Mind-Control Music


"Using music to control people. Why does that sound so familiar?"
Tucker, Danny Phantom, "Pirate Radio"

Music has great power. It can Soothe the Savage Beast, it can inspire courage in the hearts of men with a stirring march, or bring tears to your eyes with an eulogy of loss and longing. Is it really such a stretch to assume that, with the right resonance, the right voice, the right instrument, it can fully control the very hearts of man?

Quite often, however, the enchantment lasts only as long as the song does... but depending on the particulars, it may do anything from simply putting everyone who hears it into a paralytic trance, to inflicting a specific, overpowering compulsion (such as homicidal rage or suicidal despair) to putting them under full and permanent More Than Mind Control.

This is the preferred method of the Enthralling Siren, and indeed pops up a lot in mythology. The Evil Diva also has a good chance of utilizing her music to enslave her fans. A Snake Charmer often uses this kind of music as well. Subtrope of Magic Music. Inverted by the The Music Meister who uses Mind Manipulation to make music (although the Trope Namer did both).


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The second season of Black Butler featured an Armonica (also known as a Glass Harmonica or a Hydrocrystalophone) being used to control a ballroom filled with noble guests, turning them into savage killers. Amusingly enough, it was countered by Sebastian playing a Glass Harp, also known as an Angelic Organ - an instrument that uses a similar principle.
  • The Parapara brothers from Dragonball GT use a stereo to cause their opponents to uncontrollably mimic their dancing, leaving them open to attack.
  • Kiddy Grade features one instance where a song is used to broadcast a mind-control signal.
  • Used in episode 79 of Lupin III (Red Jacket) by Kyoransky, an eccentric musician and the episode's villain. Whomever hears Kyoransky's music sets out to attack Lupin in a violent rage.
  • Macross:
    • Macross Plus has Virtual Idol Sharon Apple paralyze an entire world with her hit single, 'Information High'. Listening to it, you can kinda' feel how it might work. It's strangely hypnotic, especially when combined with her lightshow.
    • In Macross Delta, it's revealed that those infected by Var Syndrome are susceptible to being mind-controlled by the songs of Windermere's Wind Singer; in fact, Windermere is deliberately spreading Var for this very reason.
  • Brook from One Piece plays music that can influence the actions of others by "reaching to their very souls". This is seen when he causes an entire stadium to riot against the Marines.
  • The original Read or Die OVA was centered around a group of villains trying to put together a particular, lost symphony by Mozart, which had the power to make anyone who heard it so utterly depressed that they would instantly commit suicide by whatever means was closest at hand. Dubbed 'The Suicide Symphony', for obvious reasons.

    Comic Books 
  • In Superlópez, a rock band allied with the mob uses this.
  • On the cover of issue #152 of House of Mystery, an organ grinder's music causes people to give his monkey money.
  • The Flash:
    • The villanous Fiddler is a master hypnotist who can focus his abilities through his violin.
    • An ex-villain and ally, the Pied Piper. He can control people with his music from his sophisticated flute capable of hypnotizing anyone within range of its sound.
  • In "The Pied Piper of Steel" (Action 398, March 1971), Clark's first television assignment is to cover a Woodstock-like rock concert, where he observes that "the kids" mindlessly obey whatever the lyrics say. The "hypnotic power of rock" was an actual concern of Moral Guardians at the time. In the story, it turns out to be a Mad Scientist with a Fiendish Machine.
  • In Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, a villain named Axe has a guitar that can hypnotize people. He gets a whole crowd of adults and Mary under his spell, forcing Billy, who temporarily has to avoid turning into Captain Marvel, to figure out how to stop him alone.

    Fan Works 
  • "The Smurphony of the Night" from the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story of the same name was used by Lord Vladimir Smurfula to control Smurfette's mind to draw her closer to him. Near the end of the story, Empath is able to disrupt its effect on Smurfette by whistling the Smurfs theme song.
  • Lullaby from Ultimate Sleepwalker uses her singing to brainwash people into being her personal thugs (or, in Rick's case, her boy toys). Sleepwalker is immune to her singing, being an alien, and Lullaby's control is usually broken when she is silenced.
  • The Life And Times Of A Winning Pony: The rusalka’s song in the side story “The Incredibly Thrilling Investigation of Storm Kicker”, which hypnotizes ponies and turns them into thralls under the rusalka’s control.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Zoolander, the Musical Trigger for Derick's brainwashing to kick in and have him assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia was a remix of the song "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, which they also played while brainwashing him.
  • In the Japanese horror film Suicide Circle, it's implied a popular music group may be subliminally responsible for all the suicides.
  • In Hocus Pocus the witches keep the adults from stopping them using the song "I Put A Spell On You". The youngest later uses her own siren-like singing to lure children to the witches' house.
  • The movie of Josie and the Pussycats features a plot to build subliminal messages into the music of manufactured pop bands.
  • Help!: In an scene dropped from the final movie, The Beatles, at an acting school, are put into a trance by droning music played by Clang and his thugs. A scene that was used has them trying again, all crammed in a phone booth calling the band up while they're in Scotland Yard. Clang intones "Go... to... the... window!... Go... to... the... window!"
  • The song "Gloomy Sunday" is used as a suicide trigger in the film The Kovak Box.
  • The Genie in Pretty Cool Too works by emitting a special noise that forces anyone who hears it to obey any command they hear, but it can also contain commands in itself.

  • Susan Cooper's novel The Dark Is Rising. Will is about to experience the power of the Dark.
    And the singing began.
    It was wordless; it came in the wind; it was a thin, high, cold whine with no definable tune or pattern. It came from a long way off, and it was not pleasant to hear. But it held him transfixed, turning his thoughts away from their proper direction, turning them away from everything except contemplation of whatever happened to be closest at hand. [snip] As he listened to the singing, he saw a twig on a low branch of the beech close to his head that seemed for no reason so totally enthralling that he could do nothing but gaze at it, as if it contained the whole world. He stared for so long, his eyes moving very gradually along the tiny twig and back again, that he felt as if several months had passed, while the high, strange singing went on and on in the sky from its distant beginnings. And then suddenly it stopped, and he was left standing dazed with his nose almost touching a very ordinary beech twig.
    He knew then that the Dark had its own way of putting even an Old One outside Time for a space, if they needed a space for their own magic.
  • The Lord of the Rings.
    • In The Fellowship of the Ring both Tom Bombadil and Old Man Willow can affect other creatures' minds by singing.
    • In The Silmarillion Lúthien Tinúviel gains control over Morgoth himself by singing to him.
  • This trope is the focus of Trill, a short story by Shanna Germain. The protagonist is something of a Pied Piper analogue.
  • Coda has this with the Corp's music being equivalent to a drug. It can control what you see, think, and feel, and can even kill you.
  • The Lady of the Green Kirtle in The Silver Chair used a monotonous melody played on a mandolin-like instrument (combined with a sweet-smelling powder) to make her victims receptive to her suggestions. The effect can be resisted, but doing so takes phenomenal willpower.
  • Implied in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. One of the magical items found in the Order's headquarters is a music box that, when played, makes the listeners feel drowsy and sluggish. Snapping it shut ends the enchantment, which allows them to throw the music box out.
  • Doctor Who - One (lost) episode of First Doctor serial "The Celestial Toymaker", has Dodo and Steven come to a dance-floor, with the supposed prize of the TARDIS and possible escape waiting on the other side of the room. But as soon as they come into contact with the dance-floor, music starts to play and they find their feet magically compelled to dance. Steven and Dodo must find a way to overcome the magic power of the music long enough to make it to the other side of the floor and their chance at escape.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of Get Smart had Max and 99 fighting "The Groovy Guru" (played by Larry Storch), who was producing music with subliminal messages aimed to get kids to overthrow the government and authorities. While the kids were supposed to be affected by subliminal mind control signals, the lyrics weren't too subtle, either.
    Thrill, thrill, thrill!
    Kill, kill, kill!
    Make a scene,
    Knock off the Dean.

    Yea yea yea,
    Bump off a square,
    That's what it's about
    Hate is in.
    Love is out.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In season 7, the First Evil brainwashes reformed vampire Spike into killing humans again; the trigger is the folksong "Early One Morning."
  • One episode of Wonder Woman featured a flute-playing rock star who could control his female fans with his music.
  • Similarly, the villain Glitter Rock uses mind-control music in one episode of Electra Woman And Dyna Girl.
  • The first episode of the short-lived Fox show The New Adventures Of Beans Baxter had the villain using a singer's music to control the minds of teenagers.
  • Adam Adamant Lives!: The villains in "Sing a Song of Danger" plan to use a subliminal message embedded in records to cause fans to rob banks and deliver the money to them through fan clubs. They use another album to try to compel Adam to murder Georgina.
  • A story arc on NCIS involves the Big Bad using music to brainwash children into becoming Child Soldiers. And one of them shoots Gibbs.

  • The Lonely Island:
    • "Boombox." The eponymous box causes people to lose control when they hear music coming from it.
      A boombox can change the world
      But you've gotta know your limits with a boombox
      This was a cautionary tale
      A boombox is not a toy
    • The song in "Go Kindergarten" convinces the audience to do all sorts of weird things, including things which shouldn't even be possible, like making their butts drink helium and speak in a high-pitched voice.
  • The music video for Fatboy Slim's "Ya Mama" shows people losing control of their limbs whenever they hear the tune. Hilarity Ensues.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The title character of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Initially, it seems like he's limited to controlling rats, but when the town stiffs him on his bill, he reveals similar hypnotic power over children. (This is, of course, where the old saying "Time to pay the piper" originated, meaning that going back on a deal can have consequences.)
  • Sirens in Greek Mythology. Listening to their song causes sailors to wish to dash their ships on the rocks just to get closer.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The singing and music of bards can charm (control) other creatures.
    • Some magical musical instruments can do this even if played by someone other than a bard.
  • Call of Cthulhu. The spell Soul Singing requires the caster to play a bone whistle. It allows the caster to control the target's mind, leading them in a trance-like state to their doom.
  • Champions supplement C.L.O.W.N. has two of these.
    • One of Merry Andrew's gadgets is a crank organ that plays "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" tune. Anyone who hears it starts to act like a monkey.
    • Beuford the Bard has a magical mandolin which controls the minds of people who listen to its music.


    Video Games 
  • AdventureQuest Worlds has Discordia, the Sixth Lord of Chaos from the Mythsong saga, whose music has the power to control people. It turns out that he himself is being controlled by Kimberly of One Eyed Doll, the true Chaos Lord.
  • Shiho of Valkyrie Profile, a 'songmistress' whose singing instills her countrymen with burning fury and bloodlust, turning them into unstoppable berserkers in combat. She's wrought with guilt, however, since her song doesn't make them invulnerable, just fearless, leading most of the soldiers to their death.
  • How the tikis mind control the animals in Donkey Kong Country Returns. The Kongs are unaffected.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Psycho Mantis uses a distinctive 'hymn' based on Russian choral music to control people's minds, referred to by Naomi as "mind control music" and supposedly a favourite song of his childhood. It is first played in-game as apparently ordinary in-game music, but when it stops, Snake and Meryl both comment on it and get justifiably worried (when it begins again, it is Mantis attempting to possess Meryl). Spoofed in The Last Days of FOXHOUND where Mantis accidentally discovers he can do this by whistling.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Chaos;Head, the band Phantasm - or perhaps just their enigmatic lead singer, FES - can reduce a whole roomful of rowdy concertgoers to hypnotized zombies with their strange, prophetic goth-punk-rock. Or maybe you just imagined it...

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of the Gummi Bears episode "Music Hath Charms" had Duke Igthorn use a set of magical bagpipes to hypnotize anyone who heard its music (with the exception of the ogres}, especially the Gummis.
  • One Pinky & the Brain short on Animaniacs featured Brain developing a mind-control scheme using subliminal messages played through generic country music songs.
  • One episode of the first season of Aqua Teen Hunger Force features a villain named MC Pee Pants who releases a rap song called "I Want Candy" that causes anyone who hears it to crave sweets non-stop. It turns out that this is a ploy to raise people's blood sugar to insanely high levels, allowing MC Pee Pants to use it to power a drill and release demons from Hell, who would in turn run a global diet pill pyramid scheme. And all of this is expressly spelled out in the lyrics.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold has a Canon Foreigner named The Music Meister, whose singing hits a certain frequency to mind control anyone who hears it. Another effect: those who fall under his spell burst into song themselves. Batman is able to create a device which dampens its power, though.
  • There was a Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode in which the villainess controlled a swarm of bees via (awful) rock music.
  • As the page quote indicates, Danny Phantom features recurring villain Ember McLain, a ghostly punk rocker with the ability to control people's emotions via a spectral guitar; she also draws power from people chanting her name, and so brainwashed teenagers into a frenzy in her first appearance. Later, she used a more traditional method—backmasked messages in records—to hypnotize the adults of Amity Park into abandoning their children and powering a fleet of ships for Youngblood the Pirate, another ghost. Only Sam is not affected because of the Fenton Phones she wore the entire time.
  • In Detentionaire, there is a song called the Prank Song that puts most people into a highly suggestible state. Some people are naturally immune to the effects, though.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: A one-shot villain named "Organ Grindor" used his titular instrument to hypnotize the heroic Monkey into becoming a thief for him.
  • The Magical Mandolin from the Dorothy And The Wizard Of Oz episode of the same name works this way. When played during the day, it causes people to dance merrily, but when played at night, it puts anyone who hears it in an obedient trance.
  • In G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, terrorist leader Cobra Commander hires Zartan and the Dreadknocks (a group of mercenaries) to form a band called "Cold Slither" so that subliminal messages can be put into their recording.
  • An episode of Garfield and Friends involves a Tyrannosaurus Rex who, after awakening from being sealed in a cave, attempts to take over the world by hosting a children's television program as "Sidney the Pink Dinosaur" and singing an insipid song titled "Good is Better Than Bad." Anyone who hears it (and looks into the dinosaur's Hypnotic Eyes) becomes a blithering moron who agrees with everything Sidney says. Garfield avoids the hypnosis (a combination of not looking at the screen and realizing how stupid the idea is) and ends up having to save the world...again.
  • Used by Robbie in the Gravity Falls episode "Boyz Crazy".
  • Used by Dr. Wily in Mega Man.
  • Happens a couple times in Phineas and Ferb.
    • This trope was also parodied in "Bubble Boys." The tone-deaf Dr. Doofenshmirtz invents a hat that makes him a great country singer, and plans to brainwash the tri-state area with his song "Yodel-Odel Obey Me." The parody comes into play when the song's lyrics explicitly state that the listeners are being hypnotized: "You'll be my obedient mindless slaves, and nobody will blame me..." Despite the blatant mentions of mind control, it still works:
      Country Music Fan One: I like him!
      Country Music Fan Two: YEAH! LET'S DO WHATEVER HE SAYS!
  • Samurai Jack has an episode called "The Rave", that has music that controls teenagers and causes them to be destructive.
  • The main premise of the episode "New Kids on the Blecch" of The Simpsons. Bart joins the boy band "The Party Posse", a project by the Navy to use subliminal messages in music to get more recruits. Their first song contains the lyrics "Yvan eht nioj" ("Join the Navy" backwards).
  • Madame Trilby's magic flute (no relation to the other magic flute) that Gargamel used on the Smurfs to make them sleepwalk in The Smurfs episode "Sleepwalking Smurfs". Also the Ghoulliope from the cartoon special "Smurfily Ever After".
  • In the Sonic Boom episode "Battle of the Boy Bands", Justin Beaver's music can hypnotize females.