Follow TV Tropes


Theme Song Reveal

Go To

Music is a powerful tool. With a good musical director, a Narm becomes a Hallelujah Moment, a dull comedy sequence becomes hilarious, and a theme tune gets stuck on your head for days.

The Theme Song Reveal is when it goes a little further.

In the Theme Song Reveal, actual elements of the plot are hinted at, suggested, or outright stated, and the music is the giveaway. It's a Musical Spoiler, but rather than simply emphasizing immediate events, it's revealing critical narrative information that won't be outright stated until much later.

Say you're watching your favourite TV show, and Bob and Chris encounter a Black Cloak with a mask. They don't know who it is. But you do, because you bought the first season soundtrack and listened to it enough to know it all by heart, and you know that whenever Black Cloak does anything more exciting than walking down a hallway, Alice's Theme plays softly in the background. Alice can change her outfit, but no amount of smoke, mirrors and plastic surgery can change her theme music.

Used well, this trope can serve as a much-needed nod to the musically-observant, or to everyone with a working set of ears, depending on the way music is used in the work as a whole. Used poorly, it might result in a hint no-one notices, or a painful Foreshadowing anvil.

It seems to be used more in video games, where the use of soundtrack is more prominent, in all but the most cinematic Cutscenes.

See also Musical Spoiler, the Five-Second Foreshadowing version of this trope.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon Adventure 02 had Myotismon's theme play when Malo Myotismon's face appears as a partial silhouette, an episode before he revealed himself.
    • In Digimon Tamers, Beelzemon's theme "Black Intruder" has lyrics mentioning him having wings, even though he didn't have any when it first played, hinting that this is probably not his final form.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • When Archer cuts loose with his Unlimited Blade Works, a more badass version of "Emiya" starts playing, signifying that this guy is the Future Badass version of the protagonist.
    • It played during the final battle in the Fate scenario when Shirou is projecting Saber's sheath, as well as Shirou's fights against Archer and Gilgamesh in the UBW route and against Dark Berserker and Kotomine in the HF route. In fact, the game only uses the song for one of Archer's scenes in all three routes, and even then it starts playing when he's losing. Its usage in the anime is really more a Fridge Brilliance moment of Foreshadowing for anyone who is familiar with the game.
    • Kotomine's theme "The Church on the Hill" is a slower, pipe-organ remix of All the Evils of the World (or possibly the other way around), which if you already know the song titles is something of a giveaway.
  • An example of this is in Gankutsuou's theme song, which tells the story of Edmond Dantes AKA the Count of Monte Cristo and the motive behind his Roaring Rampage of Revenge before it's revealed at the end of the anime. It only avoids being a complete spoiler of the story by not identifying the song with his character.
  • Viewers of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War with a keen ear will notice something very peculiar about Osaragi's theme, mainly that it has an identical rhythm and instrumentation to Ishigami's theme, hinting at her true relationship with him.
  • In the first episode of Kill la Kill, when Ryuko first appears on-screen wearing Senketsu, instead of her actual Leitmotif ("Before My Body Is Dry"), we get a snippet of a song entitled "Blumenkranz". In episode six, we discover this song to be the leitmotif of Big Bad Ragyo Kiryuin, who is later revealed to be Ryuko's mother.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion inverts this: The music plays before the audience is supposed to know what's happening, but the music is bound to add to the growing unsettling feeling of the moment. It plays several times throughout the movie, with different modifications each time, depending on what's going on. Then the Reveal comes, and only then do we get this theme, which is virtually the same thing, just upgraded so it sounds like it Spoiler Alert! begins a huge battle. This would have overlapped with foreshadowing, except that the audience would have no context until the Reveal. Done the way it was, however, it's more of a musical Wham Line.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: In "The Girl Who Never Was", the Eighth Doctor's companion Charlotte Pollard gets stranded on a desert island. Unbeknownst to her, the Eighth Doctor, after a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, believes they've parted company and has continued on his merry way. She nonetheless hears the TARDIS materialize in front of her... only to find a Doctor she didn't expect inside. Cue the Sixth Doctor version of the theme tune.

    Film — Animation 
  • In The Lion King (1994), during the scene when Zazu brings up the subject of betrothal, the melody of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" can briefly be heard.
  • Blue Öyster Cult wrote "Vengeance (The Pact)" for Heavy Metal but it became a Cut Song due to giving major spoilers for the Taarna segment.
  • In Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, upon Kadaj, Loz and Yazoo's first appearance, before any other information is revealed about them, Sephiroth's leitmotif, "Those Chosen By The Planet", plays in the background. This, of course, spoils Sephiroth's resurrection and the nature of his Remnants.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Blu-ray menu for The Rocky Horror Picture Show plays the Dark Reprise of "Science Fiction/Double Feature" from the movie's end credits and gives major spoilers.
  • Star Wars:
    • In the prequels, there's brief snatches of the distinctive Imperial March in the soundtrack, poignantly reminding the viewer of Anakin's eventual fate. In fact, "Anakin's Theme" is essentially a more innocent version of the March.
    • Also, the triumphant, joyous fanfare at the end of The Phantom Menace is an alternate, major-key arrangement of the Emperor's theme from Return of the Jedi.
    • In addition, at the end of the credits music for Attack of the Clones, the "Across The Stars" piece turns into the Imperial March.
    • When the prequels first came out, many of the moviegoers had no idea that the kind Chancellor Palpatine was actually Darth Sidious and would become the Emperor, nor that the Clonetroopers were the predecessors of the Imperial Stormtroopers... Up until the military parade observed by Palpatine at the end of Attack of the Clones is scored with a version of the Imperial March and we get multiple close-ups on the Chancellor.
  • An extremely hard one to spot in TRON: Legacy. During "Adagio for Tron" and the painful flashback to Clu's ambush, a brief snippet of Rinzler's theme plays at the moment of Tron's defeat.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In American Horror Story: Freak Show, Elsa Mars since "Life on Mars". When we get to the lyric "Take a look at the lawman, beating up the wrong guy," we get a shot of Jimmy. It's a foreshadowing hint to Meep being framed for murder and killed in prison, and Jimmy's vendetta with the police that comes of it. It also hints at Jimmy being framed for murder later on in the series, too.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Martha's Theme" was specifically written to sound a little like the theme tune of the Doctor's previous companion, Rose, and to share its opening notes with the "Doctor's Theme", thus presenting the viewers with two subtle cues as to Martha's role in the plot of Series 3.
    • "Last of the Time Lords": In the opening scene where the Master puts on the Scissor Sisters' "I Can't Decide" and sings along, just as the lyrics go "No wonder why / my heart feels dead inside", the camera focuses on Lucy Saxon and her visible bruises as her face falls, foreshadowing her role in the climax.
    • "Amy in the TARDIS" is the name of one of Amy Pond's themes; partway through it segues into the 11th Doctor's "I Am the Doctor" albeit in a punched-up form that suggests the Doctor himself is better and more alive for having her around.
    • In series 6, the same track plays during the Eleventh Doctor's death in "The Impossible Astronaut" and the revelation of River's identity in "A Good Man Goes to War", foreshadowing that it is indeed River in the suit. The track's name on the soundtrack is "Melody Pond".
  • The opening credits/theme of Fringe are changed to suit the episode. If it's a flashback, then an '80's style font is used, the technology words used are from that era and the theme has an electronic tone. If it's set in the alternate universe, then everything is red instead of the usual blue of our own universe and the technology words reflect that alternate world.
  • In a season 7 episode of How I Met Your Mother ("The Naked Truth") Future Ted keeps building up to talk about someone he met at a party, then changing topics. This preserves the surprise until the end unless the viewer recognizes the recurring guitar melody from "Victoria" by The Kinks, which is played again in full at the reveal.
  • In Life on Mars, Sam Tyler is listening to the titular David Bowie song on his iPod when he gets into his car accident. He spends the rest of the next two seasons taking a look at the lawman beating up the wrong guy, and trying to make sense of his life while feeling like he's on another planet.
  • There's a rather small one in Scream Queens (2015), where Hester tells a ghost story about a girl driving on a road and being followed by a trucker, who was actually trying to warn her about the man in her back seat. During the story, the girl in the song is listening to a relatively obscure song called "Butcher Pete". This is a stealthy hint towards Pete's Face–Heel Turn and becoming one of the three Red Devils.
  • In the series finale of Smallville, stings of the classic John Williams Superman theme are used throughout the episode to hint at where things are headed, with the entire theme bursting forth at the appropriate moment.

  • Opera example: In Richard Wagner's Die Walküre (from his gargantuan Ring cycle ), the eponymous heroine Brünnhilde tells Sieglinde that this Damsel in Distress is pregnant — but the music reveals the unborn child's identity through the use of the Siegfried leitmotif, which is next encountered (and clarified) in the next opera of the cycle (Siegfried, naturally).
    • An even better example from the first act of the same opera: when Siegmund is telling the story of how his father mysteriously vanished, the trombones very quietly play the Valhalla theme (which is also Wotan's theme). In the following scene, Sieglinde describes an old man in gray who came to her wedding to Hunding and stuck a sword in the ash tree, while the same Leitmotif plays.
    • In Götterdämmerung, when Hagen is singing to Gunther about being only his half-brother, Alberich's motif is played, pointing to the fact that Hagen is Alberich's son, revealed later in the opera.
  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, an instrumental version of the part of "Epiphany" in which Sweeney mourns his wife can be heard while he slits the Beggar Woman's throat, not knowing that it's actually Lucy he's killing.
    • And if that's not enough, the scene where the Beggar Woman is at Sweeney's barber shop in the theatrical production has her singing something to the tune of "Poor Thing," the number that played during Lucy's rape. (This was a late addition to the show, and so isn't on the original cast recording. It's apparently optional material, like the tooth-pulling contest and Judge Turpin's song.)
  • Older Than Print: In the 12th century Latin Ludus de Herode (The Play of Herod) King Herod and his son sing a song about their fear of and desire to destroy the new-born Christ. Then, when Herod calls the Magi in and instructs them diligently to seek out the Child, he sings the line "that I too, coming, may adore Him" to the melody of his Villain Song.

    Video Games 
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic:
    • Bastila's theme plays as you reach the crest of the temple on Rakata Prime. Also an example of Dissonant Serenity.
    • The fact that Darth Revan's theme plays during character creation also certainly foreshadows a few things...
  • Metal Gear:
    • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, the masked, unidentified ninja dives for Ocelot's arm, and the music plays the sharp opening bars of Olga's theme, providing a clue for the musically observant as to who the ninja is before the official reveal. This one was in a very cinematic cutscene and was short - it was so subtle that everyone who hadn't shelled out for the OST (or watched the Making Of where the trick was blatantly pointed out by the announcer) probably didn't notice it.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Big Boss's theme plays over the voice actor credits...
  • Players of Onimusha 3: Demon Siege will probably figure out quite easily, if not from the hundreds of other giveaways, who exactly Tenkai in Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams is.
  • In Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2 a certain character from the first game reappears in disguise. While Ratsel Feinschmecker's identity is immediately apparent anyway, the audience is left without any doubt whatsoever when Elzam Branstein's extremely distinctive (and insistent) leitmotif starts playing.
  • Sin Episodes: Emergence, an otherwise mediocre sequel to a great game, does this very nicely by using variants on the characters' themes just before they appear. It's used to particularly good effect with Elexis.
  • In the video game Flower, Sun and Rain the end credits roll to a song nicknamed Welcome Home. That song may be the single most leitmotif-heavy song Masafumi Takada has ever written. One interesting thing about it is near the end of the song, it stops abruptly with a needle drop noise, and then resumes again. But when it resumes, you can actually catch the subtle leitmotif of the song Kusabi from Grasshopper's previous game The Silver Case. This is foreshadowing Flower, Sun, and Rain's stinger, which reveals that your new pal Peter Bocchwinkur is really your old pal Tetsugorō Kusabi from The Silver Case, whose theme music was hidden in the end credits theme.
  • In Mother 3, while breaking into the playroom of the enigmatic "King P", Lucas and party encounters a jukebox that plays the "shop" and "hotel" theme from EarthBound (1994), making it even more obvious that the Pig King is none other than Pokey/Porky Minch.
    • The Magypsy theme music is a faux-Baroque string aria, but most of the time it's overlaid with kind of a funky saxophone countermelody. When the reconstructed Fassad and his interpreter appear, the former, who now can only speak through the horns on his face, "sings" that same saxophone line when he speaks. It's later revealed that Fassad was the treacherous seventh Magypsy.
      • Done waaay before that in EarthBound (1994), where the enemy music in the final area of the game is a remix of Porky's theme when you talk to him. Gee, wonder who the boss of that area is? Granted, it isn't his battle theme but it still is a spoiler/foreshadowing. Although, most people don't notice this, as Porky's theme doesn't play often and it is one of the more forgettable tracks.
  • Fire Emblem Fates: Takumi is a Recurring Boss on the Conquest route, but partway through it he stops using "You of the Light", the boss theme for the Hoshidan royals, and instead uses "Puppet's Feast", the theme for Vallite bosses. This hints at his Demonic Possession by Anankos.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the final battle of the Azure Moon route introduces its final boss Hegemon Edelgard in a cutscene playing the track "Shambhala (Area 17 Redux)", a remix of the theme for Those Who Slither in the Dark, "Those Who Sow Darkness". This not only indicates how the final boss has chosen to discard their humanity to fight against Byleth and Dimitri in order for their vision of the future to succeed, but also shows that Edelgard throwing her humanity away and turning into a demonic beast makes her no better than "those who slither in the dark".
  • Final Fantasy XIV uses this several times:
    • The fight with Shiva, Lady of Frost has significantly different lyrics from those of the other Primals you've fought up to that point: whereas the other themes typically extol the Primal and their power, Shiva's theme is in many ways a "No More Holding Back" Speech sung by the NPC who called her forth, Lady Iceheart. As it turns out, this is because Lady Iceheart is not only Shiva's Willing Channeler, but has been made Immune to Mind Control by the power of the Echo... the same power granted to your character. You're not fighting Shiva the're fighting Lady Iceheart wielding Shiva's powers.
    • In the Heavensward expansion, one of the themes for the Alexander raid has lyrics that, although difficult to understand, very strongly hint at (if not outright spoiling) the fact that the fortress in question is capable of rewinding time to before you went inside to destroy it.
    • In the Shadowbringers pixie beast tribe quests, the theme music of the dream realm, Lyhe Mheg, is an upbeat (well, even more upbeat) remix of "What Angel Wakes Me", the theme music of the fight against Titania. This is only one of the many hints that the pixie beast-tribe antagonist, An Lad, is a surviving portion of the Titania that you fought during the main storyline.
  • It takes a sharp ear, but in Super Paper Mario, the true identity of Count Bleck can be determined pretty early on if you notice that his theme is a variation on the "Memory" theme used during the flashbacks in-between chapters.
    • As if it wasn't obvious enough that Mr. L is a Brainwashed and Crazy Luigi, Mr. L's theme plays in the background when Mario and Luigi reunite in the Underwhere.
  • Kirby: Planet Robobot has an example with the first battle theme of the Final Boss, Star Dream. Towards the end, the Leitmotif "Kirby's Triumphant Return" plays. Makes sense, seeing as the game wants you motivated for the final battle and you're piloting the Halberd, whose theme in Kirby Super Star used the same motif... but if you remember that that motif also plays in the often-memed scene where Galactic Nova explodes, you'll realize it's foreshadowing Star Dream's true identity — a reactivated Nova!
  • In Sonic and the Black Knight, the main vocal theme "Knight of the Wind" is full of what seems like a bunch of knightly nonsense to fit the theme of the game, such as "I will conquer near and far" and "By the table I command." It sounds like it's about King Arthur, but it's performed by Crush 40, the typical "voice" of Sonic and Shadow. It seems like they just got lazy, until the end of the game reveals that Sonic is the true King Arthur, possibly literally; the one the Black Knight replaced may have been to Sonic as the game's Gawain is to Knuckles. A few astute fans actually suggested something to this effect before the game was released based on the first verse of the song.
    • This get quite obvious when Sonic is dubbed "Knight of the Wind" before and after the duel against Percival.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep:
    • Ventus' theme takes cues from Sora's AND Roxas's themes.
    • The Unversed boss themes contain part of Vanitas' theme, hinting at the fact that that they all come from him.
    • Vanitas' boss theme has a portion that's very reminiscent of Roxas' theme, and since there's an obvious visual connection between Roxas and Ventus, one can connect the dots between Ventus and Vanitas.
    • Tetsuya Nomura has stated that Mysterious Figure's battle theme is also this. It takes cues from Rage Awakened (Terra's Lingering Will), Darkness of the Unknown (Xemnas's final battle theme in Kingdom Hearts II), and Lord of the Castle (Marluxia's final battle theme in Re: Chain of Memories). With the release of Dream Drop Distance, we now know the Mysterious Figure is the youngest version of Xehanort, and will be responsible in some way for the creation of all those characters.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, Celes' theme is very obviously a variation on "Aria de Mezzo Caraterre", the song used for the game's signature opera sequence. It heavily foreshadows her Character Development in the second half of the game during the World of Ruin.
    • "Dancing Mad" is a massive Boss Remix of many different songs used in the game, and many of the pieces incorporated into it have some sort of symbolism attached if you listen hard enough.
  • In Devil May Cry 5, V's leitmotif "Crimson Cloud" has the lines "devil in my blood" and "split myself in two", foreshadowing the fact that he's the Literal Split Personality of Dante's Evil Twin Vergil.
  • In Digital Devil Saga 2 as soon as Inherent Will starts playing you know someone will die.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the chorus of "Ballad of the Goddess" is actually the Leitmotif for another character played in reverse, revealing that this game's Zelda — and all other Zeldas — are reincarnations of the goddess Hylia.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, the final dungeon Lorule Castle is a giant boss rush each boss you kill adds another layer to the music. The final form of the music adds in Ganon's theme revealing that you're not just fighting Yuga but the all powerful influence of Ganon inside Yuga's mind.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the song that plays whenever the Old Man appears sounds suspiciously similar to the opening fanfare of the traditional Hyrule Castle theme because he is actually the ghost of the last king of Hyrule.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, the main theme caps off on a quiet snippet of "Zelda's Lullaby" played on the erhu. In the previous game, this instrument had a notable presence in the soundtrack for the theme of the three Spirit Dragons. This prefaces The Reveal where the player learns that Zelda had been turned into a dragon the whole time!
  • In Beyond Good & Evil, the music for the first battle has the DomZ addressing Jade by her pseudonym Shauni long before she chooses the name as a pseudonym.
  • In Live A Live, Odio's theme "Odio, the Lord of Dark" plays twice in the Middle Ages chapter. The first time it plays is when Streibough reveals his betrayal. The second and far more relevant time occurs at the end of the chapter when Oersted gives in to despair and hatred and claims the power of the Demon King for himself, thus becoming Odio. As the music plays over the ending credits of the chapter, that's when players realize this chapter was a Start of Darkness all along. The remake ups the ante for the latter scene by introducing a more dramatic version of the theme, "Fugue for the Lord of Dark", over the credits instead, emphasizing just how serious the situation actually is. This version then plays whenever Odio gets directly involved during the final chapter.
  • Alex's theme from Silent Hill: Homecoming describes Alex's entire backstory, the reasons for why his parents treated him the way they did, and foreshadows the entire plot of the game, though it won't make a lick of sense to anyone unless they've already played through once.
    • P.T. doesn't reveal itself as a teaser demo for Silent Hills until the very end... and that's when the opening chord from "Hometown" plays, to cement that this is a new Silent Hill game.
  • In Broken Age, two scenes use the same music: the attack on Shay's ship in Prima Doom and Vella's battle in Shellmound. This is because they're actually the same battle.
  • The song "A Love Suicide", which is about a Yandere's spite towards her lover, accompanies both the intro and credits of Rule of Rose. It's the first hint at the Big Bad's true identity and motivations... which won't be overtly revealed until eight chapters later. (Most first-time players don't notice it, because the intro cutscene is so weird that few of them even notice its music.)
  • In Psychonauts the boss encounter in the Brain Tumbler Experiment is set to familiar music, a remix of Coach Oleander's military theme. After the battle ends his status as Big Bad is confirmed.
  • Dark Souls III's final boss fight is a showdown against a fiery swordsman on an ashen plain, while bombastic, direful music plays in the background. And then his second phase starts, and three piano notes play, and you realize who you're really fighting... Gwyn, Lord of Cinder and Final Boss of the first game.
    • One can tell the Nameless King is Gwyn's exiled firstborn son because the music for his second phase also contains those very same notes.
  • Pokémon:
  • Undertale:
    • The Mad Dummy uses an uptempo remix of Napstablook's battle music, "Ghost Fight", during their fight. The Dummy is Napstablook's cousin.
    • At one point in "Finale", the music that plays during the final phase of boss fight against Omega Flowey, you can just barely hear Asriel's leitmotif in the background. It's an early hint about Flowey's true identity as Asriel's reincarnation.
    • "She's Playing Piano", the song that plays while in front of Undyne's house before you date her, is a remix of Alphys' theme, which hints towards their future relationship.
    • "ASGORE" has motifs from "Heartache" and "Determination", hinting that Asgore has a connection to Toriel and he's the one speaking on the Game Over screen.
    • "Memory" briefly plays after you spare Asgore, right before Flowey murders the latter. Since "Memory" is another version of Asriel's theme, this is another clue towards Flowey's true identity.
  • In Splatoon 2, the Turquoise October songs (i.e., the music for the single-player campaign) all have snippets of Squid Sisters songs from the first game played backwards. This serves as an additional hint that the missing Callie is now a (brainwashed) minion of DJ Octavio, assisting him with his latest plan.
  • Super Robot Wars:
  • Mega Man ZX: The track "Fate: Deep-Seated Grudge", which plays during the boss encounters is effectively a remix of "Fate", the theme of Mega Man Zero Big Bad Dr. Weil, signifying how he has become the Greater-Scope Villain despite his death as Model W.
  • Tales of Symphonia hints that the first "Desians" you meet in the beginning of the game are actually a different organization by giving them this theme instead of the far more sinister "Unsatisfied Desire".

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations, it's obvious pretty much instantly who Diego Armando really is, but, when Godot's distinctive, mournful, jazz Leitmotif starts playing, the player's suspicions are finally confirmed.
    • A smaller version is Ron DeLite. While the first part of the case is an attempt to prove that he is not the Gentleman Thief Mask☆DeMasque, the fact that Ron's theme plays when the thief is mentioned doesn't leave much room for doubt.
    • Dahlia's theme song is an obvious rendition of the Kurain theme. She's related to the Feys, being one of Morgan's first daughters.
    • Iris may be wearing a hood when you first encounter her, but the Background Music alone is enough to ensure you: "This girl is the Dahlia lookalike Phoenix is searching for!"
    • Phoenix himself gets a variation of this in the fourth game. The mysterious client in the grey parker with the blue beanie might have been revealed to be him already half a case prior to this, but many players were unwilling to accept this as the truth - until his theme song started playing, at which point he uses his iconic Objection-stance.
    • From the same game, there's a brief snippet of triumphal, almost circus-sounding music when Trucy demonstrates her magical panties (don't worry, it's a prop used in her show). That same music is revealed much later on to be the Troupe Gramarye theme, hinting at her ancestry.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations has a short cameo for Shi-Long Lang during a flashback case where he appears as a mysterious police officer, but his theme song makes it clear who he really is.
      • From the same game, the fact that Shih-na apparently does not have a theme hints at a major plot point. Namely, she's the same person as Calisto Yew, whose theme plays upon The Reveal.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, this is combined with Chekhov's Gun in Lilly's good ending. Hisao wakes up in a hospital bed, hearing a music box in the background, then realizes that it's the music box he gave to Lilly, proof that she never left for Scotland. Lilly herself then walks into the room moments later.

  • Listening to the Squiddles! album that was released as Homestuck merchandise tells you that something isn't quite right about the fictional show. So when Let the Squiddles Sleep played while Jade was trying to dream, the more devoted fans knew that something was going to go wrong.
    • Album listeners will instantly know what will happen in Intermission 2 when the music starts playing. The song used is "English".
    • Though sometimes it can be misleading, since the music is done by people who don't necessarily know all the future twists. Post-gigapause (that is, in late 2014) it's a bit disconcerting to find out that John's "windy music" strongly resembles "Dark Carnival", due to its association most recently, and terrifyingly, with Gamzee's killing spree... until you remember that "Dark Carnival" is itself a remix/variation on "Harlequin," originally a John theme.

    Western Animation 
  • Absolutely expertly used in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Perchance to Dream", where careful listeners get to notice the theme tune of the villain behind that episode's plot minutes before the reveal. In the final confrontation at the Bell Tower, where Bruce fights the-Batman-who-isn't-him, the Mad Hatter's theme is being played by brass (instead of the usual flute), instruments usually reserved for our protagonist.
    • For the curious, the theme of the Mad Hatter can be found here, while the theme of that episode's villain can be found here.
  • In Bruno Bozzetto's "Dancing", the ominous groaning music causes the dancer to look around warily, followed by the Grim Reaper showing up.
  • On Gargoyles, a rather surprising scene in "The Gathering, Part 1" reveals that Owen expected Oberon's attack and planned defenses, but would not stay around to help Xanatos in the battle. Just before he leaves, a certain leitmotif hints at the next episode's twist: Owen is, and always has been, Puck in disguise.
  • The Dark Reprise of B.B.B.F.F. in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "A Canterlot Wedding: Part 1" has variant that require some knowledge of song composition. As explained here, unlike the first rendition of the song, the chord progression in the reprise ends in the relative minor instead of the relative major, which is known as a Deceptive Cadence in music terminology. It's revealed in the second half of the episode that the Cadence we've been seeing is indeed an impostor.
  • Rick and Morty: Near the end of "The Ricklantis Mix-up", right after President Morty shows his true colors by having some of his dissenters murdered, the soundtrack starts playing Blonde Redhead's "For the Damaged Coda". Said song was previously used in "Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind", when Evil Morty revealed he was The Man Behind the Man, confirming for the audience that President Morty and Evil Morty are one and the same, if the paperwork floating in space didn't hammer that point home.
  • Steven Universe associates many characters with particular instruments and bits of music. At several points in the series, someone's music hints at their involvement in the current situation, and any similarity between two themes hint at the characters having a present or future connection:
    • Pearl's main instrument is piano. Steven's best friend Connie is normally accompanied with a synth bell, but said bell is replaced with piano when she's involved in an action scene. About a season after the first instance of Connie getting involved with Gem fights, Connie becomes Pearl's apprentice and learns how to sword fight from her.
    • Amethyst and Jasper's themes are extremely different, but are also the only two themes to utilize drums. This was not only a hint that the two are the same type of gem (Quartz), but that Jasper was created on Earth like Amethyst was.
    • In "Mirror Gem", the true nature of the mirror is foreshadowed by the fact that a very distinctive motif plays when Pearl first summons it. Later in the episode, this turns out to be Lapis Lazuli's theme.
    • In "Jail Break", right before it's revealed that Garnet is a fusion, the music that plays when her components are fusing sounds suspiciously like her theme.
    • In "Same Old World", Lapis' flashback to the Homeworld Gems evacuating Earth ends with a flash of white light and a snip of the Diamond Authority's Drone of Dread, heavily implying something made explicit a half season later: Most of the Gems on Earth were corrupted by the Diamonds' World-Wrecking Wave.
    • Steven, Connie, and Mr. Maheswaran spend "Doug Out" chasing trespassers in Funland. They think it was just Onion, but the music that plays are two new pieces, whereas Onion is a supporting character with no particular theme. This foreshadows the episode's end, where two Sinister Silhouettes come after Onion. When Topaz and Aquamarine appear in person a few episodes later, we can hear full versions of the same music.
    • In "Can't Go Back", Steven sees a vision/memory of Pink Diamond where a figure behind her draws a sword. Before the figure turns to show a figure clearly recognizable as Pearl (specifically the Crystal Gem), we hear a few notes of "Do It For Her", a song that Pearl sang.
    • In "A Single Pale Rose", during the scene where Rose and Pearl are talking, Pink Diamond's theme plays.
    • Overlaps with Five-Second Foreshadowing in "Made of Honor". When Steven is deciding who to invite to Ruby and Sapphire's wedding, and the camera pans over to an empty card, Bismuth's electric guitar riff starts to play seconds before Steven writes her name.
    • In The Movie, when Spinel reforms after being poofed, the music playing has a completely different melody than her usual theme, almost resembling cheery circus music. This is a hint that Spinel has amnesia induced by the Rejuvenator.