Quarreling Song

When two doughty heroes thunder,
All the world is lost in wonder;
When such men their tempers lose,
Awful are the words they use!
Gilbert and Sullivan, finale to Act 1 of The Grand Duke

A Musical trope, and subtrope of Let's Duet. Two characters, or occasionally more, get into an argument which they conduct in song, possibly by Volleying Insults. In keeping with the genre conventions of musicals, the quarrel will normally be a major plot point, else why would it merit a song? A sister trope to Counterpoint Duet and Call-and-Response Song, with which it may overlap.

Although mainly confined to musicals, operas and adaptations thereof, a Quarreling Song may appear in other media as part of a Musical Episode. A Quarreling Song will rarely, if ever, be a work or episode's only song. Battle Rapping can be this.


  • "Duel Duet" from Shock Treatment, in which Brad and Farley argue that the other one is worthless, giving reasons why.
  • There was also a song called "Confrontation" in Jekyll & Hyde where Jekyll and Hyde argue over who should be in control of the body. An interesting scene to watch, as Jekyll and Hyde are played by the same actor.
  • "Ah Still Suits Me," a Show Boat Movie Bonus Song for the 1936 version. In it, Queenie nags her husband Joe about his persistant laziness, while he laughs it off. link
  • "A Fine Romance" in Swing Time. First Penny criticizes Lucky for not contributing to the relationship; then after he decides to go for it and she snubs him, he returns the sentiment.
  • "I Can Do Without You" from Calamity Jane is Volleying Insults with Bill and Jane.

Live-Action TV

  • "The Boy is Mine" by Monica and Brandy
  • Also "The Girl is Mine" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson.
  • "The Irony of It All" by The Streets as an argument between the thuggish drinker Terry and the quiet pot-smoker Tim as to which drug, alcohol or weed, causes more problems and is the more deserving to be illegal.
  • "It Tango" by Laurie Anderson
  • "Romance Is Boring" by Los Campesinos! sounds like something you don't want to get in the middle of.
  • "Not In Our House" from !HERO: The Rock Opera is an argument between the main character and Chief Rabbi Kai.
  • "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye, specifically Kimbra's rebuttal to the narrator.
  • "Well It's True That We Love One Another" from Elephant by The White Stripes, where Jack White, Meg White and guest singer Holly Golightly bicker about.
  • "Fairytale of New York" by Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues is essentially a blazing row in the form of a song.
  • "I Need a Little Time" by The Beautiful South consists of the male singer explaining his reasons for needing space in the relationship, and the female singer shooting them down. "I Keep It All In" is about the aftermath of a blazing row leading to it starting up again.

  • "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" from Annie Get Your Gun where Annie and Frank argue about many, many things such as drinking liquor, shooting better, and singing higher.
    • "Old-Fashioned Wedding", a Counterpoint Duet where Frank wants to have a quiet simple wedding and Annie wants it at the Waldorf with all kinds of fancy stuff.
  • "A Boy Like That / I Have a Love" from West Side Story - Anita warns Maria that white boys are no good in the wake of Tony's killing of Bernardo, but Maria loves Tony.
  • "All Or Nothing" from Oklahoma!, Will and Ado Annie argue about her being a Good Bad Girl.
  • "Confrontation" from Les Misérables. Javert has come to take Valjean to prison but Valjean has to find Cosette.
  • In Lestat, The Musical of Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat, "Embrace It" is an argument song between Louis and Lestat about giving in to vampirism.
  • "Fugue for Tinhorns" from Guys and Dolls is three guys arguing about the different tips they have on horse racing.
  • "Another Day" from RENT. Mimi wants to go out and party with Roger and some heroin, but he wants to stay home and brood with his guitar. Also "Take Me Or Leave Me". Maureen is slutty and her girlfriend Joanne is controlling.
  • Jesus Christ Superstar has "Everything's Alright", which has Mary Magdalene telling Jesus to relax, Judas saying that they should be helping the poor instead of relaxing, and Jesus saying they should all concentrate on the future.
  • Evita has a lot: "Eva, Beware of the City": Eva wants to go to the Big City, Magaldi says she's too young. "A New Argentina": Eva thinks her husband should be politically ambitious, he's less sure. "The Actress Hasn't Learned the Lines (You'd Like to Hear)": Aristocrats don't approve of the lower-class Eva. "Waltz for Eva and Che" has Eva arguing with her narrator about whether the ends justify the means.
  • Song And Dance has several, including the oft-reprised "Take That Look Off Your Face", though this is a one-woman show and all the responses to her arguments are unheard by the audience.
  • Aspects of Love has a few; the show is through-sung, so a lot of the arguments are not proper songs but more recitative: One that stands out as a full song is "She'd Be Far Better off with You", George and Alex fighting over Rose.
  • Wicked has "What Is This Feeling?": Glinda and Elphaba, who really dislike each other, have just learned they're going to be roommates at campus.
  • "Piddle, Twiddle, and Resolve", from 1776, towards the end of which John Adams quarrels with his wife Abigail as they correspond through letters. John wants Abigail to organize the local ladies to make saltpeter for the war, while Abigail wants John to do something about the local pin shortage.
  • "You're Not Fooling Me" from 110 in the Shade, for Lizzie and Starbuck.
  • "Your Fault" from Into the Woods has all the fairy-tale characters arguing in a Patter Song.
  • In Pokémon: The Mew-sical, Ash and his rival, Gary, have at least three arguing songs.
  • "I Think I Got You Beat" from Shrek The Musical is an argument between Princess Fiona and Shrek over who had the most unhappy childhood.
  • The Act 1 finale in The Grand Duke centers around a staged quarrel of the Volleying Insults type, sung in duet with chorus, between the titular Grand Duke and a man who is scheming to overthrow him. This leads to an equally staged nonlethal duel, which in turn sets the stage for the events of Act II.
  • Pokémon Live! has "You Just Can't Win," sung by Ash and Giovanni. After Pikachu's defeated, Ash tries to fight Giovanni himself, leading to a fistfight/argument.
  • In City of Angels, "You're Nothing Without Me" has Stine trying to put Stone back in his fictional place and Stone countering that Stine is living proof that Writers Suck.
  • The Pirates of Penzance has two operating quarreling duets:
    • The first act has "Oh, false one, you have deceived me," for Frederick and Ruth, when he realizes that she is old and no longer beautiful, which is treated as Serious Business.
    • The second act has "Stay, Frederick, stay," in which Mabel unsuccessfully tries to persuade Frederick from putting Honor Before Reason and making a Face-Heel Turn.

Alternative Title(s):

Argument Song