That Reminds Me of a Song

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"These songs have no purpose! They're like drive-by musicals! If you want to have singing, fine! But make sure they have a point, or are, you know, fucking entertaining!"
The Nostalgia Critic, commenting on the musical numbers from Quest for Camelot

Mainly a product of The Musical.

This trope most often occurs when a composer wrote a really keen song. Or if there is a big star in the movie who must have a solo. Or the director has a favorite song that he wants to put in the movie. Unfortunately, there is really no way to inject the song into the story in the traditional "burst into song" way. So, the writer often gives us the immortal line "That reminds me of a song," or something similar and the character sits down at a piano or hops up on the stage to sing a little ditty that plot significance whatsoever. ("Let's rehearse the ___ number" or "Let's film our music video" or "Let's dance to ___" and then doing exactly that are also popular.)

At its most basic, this is a song sung just to kill time, with a fairly thin excuse. The song doesn't tell us anything about the characters or the setting, it doesn't advance the plot, it doesn't serve any obvious purpose at all besides filling out the running time. If the song does have Subtext, exposition, or plot-related action, and thus plot significance, it's Suspiciously Apropos Music.

In Indian film, an upbeat song that has no relation to the plot is called an Item Number.

Frequent justifications include having some or all of the characters be actors or actresses, or setting one of the scenes at a nightclub or similar. A small-scale variation on the Show Within a Show.

It still shows up here and there, often as the Breakout Pop Hit, but is mostly a Discredited Trope. Modern musicals are specifically not supposed to do this anymore, except as a parody. For a more advanced version of this trope, one that is so out-of-nowhere that it borders on a Mind Screw, yet is never treated as anything the least bit weird by the characters and never mentioned again, see Non Sequitur Scene.

See also Silly Song, where the characters don't even try to justify the singing.

Examples of That Reminds Me of a Song include:



  • Extremely common in movie musicals from their inception to around the time movie musicals began to be Serious Business before disappearing almost entirely. For example, in both Holiday Inn and White Christmas, a full third of the songs fall into this category. The other two thirds belong firmly in either a spectacular Show Within a Show, or an actual song that furthers the plot, heaven forbid.
    • White Christmas justifies a lot of this by making most of the movie rehearsals for or performances of various stage shows and nightclub acts.
    • The movie That's Entertainment! has a Montage of characters in various films declaring "I've got an idea! Let's get the [insert group of characters] together and put on a show!"
  • There is a scene in The Breakfast Club where, in the middle of their big emotional group therapy session, everyone up and starts dancing to the song "We Are Not Alone". It's a good song, lyrically, it's at least thematically appropriate to the scene in question, but what the hell?
    • In the broadcast version, that is completely random. In the uncut version, Bender shares his marijuana with the others. Cue dancing.
  • Dancer in the Dark uses an elaborate excuse for squeezing song-and-dance numbers into a miserable social realist film filmed under the Dogma95 rules of hand-held camera and no artificial lighting, sets: All the song and dance numbers were inside her head. Later on in the film she really performed song and dance numbers to the bemusement of everyone else.
  • In an infamous scene in Beetlejuice, several dinner guests are possessed, and forced to perform Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song" - which they rather enjoy.
  • The dreaded "Lets Go To The Movies" song from the '80s film version of Annie. It has absolutely no point at all aside from having a showy musical number in the film, and it is better known for being a truly hideous Ear Worm.
  • There's a particularly tedious song in Newsies that seems to be included (Roger Ebert said it best) "just so that they could say there's an Ann-Margret number in the movie."
    • Actually, there are two such songs ("My Lovey-Dovey Baby" and "High Times, Hard Times"). For some reason it was the catchy "High Times, Hard Times" and not the utterly pointless "My Lovey-Dovey Baby" that got the Razzie for "Worst Song".
  • In the Film of the Musical for Kiss Me Kate, they transformed the Irrelevant Act Opener "Too Darn Hot" into an audition for Ann Miller's character.
  • In the Jukebox Musical Across the Universe, a number of Beatles songs that didn't fit the plot of the film are shoehorned in by way of being performed by Sadie's band. Still subverted once with "Oh! Darling", which turned out to be bizarrely relevant to Sadie & Jojo.
    • The same method is used in A Hard Day's Night. John lampshades this by yelling "Let's put on the show right here, yeah!" before The Beatles rehearse a musical number. He was bummed that it ended up looking like he was serious.
      • However, a lot of A Hard Day's Night does avert this, since the whole movie is building up to their TV performance, so it made sense for them to be "rehearsing" musical numbers. This is due in part to the band not being fans of this trope.
  • Both Lampshaded and Subverted in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where Prince Herbert of Swamp Castle declares that he just wants to... sing... There's an over-the-top song cue, and then his father King Brian explicitly squashes any further attempts in that regard.
    • In Spamalot, the musical based on the movie, King Brian is substantially less successful. In fact, several songs in Spamalot fit in this trope: the Finland song and "Diva's Lament (What Ever Happened to My Part?)" most notably.
  • Used to great effect in the film Cabaret, where the only off-stage song is a young boy who just begins to sing a capella in a cafe's garden, "Tomorrow Belongs To Me."
  • This one would be a borderline Non Sequitur Scene if the whole damn movie wasn't completely nuts: the impromptu dance-off at McDonald's in Mac and Me.
  • Even Alfred Hitchcock succumbed to this: the 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much, which showcases Doris Day singing "Que Sera, Sera" multiple times, ultimately using it in a game of Marco Polo so our protagonists can locate their kidnapped offspring.
  • In several Marx Brothers movies, Harpo and/or Chico would get one of these as an excuse to play their characteristic instrument—the harp for Harpo, or the piano for Chico.
  • Singin' in the Rain: The longest song in the movie: "Broadway Melody"/"Gotta Dance!!!"
  • Parodied in Cannibal! The Musical: Swan's infamous "Snowman" song, which he sings at the worst times. The second time, though, one of the group loses it and just shoots him halfway through it.
  • The Floor Show in Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  • Richard Tauber's films were just a string of these. No surprise—he was a famous vocalist and was able to use the talkies to showcase his talent.
  • The Mamushka scene in The Addams Family movie. It's an entertaining variation, but the entire movie does kinda stop for it.


  • This trope is a staple of JRR Tolkien's writing and it can be a bit grating for some. The intrepid heroes will wander into a distant land and suddenly break out into ubi sunt poetry. Next, they'll discover the long-lost shiny and go off on a stanza or two of ye olde Nursery Rhyme. The different styles of poetry are often matched to different cultures/contexts, and some of them don't really come out of nowhere—for example, singing is an easy way to make a long walk less boring. Bilbo's three-page poem detailing the history of Earendil in Rivendell is still sleep-inducing, though (even Frodo can't seem to stay awake for it).
  • Tolkien's contemporary Mervyn Peake was also in the habit of doing this, using whatever literary device was most expedient in order to drop his nonsense rhymes onto the page - usually apropos of absolutely nothing.
  • All over Redwall, to the point where it seems each book has to have at least one song and a feast.

Live Action TV

  • Star Trek: The original series would have one of these on occasion because Nichelle Nichols was a professional singer. Every now and then she would serenade the crew.
  • A trend that continued into Star Trek: Voyager when every attempt possible was made to give Jeri Ryan a chance to sing in various episodes. Even going so far as to give her the personality of a caberet singer in World War II during a battle with aliens on the holodeck, just so she could impress Alien Nazis.
  • Happens in Pushing Daisies with Olive singing "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and another episode with the song "Birdhouse in Your Soul." In this case they're a chance for Kristin Chenoweth to show off.
  • Happened rather regularly on I Love Lucy, with cutbacks to Ricky at the club frequently including a full performance by his band. Also notable is the time when Ethel kept making Ricky be reminded of songs to keep him from going to the freezer while Lucy was transferring 700 pounds of meat from said freezer to the furnace.
  • Shaun Micallef shoehorned in a strange parody of this at least once (in World Around Him). He did it by suddenly referring to the Pointer Sisters and neutrons. And then he claimed that that reminded him of a song, and promptly launched into a verse of said song, complete with dancers.
  • Glee is made of this trope.
    • Subverted hilariously when Rachel and Sunshine burst into a rendition of "Telephone" in the girls' bathroom. A few stanzas in, Sue comes in and tells them to shut up. By this point in the show, viewers are so used to random musical numbers being ignored by all the other characters that someone actually reacting to one is a Crowning Moment of Funny.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? has a game called Show-Stopping Number where the players act out a scene as normal, but whenever the host hits the buzzer, they have to take the last line spoken and turn it into a Broadway-style song. So of course, Drew always tries to find the most awkward line possible.
  • Done quite a lot, and with a lot of self-awareness in Monty Python's Flying Circus, as a policeman will break into a song in a courtroom, for instance. I never wanted to be a barber anyway...
  • Roughly 50% of the monologues on Saturday Night Live.


  • Parodied in Weird Al Yankovic's long and rambling narrative song "Albuquerque", where he's reminded of a song while his face was being torn to shreds by one dozen starving crazed weasels... which sounds remarkably similar to a guy screaming while getting his face torn to shreds by one dozen starving crazed weasels.

You know, I think it was just about that time that a little ditty started goin' through my head. I believe it went a little somethin' like this:
DAARGH! Get 'em off me! Get 'em off me! Ohhh! No, get 'em off, get 'em off! Oh, oh God, oh God! Oh, get 'em off me! Oh, oh God! Ah, Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhohhhhhhhhhh!

  • "Simple Song" by Miley Cyrus.

Musical Theater

  • In musicals written before Oklahoma!! this was ubiquitous almost to the point of every single show using this excuse to put in a song.
  • In Me And My Girl:

"Hey Everybody! Lets do the Lambeth Walk!"
Lambeth Walk ensues.

    • Pretty much any song in this musical not referring directly to Hareford sounds like it could be in any other story. "I am happy and in love with my girlfriend." "I am seducing you and you are having none of it." "When you are in love you are sometimes sad but must follow your feelings." "Love is wonderful, isn't it?" Curtain.
  • A kid's production about Lewis and Clark decided to introduce a vague-ified cover of "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" by having Charbonneau, of all people, say some unspecified Indian word for stranger out of the blue. Not to mention that the song is about death and heaven, despite the fact that only one person died on the expedition and they were well past him.
  • In Oliver!, a character does this as a distraction to let another character escape.
  • Guys and Dolls -- "I Love You (A Bushel and a Peck)". Probably applies to any of the songs Adelaide sings with the Hot Box Girls.
  • The Music Man -- "Shipoopi"
    • It becomes a Running Gag for Harold to distract the school board by feeding them the first line of a song and watching them sing the rest as a barbershop quartet. Here's the cue for them to sing "Lida Rose":

Harold: Oh, you'll never forget the name. Lida Rose. Same as the old song. (sings) Lida Rose, I'm home again, Rose...

  • A subversion of this would be Stephen Sondheim's Follies, in which half the songs are numbers that the women used to sing in their days in the Zeigfeld Follies, but are used to point up the melancholy of the story.
  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the Beadle does this with the "Sweet Polly Plunkett" song. He remarks that Lovett has an organ, and he sits down to play, to her dismay.
    • Of course, since this is a Sondheim musical, this also has a dramatic function: the Beadle insists on staying, while Mrs. Lovett is desperately trying to make him leave, as his hanging around threatens to expose the humanitarian operation she's running.
  • "Wunderbar" from Kiss Me, Kate.
    • "Too Darn Hot" as well, but only in the film: the live show features it later, and incorporates it into the story.
  • Subverted in Brigadoon, where the protagonist is literally reminded of a song—he hears a phrase from it used in everyday conversation, and it suddenly reprises itself in his mind. (Used mostly in The Movie.)
  • In the third Dream Sequence in Lady in the Dark, this little bit of dialogue is all it takes to introduce a completely irrelevant patter song:

Ringmaster: Charming, charming! Who wrote that music?
Chorus: Tchaikowsky!
Ringmaster: Tchaikowsky! I love Russian composers!

  • "I have a song to sing, O!" from The Yeoman of the Guard starts out like this, but by the Dark Reprise becomes heartbreakingly significant for Jack Point.
  • "Those Magic Changes" from Grease has nothing to do with anything else that happens during the show; it's just a random "hey, let's sing a song" moment.
    • They fix it in The Movie, where instead of having Doody randomly play a song, a live band performs it in the background as a warm-up number for the National Dance-Off in Rydell High's gymnasium.
  • "Thank You For The Music" in Mamma Mia!!, though this could also be applied to the song "Super Trouper."
  • "Move, Move, Move Right Out of My Life" and the rest of the talent show from Dreamgirls does very little other than serve a nifty opener.
  • "The Heaven Hop" and "Let's Step Out" from Anything Goes are good examples of songs that have nothing to do with the characters, the setting, or anything that happens in the story. Indeed, they had nothing to do with Anything Goes before the 1962 Off-Broadway revival.
  • The Pirates of Penzance had a short bit where everyone stops to sing a little song extolling the virtues of poetry. This is right in the middle of a rather dramatic bit where the Major-General is attempting to deceive the pirates about being an orphan, so that they won't marry all his daughters and take them away.
    • G&S get away with this one, though, on the account of said little song being fucking awesome.
  • Parodied in Drood with "Off To The Races". A character says something like "we can't jump to conclusions, or we'll all be off to the races!" The chairman steps to center and announces that no production at the Music Hall Royale would be complete without their signature song, "Off To The Races". The song is performed quite randomly, with one member of the cast passed-out drunk. After the song ends, we immediately return to the murder-mystery at hand, and it is never mentioned or thought of again.
  • Spamalot parodies this with "The Diva's Lament", which has the female lead singing about how she's been offstage for most of the second act. Of course this is also playing it straight since without it she would be off-stage for most of the second act.
    • Though this one is not a Non Sequitur Scene, as she does mention how she's been away "for far too long" (quoting her last number) the next time she talks to Arthur.
    • The song "Finland", however, is a Non Sequitur Scene, as it's not even remotely related to anything else in the play, only existing because the performers misheard the narrator.
  • Bertolt Brecht made this into an art form, having That Reminds Me of a Song moment at least once in every play to alienate the audience. "Pirate Jenny" from The Threepenny Opera is probably the most famous example.
  • The protagonist of the musical Seesaw, studying obscure passages of New York State law, is advised to read it in rhythm to make it easier to remember. In short order, "Chapter 54, Number 1909" has turned into a big production number.
  • Dr. Kitchell in Bells Are Ringing wants to be a songwriter, and constantly takes innocent conversational phrases as cues to burst into song.


  • The Willow Song Desdemona sings in Othello could be one.
    • As well as the two tavern songs Iago sings earlier.


  • Parodied in Mitch Benn's Crimes Against Music; Robin Ince either lampshades the silliness of his asking whether Mitch has a song about this week's topic, or just asks the question with so much sarcasm it amounts to the same thing.
  • Parodied by Stan Freberg's Omaha!, a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee that goes on for longer than six minutes because the characters keep preempting the pitch with irrelevant songs about their favorite Nebraska city.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of I'm Sorry Ill Read That Again—Bill has been doing a scene in his 'Grimbling voice'. After an audience cheer at one of his jokes, he starts speaking normally, and this happens:

Bill: Thank you, thank you! You're my kind of people!
Crowd: What kind of people?
Bill: Showpeople!
John: ...He's gone nuts!
Graeme: No, he's leading up to a song.
Bill: And oh, how I love our business!
Crowd: What business?
Bill: Showbusiness!

This leads into the song "The Show Must Go On", which continues until David Hatch tells him to stop it.

Video Games

  • A Pirate I Was Meant To Be, a brief musical number around halfway through The Curse of Monkey Island, begins with this exact phrase. From then on it's up to the player to get his crew, who all rhyme on a dime, to stop singing and get back to work. The solution is to feed them the phrase "We'll surely avoid scurvy if we all eat an orange", which they can't rhyme.
    • But if you skip straight to the solution of that puzzle instead of hearing the song out, you're severely missing the point of these games.
  • Replace "song" with "puzzle" and you've got Professor Layton in a nutshell.
    • Especially since they use that exact phrase—repeatedly.
    • And at the strangest times, too...
    • Which gets severely lampshaded in later games.
  • Lampshaded (kind of) in Sam and Max Hit the Road, when an entire room of hunting trophies recite a limerick extolling the virtues of John Muir, and a huge flashing sign reading "EDUTAINMENT" swings through the scene.
    • Conroy Bumpus's performance of "King of the Creatures", again accompanied by a chorus of hunting trophies.
  • Leliana gets a song in Dragon Age if you have sufficient approval. That doesn't explain where the instrumental accompaniment comes from out in the wilds of Ferelden.
  • Gato's song in Chrono Trigger.

Western Animation

  • The Chipmunk Adventure had the three main boys as baits for a group of alligators at a volcano on a tropical island. Suddenly, the boys start singing "Wooly Bully" to entertain the natives and alligators as the Chipettes arrive for the rescue.
    • Never mind the infamous "Gettin' Lucky" scene...
  • The very strange Hanna-Barbera adaptation of Charlotte's Web is all over this trope.

"I Can TALK! Just like all the other animals! Let me sing about it for three whole minutes!!!"

    • Well, he was a baby at the time. Remember how much fun you had making noise when you suddenly realized you were capable of speech. True of many other animals, too.
  • There's also the infamous "Land of 1,000 Dances" scene in Fern Gully.
  • Similar to the "song in Newsies that is just there so Anne-Margret can sing a song" example cited above, is the song in Anastasia that one Don Bluth fan summed up as, "ZOMG we're in Paris LOLers!". It's basically just there so Bernadette Peters can sing a song.
  • Surprisingly, Disney has avoided this for the most part. Though some have argued that "Trashing the Camp" from Tarzan qualifies.
    • Well, there's also "Everybody Wants To Be A Cat" from The Aristocats.
    • And Snow White's "Whistle While You Work."
    • Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers had a singing turtle as a narrator, who found any excuse to introduce a musical number into the story. The hero just made the princess laugh—time for a song! Pete is happy—time for a Villain Song! Happy Ending—One more song! That Reminds Me of a Song is practically his Catch Phrase.
    • We all know someone who feels "Human Again" from Beauty and the Beast and "Morning Report" from The Lion King were un-needed additions to their respective films, since the movies didn't have them originally. They aren't terrible songs, nor completely irrelevant (they're both in the stage versions of the respective movies, too). Neither of them exactly advanced the plot or provided much if any character development, but both were intended to be in the original production (and are in the Special Editions). Ditto with Pocahontas' "If I Never Knew You", which does almost nothing but just be the love song for the film.
  • In Yellow Submarine, there is at least an excuse: The Beatles need to use The Power of Rock to defeat the Blue Meanies.
  • There's a strange scene in The Jetsons movie where Judy and her Blue Skinned Space Hunk start to sing a song in a Holodeck, and the entire plot is completely derailed so that we can watch a Disney Acid Sequence set to a Tiffany song. It's Better Than It Sounds.
  • "Silver and Gold" from the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas Special qualifies, as it has almost nothing to do with the story, or with the character (Yukon Cornelius) that inspired the narrator (Sam the snowman voiced by Burl Ives) to sing it.
  • Gay Purr-ee is an animated musical by UPA, and in it the two lead characters are voiced by Judy Garland and Robert Goulet. You'd better believe it suffers hard from this trope.
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode Zanzibar, whenever Rocko mentions something, the townspeople have a song.

Guy: And you know what they say...
Rocko: It's going to be a song, isn't it?

Pinkie Pie: When I was a little filly and the sun was going do-o-o-own...
Twilight Sparkle: Tell me she's not...
Pinkie Pie: The darkness and the shadows, they would always make me fro-o-o-own...
Rarity: She is.

    • Later, in "Dragonshy," Twilight asks the others to help Fluttershy across a crevasse, leading to Pinkie instantly bursting into a (very silly) song about jumping across crevasses. This only serves to shorten Twilight's rapidly fraying temper.
    • Lampshaded again in "Bridle Gossip":

Pinkie Pie: And that wicked Enchantress, Zecora, lives there doing her evil... stuff! She's so evil, I even wrote a song about her...
Rainbow Dash: Here we go...

    • It's something of a running gag that although sometimes other ponies will join in on the rare occasions that someone other than Pinkie Pie starts a song—to the point of an outright Crowd Song in "The Best Night Ever"—no-one will ever join in on Pinkie Pie's songs, and the usual result is the other ponies watching in something between fear and bewilderment.
    • Another lampshading in A Friend In Deed. Part of Pinkie's "checklist" to making a new friend is "sing random song out of nowhere".
  • Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, big time. Anything that doesn't have to do with talking about fruitcake, they're singing about it.
  • The intensely weird Raggedy Ann and Andy A Musical Adventure is very appropriately named. Everything gets a song in this movie. The question "Who are you?" gets a song in this movie.
  • Parodied in the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Wizard of Odd". Coming upon Buford the Lion-Tiger-Bear (oh my!), this exchange occurs:

Buford: Although, that does remind me of a song. I WAAAAANNNNNNNNTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT....nuthin'.
Candace: Well, at least it was short.

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