"I Am" Song

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"I'm Mr. White Christmas,
I'm Mr. Snow.
I'm Mr. Icicle,
I'm Mr. Ten below."
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I am anger, under pressure
Locked in cages, a prisoner, the first to escape
I am wicked, I am Legion
Strength in numbers, a lie, the number is one
I, I, I
Everything that I see is for me

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Bob Fosse said that most songs fall into two categories: the "I Want" Song and the "I Am" Song. The "I Am" Song is, simply put, a song which establishes a character's personality, role in the plot, and/or motivations right away. It can be more effective than setting up a character by dialogue, and it's almost always more fun.

Despite the name, the song doesn't have to be sung by the characters themselves. "The Villain Sucks" Song is an example of an "I Am" Song sung by other people about a villain they despise.

May also be an I Am What I Am song, but not always.

The original Major-General Song is the Trope Codifier; consequently, any time anyone sings a Major-General Song, it will almost always be an "I Am" Song.

Note: Contrast the "I Want" Song. Although the two are not mutually exclusive, the "I Am" Song should be primarily about who the character is, rather than what they want (there's a clue in the name). Try to avoid citing an "I Want" Song as an "I Am" Song.

Compare Villain Song, which are almost always of this type (when they aren't "I Want" Songs). See also Leitmotif for an instrumental version. Image Song is when it doesn't appear in the actual show, but rather in All There in the Manual extras. See "I Am Becoming" Song for when a character explains his or her new motivations or self.

Examples of "I Am" Song include:

Anime and Manga

  • "Oh, Yeah! Alala!" from Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch establishes Alala as an evil Kawaiiko Idol Singer (strangely enough for a shoujo series).
  • The Axis Powers Hetalia ending theme, "Maru Kaite Chikyuu", along with its variations by the different characters.
    • As well as some of the character Image Songs, namely "I am German-Made" for Germany, "Absolutely Invincible British Gentleman" for England, "My Heart Has a Light" for Russia and both "Mein Gott" and "My Song That Is Written By Me, For Me" for Prussia since he's all about telling people who he is.

Audiobooks

Fan Works

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Edward Cullen: I am a vampire!

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Film - Animation

Film - Live Action

Literature

  • The songs of the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter novels start out with an explanatory introduction of what it is and does.

Live Action TV

Music

  • "Jesus of Suburbia", "St. Jimmy" and "She's a Rebel" from Green Day's American Idiot.
  • Eminem: "My Name Is...", anyone?
    • "I AM...WHATEVER YOU SAY I AM! IF I WASN'T, THEN WHY WOULD I SAY I AM?! IN THE PAPER, THE NEWS, EVERYDAY I AM! I DON'T KNOW, THAT'S JUST THE WAY I AM!
  • "I Am Woman," Helen Reddy's 1973 anthem to feminism.
  • Simon & Garfunkel's "I Am A Rock."
  • Kiss' "I" from Music From "The Elder".
  • Stray Bullet by KMFDM.
  • Metal Hunters by Gangrel - "We’re sons of rust and blood..."
  • "Back In NYC" from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis serves this purpose for the main character, Rael.
  • John Denver's "The Eagle and the Hawk": "I am the eagle, I live in high country...I am the hawk, and there's blood on my feathers..."
  • "The Real Me" from [Quadrophenia]] by The Who.
  • "Nemesis" by Arch Enemy.
  • "The Song of Dusk" from Sound Horizon's Märchen isn't an "I am" song so much as it's a "Who am I?" song in which the eponymous character knows nothing of who he once was, only that he's woken up at the bottom of a well with a Creepy Doll in his arms and feels an intense desire to enact revenge and seeks to satisfy it by granting the chance at revenge to others.
  • "Divide" by Disturbed, as well as 'Indestructible', 'I'm Alive', and a few others.
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I am a little more provocative then you might need
It is your shock and then your horror on which I feed
So can you tell me what exactly does freedom mean
If I'm not free to be as twisted as I want to be?
Don't wanna be another player losing in this game
I'm trying to impress upon you, we're not the same
My psychotic mentality is so unique
I'm one aggressive motherfucker, now wouldn't you say?

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  • "Prophecy" from Judas Priest's concept album, Nostradamus, is the "I Am" Song for Nostradamus himself.
  • Voltaire's song "When You're Evil" is a classic I Am Song for any villain.
  • India Arie's "Video" is a pure example. Video Lyrics
  • The Beatles' "I Am The Walrus".
  • Oh wow, The Decemberists seem to like this trope, but as so many of their songs are almost written as monologues, this is hardly surprising. "The Engine Driver", "Leslie Anne Levine", and "The Legionnaire's Lament" stand out as the best examples.
    • "The Mariner's Revenge Song" is basically one guy telling another guy who he is inside of a whale.
  • "We Are The World", by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, sung by USA for Africa.
  • Doctor Steel's songs "Lament for a Toy Factory", "Dr. Steel", and "The Dr. Steel Show".
  • Marian Call has two: "Vanilla (I'm Not Sexy)" is a declaration of her general uncoolness (in a positive way) while "I'll Still Be A Geek After Nobody Thinks It's Chic" is a geek anthem.
  • Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain's Heavy Mithril World of Warcraft song "I Am Murloc":
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I am more than a fish!
I am more than a man!
Death will rise!
From the tides!
I AM MURLOC!

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  • The Devil gets one in Showbread's song "The Goat (Nervosa)". Almost every line is a description of what he is, and every other set of words is "I am." Also, in their song "The Sky (Anorexia)", the refrain is a deathly and commanding "I AM."
  • A common trope for Crush 40, most notably I Am (All of Me)

Opera

  • Probably the most famous opera example: "Largo al factotum della città" (aka "Figaro's introduction") from The Barber of Seville.
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"Figaro here, Figaro there, Figaro up, Figaro down, swifter and swifter, I'm like a thunderbolt: I'm the factotum of the city!"

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  • "Der Vogelfanger Bin Ich Ja" ("I Am the Birdcatcher, Yes") from The Magic Flute, sung by Papageno.
  • Rodolfo and Mimi's introductory songs "Che gelida manina" and "Si, mi chiamano Mimì" from La Boheme.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • The Bible contains a rather strange example at the end of Deuteronomy -- Moses' final lesson to Israel before his death is to teach them a national anthem: a song spelling out the future of Israel, complete with the fact that they will grow rebellious and turn away from God, and that this apostasy will spell disaster for their descendants, ultimately leading to their scatter and the destruction of all but a remnant. Also, Psalm 51.

Professional Wrestling

Puppet Shows

Theater

  • Drood has "A Man Could Go Quite Mad" for Jasper and "The Wages of Sin" for Princess Puffer.
  • Next to Normal
    • "I'm Alive" takes this pretty literally, half the lyrics starting with "I am..."
    • "I Am The One".
  • Chicago
    • "All I Care About Is Love" . Of course, he's lying, but...
    • Mama also has her own song, "When You're Good to Mama", which is more accurate (metaphorically, anyway).
    • Amos has "Mr. Cellophane".
  • "The Jet Song" from West Side Story.
  • "I Cain't Say No" from Oklahoma!!'
  • "I Am What I Am" from La Cage Aux Folles.
  • Wicked:
    • "A Sentimental Man" is a subversion. The Wizard believes what he's saying, but it's only later that the audience finds that he has his own ideas about who qualifies as a "citizen of Oz" and that part of his motivation for helping Elphaba is to use her magic for his own ends.
    • "Defying Gravity" is more of an "I Am Becoming" Song, since Elphaba's entire character for the second act stems from that song...both the good and the bad.
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, "Great Big Stuff" is both an "I Am" Song and an "I Want" Song.
  • "Angry Inch" from Hedwig and The Angry Inch.
  • "Always True to You" from Kiss Me, Kate.
  • "Some People" from Gypsy, as well as "Rose's Turn" and "Little Lamb".
  • "Colored Spade", "Manchester England", "I Got Life" and probably more from Hair. That whole show was basically an "I Am" Song for the hippies.
  • Multiple characters in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee have something along these lines:"I'm Not That Smart" (Leaf), "I Speak Six Languages" (Marcy) and "Woe Is Me" (Schwartzy).
  • Cats is nothing but I Am Songs (or rather, You Are Songs in most cases).
  • "Miss Baltimore Crabs" from Hairspray.
  • "All That's Known" from Spring Awakening.
  • "Bring Me My Bride", Miles Gloriosus' song from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
    • Which is also an "I Want" Song, as the title suggests.
    • Also "Lovely" for Philia and... well, half the songs in the play.
  • "C'est moi", from Camelot establishes Lancelot's puissance and hubris. (Notice the literal translation of the title).
    • "I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight" (sung by Arthur himself) establishes his fallibility.
  • "Now", "Soon", and "Later" (for Fredrik, Anne, and Henrik respectively) from A Little Night Music. "The Glamorous Life" might count as Desiree's.
  • "Not For the Life of Me" for the title character of Thoroughly Modern Millie.
  • "The Beauty Is" for Clara from The Light in the Piazza.
  • "Fortune Favors the Brave" for Radames in Aida.
    • And "My Strongest Suit" for Amneris.
  • "Clean the Kit" in The Beautiful Game for John.
  • "30/90" for Johnny in tick, tick... BOOM!
  • "Oh, What a Circus" is sung by Che, but completely describes Evita's role in Evita.
  • "I Put My Hand in There" for the title character of Hello, Dolly!. Replaced in the film version by the Movie Bonus Song "Just Leave Everything To Me".
  • "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown".[context?]
  • Bill Sykes' "My Name" from Oliver!.
  • "My Name Is Samuel Cooper" from Love Life.
  • "The Lady Is A Tramp" from Babes in Arms.
  • "I Jupiter, I Rex" from Out of This World.
  • "The Hostess With The Mostes'" from Call Me Madam.
  • "Wand'rin' Star" from Paint Your Wagon.
  • "Independent (On My Own)" from Bells Are Ringing.
  • "I Enjoy Being A Girl" from Flower Drum Song.
  • "A Little Brains, A Little Talent" from Damn Yankees.
  • "I'm The Greatest Star" from Funny Girl.
  • "His Name is Lancelot" from Spamalot is more of an "Just Admit It, You Are" song.
    • There is also "Laker Girls Cheer" with Arthur declaring that he is Arthur, King of the Britons.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan love these. To list just a few:
    • The Mikado
      • "A Wand'ring Minstrel I" (Nanki-Poo)
      • "Behold The Lord High Executioner" (Ko-Ko)
      • "Three Little Maids From School Are We" (Yum-Yum, Pitti-Sing, Peep-Bo)
      • "A More Humane Mikado Never Did In Japan Exist"
    • The Pirates of Penzance
      • "'Tis Better Far to Live and Die" (or "I Am A Pirate King")
      • "I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General"
    • H.M.S. Pinafore
      • "I'm Called Little Buttercup"
      • "I Am The Monarch of the Sea" (Sir Joseph)
      • "I Am The Captain of the Pinafore"
    • Princess Ida
      • "We Are Warriors Three" (Arac, Guron, and Scynthius)
      • "If You Give Me Your Attention" (Gama)
    • The Gondoliers
      • "We're Called Gondolieri" (Marco and Giuseppe)
      • "In Enterprise Of Martial Kind" (Duke of Plaza-Toro)
    • The Sorcerer
      • "My Name is John Wellington Wells"
      • "Love Feeds on Many Kinds of Food"
    • Patience
      • "If You Want a Receipt For That Popular Mystery" (Colonel)
  • Les Misérables has a boatload: for Fantine, it's "I Dreamed a Dream". For Eponine, we get "On My Own". For Thenardier, we get "Master of the House". "Stars" for Javert.
    • Though "Master of the House" is probably the most traditional I Am Song in the musical. "On My Own" falls more into the "I Want" Song category, considering the song isn't so much about Eponine as it is about her wanting Marius to return her affections while realizing that he never will.
    • And for Jean Valjean, it's the side-splittingly obvious name for an "I Am" Song: "Who Am I?"
    • "Stars" is also a bit of an "I Want" Song, but this is justified because the pursuit of Valjean in particular and justice in general is central to Javert's self-image. There's a reason he's the Trope Namer for Inspector Javert.
  • "I, Don Quixote" from Man of La Mancha qualifies for this as its first reprise - not to be confused with its second reprise, which is more of an I Am What I Am song. Aldonza also gets such a song with "It's All The Same".
  • The Phantom of the Opera has "Stranger Than You Dreamt It" after Christine removes the Phantom's mask.
  • "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" from Porgy and Bess.
  • "How Can I Call This Home?" for Leo in Parade.
  • "The Barber and His Wife" from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, though the title character who sings this speaks of himself in those days in the past tense because as far as he's concerned, That Man Is Dead. It gets a Dark Reprise at the end of the play after Sweeney unknowingly kills his wife, learns of Mrs. Lovett's treachery in not telling him said wife was still alive, and then throws her in the oven.
    • Another example for Todd is, of course, "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd".
    • Meanwhile, Mrs. Lovett has "The Worst Pies in London", which tells you just about everything you need to know about that character in two minutes flat.
    • And Adolpho Pirelli gets his entrance which actually opens with the lines "I am Adolpho Pirelli, / Da king of da barbers..."
  • Just about every character in Keating! has one:
    • Bob Hawke gets "My Right Hand Man" (sorta. It's more about Keating, but it applies to him too).
    • Keating himself gets "Do It in Style".
    • John Hewson has his part of "On The Floor".
    • Gareth Evans and Cheryl Kernot have "Heavens, Mister Evans".
    • Alexander Downer has "Freaky".
    • John Howard has "Power" (which doubles as his Villain Song).
  • Despite the name, "I Want More", from Lestat is actually Claudia's "I Am" Song. (Her "I Want" Song is "I'll Never Have That Chance").
  • "Advantages of Floating In the Middle of the Sea" is pretty much the "I Am" Song for all of Japan in Sondheim's Pacific Overtures.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera, being a rock opera and featuring an ensemble cast, has one for the majority of the characters.
    • Perhaps the two most classic examples are "Legal Assassin" and "Things You See In A Graveyard", which introduce Nathan and Rotti's characters, respectively, their motivations, their pasts, and much of the plot besides.
    • Also "Seventeen" and "Infected". The latter is incredibly whiny, but still an "I Am" Song.
  • The bitterly ironic "Rich and Happy" from Merrily We Roll Along: Frank has sold out his principles, abandoned his dreams and destroyed his most important friendship... but he's "rich and famous and therefore happy too". And if you believe that, there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.
  • In Children of Eden, Yonah has a song about how she is not a "Stranger to the Rain", which establishes her as The Woobie because she is descended from Cain.
  • Chess has quite a few as well. Freddie's lyrics in Merano, Where I Want to Be for Anatoly and Someone Else's Story for either Florence or Svetlana. Plus Molokov and Svetlana's new songs in the Stockholm version.
    • Arguably, "Pity The Child" for Freddie as well.
  • The title character of Barnum gets two in "There's a Sucker Born Ev'ry Minute" and "The Prince of Humbug".
  • Curtains: "I do the Karma Sutra with a Richard Rodgers score. It's a Business."
  • "I Am Aldopho" from The Drowsy Chaperone.
  • "I Was The Most Beautiful Blossom" in Of Thee I Sing is more accurately described as an "I was" song, but it defines Diana to the extent that she sings its first bars on her subsequent entrances.
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Wintergreen: You like that song, don't you?

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    • Also: "We're the one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine Supreme Court judges..."
  • "How Lovely to be a Woman" from Bye Bye Birdie.
  • "Backwoods Barbie" is the I Am Song for 9 to 5: The Musical. Funny enough, following it being written for the musical itself, Dolly Parton decided to use it for the title track of her album Backwoods Barbie, so not only is it the "I Am" Song for the musical, but it is for Parton personally as well.
  • In Once Upon a Mattress, Princess Winnifred gets one in "Shy". Queen Aggravain's is "Sensitivity", and then "The Minstrel, The Jester, and I" for the Minstrel, Jester, and King.
  • "A Cockeyed Optimist" from South Pacific.
  • "An Orthodox Fool" from No Strings.
  • "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof is a "'We Are' Song".
  • "Johnny's Theme/The Dreamer" from Only You Can Save Mankind: The Musical, establishes Johnny as, well, a dreamer, albeit more confident in that role than the book version:
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Me, I'm a dreamer and I choose to be,
It's my dreams that will set the world free.
Me, I'm a dreamer, it's my destiny,
Look around, see the world that I see.

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  • "What Do You Do With a BA In English / It Sucks To Be Me" from Avenue Q serves as an "I Am" Song for more than half the cast: Princeton, Kate Monster, Brian, Christmas Eve, Rod, Nicky and Gary each get a verse. Additionally, "Special" is Lucy The Slut's "I Am" Song.
  • "Out Tonight" from Rent begins as an "I am" song for Mimi (as in, I am a sexy Latina firecracker) and ends as an "I want" song when she gets into Roger's apartment.
  • "I'm an Ordinary Man" from My Fair Lady is an introduction to Henry Higgins and his misogyny.
  • "Practically Perfect" in the stage version of Disney's Mary Poppins.
  • In Vanities: The Musical, "An Organized Life" is this for Kathy, in addition to being an "I Want" Song, and in its Dark Reprise it becomes her BSOD Song and "I Am Becoming" Song. The first two productions also had "Hey There, Beautiful", which was later replaced by "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing". Also, the closing song "Letting Go" from the Pasadena Playhouse and ACT Theatre productions.
  • Disney's Alice in Wonderland Jr. adds two 'I Am' songs not in the movie:
    • "Ocean of Tears" for the Dodo Bird
    • "Whooooo Are Youuuuu?" for the three Alices
  • "A Little Girl from Little Rock" from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
  • An interesting example in Stephen Sondheim's Assassins: in "Unworthy of Your Love" where John Hinckley Jr. and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme sing for their respective Love Interests. While at first it sounds like an "I Want" Song, it's really about Hinckley and Fromme's insecurity and how they are completely lost in their lives. It even begins with 'I am'.
  • "The Cobbler's Song" from the 1916 musical comedy Chu Chin Chow (But not "I am Chu Chin Chow")
  • Little Shop of Horrors has "Dentist!" for Orin Scrivello.
  • The Producers has "The King of Broadway". Though in this case, it's more of an "I used to be" song. This song doesn't appear in the film adaptation of the musical however.
  • You will probably never get a more literal example than "I'm Martin Guerre" from Martin Guerre.
  • Pippin has "Spread a Little Sunshine" for Fastrada, "Kind of Woman" for Catherine and "Extraordinary" for Pippin himself
  • Stephen Sondheim's Passion has "I Read" for Fosca, a mild conversation about a borrowed book taking a sharp right turn into a slightly unhinged, passionate song explaining Fosca's philosophy, tinged with mental illness, and hinting at her tragic backstory.
  • Glory Days has a 'We Are' song: "My Three Best Friends"

Video Games

  • Mass Effect: "I am the very model of a scientist salariaaaaaaaaaaan!"
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day: "I am The Great Mighty Poo / And I'm going to throw my shit at you..."
  • Portal‍'‍s "Still Alive" is a pretty simple one for GLaDOS:
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I'm doing science and I'm Still Alive.
I feel fantastic and I'm Still Alive.
When you're dying I'll be Still Alive.
And when you're dead I will be Still Alive.

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  • In the elevators of Mother 3‍'‍s Empire Porky Building, you can hear the creepy music entitled "I Am Porky".
  • Shadow the Hedgehog's theme song for his eponymous game, which is (seriously) named "I Am". "Can you see all of me? Walk into my mystery. Step inside, hold on for dear life. Do you remember me? Capture you or set you free? I am all, I am all of me. I am, I'm all of me."

Web Comics

Web Original

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Well, My name is Tenerence Love
Plus my name is Tenerence Love
Divided by my name is Tenerence Love
Equals my name is Tenereeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnnnce Love!
Remainder three!

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Western Animation

  • One episode of The Simpsons features a deliciously Bond-esque He Is Song for McBain as the ending theme to one of his movies, called "Blessed be the Guy that Bonds".
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The rules that constrain other men / Mean nothing to Mc Bain.../ Mc Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiin!

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