Created By: SeptimusHeap on May 6, 2012 Last Edited By: SeptimusHeap on November 23, 2012
Troped

Descent Into Darkness Song

A song that starts out pretty but then descends into dark tones.

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This is part of the Trope Repair Shop thread. Starting with portions of the page that is getting cut.

You know how sometimes you're listening to a pretty chipper song, and you think it's gonna stay that way? Sometimes it doesn't. That's what you call the descent into darkness. A Descent Into Darkness Song is a song that changes its tone, slowly or quickly, into something much darker. The evolution of the music can involve modulating from a major key to a minor one as shorthand for a darker style.

If there are words which are consistantly upbeat, there may be Lyrical Dissonance at the end; the inverse is also true if they're depressing throughout it. If in a musical, it can be a positive song that becomes sinister when the heroes leave. If the song is wholly cheerful but later sung tragically, you have a Dark Reprise. This can be a form of Villain Song.

Examples:

  • The Once-ler's Villain Song from The Lorax seems fine and dandy for most of the song. That is until he starts talking about not caring if a few trees are dying, while you see him destroying said trees with the soundwaves from his guitar. Not only does the song get so much darker, his voice gets a distinct malevolent echo at the end.
  • "The End", by The Doors, famously starts off as a ponderous musing about the nature of finality. However, eventually the imagery shifts into describing a masked killer grappling with the desire to kill, and then killing, his own parents. Afterwards, the tempo builds up to the end, creating a mesmerizing climax.
  • Bill Bailey has an OTT Obsession Song that starts a bit depressed. Only a bit, mind you. Then it goes serenely upbeat and joyous, followed by being unbelievably angry and unhappy.
  • The Flight of the Conchords song "Petrov, Yelyena, and Me": The lyrics get more disturbing as the singer catches on that Petrov and Yelyena are eating him piece-by-piece.
  • In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the "Little Boy, You're Going to Hell!" song that plays when poor Kenny, well, goes to Hell.
  • Helen Reddy's hit "Angie Baby" (written by Alan O'Day) which starts out okay, being about a "touched" girl who uses her radio to keep her company. It soon turns to the girl having to be removed from school and eventually to the subject of potential rape and the vague aftermath that results in the disappearance of the young man, leaving the listener to wonder whether he was killed by Angie with something maybe worse (since Angie has "a secret lover who keeps her satisfied") or she's just imagining him still there.
  • Several songs by Stephen Lynch. "Superhero" starts with describing various superheroes kids might want to be before turning into a diatribe against his unfaithful wife who now lives in Hawaii with a doctor, dumping him with three kids and no job. For those interested - song here.
  • 'Princess of December' from UFO Princess Valkyrie. Starts out as a romantic song of eternal love and devotion, sung by the titular Valkyrie, only for it to be hijacked halfway through by her Shadow Archetype, Valkyrie Ghost, who turns it into a heart-wrenching song of loneliness and despair. It's one of the first hints that the Dark Valkyrie is actually a tragic figure, rather than the out-and-out villain she first appear to be. You can hear it here.
  • "More Gun" from Meet The Engineer? It starts off as a calm campfire song but VERY quickly turns harsh and ends up sounding like a western duel song. If you are interested, here it is.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has the Clock Town theme. It starts out rather upbeat enough, as the town is mostly going about its business and the townspeople blissfully ignorant that anything's wrong. Sure, the moon is up there glaring at them, but it's way out there. What's it gonna do? The next day, the moon is demonstrably closer than its original position, and that night, closer still. The music is slightly darker to accomodate. Then, by the third day, the music is outright apocalyptic, since the townspeople have all but fled or given up in terror, and the moon is so close it looks like it could cleanse the planet with one strong snort.
  • In Friendship is Witchcraft Pinkie Pie's orphanage song does this. It begins as a happy song, but then Pinkie starts singing about how unworthy she is.
  • "I Believe" from Spring Awakening has its tone darken as the two leads transition from kissing to ambiguously consensual sex.
  • An instrumental example, Rude Awakening, No. 2 by Creedence Clearwater Revival starts out mellow but becomes more and more spooky as the song goes on.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frollo's "Hellfire" song counts as a Dark Reprise of "Heaven's Light", but it also counts alone as this trope. A sacred chant leads into the song, With composure, Frollo sings to the Virgin Mary, "You know I am a righteous man..." and then the song gets darker as he sings of how desire for Esmeralda tempts him. The accompanying chants turn ominous, and Frollo pictures himself condemned. He concludes: "She'll be mine or she will burn!"

Community Feedback Replies: 45
  • May 7, 2012
    Arivne
    Should be Descent Into Darkness Song so we know it's about songs, not just any Descent Into Darkness.
  • May 7, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    ^That is much better.
  • May 7, 2012
    CosmicRock
    "The End" By the Doors famously starts off as a ponderous musing about the nature of finality, but eventually the imagery shifts into describing a masked killer grappling with the desire, and then killing his own parents. Afterwards the tempo builds up to the end, creating a mesmerizing climax.

  • May 7, 2012
    kenning
    Bill Bailey has an OTT Obsession Song that could probably count as an example, although it starts a bit depressed. Only a bit, mind you. Then it goes serenely upbeat and joyous. And then unbelievably angry and unhappy.

    Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=js4GepPNQro
  • July 2, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    ^^ and ^: Please rewrite them so that they can easily be slotted into the main list.
  • July 2, 2012
    AgProv
    Lou Reed's ''Perfect Day', on the face of it a mellow romantic song about two lovers out for the day. Then these line slip in from nowhere

    Such a perfect day/ You made me forget myself/ I thought I was someone else/Someone good....

    Oddly discordant and out of place, these are the key to what the song is really about: Lou Reed's long and destructive relationship with the true love of his life, heroin.
  • July 2, 2012
    ObasaReisan
    Don Mc Lean's "American Pie" might be considered this. While it doesn't start out too upbeat (the first stanza is about delivering bad news about someone's death), it portrays lighter troubles in the beginning, like loosing a love to someone else. Over the course of eight minutes Mc Lean goes on to describe "the day the music died," finishing off the song with a burning sacrificial rite and Satan laughing. When the "Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost" themselves have left, you know this song has spiraled to a darker place.

    Also, several songs featuring Vocaloids have tended to fall into this. A striking example is "Ant Observation:" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJSZVHTOzEE
  • July 2, 2012
    mnemosyne23
    The guys of Rifftrax do this frequently for humorous effect. They'll sing a normal song or nursery rhyme and quickly devolve it into something dark and sinister.

    From the Rifftrax for The Crater Lake Monster:
    Mike: Row, row, row your boat gently down TO HELL.
    Kevin: Whoa, the song got dark.
    Mike: Eh, that was the edgier first draft.

  • July 2, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
  • July 9, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Bump again. Still more examples needed. Will update the YKTTW as necessary.
  • July 9, 2012
    IlVit
    "In the port of Amsterdam, there are sailors who sings, of the dreams that he brings from the wide open sea" Starts like a romantic tourist postcard. Ends up being about grime and whores, grimy sex involving whores, and the tragedy of whoreness.
  • July 9, 2012
    Telcontar
    I don't have any examples, though I think I've seen this. I've edited it to expand on the description and improve grammar.
  • August 16, 2012
    abk0100
    The Flight Of The Conchords song "Petrov, Yelyena, and Me": The lyrics get more disturbing as the singer catches on that Petrov and Yelyena are eating him piece-by-piece.
  • August 16, 2012
    TwoGunAngel
    In South Park Bigger Longer And Uncut, the "Little Boy, You're Going to Hell!" song that plays when poor Kenny, well, goes to Hell.
  • August 16, 2012
    polarbear2217
    In Sweeney Todd, "No Place Like London" starts with Anthony recalling memories of his hometown and quickly switches to Sweeney Todd darkly repeating his words.

    In The Magic Flute "Schnelle Füsse Rascbe Mut" starts with Pamina and Papageno joyfully running away from Monostatos until Monostatos catches up to them and sings their melody mockingly as he captures them.
  • August 17, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Added these examples. Any other observations about the name/description/examples etc.?
  • August 18, 2012
    IlVit
    This example is a bit long, but I thought necessary to explain the true (and potentially unexpected) "dark" nature of this song. You can edit this down if need be.

    Helen Reddy's hit "Angie Baby" (written by Alan O'Day) which starts out okay, being about a "touched" girl who uses her radio to keep her company. It soon turns to the girl having to be removed from school and eventually to the subject of potential rape and the vague aftermath that results in the disappearance of the young man, leaving the listener to wonder whether he was killed by Angie with something maybe worse (since Angie has "a secret lover who keeps her satisfied") or she's just imagining him still there. Word Of God later explained the lyrics as depicting a fate for the boy just as potentially dark, because Angie's "touched" nature includes some unexpected powers. This then implies a bit of Fridge Horror, as the song earlier describes other "lovers" of Angie's that "fade away" when "daddy taps on [the] door," but since Angie is described as "living in a world of make believe... well, maybe" it leaves the listener to wonder if the would-be attacker was Angie's only trapped "secret lover."
    "It's so nice to be insane. No one asks you to explain" - indeed.

    For those interested - song here.
  • August 18, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Added the entry, but removed the natter about Fridge Horror and Word Of God.
  • August 18, 2012
    polarbear2217
    ^^^^ The second word in The Magic Flute example is Fusse has a u with an umlaut (two dots above it). I guess tvtropes doesn't like that. Any way to get the umlaut?
  • August 18, 2012
    ShiningArmor87
    • "This Day Aira" from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. It starts out somewhat gloomy, but then during Fake Cadence's line "What they don't know is that I have fooled them all." a dramatic musical sting plays, and after Real Cadence's first verse, then the song really gets dark.
  • August 18, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    ^Not sure if it's an example.
  • September 10, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Bump for hats/other comments.
  • September 10, 2012
    abk0100
    Some of the examples look they fit "Sarcastic echo" on Dark Reprise better ("The main singer opens with a happy, even sappy verse. But there is an onlooking character mocking the first from the wings.")

    The Sweeney Todd example is definitely that, and it looks like the Magic Flute example is too.

    Maybe you should restrict this to not include duets, and leave those examples to Dark Reprise.
  • September 10, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    I will need help there, as I am not familiar with songs.

    By the way, is this YKTTW a supertrope to Dark Reprise?
  • September 13, 2012
    aurora369
    Ariya's Потерянный рай ("Lost Paradise").
  • September 13, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    ^^ No this is lateral, not above. This is "starts up but becomes down" and that is "up inter-cut with down" or "up the first time, down the second time". In other words, this is one song that changes; that is one song that alternates between both up and down ("sarcastic echo") or two similar songs first up and then down ("dark reprise").
  • September 13, 2012
    IlVit
    • Pink Floyd's Rock Opera The Wall, while a very dark album already, manages to become even darker in the middle of two different song:
      • "One of my Turns" starts with Pink singing to a woman he's taken to his hotel room about how he feels one of his turns coming on. About halfway through, seemingly coinciding with Pink having a psychotic break, the song takes an extremely dark turn with heavier, faster instrumentation and the lyrics practically being yelled out, terrifying the woman and causing her to flee. In the film, he also starts wrecking his hotel room and screaming out the window.
      • "Hey You" manages to do this twice. It starts as a quiet call for help, stemming from Pink's realization that cutting himself off from the world was a mistake. The first step into darkness is when the singing shifts from Pink to the narrator who paints a very dark picture of Pink's predicament, then the second step comes from Pink becoming increasingly desperate for a human connection, starts yelling for someone to help him.
  • September 14, 2012
    KarjamP
    ^^^ Your song title has mojibake in it.

    Research what I mean.
  • September 14, 2012
    JoeG
    The song "Handlebars" by the Flobots starts with a young boy innocently bragging "I can ride my bike with no handlebars." As the song continues, the boy grows up and his statements become darker and more grandiose, ending with "I can end the planet in a holocaust."
  • September 30, 2012
    aurora369
    ^^Sorry for the Cthulhu language, it's in fact misromanized Russian. The song is called "Poteryanny Ray", which is Russian for "Paradise Lost".
  • October 1, 2012
    IlVit
    • Several songs by Stephen Lynch. "Superhero" starts with describing various superheroes kids might want to be before turning into a diatribe against his unfaithful wife who now lives in Hawaii with a doctor, dumping him with three kids and no job.
    • Many an Ironic Nursery Tune will end up distorted and minor-key as it progresses.
  • October 1, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    ^Last example will need details.

    Any other (non-example) ideas&suggestions?
  • October 1, 2012
    Mooncinder
    "Heaven's Light/Hellfire" from Disney's The Hunchback Of Notre Dame starts off with Quasimodo singing sweetly about how he never thought he'd find love until he met Esmerelda and then changes to Frollo singing about how he's going to kill Esmerelda if he can't have her for himself.

    EDIT: I've just noticed this example is also listed on the Dark Reprise page. I'm not sure if it fits here as well so I'll leave it here just in case.
  • October 1, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    No that is two songs.
  • October 2, 2012
    IlVit
    'Princess of December' from UFO Princess Valkyrie. Starts out as a romantic song of eternal love and devotion, sung by the titular Valkyrie, only for it to be hijacked halfway through by her Shadow Archetype, Valkyrie Ghost, who turns it into a heart-wrenching song of loneliness and despair. It's one of the first hints that the Dark Valkyrie is actually a tragic figure, rather than the out-and-out villain she first appear to be.

    You can hear it here.
  • October 2, 2012
    IlVit
    What about "More Gun" from Meet The Engineer? It starts off as a calm campfire song but VERY quickly turns harsh and ends up sounding like a western duel song. If you are interested, here it is.

  • October 2, 2012
    saintdane05
  • November 1, 2012
    QuestionMarker
    An instrumental example, Rude Awakening, No. 2 by Creedence Clearwater Revival starts out mellow but becomes more and more spooky as the song goes on.
  • November 1, 2012
    Thnikkafan
    "I Believe" from Spring Awakening has its tone darken as the two leads transition from kissing to ambiguously consensual sex.
  • November 1, 2012
    Icarus1123
    In Friendship is Witchcraft Pinkie Pie's orphanage song does this. It begins as a happy song, but then Pinkie starts singing about how unworthy she is.
  • November 5, 2012
    Stripeycat
    Poisoning Pigeons in the Park by Tom Lehrer begins "Spring is here, spring is here, life is skittles and life is beer". Played for laughs.

    More played for squick would be I hold your hand in mine by the same performer: as the song progresses, the hand is revealed to be a "souvenir" cut from a murder victim.
  • November 5, 2012
    KingZeal
    The Legend Of Zelda: Majoras Mask has the Clock Town theme. It starts out rather upbeat enough, as the town is mostly going about its business and the townspeople blissfully ignorant that anything's wrong. Sure, the moon is up there glaring at them, but it's way out there. What's it gonna do? The next day, the moon is demonstrably closer than its original position, and that night, closer still. The music is slightly darker to accomodate. Then, by the third day, the music is outright apocalyptic, since the townspeople have all but fled or given up in terror, and the moon is so close it looks like it could cleanse the planet with one strong snort.
  • November 10, 2012
    tardigrade
    Eminem's "Stan" takes the form of a series of fan-letters, beginning innocuously enough, before descending into murder / suicide.
  • November 10, 2012
    McKathlin
    In reference to Mooncinder's example from The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Frollo's "Hellfire" song counts as a Dark Reprise of "Heaven's Light", but it also counts alone as this trope.

    A sacred chant leads into the song, With composure, Frollo sings to the Virgin Mary, "You know I am a righteous man..." and then the song gets darker as he sings of how desire for Esmeralda tempts him. The accompanying chants turn ominous, and Frollo pictures himself condemned. He concludes: "She'll be mine or she will burn!"

    Yeah...my example needs editing for brevity; please have at it.
  • November 17, 2012
    SeptimusHeap
    Ok, last example. Launch in a few hours, if no objections raised until then.
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