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Villain Recruitment Song

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A special offer for today, I'll tell you what I'll do
All those who sign without delay will get a free tattoo
For it's like money in the bank
Come on, join up and I'll be frank
Unless you do, you'll walk the plank!
The choice is up to you!
— "The Elegant Captain Hook", Peter Pan

The villain has the hero in his clutches. Escape is impossible. Will he shoot the hero? Boil him in oil? Throw him into a pit of fire ants with sugar cubes glued to his head?

No, the hero won't get off that easily. This villain is going to ...sing!

That's right—the villain doesn't want to kill the hero. He wants the hero to join him. Furthermore, he wants the hero to join him voluntarily, so he bombards the hero with propaganda via musical number.

Generally, this offer will either be rejected outright or result in a temporary Face–Heel Turn unless dealing with a character other than the protagonist or with a tragedy, in which case it might just fully work.

Subtrope of Villain Song. Related to but not to be confused with Villain Love Song. Villain Love Songs are...well, love songs, whereas Villain Recruitment Songs try to persuade the hero to join with the villain simply because it's in their best interests.


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    Films — Animated 
  • In the Dark Reprise of the Villain Song "How Could I Refuse?" from Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper, Preminger convinces Queen Genevieve to marry him to keep the kingdom from collapsing of bankruptcy and starvation.
  • The Lion King: "Be Prepared" is about Scar recruiting the hyenas for his plan to kill Mufasa.
    "Stick with me, and you'll never go hungry again!"
  • "The Elegant Captain Hook," from Peter Pan. With the Lost Boys captured, the pirates tell them to join their ranks. Which actually works, until Wendy persuades the boys otherwise.
  • "Welcome to the Forty Thieves," in Aladdin and the King of Thieves, although it's really more of a "you accidentally joined, try to leave and we'll kill you" song.
    • There was also the song "Are You In Or Out?", sung by Sa'luk after he assumes control of what's left of the Forty Thieves once all but 7 of them have been arrested. The song is unique in that it's a re-recruitment song; the thieves have already banded together, it's just that Sa'luk wants them to follow him again.
  • Thomas & Friends special Journey Beyond Sodor has one of these in the form "Hottest Place In Town." In it, Frankie and Hurricane make the Steelworks sound like a great place to work. It even includes the line "And before you know it, you'll be joining us in our song" before Thomas joins in towards the end.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Muppet Treasure Island has "Professional Pirate," in which Long John Silver tries to convince Jim Hawkins to join his pirate crew and let them use his compass to find the buried treasure, explaining that pirates are just misunderstood and really, "members of a noble brotherhood".
  • Absolute Beginners has several characters who qualify as antagonists, but the only one who gets a song (entitled "That's Motivation") is Vendice Partners, an advertising executive who convinces the idealistic photographer protagonist to join him in the business of selling dreams and selling out via a Disney Acid Sequence. This results in a temporary Face–Heel Turn until the hero learns that Partners and the other antagonists are all in on an evil scheme. David Bowie played Vendice, wrote the song (lyrics here), and got third billing in the credits — all with good cause.

    Live-Action TV 

  • "I Can't Do It Alone" from Chicago counts as this, though the situation is inverted: Velma is recruiting Roxie (herself a Villain Protagonist), because Roxie is in the better position, and Velma needs help.
  • "Everybody's Got the Right", the opening number from Assassins, features the Proprietor convincing the various assassins to attempt to kill the president of the United States.
    • "Take a Look, Lee/November 22, 1963" has the assassins themselves convince Lee Harvey Oswald into shooting JFK.
  • "Hey, Little Songbird" and "When the Chips are Down" from Hadestown has Hades and the Fates entice Eurydice to take the train way down under the ground to the titular city.
  • In Heathers when Veronica has doubts about ditching her best friend Martha, the Heathers sing "Candy Store" to show Veronica what she'd miss out on by choosing Martha over them.
  • In Jasper in Deadland, Mr Lethe's song "Awful People" is about him trying to get Jasper to supply the Living World with water from the river Lethe, so that Mr Lethe can expand his rule beyond Deadland.
  • Little Shop of Horrors has "Feed Me (Git It)," in which Audrey II tries to get Seymour to feed him more blood by promising him anything he desires.
    • "Mushnik and Son" — Mr. Mushnik attempting to convince Seymour to let him take him in as his son, so as to keep him in the flower shop —could qualify as well, depending on your interpretation.
  • In Mean Girls the Plastics musically request Cady to sit with them at lunch in "Meet the Plastics", the official invite to join their clique.
  • "Lovely Ladies" in Les Misérables, where the homeless, despairing Fantine is surrounded by a chorus of prostitutes aggressively telling her to give in to the inevitable and take up their trade.
  • "When You Had Left Our Pirate Fold" (aka "A Paradox") from The Pirates of Penzance is an example, though Ruth and the Pirate King are not trying to convince Frederick to (re)join them, oh no no no, they're merely pointing out the unusual circumstances and the exact wording of Frederick's apprenticeship (he's bound to the pirates until his twenty-first birthday, and he was born on the 29th of February), and leaving the rest to his "Sense of Duty to which we have never yet appealed in vain".
  • "Wonderful" in Wicked is the Wizard's attempt to convince Elphaba to abandon her cause and join him. She almost falls for it.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • "Bad Horse" from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
    • Played with in the reprise, when it becomes more threatening: Bad Horse still says "neigh" to Dr. Horrible's joining the ELE, and now he can only get in by killing someone. "There will be blood, it might be yours."

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


Vendice - "That's Motivation"

Conniving businessman Vendice tries to recruit Colin as a photographer for his advertising agency, performing "That's Motivation" to convince him to come on board. Among other things, Vendice proudly brags about how Colin will be able to "commit horrible sins and get away with it," and in the song's finale he is seen cracking a whip to hint at his true colors.

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Main / VillainRecruitmentSong

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