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Waxing Lyrical

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They couldn't resist the temptation to sing.
Vice-President Ted Matthews: Mrs. Sherman told me Charlie had a favorite that always cheered him when he was down...
President William Haney: Please God, don't let him quote song lyrics.
Matthews: ...and I can't think of anything more fitting than to share with you the words from that song.
Haney: Oh, Christ.
Matthews: "Muskrat Susie, Muskrat Sam. Do the jitterbug out in Muskrat-Land. And they shimmy..." (emotional pause) "...and Sammy's so skinny."
Haney: Oy…

Bob and Alice are talking, and you the viewer can't help but notice that there is something weird with Bob's dialogue. When he finishes speaking it turns out that Bob was using the lyrics to a well known song to make his point. Alternatively, Bob could have been singing, but the fact that the song was mainstream was hidden due to the fact that the song was reworked or sounded more appropriate to the character's situation than it actually was. Either way, the writers have made a joke by subtly slipping a popular song into the events of a show and then revealing it. Writers, like all people, just love to play with words.

This is a favorite trick of time-travelers or ambassadors to alien civilizations, who will break out song lyrics whenever they need to say something vaguely intellectual-sounding. This often seems to manifest as a game of dueling aphorisms with a local philosopher, who will always end up being impressed with such an obviously learned man. See I'm Mr. [Future Pop Culture Reference]. This is also a common trait of the Pop-Cultured Badass and the Cloud Cuckoo Lander.

Obviously, if the viewer knows the song well, they'll see the joke coming, but the joke is intended for a larger audience who are aware of the song but wouldn't know the lyrics by heart. If it appears in a children's show, it likely doubles as a Parental Bonus. Prone to happening when dealing with songs that get stuck in your head.

When used in Fan Fiction, this is Song Fic. Not to be confused with That Reminds Me of a Song, "One Song To The Tune Of Another" or "singing the wrong lyrics". Also has no relationship to a certain Magical Girl. When done on purpose to feign profundity, see Profound by Pop Song.

Example subpages:

Other examples

    open/close all folders 

  • This commercial by Nortel features a CEO giving a rather bizarre inspirational speech to his company, which turns out to be The Beatles' "Come Together".
  • One advert for Virgin Media has the narrator reciting the lyrics to "Our House" by Madness.
  • A State Farm ad has a customer and a rep unconsciously quoting "Any Way You Want It", until the customer notices. "We just had ourselves a little Journey moment there."
  • This Fiat Punto advert has a man apparently in the middle of an argument with his partner, quoting "Don't You Want Me?" by The Human League. The cash register at the petrol station even adds the synth noises in the appropriate place.
  • A Workday Inc. spot has pro golfers Brandt Snedeker, Davis Love III, and Matt Kuchar swapping lines from Billy Joel's "Honesty". Another ad for the same company features lyrics from Matthew Wilder's "Break My Stride".
  • In 2017, Disney Theme Parks began running a series of commercials consisting of a montage of people enjoying the parks as a narrator quotes the lyrics to a well-known song from the Disney Animated Canon. Examples include "A Whole New World" and "Bella Notte".

    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Animation 
  • In one of the wraparounds from Friz Freleng's Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, Daffy Duck challenges Bugs to a talent contest to see who's the best (this leads into Show Biz Bugs).
    • This was actually a reprisal of a similar routine done by Bugs and Yosemite Sam in Ballot Box Bunny, also directed by Freleng.
  • Open Season: In the Direct-To-Video sequel "Scared Silly", the animals just have crashed Shaw's seaplane. Which happens to be named Jolene. Cue Trope.
  • In Rio 2, Nigel accidentally attends a Carnival audition. He then proceeds to do a dramatic performance of "I Will Survive", turning that into a Villain Song (not that it isn't adequate).
  • Shrek:
    • Gingy's interrogation features him and Farquaad quoting "The Muffin Man".
      Gingerbread Man: Do you know the Muffin Man?
      Farquaad: The Muffin Man?
      Gingerbread Man: The Muffin Man.
      Farquaad: Yes... I know the Muffin Man. Who lives on Drury Lane?
      Gingerbread Man: Well... she's married to the Muffin Man.
      Farquaad: The Muffin Man?
      Gingerbread Man: The Muffin Man!
      Farquaad: She's married to the Muffin Man...
    • Also, there's this:
      Donkey: You love this woman, don't ya?
      Shrek: Yes.
      Donkey: You wanna hold her?
      Shrek: Yes.
      Donkey: Please her?
      Shrek: Yes!
      Donkey: Then ya got to, got to ♫ try a little tenderness ♫! The chicks love that romantic crap!


Note: For this category, we only list sketches or spoken word interludes on musical albums to be counted as an example of Waxing Lyrical.
  • Frank Zappa:
    • During the song "Punky's Whips" Terry Bozzio is voicing his obsession for Punky Meadows and at one point says (not sings): "Oh, Punky, isn't it romantic?" While he says that a small musical snippet from the 1930s song "Isn't It Romantic?" can be heard in the background.
    • Joe's Garage: During "Sy Borg" Joe is having sex with a robot, but gets too excited, causing the robot to malfunction and shout: "You're plooking too hard! Plooking too hard on me!" This is a reference to the 1966 song "Pushin' Too Hard" by The Seeds.

    Newspaper Comics 

  • Gottlieb's Mayfair, based on the film version of My Fair Lady, is peppered with references to the musical's various songs, including:
    • A street sign for Your Street ("The Street Where You Live")
    • A dancing couple asking "dance all night?" ("I Could Have Danced All Night")
    • Eliza's father has a card in his hatband reading "Reminder: Get Me To The Church On Time"
  • Some of Rush (2022)'s voice lines directly quote lyrics from relevant Rush songs during regular speech.
    • Getting a tilt sometimes prompts Alex Lifeson to say "Driven to the edge of a deep... dark... hole," a phrase taken straight from the band's song "Driven." (The animation accompanying it is based on the cover artwork for the album it came from, to boot.)
    • Successfully making a shot during Subdivisions Multiball occasionally results in Geddy Lee saying a line from the titular song's chorus: "Conform or be cast out!"

  • Anime Slushie: The text-to-speech quotes over the buttrock that opens the RWBY episodes are all lyrics from actual RWBY music.
    • Until V8E13, that is. That episode's quote is "WHO CARES ABOUT LYRICS, THIS SHOW SUCKS." V8E14 has no quote at all.
  • This is a favourite pastime across many Cool Kids Table games.
    • In the Harry Potter-themed game Hogwarts: The New Class:
      • Episode three gets its title from Jake singing "Let's get it sorted!" to the tune of "Let's Get It Started" by The Black Eyed Peas.
      • Episode four has several Wu-Tang Clan lyrics dropped casually by the kids.
    • In The Fallen Gods when Tuatha succeeds her constitution saving throw in episode 10, Solvin asks her if she woke up feeling like P. Diddy.
    • Sequinox:
      • While debating what constitutes a magic attack in episode 4, Alan states "I've got the magic in me", and Jake follows up with "Everything he touch that track it turns into gold".
      • Jake accidentally says lyrics from "Enter Sandman" while describing a scene at Chell's home, and Josh tries to keep it going.
      • They do it to the theme from Wild Wild West during the previously on segment for episode 11. Jake tries to stop it before they get sued.
  • When the Jemjammer party lands at Port Meridian and tries to figure out what to do on a space station, Cacophony declares that the proper action is to find a girl named Brandy and tell her she might be a fine girl, but your life, your lover, your space sea.
  • In Interstitial: Actual Play episode 2.
    Jo: First things first—
    Wheels: I'm the realest.
    Riley: I was gonna say "I eat your brains".
    • In episode 11, when Edith trudges through the woods.
      Hazel: I'm making my way...downtown. a moderate pace, faces pass, and I mean, like, in a grander sense I'm home bound.
  • Mom Can't Cook!: Andy begins the Get a Clue episode by quoting the film's title theme.
  • Mystery Show: Dennis, the Ticketmaster customer service rep, quotes Gotye:
    Dennis: You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness.
  • All over the place in Disgraceland, as you can expect.
  • Song vs. Song is just as guilty.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Disney Lorcana has Song cards based on song titles or lyrics from Disney films. The creators have also noted that, in their playtests, playing a Song card also tends to get the players singing the appropriate line as well.
  • Several charms in Princess: The Hopeful are the names of songs.
  • The names of the action cards of the "Giant Ants" faction of Smash Up are all titles of Queen songs

  • In Finian's Rainbow, Og the leprechaun is trying to explain that he now knows What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?, and Finian plays along with the quotation of Silly Love Songs:
    Og: Does an optical illusion feel an, oh, such a hungry yearning burning inside of him, under the hide of him? Does an optical illusion feel the beat-beat-beat of the tom-tom in the roaring traffic's boom, in his lonely room?
    Finian (His scholarly interest is enlisted): Hmmm. Do you also feel like the promised kiss of springtime that trembles on the brink of a lovely song?
    Og: Yes, and what's worse, smoke keeps coming out of me eyes.
    Finian: You go round and round like an elevator lost in the tide?
  • In The Complete History of America (abridged), Jefferson and Madison are brainstorming the beginning of the Bill of Rights. After throwing out each other's first ideas as "too liberal" or "too conservative" suggestions, Jefferson suggests, "Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother, you're staying alive, staying alive," to which Madison says, "No, that's too seventies."
  • In an indirect example, the stars of the Broadway musical Rock of Ages are this; a small town girl, trying to escape her lonely world, and a city boy born and raised in south Detroit.
  • A running gag in The Case of the Tale Told by an Idiot, a Macbeth/Film Noir mash-up by Bruce Kane. The Femme Fatale, Nola, is described in the words of "Whatever Lola Wants" and "Copacabana". Her accomplice's confession at the end keeps lapsing into "You Made Me Love You". Macbeth's soliloquies (in addition to the ones Shakespeare gave him) are "I'm Forever Chasing Rainbows", "Night and Day", and "Three O'Clock in the Morning".
  • In the one-man show FRIEND (The One with Gunther), when Gunther is complaining that the Friends never saw him as one of the gang, despite his best efforts, he says "I was there for them!"

    TV Tropes 

    Real Life 
  • There is a time and a place for this sort of wordplay; at an inquest asking you why you shot a man dead is not it.
  • A dark (and likely unintentional) example appears in Wonderful Tonight, the autobiography of Pattie Boyd (ex-wife and muse of both George Harrison and Eric Clapton). Ringo Starr refused to believe that his wife, Maureen, was having an affair with George until George announced that he was in love with Maureen in front of an entire dinner party—including their spouses. According to Boyd, Ringo worked himself into a state and went around for the rest of the night muttering, "Nothing is real, nothing is real."
  • While not exactly trying to pass them off as "regular conversation", ESPN's Chris Fowler reveals in an interview with Sports Illustrated magazine that he had one of his groomsmen incorporate song lyrics into his speech at Fowler's wedding. The groomsman introduced it as "a reading from the great American poet James Hetfield". (The song in question was "Nothing Else Matters".)
  • Happens on Not Always Right a few times.
  • After the 2014 Oscar ceremony, when his song "Happy" from Despicable Me 2 lost the Best Original Song category to "Let It Go" from Frozen, Pharrell Williams expressed his feelings:
    "When they read the results, my face was… frozen. But then I thought about it and I just decided just to… let it go."
  • Herman Cain used a quote in one of his speeches, which he attributed to a 'poet', and in a later speech he claimed it was from 'the closing song to the 2000 Olympics', unaware that it was taken from The Power of One, used in the ending of the American dub of Pokémon 2000. The Internet did. Later, when he dropped out of the Republican Party's primary elections for the 2012 presidential elections, he used the same quote in his concession speech, saying, 'I believe these words come from the Pokémon movie,' trying to pass it off as an indication of him being a family man.
    Cain: Life can be a challenge. Life can seem impossible. It's never easy when there's so much on the line. But you can make a difference: with courage, you can set things right. The gift to dream, and make dreams real, is yours and mine.
  • An anecdote from the New York Times "Metropolitan Diary" of September 28, 1998:
    They didn't need the coming revival of On the Town to inspire them—Sidney Sandler gave his prescription information to the order taker for the AARP Pharmacy Service in Pennsylvania. He followed this with his address and ended with "New York, New York." The following exchange ensued, short but a delight to both participants.
    Order taker: "It's a hell of a town."
    Mr. Sandler: "The Bronx is up."
    Order taker: "And the Battery is down."


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All Star Reference

Oversimplified explains the history of manifest destiny and how many Americans are settling into the disputed territory of Oregon between the British and the Americans while making a reference to the song All Star made by Smash Mouth.

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