credits the violin's score returns — and then fades back into Anna's humming.
  • Gavin Hood's jaunt through real-life attrocity, Rendition features a lot of one-woman wailing since much of the movie is poignant.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera. There is a short burst of this at the start of 'At the Opera Tonight', and the choir backing up 'We Started This Op'ra Sh*t'.
  • Certain versions of "Lux Aeterna" from Requiem for a Dream have this.
  • Used in Rob Roy. As Archibald Cunningham murders Alan MacDonald, setting the plot in motion, Rob and his clan listen to a woman (Karen Matheson of Capercaillie) sing a mournful solo performance. The film cuts between the two scenes with the song playing over both.
  • A Mood Whiplash moment in the Kevin Bacon comedy She's Having My Baby: Kevin Bacon's wife is in labor, and he's in the hospital, psyching himself up to coach her. Before he can enter the delivery room, a nurse pushes him back, informing him that, due to complications in the delivery, they have to perform a potentially dangerous cesarean section on his wife. As it dawns on him that he may lose both his wife and unborn child, the soundtrack shifts to Kate Bush wailing the first notes of "This Woman's Work".
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith has an extremely eerie one as Anakin is sitting in his quarters and fighting with himself as to whether he should save Padme by protecting Palpatine. At the same time, Padme senses that something is wrong with him and goes to her window to look outside. Without realizing it, they are looking at each other from miles away as they're sharing the same fears. Cue chilling wail, with no other sound.
  • The Sum of All Fears has The Mission.
  • Titanic (1997) uses this quite a bit, with the vocals of Sissel Kyrkjebø being beautifully interwoven throughout the score to invoke nostalgia and memories for the entire film.
  • Brian Tyler's "Into Eternity" from the Thor: The Dark World OST (played during Frigga's funeral) uses this.
    • Mocked in Thor: Ragnarok, where an a capella version of "Into Eternity" is sung by a small choir during a deliberately Narm-tastic recreation of Loki's apparent death from Dark World in an Asgardian play.
  • The Tree of Life features an epic 15-minute The World Is Just Awesome scene full of Scenery Porn with a haunting operatic voice over scenes taking the viewer from the creation of the universe to the birth of the main character.
  • Like many tropes, this one is parodied in Tropic Thunder.
  • Top Gun has "Memories," which plays when Maverick consoles Goose's wife and son after he dies in a training accident halfway through.

  • In Irish and Scottish folklore, the banshee (or bean-sidhe) is a fairy-woman and often guardian spirit of the old Gaelic families who can foretell death in "her" family; she wails and cries through the night to warn the family that one of them will soon die; if the family hears her crying three nights in a row, they know that they should begin planning a funeral. As she can foretell death in the family that she protects, the banshee is also grieving for the family as well as warning them of impending death. When many mná-sídhe (fairy-women) are heard wailing at once, it foretells the death of a major political or religious figure.
  • Much of Latin America believes in the legend of La Llorona, the spirit of a woman who died after she drowned her children and cannot enter Heaven until she has found them; she is heard crying "¡Ay, mis hijos!" ("Oh, my children!") as she searches for them. Those who hear her crying supposedly are doomed to die soon.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Used to great effect when Jack Bauer raids the warehouse where the Drazens (who Jack believes to have killed his daughter Kim) are hiding out near the end of the first season of 24.
  • A big feature of the revamped theme tune of the second season of The 100.
  • Parodied in the latest season of Arrested Development, in which the wail turns out to just be a very overworked rendition of the word 'coincidence'.
    • Also used when Jack kills Curtis Manning.
  • Battlestar Galactica examples include "A Call to Arms" and "The Storm and the Dead", the start of the main theme and in "Lords of Kobol."
  • Used in "Slayer's Elegy" from the Buffy episode "The Wish" when absolutely everything is going wrong.
  • Used in The Colbert Report during the segment Mysteries of the Ancient Unknown: King Tut's Penis," with some accompanying eyebrow twitches. Also used the first time he talks about the revolts in Egypt.
  • The opening credits for the CBS detective series Cold Case features a rather ghostly female wail.
  • Parodied in the Community episode "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples." A female vocalist ululates Abed's name for a sort of joking Biblical epic effect many times throughout the episode, then in the "dramatic" ending, the singer eerily wails Shirley's name.
    • Also parodied in "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" when Brutopolis is cruelly slain by Pierce the Insensative (read: Chang's character is killed by Pierce's character, and has to hand in his character sheet).
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Ice Warriors" has a weird score, especially by Classic series standards, consisting of a wailing operatic soprano over dissonant orchestra stabbing. It's very Sixties. And terrifying.
    • The series has its resident wailist, Melanie Pappenheim, notable for contributing wordless vocals for tracks such as the old Doctor's theme, "Doomsday", "Martha's Theme", and "The Doctor Forever".
    • "Planet of the Ood" has a lot of this to represent the songs of the Ood.
    • The Steven Moffat era seems to have switched over to Yamit Mamo, who sang "The Stowaway" and "My Angel Put the Devil in Me", for the wailing, as heard in "The Mad Man with a Box."
    • And in Season Six we have one for the, as a fan described it, "having my brain explode" moments.
    • The Thirteenth Doctor's theme starts off as this trope before the soloist escalates it into a full-throated yell.
  • Dollhouse's main theme carts out this trope.
  • The beginning of the Firefly episode "Heart of Gold". That one is an old Punjabi wedding song called "Madhaniyan", if anyone cares to listen.
  • Gameof Thrones features this in a few pieces, perhaps most poignantly in the end of "The Iron Throne," which plays over Daenerys's death scene, as Drogon flies away over the sea with her body.
  • General and I's first episode starts an eerie, mournful wail.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, where the singing is heard while Herc is mourning the death of his second wife, and the singer turns out to be Xena.
    • The funeral song that Xena sang in multiple episodes of the franchise was actually a pre-existing song called "Burial" written and performed by Lucy Lawless.
  • The opening theme for The Last Kingdom, performed by Eivør Pálsdóttir.
  • Promos for various cop shows, especially Law & Order, use a wordless Arabic-style women's vocal when this week's episode is going to feature Muslims in some way.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The One-Woman Wail is heard while the orcs are chasing Arondir, Theo and Bronwyn through the woods, belongs to Disa, which is a plea to rocks to let the miners get out alive.
  • Parodied in MADtv (1995) where they invite a woman supposedly responsible for providing the wailing and demonstrate how it makes everything more dramatic. The host asked her what language that's suppose to be but she replies that she doesn't know.
  • played with in the Modern Family, in the episode Family Portrait, where Cameron is singing Ave Maria in a wedding, while Mitchell is trying to kill a pigeon who got into their house.
  • Once Upon a Time uses one in the episode "Shattered Sight" as Ingrid the Snow Queen makes a last minute Heroic Sacrifice to redeem herself. She is then reunited with her sisters in the afterlife.
  • In Over There, the wail would usually play in the Iraqi side-story.
  • Used in the fifth episode of The Philanthropist when a bomb goes off in Kosovo and kills four people.
  • Princess Silver: An eerie wail plays during Rong Le and Rong Qi's farewell.
  • Heard in the background every so often on Rome.
  • The Silent Witness theme tune, Silencium by Jane Sheldon.
  • Subverted in Spartacus: Blood and Sand. This plays after Spartacus and Crixus think they've defeated The Dreaded Theokoles in the arena. But it turns out it's just a Hope Spot, and Theokoles jumps up to let the real battle begin.
  • Included in the theme music for Stargate Atlantis (otherwise an Instrumental Theme Tune).
  • The theme song for Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • Star Trek: Picard: In "Absolute Candor", when Elnor and Picard meet again for the first time in fourteen years, there's the sound of a woman wailing. It's towards the end of the piece entitled "Picard Goes Back."
  • Survivor used this during its Pearl Islands and All-Stars seasons; the former when Sandra and Lil were leaving the camp for the last time, and the latter when Jenna chose to take herself out of the game to be with her terminally ill mother.
  • Gray's Theme from Torchwood is a rather heart-wrenching one. It first appears in "Adam" when Jack recalls losing his brother as a child.
  • The West Wing:
    • "Take This Sabbath Day", a Very Special Episode about the death penalty, has the female cantor at Toby's synagogue practicing "Hashkiveinu" as he discusses the issue with his rabbi. The song is also played over the montage at the end of the episode.
      Toby: You know what I think? I think you knew I was coming back here. And I think you put her there on purpose.
      Rabbi Glassman: She's our communications director.
    • "7A WF 83429", which deals with the aftermath of the President's daughter being kidnapped, used Dead Can Dance's "Sanvean (I'm Your Shadow)" over a montage showing thousands of floral tributes left at the White House Fence, evoking memories of Princess Diana although Zoey has not died and will eventually be found.
  • The X-Files had bunches of these, though the most notable was probably Scully's theme from Season 8.

  • Amon Düül II has a lot of this on their first album, Phallus Dei, courtesy of singer Renate Knaup.
  • One of music's Ur Examples is surely Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground." Supposedly a musical interpretation of Christ's suffering on the cross, it was considered such a powerful expression of human loneliness that it was chosen to be sent into space.
  • Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon, "The Great Gig in the Sky".
  • Lisa Hannigan, especially in the background on "Ora" and "Swan".
  • The soprano solo in Ralph Vaughan Williams's "Sinfonia Antartica", who alternates with a wordless wailing female chorus accompanied by a wind machine. (The symphony is derived from the film score for Scott of the Antarctic.)
    • Ralph Vaughan Williams's "Pastoral" symphony features another wordless soprano (or tenor or, if neither is available, clarinet) solo at the beginning and end of the fourth movement.
  • Yoko Ono is known for this. Example: "Don't Worry, Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)". Particularly the version on her release with John Lennon, Some Time in New York City/Live Jam. It's also the main reason why Lennon's first two solo albums Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins and side 1 of Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions are such a Sensory Abuse.
  • The opening guitar solo from Asia's "Don't Cry" was written to sound exactly like this.
  • Tenacious D does a one-man wail in "Tribute": "Nay, we are but men! Rock!", not to mention the various "Ah"s from "Master Exploder".
  • Ethereal Wave is subgenre of Goth Rock which combines a more soothing sound with the sound of Goth Rock with many songs in the genre having these types of vocals.
  • The Cat Empire do the male version of this all the time, making use of Harry James Angus' magnificent falsetto.
  • Ian Gillan also does the one-man wail in Deep Purple's "Child in Time", especially the live version.
  • Some early Judas Priest songs had Rob Halford doing the male version of this, most notably the incredibly powerful falsetto passages in "Run of the Mill" and "Dreamer Deceiver".
  • "Helena's Theme" In Kamelot's album Epica. After the previous track, in which the protagonist tells Helena he's Lost and Damned. She softly sings her lament while walking by a river, then she throws herself into it, an unborn child in her womb.
  • Fortress Europe by Asian Dub Foundation.
  • Dead Can Dance: Lisa Gerrard provides wailing vocals in a few songs, sometimes in a fictional language for added exoticism. "The Host of Seraphim" is perhaps their most successful and popular usage of the trope.
  • The Cocteau Twins and Elizabeth Fraser.
  • Vas and Nyiaz, both featuring Azam Ali, who also has her own soul career, and also contributed to Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow.
  • Tiesto's "A Tear in the Open" uses a Gaelic stock vocal snippet based on a Scottish folk song, which was also used in the Tomb Raider: Legend soundtrack.
  • Inverted: Ozzy Osbourne does a one-man wail in the song "Black Rain".
  • Used by various Gothic Rock bands such as Within Temptation (What Have You Done, The Cross and the haunting live performance of Memories) and Lacuna Coil (Our Truth - twice).
  • Henryk Górecki's "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs", although not a straight example as the Wail is in Polish and sung in a rather traditional operatic style, as opposed to the more recent examples that have an "exotic" flavor to them.
  • Natalie Merchant's "My Skin".
  • In Havergal Brian's Symphony No. 1 "The Gothic," the extended A Cappella opening of the fifth movement trails off into a wordless, unaccompanied soprano solo.
  • Michael Jackson's "Little Susie" starts with sad chanting, and then moves on to a small girl (presumably the titular Susie) singing wordlessly accompanied only by a music box.
  • Blixa Bargeld does this often. Nick Cave once described Blixa's wailing as "a sound you would expect to hear from strangled cats or dying children."
  • Ayreon's "Ride the Comet."
  • A signature of Enya.
  • Kate Bush and her various devotees, most obviously Tori Amos, Sarah Brightman and Sarah McLachlan... the latter of whom used a classic example of this trope in the song "Silence" with...
  • Delerium, a side project by Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber of Front Line Assembly, who employ this trope to the point of excess. Featuring a series of female back-up singers (including their label-mate, a pre-superstardom Sarah McLachlan), Delerium songs rarely employ more than a handful of words; the substance of the song comes from long wordless vocal interludes over techno-rock orchestrations. Originally an ambient soundscape band, Delerium found commercial success with a more emotionally-oriented techno-pop approach - the keystone of which involves this trope.
  • Conjure One a side project of Rhys Fulber, records albums that are virtually indistinguishable from those released under the name Delerium... especially in their (over)use of this trope.
  • The late Israeli pop icon and Eurovision Song Contest representative, Ofra Haza, provided one in "Temple of Love" by The Sisters of Mercy.
  • Orbital: "Belfast", "Halcyon (& On & On)", "Are We Here", "Dwr Budr", "Nothing Left" (both featuring Alison Goldfrapp), and "One Perfect Sunrise" (featuring Lisa Gerrard).
    • Paul Hartnoll's solo project 8:58 continues the trend with "The Past Now", featuring Lisa Knapp.
  • Hybrid featuring Kirsty Hawkshaw - Just For Today, which also samples the vocal from the aforementioned "Belfast" at one point.
  • Blue Amazon: "The Javelin", "Paradise Regime", etc.
  • Juno Reactor's "Pistolero", "Giant", "Mona Lisa Overdrive", and "Navras", all featuring Taz Alexander, and maybe others. The latter two also use Ominous Latin Chanting.
  • "Healesville Sanctuary" and "First Strike" by Signum.
  • BT features this in "Quark", "Firewater", and "Mercury and Solace".
  • Dave Matthews Band: "The Last Stop".
  • Linkin Park (circa 1999, when they were known as "Hybrid Theory"): "Carousel".
  • Mike Oldfield uses this occasionally.
    • In "Red Dawn" from Tubular Bells II.
    • In "The Inner Child" from Tubular Bells III.
  • Rhapsody (of Fire)'s "Queen of the Dark Horizons" uses this.
  • Luca Turelli's Rhapsody does this in "Dark Age of Atlantis."
  • Sarah McLachlan.
  • Found in The Most Unwanted Song.
  • Vocaloid KAITO's "Sayang": The beginning and ending's wail obviously sung "Sayang", but it's officially a One Man Wail in the middle. Another KAITO song, "Pane dhiria," features this as one of the background vocals.
  • Amanda Palmer likes this on tracks like Slide and Deliah
  • Rapsody's "Prince Igor" features frequent switches to an impressive wail from Sissel Kyrkjebo, wherein she sings an excerpt from the original Prince Igor.
  • "Persia" by The Art of Trance uses a Middle-Eastern wail.
  • Swans' former vocalist Jarboe was prone to this. "Blood On Your Hands" comes to mind, as does the Swans Are Dead version of "I Crawled", in which [[spoiler:it eventually mutates into a Metal Scream.
  • Roza Rymbaeva, especially in "Alia."
  • Nina Hagen's "Natuträne." The song starts out as a very positive, poetic description of a German city. Then she mentions how much seeing a loved one outside makes her want to cry, and how the little bits of nature around the city touch her heart, and she starts to warble.
  • The Tiger Lillies do this occasionally, despite being an all-male band — the lead singer is a perfect falsetto. Their song "Maria", a 9-minute wail about a woman who is slaughtered by a madman, is the most prominent example.
  • Tarja Turunen naturally is rather fond of this. Nightwish tunes "Astral Romance," "Angels Falls First," "Swanheart," "The Siren" and especially "Passion and the Opera" use it, and most of her solo works as well.
  • Current Nightwish singer Floor Jansen lent her name to the fandom term "Floorgasm" after she joined the band, applying in particular to the closing aria of her take on "Ghost Love Score" (originally written for Tarja).
  • Much of Iced Earth 's recent Set Abominae-based material has made use of both this and Ominous Latin Chanting. Most blatant one is probably "Awakening."
  • The third movement of Leonard Bernstein's "Jeremiah" Symphony has a mezzo-soprano singing extracts from the Lamentations of Jeremiah in Hebrew.
  • Another rare male example occurs in Rush's "2112", at roughly 1:45 here. Of course, if any man can do such a wail, it's Geddy Lee.
  • The deeply unsettling Doom. A Sigh by Kronos Quartet features field recordings of two Romanian women singing laments for the dead; the first seems to be actually weeping as she sings, and the poor quality of the recordings gives it all an otherworldly feel.
  • On the ABBA song "The Day Before You Came," Agnetha Falskog sings the verses with lyrics about a romantic affair and then Frida Lyngstad(who is a trained opera singer) sings a long mournful wail.
  • Emilie Autumn likes this, and it's most notable in "Shalott" and "God Help Me". Usually preceded by a Madness Mantra.
  • Deborah Sasson's "Carmen (Danger in Her Eyes)" samples "Habanera" from Bizet's Carmen.
  • PJ Harvey does this in "The Mountain."
  • Present in Diamanda Galás' "skotose me (kill me)."
  • Another one-man wail inversion occurs in Simon & Garfunkel's live rendition of "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her".
  • Namgar uses these both in her own songs (often reinterpretations of traditional Buryat-Mongol songs) and in her vocal work on the soundtrack for Inspector Putilin and Prince of the Wind.
  • Canadian goth-synthpop band Austra uses this trope regularly.
  • Traditional music has many great examples. Here's Yo-Yo Ma and Mongolian singer Khongorzul introducing a Long Song. The name refers not to how long it takes to sing the song, but rather the long distances over which the song may be heard, as it is an ancient method of communication.
  • Electric Wizard employs this in "Ivixor B/Phase Inducer".
  • The intros of Funker Vogt's "Hard Way" and "Our Life".
  • Solarstone uses these in "4ever", "Ultraviolet", "Zeitgeist", "The Last Defeat (Part 2)", which also uses Ethereal Choir at its climax, "Nothing but Chemistry Here", and "Shield Pt 1".
  • The verse of The Cruxshadows' "Cassandra" has a vocodered background wail, alongside electric violin.
  • Dream Theater uses this in the intro to Through Her Eyes from their Concept Album Scenes From a Memory.
  • Lindsey Stirling in her music video for Assassin's Creed 3, when she's not rocking out on her violin.
  • Vangelis uses this on the Heaven and Hell concept LP. On the Hell side, a chorus of the damned souls in Hell (who are being whipped by demons) morphs into a classic One Woman Wail, loaded with pain and sorrow and regret.
  • Within Temptation uses a two women wail in their song Paradise (What about Us). It also features Tarja Turunen as the second wailing woman.
  • The Frozen Autumn's "Fragments of Memories", which was their first song to feature the female vocalist Arianna, also known as Froxeanne.
  • Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy" has a male falsetto wail, courtesy of Jimmy Somerville. Ditto "Why?"
  • Front 242 used this trope in "Modern Angel," and its reprise, "Happiness(More Angels)."
  • Void Vision uses this vocal style in "Everything is Fine", "To The Sea", and "Slow Dawn".
  • Delta Rae occasionally use this - one of the most striking is Brittany's singing in "Scared."
  • The song "Ah Yeah" by Korean Pop Music group EXID features one by member Solji to kick off the song's climax.
  • Many songs by Grimes, such as "Laughing and Not Being Normal."
  • Most of Xeno & Oaklander's female vocals are this trope or scatting.
  • Ratty's "Sunrise (Here I Am)."
  • Sabaton: The soundtrack version of their Concept Album about World War I remixes the songs into epic and often forlorn orchestral pieces featuring a mixture of choir and this trope in songs such as "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" and "The End of the War to End All Wars" lamenting the tragedy of the war.
  • Black Rain's "Profusion" and "Profusion II," both featuring Zoe Zanias. Ditto most of Zanias's solo material, being taken to a head on Ecdysis, whose vocals are entirely wordless wailing.
  • Watergate's "Heart of Asia," the trance version of Ryuichi Sakamoto's theme song to Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, has a wailing woman vocal that wasn't present in the original. This carries over to the Speedy Techno Remake "Tokyo Rush" by Brisk, Vagabond and Uraken.
  • Mono Inc.'s Katha Mia performs One Woman Wails on many of the songs that have her backup singing, complementing lead singer Martin Engler's deep baritone vocals. For example, "Children of the Dark."
  • The Scandinavian music tradition of kulning/kaukning almost is this trope — as a result of originally being a form of herding call, they are wordless songs sung by a single person (usually a woman) with aspects that make them carry far (many that overlap with 'and sounds haunting'). It also incorporates tones traditionally associated with sad music.
  • The Gaels of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man have a currently defunct keening tradition, the practice of ritualized singing and wailing for the dead. "Keening" is derived from the Gaelic verb caoin, meaning "to weep, to mourn/lament" and the verb caoineadh ("weeping") also refers to a musical style, a lament for the dead. A keening-woman would be hired by the family of the deceased to lead the community through their grief, with the keening occurring at the graveyard and the keening-woman (or bean-chaointe in Gaelic) would sing and wail a semi-improvised lament with the rest of the mourners joining at least during the chorus, the whole performance often punctuated with sobs. It was a way of helping the family and the community through their grief as well as a means of ensuring that the soul of the departed with reach Heaven, The Otherworld, or wherever spirits seek to go. the wealthier the family of the deceased, the more keening-women that they would hire. The caoineadh usually consisted of stock elements (the illustrious ancestry of the deceased, their good qualities, and the heavy hearts of their surviving family and friends) and was often half-improvised, complete with beating your hands and tearing at your hair. The tradition of keening-women is described here, plus a few surviving recordings.
  • The keening-woman is the human counterpart of the banshee (or bean-sidhe, if you speak Gaelic). Bean-sidhe (plural, mná-sidhe) means "woman of the fairy folk", a guardian spirit of the ancient Gaelic families. She visits "her" family's home in the evening and wails and sobs through the night to warn the family that one of them will soon die. if the family hears her crying three nights in a row, they know that they should begin planning a funeral. They wail of the banshee might be dreaded, but the banshee herself is only a messenger and she means no harm. If many mná-sidhe could be heard wailing in chorus, it was a warning that somebody of great political or religious importance would soon die.
  • The vocals in "Isabella's Dream" by Anders Enger Jensen are entirely wordless one-woman wails.
  • "U" by Grum features a heavily electronically-modified wail at various points of the song.
  • "Nocturne" by Irish-Norwegian duo Secret Garden (later covered by Celtic Woman), which won the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest.
  • Interface's Where All Roads Lead album has this in its outtro track, "Hiraeth".
  • Apollo 440:
  • "Moonshine" by Project Medusa vs. Exor plays up this trope most strongly in the two Exor mixes.
  • Gearwhore's aptly-named "Ghost By Day" is a Drum N Bass track employing banshee-like wailing vocals.
  • A large portion of Dead Astronauts' female vocals are ethereal wails, especially after Florence Bullock took over the position from Hayley Stewart.

  • Bernard Herrmann's opera Wuthering Heights ends with an eerie soprano voice resembling Cathy's, accompanied mostly by the sound of the wind, calling out to Heathcliff.
  • Cirque du Soleil:
    • The Songbird's numbers in Saltimbanco.
    • The "Aftermath" interlude in KA.
    • "Le reveur" in Varekai.
    • The suspended poles ("Enchanted Reunion") and Chinese pole ("Creature of Light") acts in Amaluna
    • "Distorted" in La Nouba.
    • Volta most prominently has this in "Man Craft", "Battle of the Man", the climax of "The Bee and the Wind", and the coda of "Inside Me".
  • The Phantom of the Opera has Christine do this near the end of the titular song.
  • Richard Strauss's opera Daphne ends with Daphne transformed into a laurel tree and her now-wordless voice singing through the branches.
  • The stage musical of The Little Mermaid has a one-woman wail version of "Part of Your World" as a Dream Melody.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • Broken Saints:
    • At the final part of Chapter 24 Act 4, contains a very powerful wail titled "Truth".
    • Apart from that, the tracks "Come Into The Dark", "The Eight Element", "Belief", "Kenoma", and "Qaf", used at various points in the series.
  • Weiss's theme Mirror Mirror from RWBY features this.

    Web Videos 
  • A rare male example: Red sings one in There Will Be Brawl while, across town, Peach is kidnapped. Later, a recording of him does it again over Yoshi's murder and his own funeral.
    So, uh... was I any good?
  • Doug Walker, calling it "The Poetic Singer", is not a fan. note  He later parodied this trope in his Avatar review.
    Ear poison! It is EAR POISON!!
  • "Lockdown" from Splinter Cell: Extinction.
  • Cleolinda Jones refers to it as "Our Lady of Soundtrack Sorrow" during her Troy in 15 Minutes summary.
  • A Male version features in a Foil, Arms and Hog sketch, Border Control Live. Once Foil and Hog begin to mime a slow motion shootout, Arms starts belting out a pitch perfect mournful chant.
  • Critical Role: Used as background music for effect when Vox Machina recover the body of Tiberius.

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: League of Legends: In Episode 3, Silco delivers a calm Opening Monologue as he peacefully drowns in a large body of water while a One-Woman Wail plays on the soundtrack.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The Grand Finale features the Wail during the climax of the battle between Aang and Fire Lord Ozai.
    • Also happens during the last episode, when Sokka and Toph are about to die. Just before Suki arrives.
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: In "Big Chibi 6", After Hardlight creates dozens of Captain Cutie holograms, they begin attacking the heroes while accompanied by a One-Woman Wail using the word "Chibi" over and over.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: Multiple:
    • This trope is used during a boat chase scene in "Human Habitrail" where Doctor Gerbil pursues Courage.
    • Also in the episode "Shadow of Courage", played whenever Muriel rushes over to whack Eustace with a rolling pin (because he's scaring/harming Courage).
  • Code Lyoko incorporates a wail whenever Aelita uses her Creativity power. (Some viewers mistake it for Aelita actually doing the singing, but she sometimes speaks, vocalizes, or sings her own note at the same time, showing it isn't the case.)
  • Gravity Falls: Parodied in "Sock Opera", where a woman singing "Ave Maria" plays over a puppet show getting destroyed by fireworks.
  • Parodied in the Phineas and Ferb Halloween episode "Druselsteinoween." When Ferb starts singing the song "Vampire Queens Love Pimpernels," there's an ethereal wail in the background... and as the song progresses, there's a brief moment where it turns out that Baljeet is doing the wail.
  • Samurai Jack: Heard in a couple of brief moments in "Jack and the Spartans".
  • The Space Ghost Coast to Coast theme song, which begins with a wail of parts of the original Space Ghost theme.
  • Shows up in Squidbillies as the Sheriff attempts to resuscitate a pig who has died of a meth overdose.
  • During Kanan's sacrifice in Star Wars Rebels, all audio is muted except for the music, with the Wail serving as the voice for the grieving characters.
  • Wordless ethereal female singing can be heard in "The Ballad of the Crystal Ponies" from Season 3, Episode 1 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Unusually for this trope (but more in line with what you'd expect from the franchise) it's very cheerful and uplifting (it's easier to listen to here (at 0:55) than in the full song proper).

Alternative Title(s): Our Lady Of Soundtrack Sorrow


Escaping Moria

A female solo accompanies this tragic moment when the Fellowship loses Gandalf amidst their escape from Moria

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

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Main / OneWomanWail

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