Julia Ecklar's song "The Light-Ship" is a close-harmony piece sung a capella in the style of a 17th century madrigal. It's about life on a power generation satellite. It's also one of her cheerier works.
Rockapella's "Zombie Jamboree" is a light-hearted song about zombies taking over New York and eating everyone. Narrator included.
Tonic Sol-fa's version of the folk song "Man of Constant Sorrow". The song is about what you'd expect based on the title, and their version is bouncy, upbeat, and a drastic contrast to the words.
Laibach. One of their signature techniques is to make jarring covers. This one is possibly their most well-known song.
The Bonzo Dog (Doo Dah) Band's "I'm The Urban Spaceman" is a catchy tune with an incredibly misanthropic lyric when you examine it closely — basically the sort of person who "never lets my friends down" is the sort of person who does not actually exist. The lyrics describe a person who is exemplary in many more ways than a real person could be (and implies having super powers as well). It could just as well be about a comic book character.
In the performance on The Innes Book Of Records, the Urban Spaceman was an invisible man in a tuxedo — a perfect-yet-nonexistent person.
The band Of Montreal employs this trope to an extreme level in their latest album, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? Almost every song on said album mixes very happy instrumentals with lyrics about religious confusion, anti-depressants, and other such themes. (The lead songwriter was going through a nervous breakdown and marital troubles at the time.)
Earlier song "Chrissy Kiss The Corpse" is a jaunty number about desecrating an old woman's corpse in public... Although in this case the lyrics were clearly mining the situation for Black Comedy.
The sixties group The Zombies released a jolly bouncy number called "Care of Cell 44", basically about a poor boy whose girlfriend has been imprisoned for an unspecified crime.
An inversion. "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum is a serious tune with silly, random lyrics; "wandered through my playing cards", "the ceiling flew away". Unless, of course, it's really about drugs.
Florence + The Machine : Between Two Lungs and Cosmic Love to name two particularly dissonant pieces.
Classical and Orchestral
Der Hölle Rache, or "Hell's Vengeance", is one of those classical pieces everyone recognizes but nobody can name. It's an aria from the Mozart opera "The Magic Flute" in which an enraged queen threatens damnation and disownment upon her daughter if the girl doesn't kill one of the queen's enemies. The general tone of the piece, however, is somewhat less than fiendish.
That YouTube video is a performance by Natalie Dessay, who refuses to play the Queen as a villain and will only perform her if she can be sympathetic. For true chills, check out this one by the awesomeDiana Damrau.
"Batti, batti o bel Masetto" ("Beat me, oh lovely Masetto") from Mozart's Don Giovanni is a calm and tender love song in which a woman begs her fiance to beat her.
Mozart is also responsible for a quite beautiful, six part canon entitled "Lick Me in the Arse."
To be fair, the subtext of the aria basically comes down to a teasing, "You love me way too much to beat me, even if I did cheat on you like you think I did."
Besides the aforementioned Tosca, how about the rather sweet lullaby Mariya sings at the end of Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa? It would be quite beautiful if she wasn't A. completely mad, B. holding and rocking a dying man who she thinks is a child, who dies half-way through, and C. about to freeze to death.
Speaking of Puccini, the aria "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi also applies, as Lauretta's pleading with her father to let her marry the man she loves, or she'll kill herself.
Any serious opera by Rossini. It seems the man was practically uncapable of writing anything NOT upbeat and cheerful even if the lyrics call for vengeance, anguish, distress, fear etc.
The trailer for The Social Network features a harmonized choral arrangement of Radiohead's "Creep" by the Belgian choir Scala & Kolacny Brothers.note Incidentally, it's from their 2004 album On The Rocks It's weirdly haunting and awesome.
Carl Orff's Carmina Burana contains some of the most instantly recognisable music in the world. The first four minutes, better known as "O Fortuna", is quite probably the most famously epic piece of music ever written, and the platinum-iridium standard for Ominous Latin Chanting besides. The lyrics? The Carmina Burana covers a wide variety of subjects, and most are utterly mundane. "O Fortuna" itself is about bad luck. More specifically, it's the lament of a student emo-ing out because he just gambled away the last of his drinking money.
The Polish National Anthem has an upbeat, cheerful tune, but the translation of the lyrics towards the end is anything but cheerful.
Father, in tears
Says to his Basia
Just listen, it seems that our people
Are beating the drums
On Christopher Tin's 2009 album Calling All Dawns, there is a song on it called Se E Pra Vir Que Venha, which has a rather upbeat tempo and is even a bit of an Ear Worm, but the Portuguese lyrics? It's about the narrator waiting for her own death to come, and is even quite joyful about it. Not long after that, though, there's Rassemblons-Nous,which is a pumping anthemabout the opposite.
Speaking of Gilbert and Sullivan, there's "With Catlike Tread" from The Pirates of Penzance. A song about how sneakily the the titular pirates are breaking into the Major General's home... annotated Fortissimo (Italian, and musician, for "Really Loud"), and set to the sound of blaring trumpets, rumbling kettle drums, and crashing cymbals.
Joseph Haydn had a bit of fun with this in the Agnus Dei portion of his Creation Mass. The lyrics (translated from Latin) are "Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us". Haydn proceeded to write the happiest Agnus Dei he could think of.
Comedy and Parody
This trope is the entire basis for the comedy act "Richard Cheese and Lounge Against The Machine." They take songs such as "Baby Got Back" and "Closer" and perform them in the style of Frank Sinatra.
Flight of the Conchords semi-parodies it with "The Humans are Dead" — It's meant to be a serious ballad to the plight of robots killing humans and taking over. It's played totally for laughs, especially in the monotone the duo get.
Eric Idle's song "FCC Song" is a cheery little number about Idle being fined by the FCC, while it points out several people and issues who are causing trouble in the world; the underlying message being that instead of focusing on things and going after people that are actually problems, the FCC decides to fine him for language.
"And fuck you all so very much!"
The song, if broadcast, would allegedly cost Idle $250,000.
This trope probably applies in several ways to all of MC Hawking's canon, which consists of a vocal synthesizer rapping about science.
Not just rapping, gangsta rapping.
Kicking science like no one else can
My dick is twice as long as my attention span
So if you cross me bitch you're out of luck
'Cause Stephen Hawking is crazy as fuck
For that matter, most nerd rap probably applies, from Weird Al's "White and Nerdy" to the Deckard Cain Rap.
The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society has created a pair of CD collections of holiday music with the lyrics replaced by references to a wide variety of Lovecraft's horror stories. So you get the music to, say, "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" with lyrics talking about the singer being chased through Innsmouth by Deep Ones.
At least one of the songs, "Carol of the Old Ones," is actually not lyrically dissonant, because the Christmas carol it is based on is unusually creepy to begin with.
Denis Leary has a song titled "Life's Gonna Suck," a Raffi-esque campfire song about how horrible life is when you're an adult. It ends "You're gonna end up smoking crack/on your back/face the fact/you're gonna end up hooked on smack/and then you're gonna DIIIIIE!" all sung in an incredibly cheerful manner. Of course, it's played for comedy—with Leary even noting "well, I think I smell a lawsuit in THAT one!" at the end of the song.
See also: the appropriately-titled "Asshole".
Tom Lehrer plays this trope to the hilt, for comedy purposes. It is worth mentioning that the majority of Tom Lehrer's musical career was in the late fifties to early sixties, and how he pulled off some of this stuff boggles the mind. And yes, it is still friggin' hilarious.
"Be Prepared" is another song in the same style about, among other things, how important it is for boy scouts to hide their reefer from the scoutmaster, and make sure they get a cut when pimping out your sister.
"My Hometown" is in the same style, and about how his high school chemistry teacher now runs an LSD lab and hands out samples to his students, his high school sweetheart has become a prostitute and the nice guy who ran the diner killed his mother-in law and served her ground remains as ice-cream garnish.
"I Hold Your Hand in Mine" is a love ballad that mentions that the singer killed the girl in question, and said hand is no longer attached.
Bill Oddie of The Goodies stole a lot of tropes from Lehrer and came up with songs like "Mummy, I Don't Like My Meat" (a cheerful song about eating the family pets to avoid starvation).
Stephen Lynch bases his entire career around this trope as well, singing happy, upbeat tunes about venereal diseases, Satan, Nazis, schizophrenia, and many horrifying things he does to children. And that's just in one album.
The "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Do I Creep You Out" is a direct parody of "Do I Make You Proud", whereas it describes the tendencies of a stalker in a humorously over-the-top fashion.
Many other Weird Al songs use this technique as part of their humor, as well. "Christmas at Ground Zero," about celebrating Christmas in the middle of a nuclear war, is probably the most blatant example, as it manages to use this trope within the lyrics themselves:
"We can dodge debris While we trim the tree Underneath a mushroom cloud!"
And "The Night Santa Went Crazy", arguably his darkest song to date. With a folksy tune reminiscent of Soul Asylum.
And then there's "Weasel Stomping Day", a song about the slaughter of thousands of innocent mustelids, sung like an upbeat holiday song.
The entire song of "I Remember Larry" is a contender, since it's a fast-paced, upbeat song about a horribly abusive neighbour that made the singer's life miserable, with the last verse not breaking step where, according to these snippets: "broke in Larry's house", "tied his mouth with a rag", "stuffed him in a big plastic bag", "If the cops ever find him". It puts a different spin on the rest of the song, such as the chorus repetition of "I'll never forget about Larry, no matter how I try".
It gets even better when you listen to him describing Larry as "...a funny, funny guy..." and realize that he was saying it with an undertone of sarcasm.
"Good Old Days" from Even Worse sounds like a pleasant reminiscence of lost childhood innocence, but the lyrics are about a childhood delinquent who grows into a psychopath.
"I remember sweet Michelle She was my high school romance ... I tied her to a chair and I shaved off all her hair And I left her in the desert all alone Sometimes in my dreams I can still hear her screams I wonder if she ever made it home Those were the good old days"
And very similar and getting humorous in the process is "You Don't Love Me Anymore", which, while sounding soft and melancholy, is all about a guy who apparently realizes very slowly (after being so clueless) that the girl he's in love with is just too sadistic and abusive towards him (even describing actions done to him that should have killed him, all while acting rather mildly surprised of it all).
"Trigger Happy" is a Beach Boys/surf music inspired tune about a gun obsessed paranoid.
"Happy Birthday" from his self-titled album is a spirited, up-tempo birthday song. It encourages the celebrant to enjoy this birthday because everyone dies, and the world is probably going to end soon.
And then there's "Bohemian Polka", Weird Al's cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody" sung as a goofy polka song.
Hell, all of his polka medleys fall into this. Popular songs about sex, rape, masturbation, murder, and suicide all done to a cheery polka beat.
"Since You've Been Gone" describes the torture of the dumpee (in reasonably cheery '50s a capella doo-wop), and ends with the brilliant line "I feel almost as bad as I did when you were still here."
"Such A Groovy Guy" does this as well. The song sounds like '80's pop fluff, and then you listen to the lyrics...
"Baby, are you in the mood for a little romance Well, for starters I could pour some chocolate pudding down your pants And then attach electrodes to your brain and watch you dance Well, golly, wouldn't that be fun
"Skipper Dan", from Al's forthcoming album, has a catchy, bouncy, upbeat tune and is about a man who used to be a well-known actor and has seen his ambitions go up in smoke, forced to work a dead-end job at Disneyland.
"Look at those hippos, they're wiggling their ears Just like they've done for the last fifty years Now I'm laughing at my own jokes but I'm crying inside 'Cause I'm working on the Jungle Cruise ride.
"Everything You Know Is Wrong" is a happy, upbeat song, in which the singer gets involved in a serious accident, gets vivisected by aliens, dies of a papercut, and has to face the existential quandary of being repeatedly told that everything he knows is wrong, by no less than Saint Peter, the disembodied head of Colonel Sanders, and his hibachi dealer. In The Style OfThey Might Be Giants, too.
"Party In The CIA" is a similar case, with a happy, catchy tune - and lyrics about a CIA agent brutally torturing the nation's enemies before eventually being captured and killed himself.
"One of Those Days" is a jazzy bit of 80's pop rock about a guy going through one of the worst days imaginable, though he plays the dissonance within the lyrics as well:
"Your Horoscope For Today" is a rather upbeat song about the obvious. The horoscopes in question... are not so cheery:
Gemini! Your birthday party will be ruined once again by your explosive flatulence Your love life will run into trouble when your fiancé hurls a javelin through your chest [...] Sagittarius! All your friends are laughing behind your back! (In a demonic voice): KILL THEM.
Rhett & Link wrote a soft song called "Get You Back" about revenge. They also wrote a song about squirrels which has a "squirrely" feel but portrays their anger about being shown all over the Web without giving consent first.
This song starts out as a simple story about a geeky gamer guy who works at a video game store having a crush on a girl who frequents the store, but goes into something completely different all together while still keeping its absurdly happy tone.
It got no CD player, it only got the eight-track Whoever designed my car can lick my sweaty nut sack (Make 'em bite his ass, too) And I got no fucking brakes; I'm always way out of control Eleven times I day, I hear, "Hey, watch it asshole! (You fucking piece of shit!)
He also has a reggae sounding song about casting voodoo curses on people who annoy him.
Jon Lajoie employs this in most of his songs, from "Everyday Normal Guy" (a gangsta rap about a boring 9-5 average Joe), "Stay At Home Dad" (a heavy metal piece about a house husband on paternity leave), and Sunday Afternoon (a techno dance mix about doing chores at the end of the weekend).
Jon Lajoie does this in almost all of his songs. "Show Me Your Genitals," "Show Me Your Genitals 2," and "I Kill People" are all vaugely parodic rap songs about, well, genitals and killing people.
"The Hot Dog Man is packing up..." Lampshaded in that as Tripod sing the song, in-character Gatesy is as unaware of the upcoming lyrical dissonance as the rest of us are, and reacts with increasing horror as the song turns sinister. And boy, does it turn sinister.
Also occurred in the Tripod song "Congo", which starts off as a serious song about the pointlessness of war, and while the lyrics stay depressing, Gatesy and Yon eventually turn it into an upbeat cheerful song, complete with cheerful dancing.
Present in many Arrogant Worms songs, although it is comedy - "Killer Robots From Venus", for example, is about killer robots but is set to a cheery tune more suited to happier subjects.
Lemon Demon's "Atomic Copper Claw" is a hyper song is sung by a paranoid person who believes he's being stalked by someone wanting to kill him, with the instrument the song is named after hiding under his long sleeves.
Lemon Demon does this a lot. A few other examples:
"Dead Sea Monkeys," a cheerful, upbeat song about... dead sea monkeys.
"Gonna Dig Up Alec Guinness," perhaps the best example, a cheerful, 80's-sounding rock song about exhuming Alec Guinness and putting him on display for profit.
"Stuck," a slow, cheerful-sounding song with a lot of whistling about a person who is literally trapped in a song and wants to you put him out of his misery by skipping the track.
"Eyewishes," a catchy rock song with a great guitar riff about committing suicide.
"I Know Your Name," a catchy surfer-rock melody about an insane man who accosts random people and burns down a supermarket.
"Action Movie Hero Boy," a song about a dynamite-obsessed moron who blows himself up.
"The Saga of You, Confused Destroyer of Planets," a catchy little tune about blowing up millions of lives. "It's just a paradox, it isn't wrong."
"The Satirist's Love Song," a cheerful tune in which the narrator tells his girlfriend or significant other that their entire relationship was a work of satire.
"Diarrhea" by Da Yoopers is played as a straight, serious love song (well, except for the fart solo). It obviously isn't a straight, serious love song — he wants to go on a date with her, but has to stay at home because he has the runs.
We were young and fancy-free. We never had that much to do. The world was made for kids like me, In the summer of '62. We were too young to be blue. We never had that much to do. But then we found something to do.
Oh, remember that summer when we killed that guy? The way we tortured him, the way we watched him die? The way we mangled his corpse on the railway line? That sunny summer's day we killed that guy!
Brazilian comedy team Casseta & Planeta have "Eu tô Tristão", a cheery tune that could fit any Carnival ball, and has been described as a "exhumation samba" for lyrics that roughly go "I am so sad/I am a fucking wreck/I'm in the shit/Became a card out of the deck".
The Tiger Lillies are very good at this, though many of their songs have a more sarcastic/comedic than some of the examples here. Listen to "Bully Boys" and hear for yourself.
The band Creature Feature does this in all their songs. Most notably in "A Gorey Demise", which is a tribute to Edward Gorey's book "The Gashlycrumb Tinies". It is a cheerful, upbeat, alphabet-themed song about twenty-six individuals dying horrible deaths. "A is for Amber who drowned in a pool, B is for Billy who was eaten by ghouls..."
Palmer pointed out her blog that the Lyrical Dissonance is a big part of what makes it offensive, and if she were to sing the same words to a slow mournful tune it probably wouldn't have been banned from the radio.
There's also "Bad Habit," which is a catchy, up-beat ear worm about self-harm.
"Coin Operated Boy". The verses and chorus seem to be about a happy relationship between a girl and her robotic boyfriend... But when it gets to the bridge... oh boy.
And then there's her version of Rebecca Black's "Friday"
Boys Night Out's entire Broken Bones and Bloody Kisses EP is extremely poppy and upbeat sounding, but the lyrical content is incredibly dark and macabre playing with many suicide metaphors and even one track about murdering an ex-lover. And the movie that is sampled to set the mood? Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Played with rather amusingly in the Say Anything song "That Is Why". It comes off as a peppy faux showtune that's actually about him hating his ex and listing of reasons why she's a horrible bitch. Escpecially weird that an earlier version of the song, "You Should Rock My World" is cheery lyrics set to the same melody.
The song "The Way She Feels" by the band Between the Trees is about a girl who cuts herself, but the song is way too cheerful and upbeat for such a topic.
At least until the latter part.
"Jingle Jangle Jingle" by Kay Kaiser is extremely simple and catchy. But read between the lines (or just listen to the first one), and you realize it's about a guy running away from his wedding, and the sound of his spurs helping him to focus on his wandering
A fair number of Gnarls Barkley songs. Take, for example, "Run (I'm A Natural Disaster)", an immensely catchy and upbeat tune that the lyrics suggest is about the singer becoming a dangerous nutcase after doing drugs. Or a Zombie Apocalypse. Or even Music.
"Neighbors" is dark... until you realized it's about a man getting annoyed at his neighbor and finally yells at him. If you take it literally.
"Charity Case" and "A Little Better" are both like this (on the same album). The former about a lonely man confessing to an equally lonely woman, and the latter... about feeling a bit better after a massive bout of sadness. There's also "Who Cares?" on the previous album about a man talking contradictorily upbeatly, but given its content, it's unsurprising.
Well, they were dreaming when they wrote that, so forgive them if it went astray.
"Sister" would fall well into this category. A catchy, upbeat, sugary pop song about a 14 year old boy being molested by his middle aged sister.
Also, "Ronnie, Talk To Russia" was about the ongoing Cold War tensions at the time.
"Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" by Sly And The Family Stone, a funky proto-disco song guaranteed to get you on the floor and boogie, despite the song being about Sly struggling with his inner demons.
Nirvana's "Sliver" plays it more straight: the melody is cheerful, but the lyrics are about a boy having an awful night at his grandparent's. The song is clearly comedic; Cobain's voice shows the boy's "suffering" often.
Does "Polly", a calm and mellow song about kidnapping and rape, count?
Don't Forget "Lithium", a song about a guy who kills his girlfriend, and goes out to commit suicide, only to Join Christianity. This all happens while keeping the same mellow feel throughout the song.
"Tyler" by The Toadies is quite optimistic and laid back, even after the part where the narrator breaks into his love interest's house through the kitchen window and gets drunk before going up to her room, where he then states that he hears the fear in her voice. At least "Possum Kingdom" had suitably dark music to go with the lyrics.
"Black Bock" by Melvins: a languid, summery folk-pop song full of "la la la's" that's apparently about slaughtering animals for fun ("I cut the throat of a billy goat and let it bleed", "It's kinda nice to know the things that make me happy / just realize, keep your dog away from me"). It's really far afield from their usual musical style (the very fact that the lyrics are intelligible for once makes them stand out), which makes it come off as Black Humor... But then the music does eventually get a little eerie (though hazy and psychedelic, rather than aggressive), and it ends with some strange distant synth warblings.
"Kaulana Nā Pua" sounds like a sweet romantic song, except that the lyrics are protesting the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and its subsequent annexation by the United States. On the Mākaha Sons album Nā Pua o Hawaiʻi, the dissonance is reinforced by all the other songs generally being about romance or natureʻs beauty (notwithstanding deeper metaphors.)
Kanye West's "We Don't Care" sports a playful, carefree tune, while talking about selling drugs for a living and making fun of people expecting black youth to die early.
Outkast's "Hey Ya!" sounds like a happy, upbeat hip-hop song — there's a famous YouTube video of the Peanuts characters dancing joyfully to it — but the lyrics are a moody meditation on whether it's worth staying in an failing relationship:
"If what they say is that nothing is forever, then what makes love the exception? Why are we so in denial when we know we're not happy here?" (Yall' don't wanna hear me, you just wanna dance...)
Speaking of Outkast, the song "The Rooster" is also an upbeat hip-hop song in terms of instrumental, but the lyrics tell the story of a married couple on the verge of divorce.
Outkast even lampshades this phenomenon with "The Whole World", an upbeat song about how people love upbeat songs regardless of the message or lyrics.
The controversial "Read A Book" video by D'Mite gained a lot of attention on BET for its supposedly racist and stereotypical depiction of black culture, claiming it should be censored for children. Of course while the beat, rhythm and style of the song is modeled after dirty south (or crunk) rappers like Lil Jon, the lyrics tell positive messages and promote healthy lifestyle choices as well as a rejection of mainstream hip-hop excess in favor of reading, cleanliness, drinking water, parental responsibility and such.
"Fatima" by K'naan is sung very happily and has a joyful track, but it's about a childhood friend who was kidnapped. Possibly justified (and somewhat lampshaded) at the end of the song when he informs the listener to not cry because the song is meant as a celebration, not a form of mourning.
Eminem's "Superman" has a nice soft beat and sounds like a standard romance ballad and the lyrics lead you to believe that at first
Eminem: I know what you wanna hear...
'Cuz I know you want me baby I think I want you too...
Girl: I think I love you baby...
Eminem: I think I love you too...
I'm here to save you girl
Come be in Shady's world
I wanna grow together
Let's let our love unfurl
You know you want me baby
You know I want you too
They call me Superman
I'm here to rescue you
I wanna save you girl
come be in Shady's world...
Girl: oh boy you drive me crazy...
Eminem: Bitch, you make me hurl
Also includes such wonderful lines like
Superman aint savin shit, girl you can jump on Shady's dick
Bitch if you died, wouldn't buy you life
But I do know one thing though
Bitches they come, they go/Saturday through sunday monday/Monday through sunday yo/Maybe i'll love you one day/Maybe we'll someday grow/Till then just sit your drunk ass on that fuckin runway hoe...
And let's not forget "My Name Is", also by Eminem. It has an upbeat tune, and Eminem begins it in a friendly, somewhat silly voice...while talking about things like sticking nails through his eyelids and trying acid. Not to mention either stapling his teacher's nuts to a sheet of paper, or assaulting said teacher to get a better grade (depends if it's the clean version or the original).
"My Fault" is another example. The lyrics describe Em accidentally giving too many mushrooms to a girl at a party, who later dies after drinking lysol, but they're set to a dance-y R&B-like beat you might hear in a club.
"Up and Away" by Kid Cudi, total stoned apathy never sounded so jangly.
Hello! Project shuffle group SALT 5 released only one song, "GET UP RAPPER", which is obviously a rap song. However, the lyrics are about such things as wanting to eat banana chips, wearing beige knickers and how women "blossom beautifully".
Wale's "90210" is a minimalistic and serene song about a desperate aspiring actress in Beverly Hills with bulimia.
Sean Price's song "Violent", despite its title, uses a smooth, joyful instrumental and Sean Price, doing the title justice, lovingly unleashes these gems:
All I is is all I am
And, all you is, who gives a damn?
It's like, wop-babalu-bop-doo-wop-bam-boom
The glock, got a few shots, you popped, drop - oooh
You act stupid, duke, I'm hurtin' your mother like "WHAT BITCH~!"
Commence to smackin' her face
Like a pimp, then put the old bitch back in her place
Timberland boots I got, stomp out your grill
Sean Price, the nicest nigga in Brownsville
Fatlip's "What's Up Fatlip" qualifies. The instrumental sounds nice and cheerful, but then you get to the lyrics:
Fresh kid turned rotten
I can't believe I'm like E then I'm coppin
Over the years seems like I'm gettin' dumber
Reminiscing to a time when I was younger with a hunger
Full a dreams, determination, self-esteem
But now it seems they hesitate to be on my team
You know the routine, when you winnin' and grinnin'
All up in your face, like they was which you from the beginnin'
But on the flipside,
When you washed up like a riptide
Fools clown 'bout how you slipped and let shit slide
"Closer" by Nine Inch Nails. The beat and porn-esque bassline give the impression that it is a song about sexual gratification, but the lyrics are about a man that uses sex as a means to escape his crippling self-loathing. Still to this day, many listeners ignore the actual lyrical content and instead focus on the "OMG he wants to f&$% me like an animal!"-factor.
The meaning of Rammstein's biggest hit depends on its spelling. If it's "Du Hasst" (You Hate), then the song is suitably angry. However, it's also been spelled, "Du Hast" (You Have), making it a love song. The lyrics work either way.
Taken as part of the larger sentence "Du hast mich gefragt und ich hab nichts gesagt" ("You have asked me and I have said nothing.")it's definitely NOT a love song. The song's chorus is a shouted "Nein" to a German wedding vow. (Made quite starkly apparent in meaning in the video) However, the progressing nature of the lyrics probably mean "du hast mich" is a doubled hate/have leading up to the rest. To muddy the waters the english translation takes the "hate" meaning only and alters all the rest, leading to idiots on youtube "correcting" the accurate tranlation.
There's another pun in said German wedding vow: read as Willst du bis der Tod, der scheide . . . ? it means "Do you want, until the death which would separate . . . ?" Read it as . . . bis der Tod der Scheide and it becomes "until the death of the vagina," since Scheide (literally "separation") is German for "vagina." Rammstein loves its wordplay.
Rammstein also makes sure to prevent Lyrical Dissonance in their song "Amerika", by pointing out in English that "this is not a love song... I don't speak my mother tongue/no this is not a love song."
They played it straight, for irony earlier in the same song. Listen to the opening version of the chorus — in this song about American corporate/cultural dominance of the world — and tell me it doesn't sound like a Soviet anthem.
Speaking of Soviet anthems.. "Moskau". The cheery female vocalist sings about Lenin and pioneers while the main lyrics praise the titular city.. by comparing it to an old whore.
"Chu Chu Lovely Muni Muni Mura Mura" is a really happy, peppy, j-poppy song about rape, paedophilia, masturbation, etc.
Happened a lot with Ayumi Hamasaki via Executive Meddling. Her gimmick is that she writes her own lyrics (often based in the angsty experiences she had), but she rarely composes the music. While in the studio albums this trope is hardly noticeable, it become notorious in the Eurodance and Trance remixes of her first albums, where angsty songs about abandonment where given extremely happy new melodies. Memorable offenders are the remixes from "Trauma" and "Kanariya".
One example from an actual album is "Memorial Address", a song about a sudden abandonment (implied to be because of the other person's death), who begins with a sweet and sad melody... and suddenly the music switch into a energetic rock tune. While keeping the Tear Jerker lyrics.
The 1963 song "Ue o muite aruko" by Kyu Sakamoto (better known to English speakers as "Sukiyaki") has a cheerful-sounding tune, but is in fact about a man whose heart is broken, and who walks in the rain looking upwards so that his tears are disguised by the rainwater running down his face.
Gackt's "Kono Dare mo Inai Heya de" (In This Empty Room) slowly builds to ninety seconds of cheerful humming reminiscent of "Hey, Jude"...as the increasingly angsty lyrics make it clear that the singer is losing his mind after his lover's murder. Just to drive it home, the cheery music ends in a few ominous-sounding violin measures.
"Kalmia". While having a rather soft melodic rock sound to it with some minor and basic guitar solos that don't really hint at anything evil, the translated lyrics depict hearing (and apparently seeing) headless dolls laughing while staring at an otherwise destroyed town from afar, and a recalling of an apocalypse of sorts wherein everything vanishes and gets sucked up into the sky in what sounds like a killer tornado/hurricane. All while Gackt sings along, his voice giving no hint of terror of the situation, or any hint for that matter that this isn't just another one of his kooky rock ballads. However, a botanist, or even a seasoned gardener could tell you that the kalmia is a beautiful yet extremely poisonous flower.
Japanese folk-pop artist Miyuki Nakajima has a few:
"Usotsuki ga Suki yo" ("I Like Liars"), a happy party tune about a woman chatting up guys while drunk and lying to them even though she'll be betrayed by them.
The original version of "Yokorembo" ("Unrequited Love") is an upbeat, bouncy pop ditty about what the title implies.
Puncolle Voice Actresses Legendary Punk Songs Collection is an album of female J-Pop singers covering various punk rock classics. Pretty much every single song falls into this category, like Rie Tanaka's cover of the Sex Pistols' Anarchy in the UK. The melody and rhythm wouldn't seem out of place in a walk on the beach at sundown.
While Ali Project songs tend to fit the pitch of the music according to what the lyrics are about, there are a few instances of this trope:
Mitsubara Teien (Honey Rose Garden) appears to be about a girl falling in love, getting lost and hurt as she plays in the rose garden with her lover and eventually realising they'll have to break up and the garden will fall to ruin with him. The instrumentals, sounds something akin to Disney.
Bianca is about a girl who loves her toy doll, finds a lover, eventually abandons the doll and sadly reminisces sadly about her childhood.
J Pop singer Utada had a song called "Hotel Lobby" that kinda runs into this trope. The melody is kinda upbeat, but when you listen to the lyrics, it's all about a prostitute and how much her life sucks. Yay.
"Guchi" by Nakamura Ataru sounds like a traditional Japanese folk ballad, but it's about people complaining and the singer being extremely fed up.
Onyanko Club's "Sailorfuku wo Nugasanai de" is a catchy, upbeat song... about a girl who wants to have sex. The lyrics include such lines as "Mama and Papa won't know", "It's a bit scary but / being a virgin is boring" and "I want to try having sex." Oh, and the title translates to "Don't Take Off My Sailor Uniform".
ThisVocaloid Kaito song sounds sweet and happy, assuming you ignore the title; even the look on Kaito's face is joyous! Then read the lyrics. Despite that, it's becoming a fan favorite for being so hilarious.
In fact, a lot of the producers in the Vocaloid fandom are specialiced in this type of songs. Happy techo-dance breakup songs, bubblegum-pop Cute and Psycho songs, peppy songs about death and destruction, you name it.
Take Len Kagamine's "The Riddler Who Can't Solve Anything", set to a fast, upbeat tune about murder and the potential idea that Len is the killer.
"Hetarenaide yo!" Listen to the first 1:50 or so, without looking at the lyrics. Sounds like a cute and innocent song, right? Now, listen to it from start to end while looking at the subtitles. And then comes the Sound Effect Bleep...
There are countless examples, especially with Miku's songs. Take "Cactus and Mirage", a cute, upbeat-sounding song about a nurse that eventually falls in love with her infatuated, dying patient when it's already too late. "Saihate", another upbeat song that acts as a farewell message to a lover who has died. "(It's not) World's End" is, once again, an upbeat song sung during the singer's last 5 minutes of life, requesting her love only recall her for five minutes on the day every year. Hatsune Miku's "Left Behind City" song is about a girl who feels left behind in the world.
The Song "Meltdown" of the Vocaloid Rin Kagamine is a happy upbeat song about a nuclear accident and a suicide attempt.
"Ren'ai Shikkan" (Love Disease) starts off as a cheerful jazz song about Luka going out with some guy. Things seem to be going well. The song takes a turn when it's revealed that Luka daydreamed/imagined the entire date, having never actually been met by the guy. Then Luka catches him going out with someone else. Things get...nasty, to put it nicely. And this is without the song or her voice changing to reflect this.
The mothy song "Red Shoe Parade" is a cheerful, upbeat melody about a group of four red-shod traveling bandits who steal from, rape, and kill people who they deem to be "bad thieves", all in the name of "grand justice".
mothy also presents us with "Wendy", a peppy song wherein even most of the lyrics are cheerful, with references to Peter Pan and flying. Then comes the end of the song, which reveals the story to actually be about a girl who commits suicide by jumping out a window, and the whole song suddenly becomes several minutes of fridge horror.
Most Yaen songs are like this. For example, their 2004 song "HEAVEN'S RULE" might be best surmised as a song about a world of crime with victims and witnesses too afraid to do anything but look the other way- sung from the point of the criminal, all to a synth-laden V6-worthy noise-pop beat.
I'm certainly not among the angels/
Yeah, I'm just a plain old rat/...
No matter who does what/
It's the rule to pretend you don't see/
This is the paradise where we enjoy that freedom/
WELCOME TO THE HEAVEN/...
This isn't a place for you to come to/
NEVER COME BACK AGAIN/
J-rock band Flow did a mostly upbeat ska cover of "Okuro Kotoba"... which is a song about painful goodbyes.
Shiina Ringo's "Queen of Kabukicho" is a delightful song about a girl whose prostitute mother abandons her and who subsequently becomes a prostitute herself.
The album version of "Yattsuke Shigoto" sounds like a loud, upbeat song, but the lyrics are pretty much the exact opposite of what you'd think.
And then there's "Zettai Zetsumei"... The "Bon Voyage" tour turns it into full-on disco. However, the literal translation of the title is Absolute Despair.
The hit track of the Japanese J-rock band Chatmonchy is "Hana No Yume," an upbeat bouncy song with a music video full of bright happy colors. Its lyrics, however, are full of sad, violent imagery, as in the refrain: "I cut my finger on a thin piece of paper / And red, red blood oozed out / Such a small blade, but it hurt, really hurt my fingertip."
Japanese rock band L'Arc~en~Ciel's song "Feeling Fine": while an upbeat song musically, a translation of the lyrics point that it is likely about a couple after a breakup.
"Dive to Blue" has a nice, calming, if not exceptionally cheerful tune, and has nice lyrics about flying. The music video shows the sinister aspect of those lyrics since it starts with a man jumping off the top of a building to commit suicide and seems to imply him changing his mind about half way down. Then it really screws with you by making you think he was saved (even if it wasn't quite logical, but this is a music video after all). A final shot after the music fades reveals something of a twisted Brick Joke.
This is a major theme of the Japanese rock band Bump of Chicken. Prime examples are "Dandelion", a song about a lonely lion who... well, just watch the video; and "Wheel Song", a song about someone leaving and possibly never seeing them again. Most Bump songs are rather sad, but come across as happy. It's usually a shock to an English speaker who learns what the lyrics actually are.
This song by 403 Forbeddena, titled "Go West". Sounds pretty optimistic, right? The first thing said is "Humans should die".
The JAM Project cover of "Okkusenman". They take a song about losing one's childhood... and play it with all their usual Hot Blooded gusto.
Halie Loren's "Maybe I'll Fly" is a very cheerful song that starts with the words "I'm getting buried underneath a crumbling castle..." and gets worse from there. Turns out it's being sung by a girl with major dependency issues whose boyfriend just left.
Nina Simone's "Go To Hell," a soft jazzy tune about how you better shape up or guess what, you'll roast in hell for eternity. That includes your children if you don't raise them right.
Bobby Darin's "Artificial Flowers". A Perry Como-esque upbeat jazz song, with lyrics about an orphan making flowers in a tenement and then freezing to death.....
There's also "Mack the Knife", but to a lesser extent..
"Koop Island Blues" by Ane Brun and Koop sounds relaxed and carefree, but the lyrics are about a woman lamenting the loss of her lover.
The Puppini Sisters love doing this. They covered "Heart of Glass," "Spooky," "Walk like an Egyptian," "I Will Survive," and "Crazy in Love" in a swing-era fashion.
Jason Mraz's "Butterfly" is a classy song, all about sex. It's not innuendo based either, besides the title which refers to the slang term for "vagina" by the way. It's a very explicit and sexy song.
Stone Cold Dead in the Market is a jaunty, catchy tune about a wife who kills her violently abusive husband.
Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" is a jazz standard which is usually performed in a cheery and upbeat manner, but is actually a fairly dark and cynical song about prostitution.
Infamous nineties Ear Worm "Macarena" is a catchy dance tune about the town's Good Bad Girl. Who is planning to cheat on her boyfriend the minute he puts a foot out of the town.
"Where Do You Go" by No Mercy is a bouncy bubblegum dance track with mournful lyrics about a breakup:
You left without a word, no message, no number
And now my head is pounding, like it were thunder
You left me with a heartbreak deep inside
Girl, you should see me cry all night as I wonder
Merengue singer and songwriter Juan Luis Guerra tends to include a song about social issues in each album he releases... and those songs also tend to be very catchy and upbeat, leading to dancers everywhere happily dancing to songs about people applying for an American visa as their last hope ("Visa para un sueño"), being confronted with high prices, higher corruption and lack of essential items ("El Costo de la vida"), being victims of an truly awful medic care system ("El Niagara en bicicleta"), or bribing their way out of being arrested by the police ("Acompañeme civil").
When Guerra made his Christian album, the only song from it that made into radio was "Las Avispas" ("The Wasps"). A very upbeat song which, between the usual claims of "I love the Lord and he loves me back", has a chorus in which the singer assures you that you don't have to worry about the "enemy" trying to corrupt you, since Jesus himself promised to punish them by sending wasps to sting them.
"Nunca quedas mal con nadie", upbeat ska-like song about supposedly progressive singers that sell themselves to the mainstream (apparently inspired by a specific Chilean singer of The Eighties, but don't ask who);
"El baile de los que sobran", rock song with Tear Jerker lyrics about lower-class people who can't go to college and ascend socially due to lack of money and opportunities.
"Paramar", which has an unusually poppy sound for this group... and it's all about how much Love Hurts.
The late Colombian salsa singer and songwriter Joe Arroyo had a song about how in colonial Cartagena de Indias a black slave rose against (and probably killed) his owner because the latter mistreated the slave's wife. Said song, "Rebelión" is incredibly catchy and upbeat sounding.
"Tropicana" by Italian band Gruppo Italiano (a name which, incidentally, means exactly that) is an upbeat calypso number... about a dream wherein a tropical island is destroyed by atomic explosions, hurricanes, fires and so on.
Javiera y los Imposibles's song "Te amo tanto" ("I love you so!") has super child-like and poppy beats... and lyrics about a girl who laments the suicide of her boyfriend.
Juanes's La Paga (The Pay) sounds pretty upbeat for a song about a guy has just found out that, despite his efforts to make his girlfriend happy, she never really loved him.
Of all this generation, Ruben Blades hits the dissonance even worse. Because he can be very political and philosophical on his songwriting, he gets in the strange territory of having lyrics who need and inspire reflection, attached to music who gets in the way of that. A big example is his song "Pedro Navaja" (was influenced by Mack The Knife), which tells the story about a feared criminal and a Street Walker who kill each other.
This video covers Aupres de ma Blonde, an 18th century march about a French woman who laments about her husband's capture by the Dutch, with all the cheeriness of a Nursery Rhyme (which the series it is part of covers).
Avenue Q. All of it. The musical styles you loved on Sesame Street, applied to topics like racism and pornography!
The Producers opens with everyone leaving a musical and then singing a joyful, sensational song about how god awful it was.
Depending on which version you watch, you get a different kind of campy tune... sung byHitler.
"Die Moritat vom Mackie Messer/Mack the Knife" — especially the Bobby Darin version. A swinging, catchy, toe-tapping pop standard about a murderer, kidnapper, arsonist, thief, rapist, etc., who can't be beat. That said, the lyrics were often sanitized in some translations... it is much nastier in the original German version, generally, than say the Blitzstein lyrics. That said, "Mack the Knife" is still an awesome song.
Among other things, you can blame Ella Fitzgerald (or credit her) for toning down the song; she admitted that she forgot half the lyrics and scatted the missing portions.
Several other songs from The Threepenny Opera have similar lyrical dissonances. There is one song where the frequent refrain of "Yay! Hooray!" is performed in as deadpan and monotone a manner possible.
"Hoch sollen sie leben! Hoch hoch hoch!"
Brecht in general depended on Lyrical Dissonance in his music in other plays. For instance, in Mother Courage and Her Children, there is a lullaby that Mother Courage sings over her daughter Kattrin's dead body, with lyrics of an obviously materialistic nature. This sort of thing is key to verfremdungseffekt of the Epic Theatre.
"Hey Big Spender," from Sweet Charity, sounds like an erotic come on ("Good lookin', so refined/So wouldn't you like to know what's goin' on in my mind?"), but is sung by a group of bored taxi dance girls who can barely summon up the energy to go through the motions of their job.
Freddy Cole once sang an upbeat version of "Send in the Clowns," telling a radio interviewer that no one else had done it. He didn't seem to understand why no one else had done it.
Almost all the music in the musical Little Shop of Horrors is lathered with lyrical dissonance. The best example is the show's opening title. Three Motown-style singers dance and sing to the fun, bouncy, rock n' roll prologue - about the end of the world. The lyrics, though sometimes silly with words like "shang-a-lang" and "bop sh'bob" throughout, is actually a warning to the audience about the foreboding terror that is the man-eating plant, Audrey 2: "You better, tellin' you, you better // Tell your mama somethin's gonna get her // She better, ev'rybody better // Beware!"
The entire musical follows in this perky rock n' roll styled music, even when the subjects of the songs are depressing and/or disturbing: the pessimistic view of living in the city ("Skid Row"), the sadistic and cruel nature of a dentist ("Dentist!"), death through loss of oxygen ("Now (It's Just The Gas)"), or an alien plant's need to eat humans to survive ("Suppertime", "Feed Me (Git It)").
Add to that "Brave Sir Robin" from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the musical Spamalot, in which Sir Robin's bard sings a cheery, Renaissance-sounding tune about Sir Robin getting horribly mutilated in battle. "His nostrils raped and his bottom burned off", indeed.
Stephen Sondheim loves this trope about as much as Gilbert and Sullivan did. Assassins in particular has "Unworthy of Your Love" (what sounds like a tender love duet... except that the singers are Squeaky Fromme and John Hinckley, Jr., talking about how they will prove their love for (repsectively) Charles Manson and Jodie Foster by shooting the president), and "The Ballad of Czolgosz" (an upbeat, patriotic-sounding turn-of-the-century style song about how you can "move to the head of the line" in the US — as Leon Czolgosz is waiting in a line of people to shake McKinley's hand, ending with Czolgosz shooting him).
Don't forget "The Ballad of Guiteau", which is not only a happy song about a guy who shoots the President (featuring tap-dancing on the gallows, no less), but it was written by the actual assassin. Creepy.
Especially creepy considering that before he read it to the crowd at the gallows, he said this about his words: "If set to music, they may be rendered very effective."
"Everybody's Got the Right" from Assassins is another fantastic example. The lyrics read almost like something that might be read in an elementary school classroom, that everyone has the right to find happiness- except the song is about madmen defending their right to kill the president.
Ah yes, Sweeney Todd. With such numbers as "A Little Priest" above and the reprise of "Johanna", a rather upbeat number in major key about how the Villain Protagonist is too busy killing people to think about his own daughter.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera includes an example of this in the perfectly happy-sounding tune of "Masquerade". Once you realise what it's actually talking about (pay attention to the words, not the tune), you can get rather depressed.
'Masquerade! Paper faces on parade! Masquerade! Hide your face so the world will never find you!'
Trial By Jury — This one's about a trial, so when the plaintiff arrives to the tune of "Comes the cheated flower / Comes the broken maid", it's made catchy, upbeat and fun, to make it thoroughly clear that despite said lyrics, this is all part of a grand scam.
The Sorcerer has a bawdy drinking song about tea, then later we get the song "Oh joyous boon / Oh mad delight" — which is appropriately upbeat — and continues upbeat through lyrics like "Alas! that lovers thus should meet:/ Oh, pity, pity me!"
'H.M.S. Pinafore: As the protagonist works himself up to suicide in the Act I finale, all sorts of cheery and patriotic tunes get thrown in, even while Ralph sings, "The maiden treats my suit with scorn,/Rejects my humble gift, my lady;/She says I am ignobly born,/And cuts my hopes adrift, my lady." Of course, it eventually turns appropriately sombre, just in time for Josephine to rush in and admit she loves him after all.
The Pirates of Penzance: The loudest song in the entire operetta is the one about sneaking quietly into the Stanley home:
With Catlike Tread Upon our prey we steal In silence dread Our cautious way we feel No sound at all We never speak a word A fly's foot-fall Would be distinctly heard.
Sung fortissimo with heavy use of cymbals and brass in the accompaniment.
Iolanthe: Parts of the Act I finale, but also "In vain to us you plead", which is a flirty little song about how much the women hate the men they're singing it to.
Part of the joke is that they're in love with the men, but have to do their duty in telling them to buzz off. Lelia's line before the song is: "But we can't stop him now. (Aside to Celia.) Aren't they lovely! (Aloud.) Oh, why did you go and defy us, you great geese!"
The Mikado. Beheadings, descriptions of grisly executions, lists of people to kill off — all fodder for a cheery little operetta. The first song in the second half, "Brightly dawns our wedding day/Joyous hour we give thee greeting" ends with everyone in tears (though there is a good reason for that).
Ruddigore: "I Shipped D'ye See" is a cheery patriotic naval ballad about fleeing from the French. "Happily coupled are we" has a cheery melody befitting a song by a sailor about his forthcoming marital bliss. It keeps this melody when Rose comes in with her verse, about him sailing off and having affairs with women in every port, while she's left behind to wait for him. Oh, and another cheery song about upcoming death, this time the rapid-fire patter song, "My eyes are fully open" (First verse ends "But I have to die tomorrow, so it really doesn't matter!") Oh, and I'm not sure if it counts, but the lyrics of "You understand? I think I do" is about how horrible it is to have to betray Robin's secret identity, but duty requires it. However, doing so lets one of them steal back a woman from Robin, and gets the other out of the family curse, so the cheery, bouncy music is actually highly appropriate.
The Yeomen of the Guard: "How say you maiden, will you wed/A man about to lose his head?" is, as you should guess by now, one of the most upbeat, fun, cheery numbers. Meanwhile, "Oh, a private buffoon is a light-hearted loon", of course, turns out to be about how the jester's being torn apart and has to remain cheerful throughout it all. Later, "When a wooer goes a wooing"'s most heartbreaking line is "Oh the happy days of wooing" — sung in emotionless monotone by the person that the plot has set out to break, taking everything from him. Oh, and it ends on a grand, energetic chorus while that person dies.
Utopia, Limited: "First You're Born" is about how a character's life is one big joke played on him by the universe. It's done as a comic number. "A tenor, all singers above" is a classic tenor ballad — about how the tenor can't sing, complete with intentionally flubbed high notes. Oh, and "It's understood, I think all round" and "In every mental lore" are both cheery songs with lines about about grisly deaths (by duelling and being blown up by dynamite, respectively), but do I really need to mention that at this point?
The Grand Duke: "Won't It Be a Pretty Wedding" savages the bride's taste and sense of fashion, and then everyone goes on to savage the groom in "Pretty Lisa, fair and tasty". Several other examples, which would take too long to explain.
Older Than Radio: Sullivan also tends to drop down to a lower note for words like "high", "top", "above" and so on, and vice-versa for words like "bottom" and "low".
That might have something to do with the fact that G&S's genre is called "Topsy-Turvy" (also the title of a movie about them.)
At least half of Spring Awakening, although "My Junk" is a really cute upbeat song about masturbation and about comparing teenage crushes to drug addiction, which is arguably even more lyrically dissonant.
"Get Happy," popularized by Judy Garland in the film Summer Stock, is a peppy, rousing song about Judgment Day.
The song "Three-Five-Zero-Zero" from the musical Hair has a verse that's an example of this. These words are sung to a cheery tune best described as "Dixieland". The meaning of the title? There were 3500 men in the first platoon of soldiers sent to Vietnam. Two out of every three were black. Offensive lyrics are spoilered:
Pris'ners in Niggertown, it's a dirty little war
Take weapons up and begin to kill
Watch the long long armies drifting home
Urinetown is all over this trope. They even hang a lampshade on it:
Little Sally:What kind of musical is this? The good guys finally take over, and then everything starts falling apart?
Officer Lockstock: Like I said Little Sally, this isn't a happy musical.
Little Sally: But the music's so happy!
"Shy" from Once Upon a Mattress features the heroine describing how demure and bashful she is...while belting practically the entire song at the top of her lungs.
"Sensitivity," from the same musical, is the rather ironic song by the queen, who is anything but sensitive - but the off-kilter and jerky five-beat pattern is not very sensitive either.
"I Want More" from Lestat The Musical, Claudia's first song. Quite possibly the most cheerful song in the show, all about drinking people's blood..
The obscure musical Fade Out Fade In has the song "You Mustn't Feel Discouraged," which sounds congenially cheerful, especially when it accompanies a playful tap-dance routine, but here's how the lyrics go:
"When you think you've hit the bottom, And you're feeling mighty low, You mustn't feel discouraged— There's always one step further down you can go."
"Relax, Enjoy Yourself" from Randy Newman's Faust. Has several sections: 1. Nice upbeat song about how no one ever succeeds; 2. Less upbeat interlude with a little girl singing about evil; 3. Nice upbeat song about how the man who shot her will go to heaven because he went to confession; 4. Hymn about how God works in mysterious ways, and that she should be happy for the man who shot her; 5. Nice upbeat song about how Satan will take over the world and it'll be a good thing.
"It Depends on What You Pay" from The Fantasticks is an upbeat, Disneyesque number about "RAAAAAAPE". Unsurprisingly, it isn't normally included in productions of the show.
"Un Matin Tu Dansais", from the French rock opera of Notre Dame De Paris, is a duet that starts off with a beautiful, longing melody as Frollo describes to Esmeralda how he first fell in love with her, and then she sings of how Phoebus will save her (she's currently in a cage, condemned to die). Then the song strays toward much darker territory as he makes her an offer: love him and he'll save her. Yet as it goes from devotion to blackmail to attempted rape, the tune stays that same light, lovely melody, with only the desperation and fear in the actor's voices to reveal that they're really singing things like "choose the grave or my bed" and "I'll bite you like a dog".
Wicked has an interesting example. Elphaba sings triumphantly about a vision she has about a "celebration throughout Oz, that's all to do with me!" Anyone familiar with the Wizard of Oz will realize she's seeing the celebration of her death.
Also from Wicked: a cheery sounding song with such lyrics as "my pulse is rushing, my head is reeling, my face is flushing; what is this feeling?" At this point, one might guess that the feeling is love, but the girls are actually singing about their "unadulterated loathing" for everything about one another.
Thank Goodness, initially sounds like a happy tune about Galinda's dreams coming true, until you realize that she is singing about how her life is now empty because she has lost her only friend and has nothing left to aspire to.
Rigoletto: La dona e mobile has one of the most upbeat tunes in opera, and as such gets used in a number of advertisements. The title means "The women are fickle", and the song is sung by the opera's Big Bad; it's about how all women want him, but change their minds when he's ready for them, so his taking them by force is completely fine!
"Far From the Home I Love" from Fiddler on the Roof is a sad song in which Hodel is lamenting the fact that she is moving far away from her family and childhood home to be with the man she loves. The Barry Sisters sang a cover that was extremely upbeat and cheery sounding.
The song "Rose Tint My World" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show is an upbeat song sung by Columbia, Rocky, Brad, and Janet about how they've all become corrupted by Frank N. Furter, while Brad begs for his mom to come save him. The song even lampshades this with "Rose tint my world! Keep me safe from my trouble and pain!".
"Doomed, Doomed, Doomed" from The Golden Apple is an upbeat ragtime polka about the inevitability of human extinction.
"Auto-da-fé" from Leonard Bernstein's adaptation of Candide is a jolly song about watching a public execution, with a lengthy middle sections about STDs.
a-ha's 1986 album Scoundrel Days has several lyrical dissonance cases:
The eponymous song has an energetic, rock-ish beat. Its lyrics talk about a madman who cuts his wrists open, has severe hallucinations and finally throws himself off a cliff in front of his neighbors. Mind Screw to the max.
The album also has also a poppy, almost cute song named "Maybe Maybe"... about a messy break-up that reaches its peak when the girl kills the guy by hitting him with her Rover.
And the first single that came out, "I've Been Losing You". A rock song with gorgeous rhythm and effects... talking about a man who reflects about how, during a fight, he shot his girlfriend to death.
A subtle example happens with "Soft Rains of April", a melancholic song about a lonely English man calling home in a rainy day. The lyrics reveal that he's a prision inmate, and it's implied that his family has all but disowned him.
B-52's "Legal Tender". A song about counterfeiting in the typical tune of the B-52s.
The Boomtown Rats's "I Don't Like Mondays" is an upbeat, peppy song... about a school shooting.
To be fair, the song doesn't sound that upbeat, and the last verse is a dead giveaway of the subject matter. However, Diamond Smiles, from the same album, is an upbeat song about a woman who goes to a party and hangs herself.
"People Who Died" by the Jim Carroll Band—a song about people dying too young and in horrible ways, set to music that Chuck Berry could have written.
"Girls on Film" by Duran Duran. A catchy, poppy tune about porn stars.
To be fair, if you don't think too hard about the lyrics it's easy to assume it's about modeling.
The video further bolsters the "travails of modeling" (mis)interpretation.
Erasure's "Victim of Love". It's a song about somebody who's been hurt so much by the people he loved that he's becoming apprehensive about entering another relationship. Not so happy subject, but the song sounds so optimistic and, quite honestly, danceable.
The whole album (The Circus) is full of lyrical dissonance. "Leave Me To Bleed" is actually quite danceable.
And what about earlier hit "Oh L'amour"? You get up and dance to that killer beat and shiny, poppy synth, only to hear verses like this:
No emotional ties
You don't remember my name
I lay down and die
I'm only to blame
The majority of their songs seem to do this.
Joe Jackson's "Be My Number Two" is similar - tender love-ballad melody, lyrics about how he wants a pliable girlfriend to comfort him after breaking up with a Tsundere. "Every time I look at you / You'll be who I want you to." At least the singer admits that "it's really not fair of me."
"99 Luftballoons" / "99 Red Balloons" by Nena is a (mostly) perky-sounding pop song about the titular 99 balloons accidentally starting World War III.
Worse than that, a nuclear freaking HOLOCAUST.
It was a popular dance song in countries that did not traditionally speak German, which led to a lot of jaws dropping when they realized what the lyrics actually meant. Subsequently, an English version was released that wasn't as popular.
Oingo Boingo's "Little Girls". Written and sung by none other than Danny Elfman, it is an insanely catchy, peppy rock song sung from the point of view of a pedophile.
It takes effort to find a Boingo song that DOESN'T make extensive use of lyrical dissonance. Upbeat music with dark themes is one of their specialties.
Eighties legends Talking Heads also did a lot of these. Their lyrical style usually leads the careless listener to assume that the band is trying to put across a positive message; one must pay close attention to the lyrics to see the songs' true nature.
The cheerful melody of "Don't Worry About The Government" counterpoints the lyrics, which sound similarly cheerful – until you realize how intentionally, sarcastically inane they are.
"Road To Nowhere", which implies that the inevitable death of everybody who's ever been born isn't such a depressing thing after all.
"Psycho Killer", which dramatizes the title character's neuroses amid chunky guitar riffs. Not your typical pop song material.
"Life During Wartime", a song about a cynic living during a violent revolution, set to a very funky beat.
Intaferon's "Steamhammer Sam" is an upbeat honkytonk/rock fusion song about the plight of the many blue collar workers in Britain left unemployed in the '80s by Margaret Thatcher's economic policies. "Steamhammer Sam sits in the park all day and he gets drunk, watching the children play, he's very sad, no happy ending 'cause he went mad..."
"Attack of the Giant Ants" by Blondie. Lyrics concerning humanity being wiped out by a Horde of Alien Locusts? Check. Upbeat salsa/pop melody? Check. Enough said.
Ever really listen to the lyrics of "One Way or Another"? The melody is somewhat less cheery than the standard, but it's still fairly upbeat for a song where a woman pretty much swears to stalk the guy she likes forever.
Industry's "State of the Nation" is an upbeat dance track with cool synth chords, yet the lyrics are all about war. One version of the music video tries to imply this by taking place around and inside a navy vessel full of (dancing) ensigns, but the party atmosphere and the fact that everybody's dancing only makes it look silly.
"Maniac" by Michael Sembello sounds pretty ominous (in a cheesy 80's slasher movie theme music sort of way) for just being about a girl who loves to dance. As it turns out, this is because it was substantially rewritten for the Flashdance soundtrack: The original lyrics were inspired by the horror film Maniac, and featured the refrain "He's a maniac, maniac, that's for sure, he will kill your cat and nail him to the door". A somewhat garbled copy of the song (which was written for personal giggles) was accidentally included on Sembello's demo tape for the producers of Flashdance, and it was the only one they liked.
You can't really get much more horrific than Paul Hardcastle's "19". "The Vietnam War was an unspeakable tragedy for everyone involved. Let's dance!"
Depeche Mode almost always has angsty lyrics, and these are almost always paired with appropriately angsty or at least rougher-than-standard-pop music. And then there's "A Photograph Of You", which is bouncy, happy, and sweet, almost like an old-school Beach Boys track on synths... but it's about a guy too torn up about his breakup to throw away the photo he keeps of his girlfriend.
"Big In Japan" by Alphaville, a fairly upbeat song with lyrics about a couple who share a heroin addiction imagining if their life would be easier elsewhere.
"Kids in America" is a cheery tune about having fun in the city... until you see the original music video, and realize the song is about a paranoid agoraphobic who has holed up alone, watching a massive party outside, and trying to explain their behavior, eventually issuing a warning about them.
Looking out a dirty old window
Down below the cars in the city go rushing by
I sit here ''alone' and I wonder why
And that's even worse! ...Dangit, Cascada.
The The's song "This Is the Day" has a catchy tune and a chorus that says "This is the day your life will surely change/This is the day when things fall into place." Great, right? They even used it in an M&Ms commercial. Except that the verse lyrics describe someone who has wasted his entire life and tells himself things will change every day, without ever making a move to actually do so. Similarly, their song "Perfect" is quite upbeat and the chorus starts with "It's such a picture-perfect day..." but the lyrics describe sitting in a cemetery pondering the futility of existence.
Not really creepy per se, but "My Sharona" by The Knack is an incredibly upbeat song... about a guy who is attracted to an underage girl and, in his seemingly paranoid mind, is wondering if she feels the same or just leading him on.
Haysi Fantayzee's "Shiny Shiny", a ludicrously peppy new wave polka rap hit that's at least partially about the pending threat of nuclear war ("The child spoke 'we ain't got hope'/press a button, press a button/ it's all remote").
"I hate to ask, but Are Friends Electric? Mine's broke down, and now I've no one to love".
"Down in the park with a friend called Five..."
Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" has a relaxed, radio-friendly sound. What the lyrics are actually about however, well, read the title.
"Woman in chains" is a sweet-sounding ballad — about a woman who's a victim of Domestic Abuse.
"Small Town Boy" by Bronski Beat, a driving dancy new wave/Hi-NRG number, is about a teen being bullied and forced to leave town and his family because of his homosexuality.
"Voices Carry" by Til Tuesday is a fairly upbeat song about an abusive relationship.
Corey Hart's "Sunglasses At Night" is an energetic new wave song... about life within a Police State. The dissonance would have been greater were it not for Executive Meddling giving it a romantic subtext.
Falco's "Jeannie" seems to be about a Dogged Nice Guy who desperately wants a girl named Jeannie to notice him. The song is actually about a Serial Killer and Jeannie is his next victim. Not helped by how the song is in German save for the chorus, and people only pay attention to the English chorus... totally missing the last spoken part that offer details about Jeannie and other girls being missing...
Pet Shop Boys's "It's A Sin" is a VERY hammy and loud song about a man who's tormented by guilt and his inner demons, inspired by Neil Tennant's own bad experiences in the past.
Julio Jaramillo is an Ecuadorian "pasillo" performer who has a wonderful song called "Bodas Negras". It doesn't start happy, but as the music advances it gets more cheerful. It's a wonderful love song to dance to...Except when you realize it talks about a guy that pulls out his ex-lover's skeleton out of the grave and dances, kisses it and finally marries it.
Dynamite Hack's indie-rock version of "Boys-n-the-Hood."
"Worlock" by Skinny Puppy. The song is one of Skinny Puppy's most accessible songs and is essentially a pop song with heavy drums. The strings in the chorus are particularly beautiful. But the lyrics are the usual insane-demented-weird-incomprehensibility that Skinny Puppy revel in .
"Lullaby" by The Cure. If you've seen the music video, you know the creepy and satirical lyrics are intentional.
Hell, half of the musically cheery tunes of The Cure have extremely dark or creepy lyrics.
To make matters worse, his declaration of love to his wife (albeit being a beautiful song and probably one of the most sincere love songs ever), aptly named "Lovesong", does not have a happy tune. At all.
This was Joy Division's stock-in-trade. Most of their songs are fast and catchy... with some of the most wretchedly depressing lyrics ever committed to paper:
When routine bites hard and ambitions are low
And resentment rides high but emotions won't grow
And we're changing our ways, taking different roads
Then love, love will tear us apart again
Why is the bedroom so cold turned away on your side?
Is my timing that flawed, our respect run so dry?
Yet there's still this appeal that we've kept through our lives
Love, love will tear us apart again
Do you cry out in your sleep, all my failings exposed?
Get a taste in my mouth as desperation takes hold
Is it something so good just can't function no more?
When love, love will tear us apart again
Even their name is a bit of a joke. In the novel, The House of Dolls by Yehiel De-Nur, joy divisions were groups of Jewish women in the concentration camps who were kept to sexually service Nazi guards.
Some other wonderful numbers include "Isolation", a nice little bouncy synthpop song about the singer hating himself, and "Transmission", which seems upbeat and nice... until you look at the lyrics closely.
Chumbawamba embodies this trope, with cheery pop-synth beats, and female soprano vocals...that are rather depressing (and ofteneither critiquing society or politics). For example, their song Smalltown, an airy, breezy number containing these lyrics:
Cafes full of people dressed as spies//
And all I know is guilt for being different//
It's always raining stones//
There's a killer in my home//
New Order does this semi-frequently — for instance, the song "Perfect Kiss" is about watching a mentally deranged friend commit suicide (possibly Joy Division drummer Ian Curtis). Sometimes they reverse it, though: a song called "Regret" is about falling in love and learning to put the past away.
Or perhaps their biggest hit, "Bizarre Love Triangle", which is extremely catchy and built for dancing even before you get to some of the remixes, in which a guy's self-doubts and darker impulses (the singer is providing two legs of said love triangle) have him wondering if the relationship will last. And most covers/remixes of the song are even peppier than the original.
"Blue Monday" is also a nod to the suicide of Ian Curtis.
"True Faith", an upbeat number about drug addiction:
I used to think that the day would never come, I'd spend my life in the shade of the morning sun/My morning sun is a drug that brings me here, to the child I lost, replaced by fear/I used to think that the day would never come, that my life would depend on the morning sun/
"Final Day" by UK postpunk band Young Marble Giants has a bright, catchy tune and is sung in an endearingly sweet schoolgirl-ish manner, but the lyric concerns a nuclear holocaust. Cast in this setting, lines like "There is so much noise, there is too much heat/And the living floor throws you off your feet" carry an eerily poignant resonance no similarly-themed heavy metal song could match.
White Rose Movement's "Girls in the Back" is a rather poppy song that most agree is either about sado-masochism or paedophilia whilst "Cruella", a song about a suffering drug addict, opens with the chant "Doh doh doh/ Doh doh doh doh"...
The Louis XIV song "A Letter To Dominique" is one of their more upbeat tracks. It is in fact all about a suicidal young woman whose death was probably helped along by the narrator.
Wire love putting bizarre or sinister lyrics to otherwise upbeat songs (often Ear Worms), with their '80s run being a boon for this trope. Here are some of the better examples:
"Outdoor Miner" is sweet, chiming, harmony-laden pop tune about a kind of inchworm that eats chlorophyll. Or so they say.
"German Shepherds" is a quirky little ditty delicately laced with jazzy arpeggios and Scenery Gorn, with one of the prettiest moments detailing, in passing, the narrator's inability to break a dying bird's neck.
"Dot Dash" sounds a bit like The Buzzcocks, except that the lyrics seem to be about a fighter pilot crashing.
"Map Ref. 41ºN 93ºW", generally agreed (amongst fans) to be Wire's Crowning Music of Awesome, is about cartography. Subtly subverted, though...
See also "'A Serious Of Snakes...'", in which we are treated to some incredibly arcane satire set to one hell of a tune.
"Ahead" is about being deceived and manipulated. It is also an unbelievably catchy dance number.
"Kidney Bingos" is, lyrically, faintly creepy and borderline incomprehensible, but this is easily ignored in favor of the utterly beautiful melody.
Ditto "Madman's Honey".
Stereolab's "Ping Pong" is a happy-sounding little song about wars depleting the global economy.
Played with the song "Slumber" from Stranger Than Fiction. It starts out somberly, tries to give hope to the listener, then tells the listener that we're killing the world.
The upbeat song "Sorrow" is all about the Book of Job, which is basically a story of Job playing the Butt Monkey to God and the Devil.
The incredibly catchy "Television" is all about a kid who relies on his TV as a babysitter, parent, and information source exclusively.
"Infected". People dedicate this song to their boyfriends and girlfriends... but it has the lyrics "you and me have a disease. You affect me, you infect me. I'm afflicted, you're addicted. You and me. You and me."
Please, those lyrics are tame. Have you forgotten near the end?
"I wanna bathe you In holy water I wanna kill you Upon the altar"?
Also, it is rather ironic that people dedicate it to their boy/girlfriends, considering it's about the cycle of domestic abuse, starting with the abuser building up tension, snapping, then finally apologising, before realizing that he will end up doing this forever.
The song "A Thousand Smiles" by Ellegarden sounds up-beat and cheery and starts out sounding like a light hearted boy-meets-girl love song but after the first chorus it goes on to tell how the boy MURDERED the girl, all while it keeps it cheery sound.
Subverted in "Happy" by Liam Lynch, a über-upbeat song which is occasionally broken in with things like "I can't do this, man, I'm not happy".
I'm special, I'm happy I am gonna heave Welcome to my happy world Now get your $# !+ and leave! I'm happy, I'm good, I'm...outta here! Screw you!
The Clash's "Somebody Got Murdered" is about... well, somebody getting murdered. While the tone of the singer himself is pretty somber, the music sounds more like peppy new wave than punk rock.
This goes for a lot of their songs. "Clampdown", which is similarly peppy, is either about the Nazis or just fascist regimes in general ("Taking off his turban they say is this man a Jew"). "London Calling" (about the city's destruction and the end of the world), "Train in Vain" (their only love song, which is a break-up song) and "Julie's Been Working For The Drug Squad".
Let's not forget "Spanish Bombs", which is an upbeat, poppy rock song about the horrors of the Spanish Civil War.
"Jimmy Jazz" is an upbeat song about some sort of fugitive who will be killed if found.
In an inversion, "Guns of Brixton" is a monotone, drawling, laced-with-anger pessimistic song - about how you'll never break the spirit of the working class.
The Ramones wrote several songs about Joey Ramone's Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. However, they had the same upbeat power chord sequences as every other Ramones song. For example, the peppy "I Wanna Be Sedated" is about a nervous breakdown right before a show in England.
Just get me to the airport, put me on a plane Hurry hurry hurry, before I go insane I can't control my fingers, I can't control my brain Oh no no no no no!
That song is about the fact that London goes on lockdown when it's Christmas Eve, and the band was stuck in the hotel for the entire day when they got there for a concert on Christmas Day; hence, the opening lines:
Twenty, twenty, 24 hours to go I want to be sedated Nothing to do, nowhere to go I want to be sedated
The Ramones were made of this. "Beat on the Brat", anyone?
"Pour Decisions" by Scottish-Canadian celtic punk outfit The Real McKenzies is a jolly dinkalong about a guy who's pissed his life away as a drunken punk rocker, looking back on the opportunities he's missed.
"Jet Boy Jet Girl" by Elton Motello is a celebratory-sounding catchy pop-punk song with saxophone and rockabilly-influenced guitar leads. It also happens to be about about a 15 year old boy in a sexual relationship with an older man, and the homicidal thoughts he starts having when he sees said older partner with a woman on his arm:
Can you tell what's on my mind
She's with him it's driving me wild
I'd like to hit him on the head until he's dead
The sight of blood is such a high
Ooh ooh ooh ooh
He gives me head
LA punk band X's song "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" sounds cheerful (and is certainly catchy), but the lyrics (and the title) show that the song is actually a protest song seething with irony and sarcasm towards the atmosphere of fear and anxiety in the Reagan years.
"Johny Hit And Run Paulene" is kind of on the borderline of this: the actual melody is suitably dark for a tale of a drug-induced raping spree, but it's juxtaposed with some very happy-sounding 50's rock guitar leads (and it's intro is nearly identical to that of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode").
For its first two verses, The Buzzcocks' "Promises" is a cheerful song about a man and a woman promising to be faithful and honest with each other, set to an appropriately optimistic melody ("We promised to be true, there'd be no other, we promised that forever we would care"). The reason that it's an example is that during the bridge it's revealed the woman had been cheating on him, and then the next two verses directly contradict the first two, while still being set to the exact same melody ("You've never been true, and it's plain to see, the fact is you never really cared").
Pretty much everything ever written by Alkaline Trio who have monopolised the lyrically dissonant dark pop punk genre. And written some damn good lyrics while they're at it.
"Beach Party Vietnam" by the Dead Milkmen:
"Hey, Frankie, are you gonna give me your class ring?"
"I'm afraid I can't do that, Annette."
"I haven't got any arms."
"Watching Scotty Die" is a gentle, country-esque ballad about a man seeing his son slowly die from exposure to poisonous chemicals. There's even more dissonance involved if you know that the chorus parodies "Watching Scotty Grow", a Tastes Like Diabetes hit by Bobby Goldsboro about the proud father of a healthy young boy.
"California Babylon" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It's essentially a song about the hell that is L.A., and how it's the modern Babylon, and its to the tune to a piano and guitar on the same chords, giving it a very vaudeville type of sound, similar to Killer Queen.
The Offspring, "Come Out and Play", a catchy punk song with a singalong chorus... and lyrics about school violence.
Its "sister song" (both were off the same album, and released to radio at the same time), "Self Esteem", is an equally-catchy power-punk tune about a guy who is being used sexually by his girlfriend, who treats him like crap and cheats on him, but he goes along with the relationship anyway because he's afraid people will see him as a "dweeb" if he breaks it off with her.
There's also "The Kids Aren't Alright" with catchy punk rock music, but the lyrics talk about children in a neighborhood who had big dreams, but then reality came and crushed them.
Longing for what used to be
Still it's hard
Hard to see
Fragile lives, shattered dreams
Let's not forget "Why Don't You Get A Job", with its Caribbean melody (reminiscent of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da") and lyrics that basically say, to two of the singers' friends SOs (one male, one female), "You're a worthless fucking leech, but they won't tell you, so I will: fuck off!". Or "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)", laughing at wiggers over a good punk/alt-rock riff. Or "Special Delivery": catchy riff, lyrics about stalker with voices in his head. Or "Walla Walla", another fast tune about how you, the subject of the song, are going to prison and it's a good thing because you're an idiot reprobate.
There's also "The End of the Line" which is a really fast song about mourning someone who died. Or "Jennifer Lost the War," which is also really fast but about the suffering of girls caught up in a war. Or "Hit That," which is cheerful and bouncy-sounding and all about unplanned pregnancy(!)
"Hammerhead". School shooting song that sounds like it wouldn't be out of place in a soldier's iPod, with lyrics like "Risk my life to keep my people from harm", "I'm just doing what I'm told", and "I'll take this life so others may live"...and then there's The Reveal at the end.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Dropkick Murphys definitely have songs which qualify:
"The State of Massachusetts" — pretty upbeat, but it's about a woman having her children taken by social services (A sweet banjo riff just makes it worse); "Sunshine Highway" — far more upbeat, but about alcoholism; "The Spicy McHaggis Jig" — about an attack of 'Beer goggles'; "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" — about someone who lost a leg; "Buried Alive" — about miners being trapped in a cave-in; "The Dirty Glass," a swinging Irish jig that turns out to be an Anti-Love Song between a man and his siren of a pub; and many more.
Played for humor in The Vandals' "Get In Line" - an aggressive headbanging punk/metal song about... waiting in line for a rollercoaster. The closest thing to an angry sentiment in the whole song is "someone cuts the line/ they're adding to your time/ and that's not very nice/ kick 'em outta line!", and the chorus is a frantic shout of "Up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, WHEE!".
Jeff Rosenstock has a tendency for this. "Last" by the Arrogant Sons of Bitches is a generally upbeat tune about what seems to be a person who died in a car accident. “5 Funerals”, by Bomb the Music Industry! is even more upbeat... and it is a song about becoming desensitized to the death of friends because he's had to go to so many funerals.
Die Toten Hosen's "Weihnachtsmann vom Dach" (Santa from the Roof) is a cheerful holiday tune with child-like, giddy vocals...about a child finding Santa Claus dead and swinging from a noose, along with a note saying he (Santa Claus) hopes he has not spoiled their Christmas with his suicide. It is, however, clearly intended as comedy.
German punk rockers Die Ärzte seem to enjoy this trope immensely, as they are known for their satiric and sometimes plain weird songs. A very noteworthy example is "Baby", a song that appears to be an empowering ballad for vegetarians at the start... And then goes on for several verses with suggestions to eat people, instead of animals.
Just one album later, the highly-upbeat song "Breit" has the protagonist praise the joys of doing drugs — clearly including the fact that he's wasting his life and slowly loses control of his bodily functions.
Now I'm almost thirty and still alive / I'm still the coolest in this room / I drool a little and smell badly / Because I'm hanging around on this couch for years / Social contacts, I don't need / I'm stoned seven days a week (Translated)
"De ce Plang Chitarele" is a song summed up pretty good with the title which translates roughly to Why the Guitars Cry. But of course, being O-Zone, it's happy, upbeat and danceable.
"Schlaflied" might qualify. It starts out all mellow and soothing and sweet and cute. Unfortunately, it's about an Eldritch Abomination that comes to you in the night, gouges out your eyes, rips out your throat and drinks your blood.
The French punk song "Manu Chao" by Les Wampas sounds like a happy, upbeat, Ramones-like punk song. Then you look up a translation of the lyrics, and find it's a song lamenting that the members aren't rich, especially compared to certain other French "punk" artists.
The Misfits do this constantly. "Last Caress", "Astro Zombies", and "Die, Die My Darling" stand out. They're all perfect examples of the influence that early rock & roll had on the band and have amazing blues-style vocals, and they deal with a suicidal rapist/child-killer, an extraterrestrial invasion, and a man murdering his girlfriend, respectively.
The Dead Kennedys have a number of perfectly cheery sounding songs (by hardcore standards) about killing things, like "Chemical Warfare" and "I Fought the Law (and I Won)", both politically charged songs about murder with beats that make listeners want to dance.
"Jimmy Jimmy" by The Undertones is pretty ambiguous lyrically, but seems to be about child abuse. Regardless, it's pretty peppy sounding for a song that concludes with the following:
Now little Jimmy's gone
He disappeared one day
But no one saw the ambulance
That took little Jim away
Janet Jackson's "Together Again" is a cheery, upbeat song... about her friend who died of AIDS. The song was originally intended to be a ballad, but was changed to a dance song in order to celebrate that friend's life instead of death.
The Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance" is a happy, bouncy 80's number about trying to keep yourself together while things around you are falling apart. And I quote: "I don't want to take it anymore / I'll just stay here locked behind the door / Just no time to stop and get away / 'Cause I work so hard to make it everyday". Yeah. And to further heighten the dissonance, this song was featured in a Minnie Mouse cartoon special.
"I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins, turned out this way by happy accident. It was originally penned and composed as an ordinary love ballad. However, one case of wine later, and Hawkins and his entire band decided to record the song while stone drunk. The resulting cocophony of roaring, howling and snorting is somewhere on the line between Nightmare Fuel and Comedy Gold. The otherwise innocuous lyrics become something out of an insane stalker's mind, and then of course, there's the demonic laughter.
Most people think "I Second That Emotion" by The Miracles is a happy song. It's actually about a man leaving an unfaithful woman, and telling her that if she wants to commit, he'll take her back.
Ditto "Tears of a Clown". The English Beat's jarring cover didn't help matters.
"Ain't Too Proud To Beg" by The Temptations was about a man getting dumped and all the demeaning things he would do to get her back. It would be so sad if it wasn't so damn catchy and easy to dance to.
Rihanna's "Take a Bow" is a scathingly sarcastic "screw you" to an ex wanting forgiveness...set to a touching piano arrangement. It's a little strange when Americas Best Dance Crew uses the chorus as its "goodbye" theme. The chorus sounds fine out of context—the only outright hurtful stuff is in the verses. Still, it's strange to hear them congratulating a crew on how far they've gotten when you know the lyrics in their entirety:
''How about a round of applause?
You look so dumb right now
Standing outside my house
Trying to apologize, you're so ugly when you cry.
By contast, her next single, "Disturbia", is an upbeat pop/dance number with lyrics about a descent into madness.
Ray Charles' version of "Bye Bye Love." The more well-known version by the Everly Brothers is in a major key already, but Ray's version is positively bouncy. The song is about...well, exactly what the title tells you. Hear part of it during a fittingly upbeat dance performance.
Smokey Robinson, in "Tears of a Clown", sings of a man hurt by a lover who left him comparing himself to the characters in the opera Pagliacci, comedians/clowns who hide their hurt andanger behind empty smiles, complete with a distinctive circus calliope riff. (Notably, the circusesque melody was written — by Stevie Wonder — long before the lyrics; Robinson went with the Lyrical Dissonance intentionally after being reminded of the characters in Pagliacci.)
Many songs by Steely Dan are good examples of this trope. (Examples: "Peg," "My Old School," "Reelin' in the Years," and so on.) The most stunning example in a Dan song is "Chain Lightning." It is a 6/8 jazz shuffle. The lyrics invoke a sense of Orwell. A good formula is, the happier the song, the more twisted the lyrics.
On the same record as "Chain Lightning" is "Everyone's Gone to the Movies", in which a man known as Mr. La Page shows pornographic films in his living room to neighbourhood children, while the parents are none the wiser and happy that their children are out of the house.
In contrast, Donald Fagen's solo work largely subverts this — at least up until Morph the Cat, and even that has exceptions ("Mary Shut the Garden Door", "Security Joan").
"Kid Charlemagne" is an upbeat jazz-funk-rock song about an LSD dealer and his eventual arrest. "... Your low-rent friends are dead ..."
In kind of a subversion, their song "Deacon Blues" sounds somber and morose, until you realize, ''the lyrics are about a hipster wannabe who wants to mythologize himself by adopting the nickname of a losing college sports team (the Wake Forest Demon Deacons—as contrasted with the winning Alabama Crimson Tide).
"The Whole World Should Revolve Around Me" by Little Jackie is a cheerful, upbeat song about a woman who's too self-absorbed to keep up a relationship.
City High - "What Would You Do". An upbeat mid-tempo major-key tune, which is about a mom having to turn to prostitution to support her child, while his dad goes off and does drugs etc.
Al Duvall, a blues musician In The Style Of 1920s-era and older artists, is (while it isn't all he does) well known for light, happy, and wit-laden ditties that could all be set in a Crapsack World à la Flapjack. There's "Poppycock and Tommyrot," about a traveling salesman who packs up and leaves before his customers realize he's scammed them, "Mary Mack," about a shopkeeper who falls in love with the thief who's been raiding his store, "Slick Hamtree," which closes with a song about a man who can't do his job (farming chickens) while turning a profit, and "Dark Inside," a song about (among other things) binge drinking, work accidents, stalkers, wartime, and gambling oneself broke.
Isaac Hayes' "Walk On By", is a slow, somber tune about how he is unable to prevent himself from crying whenever he comes across his ex-lover, who he tells to pretend not to notice him crying should they ever meet again, and as such. is not an example of the trope. D-Train's cover, however, done in their signature bouncy post-disco style, is.
A substantially large portion of the aforementioned Jamaican music of the 60's and 70's defines this trope by singing about injustice, poverty, racism, etc. accompanied by the upbeat, singable melodies of reggae and ska. A slight inversion of this trope is that sometimes the lyrics would seem tame, even if the actual meaning was something more sinister. For example, one of Bob Marley's earliest hits with The Wailers was called "Simmer Down", which despite sounding like he's talking to misbehaving children is actually a plea for gangs to stop killing each other. The word "rudeboy" is extremely common in ska and reggae music, which sounds like it refers to a childish prankster but actually refers to the extremely dangerous gangsters and hoods of Jamaica.
Aswad's version of "Don't Turn Around". An upbeat song about a relationship break-up.
UB40's version of "Red Red Wine". The melody is a somewhat upbeat spin on a song about a man who turns to the bottle to forget a lost love.
"Boom Bye Bye" by Buju Banton is a notorious song with a quite catchy and happy beat, with lyrics about the execution of gays.
Speaking of Serge Gainsbourg, his reggae cover of La Marseillaise (The French national anthem) called "Aux Armes, etc" definitely counts. As if a reggae tune for the national anthem of an European country wasn't strange enough, anyone who's read the lyrics of the song know they are extremely violent and gory.
"Wild World," the most well-known song done by British-born reggae singer Maxi Priest, has a bouncy rhythm and uplifting, jazzy-sounding saxophone music throughout; yet the lyrics depict a man simultaneously pleading with his girlfriend not to leave him and resigning himself to the fact that it's happening anyway.
The calypso song "Jean and Dinah" by Mighty Sparrow has a cheery calypso beat, however the song discusses how American military bases in Trinidad supported prostitution and how, after the military bases were closed down, the prostitutes became desperate.
"Vietnam" by Jimmy Cliff is another example of a happy-sounding reggae song with a sobering political theme: The music sort of fits the mood of the first verse, where the narrator receives a letter from his friend, who is fighting in the Vietnam war but is happy to be returning home soon. However, the second verse is about the soldier's mother receiving a telegram informing her of his death the very next day.
Just about everything by The Specials counts. Notably, we have "Hey Little Rich Girl", which has a fast and upbeat accompaniment but describes the titular rich girl going to London and becoming a prostitute and adult movie star and their first number one hit, "Too Much Too Young", is about teenage pregnancy messing up somebody's life.
"Cardiac Arrest" by Madness is about Exactly What It Says on the Tin, "Johnny the Horse" is about a homeless man who gets kicked to death "for entertainment" and "Idiot Child" is about a child who never received any encouragement.
Embarrassment is made of this trope also. An upbeat, cheery tune alongside a dark and depressing story about a girl being disowned by her racist family for having a baby with a black man. Even worse, it was based on a true story.
A lot of Fishbone's earlier work fits this.
"Everybody's Got Aids" by the Canadian ska band Me, Mom, & Morgentaler definitely fits this trope, for relatively obvious reasons.
The Argentinian band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs has explored this trope with the song "Matador" (prominently featured in the closing credits to Grosse Pointe Blank), which is a very danceable song about political assassinations in Latin America.
A "lighter" example is "El Satanico Dr. Cadillac", a danceable and rhythmic song where the narrator laments how an old friend fucked up his own life.
Venezuelan Ska band Desorden Publico lives and breathes this trope, but where it shows more is in their 1997 album Plomo Revienta (slang who would -roughly- translate as "buttload of gunshots"), which is an long view on how dangerous is living in Caracas (violence, crime, governmental indolence, bad love life...), and the perpetual alert state the city inhabitants live on because of it. All in the form of bouncy ska songs. The most memorable is "Alla Cayo", a bouncy song with witty rhymes whose lyrics tell the story of three "normal" slum deaths: a petty murder of a thug because of his expensive Air Jordan shoes, a drug-related crime, and a innocent high schooler killed by a lost bullet during a gang battle. The last verse is in a funeral, with a mother loudly crying for her dead boy, but we don't know whose mother is this. The chorus it's so catchy you don't realize until later how cruel and detached really is:
He fell there, he fell there, fell there, fell there He fell there, he fell there, fell there, fell there And they painted his Chalk Outline on the sidewalk (how pity!) And they painted his chalk outline on the sidewalk (how pity!) And they painted his chalk outline on the sidewalk...
Back when The Aquabats! were a ska band, they made a song called "Chemical Bomb!". It has a very calm and relaxing sound to it, but the lyrics are about the narrator thinking about death, human extinction, hunger, etc. after getting frustrated with people's behavior at the grocery store. Here's the chorus, just to give you an idea:
But the sun was shining,
And everything seemed fine,
So count me in,
I'll see you on the other side...
Chemical bomb, chemical bomb,
Eyes melt, skin explodes, everybody's dead.
It won't be long, it won't be long,
People gonna run around losing their heads.
A river of blood, who's gonna live?
The earth is tired of human kind,
And I bet this world...
Is gonna wash up in Hell...
Reel Big Fish's best songs are depressing songs over cheery ska-punk including "She Has A Girlfriend Now", "She's Famous Now", and "Sell Out".
"Brand New Hero" is in the usual style, but is about a person "leaving" his friends and family because he doesn't believe in himself.
Their big hit "Beer" is, as the name implies, a catchy, danceable, upbeat song where the narrator drinks himself into a stupor because he's been dumped.
"My Imaginary Friend" seems at first to be a silly song about, well, his imaginary friend, but it's actually about God.
Frontman Aaron Barrett has said in interviews they invoke this trope intentionally, stating that he was once called into a record executive's office and asked why their lyrics were so depressing and/or angry. He proceeded to pick up his guitar and play one of their happy, bouncy tunes but changing the lyrics to be happy and bouncy as well. The executive told him to stop and said he understood now.
Streetlight Manifesto's "The Saddest Song" fits this. Entirely peppy, with lyrics along the lines of
And it's the saddest song you'll ever hear
the most pain you will ever feel
but you grit your teeth because it don't get better than this.
"As The Footsteps Die Out Forever" ( also by Streetlight Manifesto by Catch 22 before their lead singer left and formed Streetlight Manifesto) is a upbeat and happy song about the singer's mother getting sick and dying.
Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution, pretty much the same band, has "It's a Wonderful Life," titled and performed happily, about an unhappy conscript coming to terms with the fact that he's much more likely to die at war than ever see his wife again. Somewhat subverted in that he decides that it was all worth it anyway.
I was told boy prepare for war
but they failed to mention what I'd be fighting for
So I fought for this
That as I passed away I'd feel her kiss
and I smile, what a wonderful life
Also by Streetlight is "A Better Place, A Better Time," which is full of bouncy horns and bass in their usual style, but is sung from the point of view of someone desperately trying to talk a friend out of committing suicide.
And when you wake up, everything is gonna be fine
I guarantee that you'll wake in a better place, in a better time
So you're tired of livin', feel like you might give in?
Well, don't, it's not your time
"Spiderwebs" by No Doubt has a upbeat, catchy tune, but it's about a girl who keeps getting called by a guy so much that she has to screen her phone calls (sounds like a stalker to me).
Real Life Writes The Song.
Sublime's "Wrong Way" is about a teenage prostitute. Although it's pretty blatent what the song is about, the cheery beat contrasts with the dark lyrics.
"Santeria", a wistful song about a jealous ex-boyfriend attempting to reclaim his girlfriend, promising to kill the guy who took her ("and I won't think twice to stick that barrel straight down Sancho's throat").
Let's not forget "Date Rape".
Less Than Jake have a time with this now and again. The song "The Science of Selling Yourself Short" is bouncy and upbeat... and sings about being a self-defeating depressive, drinking his problems down the drain and alienating his friends in the process. (I'll sing along, yeah, with every emergency/Just sing along— I'm the king of catastrophes!/I'm so far gone, that deep down inside/I think it's fine by me/That I'm my own worst enemy!
I Voted For Kodos's "Please Die In A Fire" is a bouncy song that focuses on a band being screwed by their managers and label.
The Foundations' two big hits are both bouncy, sweet-sounding songs about disturbingly obsessive love. The basic message of "Build Me Up Buttercup" is "Don't you see that we belong together? You shameless cocktease?", while "Baby Now That I've Found You" goes more for "You're breaking up with me? Yeah...I won't allow that. I get it that you don't love me, but you are my everything and I WON'T LET YOU LEAVE."
If you heard it without hearing the name you'd think this of "Fuck You" by Cee Lo Green. It's a Cluster F-Bomb soul song.
"Waltzing Matilda" by Banjo Paterson is a cheerful-sounding song, the kind you want to sing along to, but the main character who steals sheep and camps under trees eventually commits suicide. Added bonus: Many Aussies consider this to be their national anthem, unofficially. Makes sense, given the historical context...
"Little Brown Jug" by Joseph Winner, a drinking song whose lyrics are about a man and his wife experiencing a hard, alcoholic life. The tone and melody of the song however, are bright and cheerful.
"Whatever You Say, Say Nothing" is usually sung in an upbeat fashion. It is actually a scathing satire of...well...the specific target has changed over the years, but seems to generally be police state tactics and the use of informers in general.
"God Save Ireland" is generally a fast-paced song beloved by Irish Republicans. It's about three men who are being hanged and their last defiant words to their executioners.
"The Minstrel Boy" can be performed in an uptempo fashion (e.g. Enter the Haggis, Young Dubliners). The eponymous Minstrel goes off to war, gets thrown in prison, and breaks his harp because its songs were "meant for the pure and free/ they shall never sound in slavery." The dissonance isn't quite as stealthy in many other examples, but it still fits.
"Whiskey in the Jar" is certainly a fast, bouncy song that is a great one to sing along to. It is about a thief who is betrayed by his wife and thrown in prison
The traditional French song "Alouette", often taught to children, actually is about removing a lark's feathers in order to cook the bird.
There is a children's song from the Phillipines that describes the sighting, shooting and eating of a bird in both Tagalog and English.
Puerto Rico has at least two Christmas carols that have to do with roasting pigs on a spit. One of them begins "You get the pig, you kill it, you skin it . . ."
Then there's the happy French song that often produces spontaneous can canning. You know? The one about HELL and DAMNATION?
Several folk songs about love and death, such as "Frankie and Johnny", "Molly Malone" and "Oh My Darling, Clementine" have upbeat tunes.
The traditional song "Listen to the Mockingbird" is a trilling, bouncy ditty lamenting the singer's dead sweetheart in lyrical tones. (However, one children's beginning piano book had a Bowdlerised version of the refrain, substituting "singing all the way" for "singing o'er her grave.")
"The Man on the Flying Trapeze" is another nursery song that should be on here. A song in happy, happy ¾ time about a man whose girlfriend is taken by a circus performer. Then, after being trained by said circus performer, She, depending on how you look at the line "thus my love is stolen from me", has finally left the man singing for good, or dies attempting her first trapeze act.
Depending on the singer, the Civil War era ballad, "Lorena" can be sung quite cheerfully and even in its slower forms just sounds like a sweet love ballad... until you realize that it's about a soldier who not only knows he's likely to die, but already gave up on the woman he loved when he left for war... 100 months ago.
Folk legend has it that entire regiments during the war on both sides were banned from singing the song, because though it had the cheery sound of more positive ballads, the lyrics themselves were so heartbreaking to the soldiers (many who actually lived what the song was about), that it was causing detriment to the war effort by harming morale and making soldiers inconsolably homesick.
"Rock-a-bye baby," the famous nursery rhyme, also falls under this category. Just listen to lyrics closely and think about it.
In fact a lot of nursery rhymes are quite violent in nature once you pay attention to the lyrics.
This is probably because Mommy's REALLY tired when she sings them. I like to refer to them as "Mommy's Ready To Snap songs".
"Hush-a-bye"/"All the Pretty Little Horses" is especially sad and even gruesome, although the offending stanza isn't often sung anymore; apparently it was originally sung by a slave mother to her master's child, which she was forced to nurse while neglecting her own.
Way down yonder, in the meadow,
There's a poor wee little lamby.
The birds and butterflies peckin' at its eyes,
The poor little thing cried "mammy."
"You Are My Sunshine" — a cheery children's tune, or so it seems. The chorus is nice enough, but the verses are very downbeat and depressing.
No, no it doesn't. Are you listening to the words?
"The other night, dear,
As I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken
And I hung my head and cried."
"You told me once, dear
You really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you've left me
And love another
You have shattered all my dreams"
Kevin Devine's version is especially heartbreaking (at least to me).
And the song promptly becomes horror after reading the short story "It's a Good Life" or watching the Twilight Zone episode of the same name.
"When Johnny Comes Marching Home" sounds incredibly depressing and ominous for a song about the cheerful celebration of returning soldier. This may have something to do with how the song's tune originally came from the Irish ballad "Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye", which told the story of the return of a horribly maimed soldier to his family and love. He's so badly injured they hardly recognise him, and he won't be able to work. "You've lost an arm, you've lost a leg. You'll have to be put with a bowl out to beg."
The version I know is worse — "You haven't an arm, you haven't a leg, // You're an eyeless, noseless, chickenless egg; // You'll have to be put in a bowl to beg...." There's an English folk song called "The Recruited Collier", in which a young girl sings about her sorrow and shock at seeing her sweetheart go off to war where she knows he'll probably be killed, although he thinks it's a bit of fun. It has a terrifically upbeat, bouncy tune. One folksinger insisted on setting it to a different tune, precisely because of the Lyrical Dissonance which she thought was inappropriate — but really the contrast between the jolly tune and the ominous words only made it sadder and creepier.
Sarah Brightman's "Once in a Lifetime" is a soft, gentle song about a woman experimenting with S&M.
On a more general level, pick any extremist movement with lyrics that have a markedly different effect on you than on its members. For an example that's obscure enough to be safe, Finnish hardliner communist tunes from the 1970s are catchy, uplifting and energizing calls for determination and solidarity, both of which will be needed to restart the civil war and slaughter the bourgeoisie, clergy, police, government and everyone else involved in the upper classes' worldwide plot that previously started World War II to destroy the Soviet Union. Trust no one.
This happens frequently with political songs, particularly of a satirical nature. Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" and John Fogerty's "Fortunate Son" were mistaken for proud, jingoistic rock songs by those who listened only to their melodies and choruses, and not their verses.
I danced on the Sabbath / And I cured the lame; / The holy people / Said it was a shame. / They whipped and they stripped / And they hung me on high, / And they left me there / On a Cross to die.
One might note that the original words to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" are somewhat ... depressing, (including the line "We all will muddle through somehow") and that the retouching to make the song acceptable to modern audiences has left a melancholy tune with much more pleasant lyrics.
Elsewhere in the Downer Christmas Carols department, we have "I'll Be Home For Christmas" — a lovely crooner's ballad about being deployed overseas at the holidays, and only able to pretend you're at home celebrating with your family.
Even "Jingle Bells", as cheery a carol as they come, has its one-horse open sleigh wipe out in a snowdrift: a type of accident which seriously endangers the horse as well as the passengers. "We got upsot" is also a pun that implies they'd been sleigh-driving drunk. In the seldom-heard third verse, the singer falls on his butt on slippery ice and a passing sleigh-rider mocks his misfortune.
Older Than Radio: The song "My Grandfather's Clock," written in 1876 and regarded as a "children's favorite" in the '50s and '60s (and maybe afterward, too). Very bouncy tune, but it actually inspired an episode of The Twilight Zone. "But it stopped short / Never to go again / When the old man died."
For a historical example or two, check your local church's hymnals. Sometimes, because hymns (i.e. the words) can be set to multiple tunes, and because congregations only know so many tunes, you can get some very bizarre combinations.
For one that particularly bothers this church musician, singing "Rock of Ages" to the tune "Toplady," the tune most people (sadly) know. A cheerful, upbeat, happy tune about how Jesus is broken and how I want to "hide myself" in him.
The fan-made Christmas song "Merry Christmas Gotham City" is sung from the Joker's point of view. Standard commercial Christmas beat... with the lyrics describing him planning a rampage as a city wide Christmas gift "decoration".
"The Ash Grove", an English version of the Welsh air "Llwyn Onn", has a soothing melody but depressing lyrics.
The Italian song, "Teorema" basically teaches that you have to treat a woman bad to have her love you ('Take a woman, treat her badly' are the opening lyrics) in a sarcastic take of 'all girls love bad boys' with quiet music. The chorus says 'I'll never tell her that I live for her, I'll treat her badly, and she'll love me'.
The French oldie "Je t'attendrai a la porte du garage" (I'll wait for you at the garage door), a supposedly funny song with a very light-hearted tune... that tells the story of a woman who has to raise her kids alone because her husband left. The title refers to what she writes to him: she'll wait for him at the garage door, and one day he'll finally come back home and everything will be alright. He does come back. Forty years later.
The French song [["Gentiment je t'immole"]], meaning "I immolate you gently," sounds like a soft ballad, until you listen to the lyrics, which include things like 'you scream like a whore, your skin comes off'
A popular song from 1913 titled "And The Green Grass Grew All Around" (not to be confused with a similarly titled children's song) is a very cheerful upbeat tune that deals with dark subject matter, in the first verse it's implied that one of the two lovers may ultimately be a gold digger, the second verse deals with a deadly accident (implied to be a hit and run) with an early "Ford machine" car crashing into a butcher cart, describing in detail the gruesome death, and the third verse dies with contaminated food. Slightly subverted in the final chorus, which takes a somewhat somber tone followed by the opening bars of the Funeral March, but then resumes the cheerfulness in the final "And the green grass grew all around, all around, and the green grass grew all around".
Katyusha is a very catchy cheerful Russian song about a women yearning for her lover who is away fighting a war. It doesn't help that this song is often sung by cheerfulchildren.
cali=gari. All of it. "Mama ga boku o sutete papa ga boku o okashita hi" — "The day mama abandoned and papa raped me".
Dir en grey's song "embryo". While sounding like a perfectly tender ballad with a warming chorus, the lyrics (sung from a daughter's perspective) reveal that the singer's mother has hung herself to save herself from an abusive relationship with her husband, who has now turned to raping his daughter. She ends up eventually killing her father during another rape, and yet manages to not abort the baby she is now carrying.
It should be noted that the song's lyrics were understandably changed to the singer's desire to join his mother in the afterlife, for its release as a single.
It should also be noted that "Embryo" contains creepy whispering verses and almost an emo chorus. However, this trope is true to some of Dir en Grey's early upbeat and melodic stuff such as "Yurameki", "-I'll-", "Raison detre", "Wake", "Jessica", etc. The most perfect example is "Yokan" from their Gauze album (1999), this happy-sounding song with sad lyrics even got them to perform on pop-ish talk shows like Music Station and sitting next to frigging Ayumi Hamasaki, the Empress of Pop herself.
By Ensoku, there is This is a Pen. Consisting of only the phrase "This is a pen" and an insert describing the functions of a pen. Needs to be seen to be believed.
"Arthur McBride" is basically a big Take That and Screw You at military recruiters. The Enter the Haggis version is a fast paced, crowd sing-along number.
Their singer Manu Chao later went as a solist, and maintained the disonance alive.
"Sweet Lullaby" is Deep Forest's biggest hit song. It's a pleasant and catchy sing-a-long that definitely sounds like a lullaby. And it is, but the context is gravely different once translated. The sampled lyrics come from a lullaby of the Soloman Islands called "Rorogwela", in which an older brother comforts his younger brother and helps him sleep after they just lost their parents.
Asa's "Fire on the Mountain" pairs the sweet, cheery kind of melody you'd find on an iPod commercial with lyrics from a '60s protest song.
"Moskau", both the Dschinghis Khan one and the Rammstein one, can be subversions of this: They both have the same title, they're both in the same language, they both have the same subject matter, and they both have markedly different moods. A botched search on Google for the lyrics might leave you with the impression that the upbeat disco piece portrays Moscow, Russia as a Crapsack World and that the driving metal tune with the Russian chorus is about throwing a party in Moscow's honor.
There's a anti-Meth PSA that invokes this. The jingle is catchy, not unlike something you'd see in older commercials for candy or soda. However the images and lyrics very much don't match the tone.
The ending of Something Broke takes a cheery reprise of the second part ("All is Normal") and sets it to lyrics like:
So, down in the dimly lit Down comes knife, another hit Draw it forth, eviscerate Soon they'll be on someone's plate.
The whole genre of Neofolk qualifies, with occult, militaristic, or ambiguously Far-right lyrics and mellow, folk-inspired instrumentation.
Dr Bombay's S.O.S. easily comes across as this without the music video. A catchy upbeat song about how a tiger took his family.
[[Wesley Willis]] used the upbeat demo tracks on his keyboard as his backing music, often using major keys for happy songs and minor keys for sad songs. In addition to singing songs about bands he'd seen, friends of his and praising various companies, he'd also sing songs about criminals, murdering people and his schizophrenia demons. Much of the time he'd pair happy music with negative lyrics.
"Sleepytown Train" by the novelty group Optiganally Yours combines this with Eggs Bread Milk Squick. The song is essentially a lullaby, possibly sung to a lover. And then we get this line out of nowhere:
Your teeth fall out in the sink And I'm trying to help You've been gut-shot in the rain
The song "Song for Whoever" by The Beautiful South is a Sophisto Pop ballad written in the viewpoint of a cynical songwriter who writes love songs purely for the money.