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Signature Song

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This is a music trope for the (usually) one song by an artist that everyone knows. It doesn't matter how people know the song — maybe it was all over the radio, maybe it was used in a movie, maybe it was used in a TV show, maybe it was used for an ad that got played over and over and over again — but people know it.

These songs tend to be songs with an Epic Riff; they can also be Black Sheep Hits. It's also possible for an artist to have more than one Signature Song, especially one for two or more distinct phases of their career. Whatever the case, these songs are very likely to be awesome.

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Some of the more rabid members of the artist's fandom may accuse one of not being a true fan for disliking the artist's Signature Song, even if said person may like every other song that the artist has recorded — or, inversely, liking the Signature Song more than what Fanon considers the artist's "real best work".

Sometimes the signature song isn't the artist's biggest hit (see Chart Displacement). It also doesn't necessarily run in line with their Signature Style (see Black Sheep Hit).

The song can also be famous due to its inclusion in a certain work. The songs that are potholed are examples of these.

If they made an appearance in Guitar Hero or Rock Band, it's probably this song. If the artist was a composer of Classical Music, the song is probably a Standard Snippet now.

In earlier times, such as the 1930s and 1940s, it was not uncommon for a band or singer to open their set with their signature song or at least a few bars of it, especially when they appeared on radio. With the advent of television talk shows, it also became common for the studio band to play a few bars from the artist's signature song as he or she walked onstage.

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To stop people from leaving at gigs after they've heard the song,note  these songs are normally played live either at the end of the main set or during the encore. Not performing it at all may result in an Iconic Song Request. Some artists or bands will actually avert playing their signature at all. Be it because they consider it an Old Shame, a target of Misaimed Fandom, because they would rather try out some deep cuts on that tour, or any other reason.

Some musicians arguably avert this by having several equally famous hit songs; The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley being three prominent examples. As such, if they'd left off one of their hits from a show it wouldn't have been such an obvious oversight. That said, certainly some of their songs are more identified with them than others. A Black Sheep Hit is somewhat more likely to fall victim to this, for obvious reasons.

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Occasionally, an artist can have a signature song that is eventually usurped by another song (although this could be temporary). It's also possible for an artist to have different signature songs in different countries. Additionally, one could have different signatures songs for different audiences. Though a rare occurrence, it's possible for two different artists to have the same signature song.

Signature songs may be slightly different from region to region, as well.

See One-Hit Wonder for an extreme case of this trope. Not to be confused with Leitmotif or Character Signature Song, which is about signature songs sang by fictional characters.


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    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf has had a lot of different theme songs over its run, but the original theme from season 1 is still the most popular song from the show. The original theme song is still associated with Pleasant Goat several years after the show began using different theme songs. This might be because the original theme song is still used here and there, just in the closing instead of the opening.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

    Live-Action TV 
  • WandaVision has plenty of musical themes, but the most notable one is "Agatha All Along" since it is the only song from the show to top the iTunes charts as well as the fact that the song has received a large amount of Memetic Mutation.

    Music 
  • 12 Stones — "We Are One" or "Broken"; however, the most famous song that the band was ever involved in by far is lead singer Paul McCoy in "Bring Me to Life"
  • 4 Non Blondes — "What's Up".
  • AC/DC — "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" was Bon Scott's signature song, and so identified with him that Brian Johnson won't perform it. It's also regarded as the band's signature song in their native Australia. Outside of Australia, the signature song of the Scott era is likely "Highway to Hell" or "TNT", although Johnson continues to perform them. For Johnson's songs it's either "Back in Black", "Thunderstruck" or "You Shook Me All Night Long".
  • Afrojack — "Take Over Control" was his highest-charting hit as a lead artist, but "Can't Stop Me" is also remembered due to its success in dance clubs.
  • a-ha — "Take on Me" may very well be the most successful pop song ever recorded by a Norwegian act. In the U.S., they are still commonly considered one-hit wonders.
  • Alter Bridge —- "Rise Today", which is even acknowledged by the band themselves because it usually is their closer during concerts. Also up there is "Metalingus", which while never an actual single is best known for being the long-time entrance song to legendary professional wrestler Edge.
  • Rick Astley — "Never Gonna Give You Up", thanks in part for the music video becoming the basis for one of the most well-known memes on the Internet, the Rickroll.
  • Avenged Sevenfold — "Bat Country", their Breakthrough Hit, remains the band’s best known song to this day, though its follow-up "Beast and the Harlot" is not far behind.
  • Bananarama — "Venus" or "Cruel Summer"; while the former was a bigger hit in its heyday, its status as a Cover Version could give the latter, which was their original song, the advantage.
  • John Barrowman — "You're So Vain"; the orchestral arrangement makes it immediately recognizable from Carly Simon's version.
  • The Beatles — The band has so many iconic songs that it is impossible to single out just one as their signature (though "Hey Jude", "Yesterday", "Here Comes The Sun", "Let It Be", "All You Need is Love", "Blackbird", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "In My Life" and "Come Together" would probably be the first picks), but during the peak of Beatlemania in The '60s, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You" would've held the title. However, there's no denying that the signature song of John Lennon's solo career is "Imagine", the quintessential anthem of World Peace.
  • The Bee Gees — "Stayin' Alive" from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which made the group the face of disco music around the world, and becoming the unofficial Signature Song of the entire genre.
  • Beyoncé — "Crazy in Love", "Irreplaceable", "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", "Halo", "Run the World (Girls)", "Drunk in Love", "Sorry", and "Formation" are probably her most popular to date, but depending on the time period, it could really be any of her singles.
  • Bon Jovi — "Livin' on a Prayer", full stop. "You Give Love a Bad Name", "Wanted Dead or Alive", "It's My Life" and "Always" are runner-up songs, but "Prayer" remains their best known song overall.
  • David Bowie — As his first hit, "Space Oddity" is usually regarded as this, since the range of his career and resultant arguments over his best era make it hard to settle the question otherwise. However, songs such as "Life on Mars?", "Rebel Rebel", "Starman" and especially "Heroes" have become competitors for the title in recent years. While relatively early in his canon, "Changes" kinda pokes fun at this, and (ironically) became another one of his signature tunes.
  • Johnny Clegg — The anti-Apartheid song "Asimbonanga" dedicated to Nelson Mandela, with English and Zulu lyrics.
  • Cream — A highly beloved band among fans of classic rock, but "Sunshine of Your Love" and their cover of "Crossroads" stand out above the rest. The former is famous for its iconic riff, and the latter is a staple of Eric Clapton during his solo career.
  • Bing Crosby — He used "Where the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day" as his 'official' signature tune. In one Bob Hope movie, Crosby's surprise cameo appearance at the very end was accompanied by an orchestra version of the opening bars of this song. Nowadays, Crosby's signature song is likely "White Christmas", which remains the best-selling single of all time.
  • Deep Purple — The band has many beloved songs, but without a doubt, "Smoke on the Water" is their most recognizable, especially among entry-level guitar players.
  • Depeche Mode — "Enjoy the Silence" is their most Covered Up and most famous song, with "Personal Jesus", "Never Let Me Down Again", and "Just Can't Get Enough" all trailing behind in recognizability and notability.
  • The Doors — "Light My Fire" or "The End", with the latter notably being featured in Apocalypse Now. "Riders on the Storm", "Break on Through (To the Other Side)", and "L.A. Woman" are all also fairly recognizable.
  • Eagles — "Hotel California", the title track to their 1976 album, is the one song everyone knows by them, even people who weren't even born when the song was released.
  • Billie Eilish — "Bad Guy" was the song that turned her from cult favorite to worldwide superstar, becoming her first #1 hit and was essential to her sweeping the "big four" Grammy categories in 2020.
  • Eminem — A few examples.
    • "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile is his biggest song to date, as it charted at number one on 24 national charts worldwide, including US Billboard Hot 100. It's also the third oldest song to be in the top 100 songs streamed on Spotify.
    • "My Name Is" his Breakout Hit and Black Sheep Hit. The "chkka-chkka" disc scratch sound effect used in the song is used throughout the rest of Eminem's discography as a Leitmotif for his Slim Shady character, long after other rappers had stopped using disc scratching.
    • "The Real Slim Shady", which codified Slim's character as The Gadfly, and an actual threat to society via being an Anti-Role Model who his fans were emulating anyway.
    • "Stan", a Murder Ballad that was initially never meant to be a single, is Eminem's most critically celebrated song and led to the word 'stan' getting added to the dictionary to mean a Loony Fan.
    • "'Till I Collapse" was not a hit when first released (it was not a single), but had a Revival by Commercialization in the early 2010s and, on Spotify, is not only his second most-streamed song, behind the aforementioned "Lose Yourself", but it's also the platform's most-streamed non-single.
    • "Rap God" is the signature song of his post-overdose career, due to its lyrics wryly summing up the course of his career and its outrageous level of technical aptitude. Unlike the other entries, it's a favourite among people who rap themselves - it was the #1 most viewed lyrics page on Genius for a good half-decade (it is currently #2, replaced by Justin Bieber, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito", a megahit in Spanish that led many people Googling for a translation).
    • "Killshot" is also notable for being a second Career Resurrection for Eminem after his apologetic, responsible Recovered Addict persona was really making people turn on him, going back to his older style of dropping obliterating insults on white rappers and popstars he hates to make what is currently the highest charting Diss Track of all time.
    • "Venom" has stuck around due to its highly catchy chorus making it an internet meme favourite.
  • Europe — During their prime, this was arguably "Carrie", their Black Sheep Hit ballad from the album The Final Countdown. Nowadays, however, it's without a doubt the title track.
  • Evanescence — "Bring Me to Life" is not only their biggest hit, but quite possibly the most recognizable female-led rock song of the entire 21st Century.
  • Aretha Franklin — "Respect" is considered the ultimate empowerment anthem; the chorus where the title is spelled out continued to be one of the most iconic lines in musical history.
  • Green Day — A few candidates: "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" is probably their best-known song of their 1990s output (due to extensive use in soundtracks and for being a staple of graduation ceremonies) along with "Basket Case", which is easily their most streamed song on the internet of that period. Not far behind are "Longview", "When I Come Around" and "Welcome to Paradise", all from their breakout album Dookie. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" from American Idiot is their most popular song of their 2000s work and their most commercially successful song to date, with three other Idiot songs — "Wake Me Up When September Ends", "Holiday", and the title track — also in the running. Then, there's also "21 Guns". "Going To Pasalacqua" was, pre-Dookie, their most popular song by some distance, and still gets a good crowd reaction. They've made a lot of well-known songs, though.
  • HEALTH — "Crimewave" is their most well-known song in part due to the Crystal Castles remix. However, their cover of the Units' "High Pressure Days", known as "High Pressure Dave", has easily become a contender thanks to its appearance in Grand Theft Auto V.
  • Michael Jackson — The "big three" of the Thriller album take the cake here. "Billie Jean", the album's first chart-topping single, is considered the song that coronated him as the King of Pop and introduced the world to his signature "moonwalk" dance. "Beat It", the other chart-topper from the album was a clash of pop and rock titans thanks to Eddie Van Halen's guitar playing. And the title track, while only peaking at #4, has arguably the the most famous music video of all time and remains a Halloween staple. His best known non-Thriller song is probably "Smooth Criminal" from Bad, as its video featured one of Jackson's most iconic outfits in his white suit, and led to the most famous cover version of any of his songs — its 2001 Nu Metal remake by Alien Ant Farm.
  • Journey — More than forty years after its release, pretty much everyone in the world will instantly recognize "Don't Stop Believin'". It memorably was used in the final episode of The Sopranos and was the first song ever covered on Glee.
  • Wiz Khalifa — While he is mainly known for his purely rap works, it is the pop rap ballad "See You Again" from Furious 7 that he is most famous for in the public eye, due to it being a tribute to the franchise's late star Paul Walker and becoming a popular anthem for high school and college graduations.
  • Kendrick Lamar — While "Swimming Pools" was his first mainstream success, "Alright" won him a Grammy for Best Rap Song and later on became a Black Lives Matter anthem. However, "HUMBLE." seems to have won the title overall.
  • Lady Gaga — Usually comes down to a tie between "Poker Face" and "Bad Romance", although "Just Dance", her Breakthrough Hit, is also up there.
  • Cyndi Lauper — "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" is the female empowerment anthem of the 1980s.
  • Led Zeppelin — "Stairway to Heaven" is pretty much the quintessential classic rock album track, and is known for its iconic guitar riff.
  • Linkin Park — "In The End" was this, with most of their domestic and international fanbase (and even non-fans) knowing the lyrics by heart and late Chester Bennington saying it is a staple of their live performances. "Numb" could also qualify.
    • Fort Minor — Originally this title belonged to "Where'd You Go", the only hit song off of the project. Over time however, this would become its follow-up "Remember the Name", which, while performing poorly on most charts, continued to be prominent as a sports anthem and a staple of movie trailers.
  • Little Big Town — Tough call between "Pontoon" or "Girl Crush". The former was their biggest hit on country radio and their most popular song amongst their core demographic. The latter, on the other hand, is their biggest hit on the Hot 100 and their most widely known and beloved song to general audiences.
  • Living Colour — "Cult of Personality", which was by far their biggest chart hit and only major pop crossover. Especially re-enforced via Song Association with pro-wrestling superstar CM Punk.
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd comes down to a two-way tie between "Sweet Home Alabama", their iconic anthem of Southern Pride which is their best known song to the greater public, and "Free Bird", a classic rock radio mainstay that inspired the Iconic Song Request and is the more popular song with their core demographic.
  • Bruno Mars — He had several huge hits since his career first took off in 2010, but his signature song is likely one he was not officially the lead artist for: "Uptown Funk!" was released with producer Mark Ronson as the lead artist, with Mars as a guest. However, it became a 14-week chart-topper, won the Record of the Year Grammy, and was named the biggest hit of the 2010s by Billboard Magazine.
  • MC Hammer — "U Can't Touch This", his 1990 Breakthrough Hit, has been credited with making Pop Rap viable in the mainstream. Ironically enough, it was not his highest charting song due to its limited availability as a commercial single, but it's the only song of his with any modern day presence in pop culture.
  • Metallica — While many of their songs are iconic, "Enter Sandman" probably takes the cake here. Not far behind, though, are "Ride the Lightning", "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "Master of Puppets", "Nothing Else Matters", "One", "The Unforgiven", "Until it Sleeps", "The Memory Remains", "Sad But True", and their cover versions of "Turn the Page" and "Whiskey in the Jar".
  • Nicola Roberts — A weird example. "Beat of My Drum" is technically her most commercially successful song, but her unofficially released single "Sticks + Stones" is widely considered as her best song (to date) and is an Ensemble Dark Horse track on her debut album.
  • Nirvana — "Smells Like Teen Spirit" from Nevermind is the band's biggest hit, and quite possibly the defining song of The '90s, being responsible in part for bringing both Grunge and Alternative Rock music to a mainstream audience and ending the dominance of Hair Metal.
  • Noah — "Separuh Aku" is their biggest hit after the name-change from Peterpan and is still the song that will likely to be brought up when talking about "Noah's song". Peterpan, on the other hand, had more songs that still remain in Indonesian public consciousness ("Mimpi Yang Sempurna", "Semua Tentang Kita", "Ada Apa Denganmu", "Mungkin Nanti", "Menghapus Jejakmu").
  • Miike Snow — "Animal" at first, but now most definitely "Genghis Khan", though the former is back to being this for them in the UK due to the remix being used as the theme tune of Friday Night Dinner.
  • Pink Floyd — While they have several popular songs, but "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" from The Wall probably takes the cake here, being their only #1 hit and having a very distinctive theme railing against the education system. The other song which would take the cake and is the most representative contender is easily "Wish You Were Here", although it wasn't even released as a single at first. Also in the running are "Money", the biggest hit of the iconic Dark Side of the Moon, and "Comfortably Numb", also from The Wall.
  • PSY — "Gangnam Style" was the song that broke down the barrier for K-pop music to succeed outside South Korea. It was, for a long time, the most viewed music video on YouTube and the first to ever hit the one-billion view mark.
  • Queen has many, many, hugely iconic songs, but even then, one song stands above all: "Bohemian Rhapsody", to the point that it gave its title to Freddie Mercury's biopic.
  • Rev Theory — "Voices" is undoubtedly their best known song despite never being an actual single that was promoted to radio. This is because it is the longtime theme music for iconic professional wrestler Randy Orton. Technically, it isn’t even an actual Rev Theory song, but rather a solo song by frontman Rich Luzzi (although credited to the band as a whole).
  • Seether — On pop radio, "Broken" was the band’s only hit and thus their signature song to that format. On their home rock format, "Fake It" is definitely their most recognizable song. Runners-up include "Remedy", their first song to top any rock chart, and "Country Song", easily their most successful 2010s song.
  • Shinedown — "Second Chance" is this, as it’s their biggest hit, only successful pop crossover, and the last hard rock song to ever be a mainstream pop hit.
  • Simple Minds — In the United States, "Don't You (Forget About Me)", as it was their only song to top the charts there, tied to one of the most iconic films of the 1980s.
  • The Rolling Stones — "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" was the band's biggest chart hit and is considered the song that made them The Beatles' main rivals. The role is shared nowadays by "Paint it Black", their most streamed song on the internet and one of their biggest hits as well. Of course, there are two non-singles that are particularly iconic, as it often happens in rock music: "Gimme Shelter" and "Sympathy for the Devil".
  • Nancy Sinatra — "These Boots Are Made For Walkin", her very first US hit and a landmark of the Swinging Sixties.
  • Bruce Springsteen — "The Boss" has had many iconic songs, but two songs of his in particular were "born" for this status: his 1975 Breakthrough Hit "Born to Run" and his 1984 song "Born in the U.S.A.", which has become appropriated as a symbol of American patriotism (despite actually being anything but).
    • Although by far less representative of his songwriting, "Dancing in the Dark" is technically Springsteen's biggest international hit, and easily his most streamed song on the internet. There's also "I'm on Fire", which is one of his biggest hits and one of his most streamed and popular songs; strangely enough, most compilations lack the song.
  • Survivor — "Eye of the Tiger" remains one of the most iconic songs of the 1980s thanks to its use in Rocky III and continued presence as a sports stadium anthem.
  • Talking Heads — "Once in a Lifetime" continues to be the band's best-known song and one of the most famous tracks of the 80's thanks to its iconic Surreal Music Video and the many, many parodies it received over the years. The song so thoroughly eclipses the rest of the band's output that a Greatest Hits Album and a retrospective Boxed Set were both named after it, and it remains a staple of frontman David Byrne's live performances as a solo act. The only other song that comes close to it is "Burning Down the House", which was their biggest chart hit.
  • Tears for Fears — "Shout" and "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" are undoubtably this, being two of the most recognizable songs from The '80s. To younger generations it’s easily the latter, which dwarfs the former on Spotify. "Mad World" could be considered this, but it's usually overshadowed by the Gary Jules cover from Donnie Darko, while "Head Over Heels" and "Sowing the Seeds of Love" are both fairly popular in their own right.
  • Thin Lizzy — "The Boys Are Back in Town" is their most recognizable song by far, receiving ample airplay and being streamed more than any other song in their discography.
  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra — "Sarajevo 12/24" from their first album and "Christmas Canon" from their second.
  • U2 — A lot of candidates, but "With or Without You", "One", and "Beautiful Day" are probably the leads, along with "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", another high contender as their most commonly recognized (and covered) song. "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "Pride (In the Name of Love)", "Where the Streets Have No Name", "Mysterious Ways", and "Vertigo" are also very popular and recognizable songs, and are their most played live songs, along with "I Will Follow", which can be considered as their first classic overall.
  • Vaughn Monroe — "Racing with the Moon", the song was even used on the advertisements he recorded for RCA Victor.
  • The Weeknd — For some time, it was "Can't Feel My Face" (with "Earned It", "The Hills", "Starboy" and "I Feel It Coming" not far behind), but "Blinding Lights" has likely usurped it, given it has the distinction of being seen by many as the signature song of 2020 itself, as it was the biggest hit song released before the COVID-19 Pandemic, remained near the top of the charts for the remainder of the year, even after other hit songs would see release, and was declared by Billboard itself to be the most successful song in Hot 100 history.
  • Kanye West — The songs that are contending for that title are "All Falls Down", "Jesus Walks", "Gold Digger", "Stronger", "Heartless", "Power", or "All of the Lights", but depending on the time period, it could really be any of his songs.
  • The Who — The theme songs to the three core CSI Verse television series ("Who Are You", Won't Get Fooled Again, and Baba O'Riley") are generally considered the frontrunners for this status along with "My Generation" and "Behind Blue Eyes" (which are their most streamed songs behind "Baba O'Riley" and very iconic songs in rock history — and in the case of the latter, for being [in]famously covered by Limp Bizkit). Other contenders include "I Can See for Miles" (their biggest commercial hit and the theme song to the relatively forgotten fourth CSI show), and "Pinball Wizard" (the signature song of the seminal rock opera Tommy).

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • Homestuck — While there's a song literally called "Homestuck Anthem", "Sburban Jungle" is arguably more emblematic of the series as a whole, since it's the theme for the in-universe video game the plot revolves around, and it's used as an element in numerous other songs.


 
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"Take Control"

"Take Control" by The New Gods of Asgard (played by Poets of the Fall) plays during Jesse's traversal through the Ashtray Maze (which was untraversable at first), acting as a rock anthem that creates a fast and confident pace for the player as they hunt down Hiss-possessed enemies in a trippy setting.

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