- The Born Ruffians song "Hummingbird" has very upbeat instrumentals and it's sung in a very quick and playful way. But the lyrics are about a girl who plans on committing suicide.
- The Cheer Up, Charlie Daniels song "Ice Cold Razor Blades" has a peppy, upbeat tune you might hear at a resort or spa. The lyrics are about a woman's throat being slit, and the murderer wanting to do more. Including cutting her lips from her mouth.
- The Decemberists' song "Sons and Daughters" is Squee-level happy, in mood and most of the lyrics. However, a few phrases scattered around the song as well as the repeated last line make it clear that it's being sung in a bomb shelter, presumably to cheer up the survivors.
- Alternatively, it's about a family fleeing a war-torn country to a new land, but in the distant past, with the references to aluminum and cinnamon being a Genius Bonus, as both were once considered precious commodities
- Alternatively the song's about a group of settlers escaping a war and arriving on a new land, doomed to failure because they have no idea what they're doing.
- While another of their songs, "O Valencia!" sounds rather upbeat, the chorus mentions the blood of the singer's lover being 'still warm on the ground' and burning the city down. The last verse has the lover being shot in the singer's arms, 'and an oath of love was your dying cry.'
- "O Valencia!" was played unironically in the trailer for the romantic comedy Leap Year. Dying lovers, warring gangs, blood on the ground, and Amy Adams acting cute.
- Their song "You'll Not Feel the Drowning" sounds like pretty, soothing lullaby, complete with a beautiful instrumental in the middle, but it's about a pirate about to drown a girl he kidnapped.note
Go to sleep now, little ugly
Go to sleep now, you little fool
Forty-winking in the belfry
You'll not feel the drowning
You'll not feel the drowning
- "The Rake's Song" is way, way too catchy and upbeat for a song about the titular widowed rake murdering his three children so he could continue enjoying his life unattached, and saying proudly that he regrets nothing.
- "The Chimbley Sweep" has a lively, catchy tune, and lyrics which are about the hard life of a boy who, going by the last verse, may be either a literal chimney sweep or using the term as an Unusual Euphemism for a child prostitute, but either way there are clearly some unpleasant shenanigans going on.
- "July, July!" is a lively, cheerful song which, before the end of the first verse, veers suddenly into Gorn about how "your uncle was a crooked French Canadian and he was gut-shot running gin".
- The Decemberists love this trope. "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)" is an upbeat and adorable sounding duet between a woman and her husband. The husband is a (probably Confederate) Civil War soldier who was at the Battle of Manassas/Bull Runnote and was killed either there or somewhere else; the chorus is about her coming to find his body and bury him back home.note Some of the lyrics are pretty gruesome, too:
But oh, did you see all the dead of Manassas
All the bellies and the bones and the bile
- How about "Culling of the Fold"? A catchy, highly hummable tune. The chorus goes "Dash her on the paving stones, it may break your heart to break her bones, but someone's got to do the culling of the fold."
- The song is actually so graphic that Jenny asked that it be left off of albums; it can be purchased separately on iTunes, but you won't be getting it on a disc anytime soon.
- "We Both Go Down Together" has a catchy, upbeat violin melody and tells the story of an aristocrat who's in love with a lower class girl, a match his family won't accept. His method of escaping his family's disapproval? A suicide pact by jumping off the "cliffs of Dover". (Of course, for the additional punch, the lyrics can be interpreted that his love is obsessive and he's preying on the girl.)
- The dťnoument to their "folk opera", The Hazards of Love, is entitled The Hazards of Love 4: The Drowned. It's a hauntingly beautiful love song where the characters decide in their last moments before their boat sinks and they drown together to cement their love via 'marriage'. "And with this long last rush of air we'll speak our vows in starry whisper / and as the waves came crashing down he closed his eyes and softly kissed her".
- The King Is Dead provides a number of these, but probably the best is "Calamity Song", an uplifting country-folk-Americana tune about the end of the world (It starts "Had a dream/You and me at the war at the end-time...", and proceeds to rhyme that with "As scores of innocents died").
- The Delgados' joyous anti-anthem "All You Need Is Hate."
Hate is all around find it in your heart in every waking sound
On your way to school, work or church you'll find that it's the only rule
Build a different world, hate will help you find what you've been looking for
Hate is everywhere, inside your mother's heart and you will find it there
- Also, "Woke From Dreaming" is a beautiful little tune, about an abducted girl strangling her kidnapper.
- Another Canadian band called McKenna is an Irish rock band known for their rousing songs about drinking and songs that were written while drunk (like all Irish rock bands). Two songs in particular are quite happy in tune but sad in lyrics, however. The song "Guinness For Two" sounds like a love song, especially when heard in concert. The song, however, is about the death of a loved one (possibly a girlfriend) and how the narrator will have to drink by himself. It does end on a hopeful note, though, with the lyrics "Though I miss you like burning/I don't wish your returning/for you have gone on to joy evermore./And I'll follow you soon/for a life is a tune/and together we'll sing the encore". The other song is a little more obvious, as it's title is "The Accident Song". Just listening to it absentmindedly, it sounds like the narrator is trying to get home to his sweetheart. However, a closer listen reveals that he is traveling by the scene of a fatal accident and that he is thankful he can see his girlfriend and other loved ones, unlike the people in the car.
- The indie-rock band Beulah made liberal use of this. For instance, the song "Popular Mechanics for Lovers" features upbeat, jangly guitars and lyrics lamenting the fact that the narrator had been passed over for a girl's affection by another man. It doesn't hurt that rather than the song title, the actual lyrics in the song are "Popular Mechanics for Broken Hearts could help me now".
- Also from Beulah, the chorus to the song Gene Autry takes a turn at the end:
When I get to California gonna write my name in the sand
Gonna lay this body down and watch the waves the roll in
Gonna rest this weary head on someone who I think will care
But when the stars in the sky start falling, I think you'll understand
That the city spreads out just like a cut vein and everybody drowns sad and lonely
- A lot of songs by The Indelicates are like this. "Flesh" is a pretty, soothing song about rape, plastic surgery, stripping, and feminist bitterness, and includes the c-word. Bonus points for dissonance within the lyrics:
Strip me and dissect me,
milk my tears and tap my bile
Hey doc can you take my skin
and melt it into plastic
Beauty isnít truth, itís just youth,
and itís adaptive and itís elasticÖ
And I love you, whoever you are, yeah, I love you.
Hey girls, weíre all the same, arenít we
- Our Daughters Will Never Be Free is bright, peppy, and along similar lines.
I think it's fine just to make people smile!
I think it's fine to force people to smile!
Make me your darling, make me your princess
Make me your baby, make me your goddess
Rape me and beat me, rape me and beat me
Rape us and beat us till we're black and blue
We made it okay on the day we said nothing
Was better than something to say
- About half of the songs by Jeremy Messersmith fit this trope. Almost all of his songs, are sweet, gentle tunes about topics like drinking away the pain of a breakup, sex ruining friendships, and resigning yourself to an unfulfilling life.
- The Reign of Kindo song "Breathe Again" is a very soothing soft rock song... until you listen closely and realize three verses in that it's about a father who takes revenge on a man who broke into his house on Christmas Eve and stole the presents. It's hard to relax to a song when the singer swears that he "won't stop tearing him limb from limb [so] he'll never breathe again". It ends with him dumping the thief's body in the river and gaining immense relief from the murder.
- Pretty much all of The Wombats' repertoire. "School Uniforms" is about a lost childhood love, "Backfire at the Disco" is about a date gone wrong, "My First Wedding" is about a man attending the marriage of a girl he loves to another man, and "Here Comes the Anxiety" is about how his own self-doubt and loathing sabotage his relationships. And they're all pretty dancable.
- Jim O'Rourke's "Halfway to a Threeway" is a parody of intimate love ballads, by being concerned with a man ready to involve his (literally) braindead girlfriend in a threesome with another woman.
- Animal Collective's "Graze" starts off with a voice gently singing how awesome it is to wake up on a beautiful morning like this one. Then it slowly builds to a climax, but when it hits in all its joyous panfluting majesty, it's accompanied by lyrics as "Why do you have to go? / I'm in the dark unknown / And you're staying home".
- The Eels' "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues".
- "Last Stop: This Town" is also very cheery-sounding and danceable for being about taking a final trip around the neighborhood you grew up in after you've died (although in the context of the album it's on, it kind of is a positive song).
- "What Is This Note?" is an interesting inversion of how the band usually uses the trope: If you read the lyrics sheet first, you would expect it to sound like a typical Silly Love Song... instead it's based around a fast, angry-sounding Punk Rock guitar riff, and the lyrics are shouted through a distortion effect.
- "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)" is yet another song that uses this trope; a song that sounds like a musician's house party opens with the line "Do you know what it's like to fall on the floor, cry your guts out til you got no more" and "Do you know what it's like to care too much about someone that you're never gonna get to touch"
- Although the song is more about how both your good and bad experiences affirm your life, and an upbeat accompaniment would probably fit in that respect.
- He goes for the sad music/happy lyrics version of this trope on "Things The Grandchildren Should Know" - sadly beautiful acoustic guitars with plenty of weeping lap-steel, balanced against triumphant, if realistic, lyrics.
I knew true love and I knew passion
And the difference between the two
And I had some regrets
But if I had to do it all again
Well, it's something I'd like to do
- The band Islands loves this trope. Examples include "Pieces of You" (a bouncy, upbeat tune where the title is very literal), "Volcanoes" (a rather blissful-sounding song about the end of the world), and "Humans" (another bouncy tune about the survivors of some disaster dying off).
- "Rough Gem"
The world beat you for the something nice
You worked hard, died poor
You mined what you died for
Diamonds di di di di di uh
- "Masterpiece" by Meg and Dia has an upbeat, catchy, bouncy melody, and the sisters' sweet soprano voices lend an innocent quality to the song. Then you listen a little closer...
I am no masterpiece where innocence is painted green
Isn't it strange to think that you created all of me?
Done by the hands of a broken artist
You painted black where my naked heart is
I finally know what wrong is
Now I finally know that you bleed for nothing
Carved like a stone with your hands still shaking
On display through a soul still breaking
Aren't you proud you're the one that made me?
- Not to mention "Cardigan Weather", which is about the narrator's boyfriend cheating on her, so she sews him into her mattress and hooks up with other guys on top of it.
A mattress for a coffin suits you very fine...
- "Monster" has a surprisingly upbeat tune for a song about child abuse, rape, and suicide.
Monster. How should I feel?
Turn the sheets down, murder ears wth pillow lace
There's bathtubs, filled with glow flies
Bathe in kerosene
Their words tattooed in his veins.
- Elliott Smith's song "Memory Lane", is a horribly depressing song set to a cheerful, folky tune in a major key. As if that wasn't bad enough, his voice sounds so perversely hopeful while he's singing it.("Isolation pushes past self hatred, guilt and shame to a place where suffering is just a game.")
- Any of Elliott Smith's more upbeat sounding songs, in general. See Also: "Say Yes," "Baby Britain."
- "My Slow Descent into Alcoholism" by The New Pornographers has one of the most cheery and upbeat tunes ever. The lyrics, however, stick closely to the title.
- "Now She Knows She's Wrong" by Jellyfish is a cheery song set to vibraphone, harpsichord, and other happy instrumentation about a woman grieving after finding out her husband of twenty years was cheating on her. The final minute is particularly disturbing for having the entire band sing the chorus in a "We Are the World"-style harmony.
- Jellyfish's "Bedspring Kiss" also qualifies, being a lounge, jazz-styled piece about a character, Jimmy, killing a prostitute in a drug-induced rage.
- David Ford's "Have Yourself a Bitter Little Christmas" rather gives it away in the title; the jaunty banjo, mandolin and glockenspiel accompaniment would make for a great Christmas song if it weren't about leaving your wife on Christmas day.
- The Faint, especially tracks off of Danse Macabre, if you just listen to the backing it's a pretty cool new-wave dance band. The lyrics and some of the track names (Agenda Suicide for example) are much less upbeat (Working yourself to death? Never reaching your dreams because of work? Super-happy!)
- The majority of the music made by Get Set Go. A review for their CD Sunshine, Joy and Happiness says it best:
(Reviewer) Blythe Tellefsen: "Get Set Go continues with this CD to combine "pop" sound (albeit with the unusual and haunting addition of a cello) with lyrics that usually remain just at the edge of a suicide note."
- Most of Motion City Soundtrack's music is lively and upbeat. Most of it also references chronic depression, struggles with alcoholism, and/or an inability to relate to people.
- Shiny Toy Guns' "When They Came For Us" is a rather cheery number about the loss of one's innocence in a war: "When they took the beach that day / They stole the children, took them away / And I miss everyone, but most of all, the little ones, and their shiny toy guns /" The title is also a possible reference to the Holocaust.
- "PDA" by Interpol has this written throughout the song. It's a cheery song about a psychopathic rapist/killer running a hotel who goes to jail after raping one of his tenants
- Regina Spektor's song "Two Birds" could also count. It may sound upbeat, even cute, until you realize it's describing a relationship wherein one person seems to be afraid of commitment and continuously lies/makes excuses. What's more heartbreaking is that the other is oblivious to the lies and promises to never leave the other. The only thing keeping it from being a total downer is the last line, "One tries to fly away, and the other..." which implies that he might "fly away" too, but the outcome is never known.
- Regina Spektor seems to use this trope a lot in her songs. "Buildings" almost seems cheery until you realize it's talking about a husband with a wife suffering from possible depression (and an alcoholic as well) and she keeps promising to change, as the husband believes that if they can make 'buildings so tall these days' then she can overcome her problems. And "That Time" is a cheery song that talks about cute, normal things like reading only the backs of cereal boxes and deciding to kiss anywhere except the mouth... and also has a human tooth found on Delancey, a pigeon being eaten by a cat, a friend overdosing twice, and the narrator taking them to the ER while their hallucinating over drugs as well.
- Flyin' is a fun and catchy beat... and then the lyrics take a tailspin from cute and quirky to realization that she's talking about a student who was taken advantage of by a teacher.
- THEN you can add the popular interpretation that 'flyin' outta my window' is about drug use, and suddenly you realize that the teacher doped her up in the story when she refused, and became addicted to drugs.
- Tindersticks, occasionally. "Snowy in F# minor" is one of the more obvious examples.
- Why, hello there, Death Cab for Cutie. Ever wonder why Ben Gibbard is sometimes called the master of this? Well, there's:
- "No Sunlight", a beach-pop tune about the loss of innocence. Oh, and also the nuclear apocalypse.
- "The Sound of Settling", which is a indie-pop Crowd Song about crippling shyness.
- "You Can Do Better Than Me" sounds fairly upbeat and cheery, until you realize that the lyrics are about about someone who feels as though their relationship is falling apart, but their lack of self-esteem means that they're willing to cling to the relationship.
- "Underneath the Sycamore", an upbeat tune that begins with the character in the song dying in a terrible car crash! The song goes on to say that that the character finds their peace "underneath the sycamore" aka six feet under in a graveyard. Cheery!
- And all of this, mind you, is merely scratching the surface. Suffice it to say that a good description of the band's style is "The songwriter writes melancholy ballads. The band sets them to whatever music sounds cool—which is usually rather upbeat."
- Amanda Palmer's "Oasis" is an upbeat, absurdly catchy song, which in the narrator happily tells the audience how she was raped, got pregnant, had an abortion, and got backstabbed by her close friend who told about it to everyone at school.
- The Mountain Goats' "No Children", a fast paced, major keyed song about a horrible relationship compared to drowning. The lyrics are sung so cheerfully that it all becomes Black Comedy.
I am drowning. There is no sign of land
You are coming down with me, hand in unlovable hand
and I hope you die! I hope that we both die!
- Becomes even more jarring when it's featured in Moral Orel, a cartoon dripping with Black Comedy under its cutesy exterior. It's played at the beginning and ending of "Numb", the latter being one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the series.
- St Vincent invokes this trope to great effect quite often: "What Me Worry," a calm and careless tune, takes a sudden turn when you hear the lyric "Love is just a blood match to see who can endure lash after lash." Then you realize that someone is saying this to their lover.
- From the same album, Human Racing, with special mentions to the line:
Little lamb, what's your plan?
Greener pastures in the sky? It's a shame you want to die, know why
- And Now, Now, about an abusive relationship:
I'm not your mother's favorite dog
I'm not the carpet you walk on
- And her album Actor invokes it all along. It opens with The Strangers, a melodic and calm song about a delusional relationship sung by the point of view of someone who seems to have lived A LOT of delusional relationships already:
What do I share?
What do I keep from all the strangers
Who sleep where I sleep?
- Then goes to Black Rainbow, with someone having what seems to be a nervous breakdown (the songs subverts this trope in the last minute, with a really long Last Note Nightmare):
Think I'm glass, I think I'm breaking it, wrecking ball outside my door
Or we will have to shoot
- Slint's song "Breadcrumb Trail" inverts the way this trope is frequently applied: although the song has a dark and violently heavy midsection, the entire story of the song is essentially "a man goes to a carnival and meets a new friend", and the anguished, soul-wrenching vocals in the middle are really just a description of riding a roller coaster.
- The Vaccines' Post Break-up Sex is surprisingly catchy and upbeat for a song about... post break-up sex:
Someone up the social scale
For when you're going off the rails
Have post break-up sex
That helps you forget your ex
What did you expect
From post break-up sex?
* While the lyrics of Hozier's "Take Me To Church" does include some dark imagery, it's about comparing love to a religious experience and not as grim or macabre as the music suggests.