Trope Songs
November 23, 2020 4:15 AM   Subscribe

Give me you best examples of "Trope Songs" These are the classic bits of music that films or tv shows will use to over a particular scene. Most points for songs that you probably don't know the name of but definitely recognise.

Some examples:
Your characters have retired victoriously to a beach: Aloha Oe
It's New York! (Possibly in the 1920s): Rhapsody in Blue
A detective/spy having exciting adventures : Peter Gunn
Neon lights, wet streets, noir.: Harlem Nocturne
posted by Just this guy, y'know to Society & Culture (57 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Eye of the Tiger and the theme from Rocky as parody for training and fighting scenes.
posted by each day we work at 4:43 AM on November 23, 2020 [3 favorites]


Drama is happening and you should know: o fortuna
posted by bfranklin at 4:45 AM on November 23, 2020 [12 favorites]


character has a slowly-dawning emotional revelation / reflects on their "journey" / sheds a regretful-yet-triumphant nostalgic tear or whatever: Hoppipolla by Sigur Ros
posted by rd45 at 4:45 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


The Lion sleeps tonight on anything having to do with African nature or wild animals.
posted by each day we work at 4:47 AM on November 23, 2020


Shopping or trying on clothes: Walking on Sunshine, Semi-Charmed Life
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:50 AM on November 23, 2020 [8 favorites]


Love is a Many-Splendored Thing is that song that swells up in the background during a profession of True Love or when our couple finally unites/reunites.
posted by kimberussell at 4:51 AM on November 23, 2020


Spooky mischief: In the Hall of the Mountain King (Peer Gynt)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:52 AM on November 23, 2020 [6 favorites]


Previously.
posted by Chairboy at 5:25 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


It’s the 60s! Things are changing! : For What it’s Worth
It’s the 60s! Vietnam! : Fortunate son
posted by panama joe at 5:29 AM on November 23, 2020 [12 favorites]


White Rabbit: uh oh people are doing drugs
posted by Gray Duck at 5:30 AM on November 23, 2020 [13 favorites]


It's the 60s! In a Martin Scorsese film: Gimme Shelter
posted by phunniemee at 5:31 AM on November 23, 2020 [8 favorites]


Something epic and dramatic is about to happen: Holst - Mars, Bringer of War.
posted by smcameron at 5:36 AM on November 23, 2020 [7 favorites]


It's the 2010s and you need to recognize something hopeful and important is happening during a slow bit: The Mighty Rio Grande by This Will Destroy You
posted by phunniemee at 5:38 AM on November 23, 2020


Oh look! Dramatic music used ironically O Fortuna.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 5:52 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


You can't arrrive in Vegas without hearing Dean Martin.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:55 AM on November 23, 2020 [4 favorites]


Someone is dying or someone learns that someone is dying or there's some vague religious something-or-other: Jeff Buckley's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (or someone doing a cover of Jeff Buckley doing a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah")
posted by jonathanhughes at 5:58 AM on November 23, 2020 [7 favorites]


You are in an elevator: Instrumental version of "The Girl from Ipanema"
posted by Daily Alice at 6:02 AM on November 23, 2020 [16 favorites]


Sad montage in the Christmas Movie, of protagonist struggling through the front door with [shopping bags / tree], turning the lights on in a dark apartment [because only sad workaholic singletons spend christmas alone, and singletons don't live in houses], putting down items and sighing, sitting on a sofa in pjs watching [some random b&w movie / another holiday movie featuring this exact same montage], then staring sadly out the window into the night while holding [mug of hot chocolate / glass of wine]. It's snowing.

It's the 80s!
posted by EllaEm at 6:04 AM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


Something sinister happening in a gothic castle on a dark and stormy night? Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
posted by apparatchik at 6:11 AM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


Sped up chaos - Yakety Sax
posted by mmascolino at 6:26 AM on November 23, 2020 [6 favorites]


Working in the Capitalism Factory - Powerhouse
Sunrise on the Farm - Morning Mood
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:35 AM on November 23, 2020 [4 favorites]


Sorry, bad cut-and-paste. Back to Vegas, Dean!
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:40 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


The end of the 1812 Overture is used for triumphs
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:46 AM on November 23, 2020


Just about every theme from Disney's Fantasia has been used over and over.

Since 2001 Space Odyssey, Thus Spake Zarathustra has been used for the dawn of a new age, or a new idea.

Lots of themes are used to suggest Christmas. Two of the more common are the Little Drummer Boy and March of the Tin Solders.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:48 AM on November 23, 2020


Entrance of the Gladiators is the original name for what you know as "the circus clown song"
posted by theodolite at 6:54 AM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


A cool or uncool character is dressing up cool and/or about to go be cool someplace:
James Brown - I Got You (I Feel Good), as featured in so many dang films and trailers that the song makes me cringe now. Thanks, Hollywood!
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:02 AM on November 23, 2020 [4 favorites]


Students are graduating! : Pomp And Circumstance
Flying boldly into war! Or perhaps used ironically! : Flight of the Valkyries
posted by panama joe at 7:08 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


TV Tropes:

Standard Snippet
Mood Motif
Regional Riff
posted by zamboni at 7:12 AM on November 23, 2020


Bad to the Bone, in either serious or parodic presentations of someone presenting as "tough"
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:13 AM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


It's not used as much anymore but the Sabre Dance from the Gayane Suite No. 3 by Aram Khachaturian (obscure enough?) was typically used on all kinds of TV variety shows as background for crazy acts.

Combine Sabre Dance with Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" (referenced above) and you get Danny Elfman (e.g. "Breakfast Machine")
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:14 AM on November 23, 2020 [6 favorites]


And the meta category Score and Music Tropes
posted by zamboni at 7:17 AM on November 23, 2020


You're in rural America
posted by scolbath at 7:21 AM on November 23, 2020


"Non, je ne regrette rien" sarcastically over a dramatic scene.
posted by Seeking Direction at 8:01 AM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


It's weird niche, but according to Guy Maddin, whenever a filmmaker needs to cut between two juxtaposed sequences with increasing tension (which happens more than you would think), there's a temptation to use the second movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. Once you know that, you start to hear it everywhere.
posted by The Bellman at 8:10 AM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


If it's in Space, then it's time for the Blue Danube.
posted by SPrintF at 8:12 AM on November 23, 2020




Pachebel's Canon in D at weddings. (in both movies and real life)
posted by pixiecrinkle at 8:26 AM on November 23, 2020


For a while there, The Fray's How To Save A Life seemed to be the go-to song for young, attractive doctors working frantically in slow motion and most likely losing their patient.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:27 AM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


Something horrible yet somehow elegant is happening: Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns. (Recently used as the theme music for Ratched.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:49 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


It's a circus: Entry of the Gladiators
That soft quiet thing that plays all the time but you can never place: one of the Gymnopedies
That other one: The Flower Duet
posted by phunniemee at 9:08 AM on November 23, 2020 [4 favorites]


Wow, what a mindfuck: Where Is My Mind
posted by Fuego at 9:11 AM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


Irish people are sad about something: Danny Boy
posted by corey flood at 9:24 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


Everything is going metaphorically (or literally) to hell; Dies Irae from Verdi's Requiem
posted by Fuchsoid at 10:07 AM on November 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


And the meta category Score and Music Tropes

TV Tropes also mentions: Stock Trailer Music, the stuff that's just quickly tacked onto hastily assembled trailers by editors under deadlines, always the most obvious thing imaginable. Includes all of the above.

Was also going to mention the heartwarming 'Solsbury Hill', especially in the infamous Nora Ephron 'Shining' parody.
posted by ovvl at 10:25 AM on November 23, 2020


A quiet moment of magic and wonder: Aquarium from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals.

(I love it.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:39 AM on November 23, 2020 [5 favorites]


Someone is dying or has died and it's very sad: "Lacrimosa" movement from Mozart's last Requiem Mass (often with truly abominable cuts).
posted by humbug at 10:39 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


Oh look, royals, especially if they're British ones: a chunk of Sir Hubert Parry's "I Was Glad" (sometimes anachronistically; it wasn't written until 1902)

(I admit I hate this piece. Had to learn it once. It's absolutely wretched to sing.)
posted by humbug at 10:44 AM on November 23, 2020


We are exploring an amazing/mysterious new place in slow motion: Svefn-g-englar by Sigur Ros. (Maybe we are underwater.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:48 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


Larger-than-life / awe inspiring dramatic moment: Vivaldi Four Seasons - Summer Presto
posted by internet of pillows at 10:56 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


INTIMIDATING AUTHORITY* HAS ARRIVED: The Montagues and Capulets (Dance of the Knights) from Romeo & Juliet by Prokofiev

*sometimes, but not always, Russian.
posted by castlebravo at 11:26 AM on November 23, 2020 [4 favorites]


You are in the fifties—specifically you might be in an ironic Gen-X-produced fifties that has abruptly replaced something more dangerous on screen—if you hear "Theme From A Summer Place" playing in the den, and also you have a den.
posted by Polycarp at 12:44 PM on November 23, 2020 [6 favorites]


And the Oscar goes to... To the Stars by Randy Edelman (from Dragonheart)
We are all very refined and/or genteel here: Minuet by Luigi Boccherini
IT IS THE 70s: Don't Stop Til you Get Enough by Michael Jackson or I Feel Love by Donna Summer
Car? Car!! Low Rider by War
Sexy Party Got to Give it Up by Marvin Gaye

Extremely Overused Trailer Songs:
Boring person will soon have adventure #1: Brazil by Geoff and Maria Muldaur (from Brazil (1985))
Boring person will soon have adventure #2: Overture by Danny Elfman (from The Nightmare Before Christmas)
IT IS A ROM COM: Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Stevie Wonder
posted by MetaFilter World Peace at 1:44 PM on November 23, 2020 [7 favorites]




Previously.

If you see a double-decker bus going over the Thames, you are about to hear rule Britannia.
posted by yankeefog at 9:04 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


Sad tragic deaths, flashbacks or some Great Tragedy unfolding,......
Adagio for Strings, Samuel Barber
posted by lalochezia at 11:31 AM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


Previously.
posted by yankeefog


Huh. I completely forgot that I had posted that question.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:15 PM on November 24, 2020 [5 favorites]


Here is a Spotify playlist that's full of these, aptly named "Songs You Know But Can't Name."
posted by rapidadverbssuck at 2:16 PM on December 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


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