Uncanny Valley: Music
Return to the main page here.
open/close all folders
- The music video for Serj Tankian's "Empty Walls" features the lead singer parading around a Circus of Fear with a bizarre, sociopathic look on his face, while various small children play happily... or, as some people have interpreted it, re-enact the War on Terror.
- Intentionally used in the music video for "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden, which features an eerie "off" suburb populated by clearly insane grinning people. It's actually a relief when they all get sucked into the sky. One magazine actually called it the best horror movie of the year!
- The masks in this Sound Horizon video. At least the witch is supposed to be scary; Lafrenze (the girl) is supposed to be beautiful, though, not incredibly fucking creepy.
- The Concept Video for Weezer's "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" features an entire small town made up of Weezer members. Mostly this just means the members of the band dressed up in different costumes, but there are four children with the heads of the band members pasted onto them. While the effect is more natural looking than the similar Aphex Twin and The Love Guru examples, they're still at least a little unnerving.
- 2D of Gorillaz is described in-universe as a Bishōnen type, but he's decidedly creepy. His arms and legs are just slightly too long for his movements to look natural. According to the backstory he has eight-ball fractures in both eyes, rendering them totally black, but if you don't know this it looks like he has no eyes at all, and his name doesn't help - he was nicknamed 2D, short for "Two Dents", after he suffered the two car accidents which wrecked his eyes. Add to this his missing two front teeth, and his smile is pure horror, made worse by the fact that he is still kinda cute. It's particularly noticeable in the videos for "Feel Good Inc" and "Dirty Harry".
- Underscored in the video for Stylo. 3D Murdoc, 2D and malfunctioning cyborg Noodle are creepy as hell. Then again, Cyborg Noodle is creepy under the best of circumstances.
- Don't forget the Boogie Man. The way he nearly glides over the earth to get to the cop....brrrr.
- The Superfast Jellyfish's unchanging smiles and balloon-like movements, even after being microwaved, are weirdly frightening. The side-to-side flopping motion is somehow reminiscent of a hanging victim, and the crazily-smiling guy eating them in the video really does not help.
- Cyborg Noodle just became even more frightening. The Uncanny Valley has ensured us that this monster will never leave our heads. Why? It's Murdoc's fault. This is completely Nightmare Fuel for unattached face and creepy as fuck smile. DO NOT WATCH IN THE DARK. And as of Melancholy Hill, the Superfast Jellyfish are no longer emotionless jelly bags, and express fear as they rather quickly get sucked up into the jets of the Gorillaz submarine. Even that though has its own creep factor.
- Underscored in the video for Stylo. 3D Murdoc, 2D and malfunctioning cyborg Noodle are creepy as hell. Then again, Cyborg Noodle is creepy under the best of circumstances.
- The cover art of the Eels' Beautiful Freak◊ album.
- The scary puppet in the video for Interpol's song "Evil" is a weird example. It's very, very puppety. It almost looks like a Muppet, and it moves its hands like they're on strings. But there's no visible strings and the thing's got a very expressive face, enough that you still get this effect. And apart from that its teeth are all identical, they're very realistic and humanlike. Plus, it's depicted bleeding and being treated in a hospital, which creates a creepily lifelike effect.
- Any of Lady Gaga's videos.
- Björk's strange angular motions in her music videos.
- The music video of the Carnival of Rust by Poets Of The Fall.
- Sparklehorse, in both the albums' artwork and the songs themselves, which often have a decaying, rummage sale-like quality that's very off, as if Linkous himself is a faulty clockwork puppet.
- The video for The Smashing Pumpkins' song "Ava Adore" feature Billy Corgan looking like Nosferatu in that creepy black mu-mu of his moving around in unsettling, jerky motions throughout.
- Linkin Park's music video for "Pts.OF.Athrty" (a remix of their earlier song, Points of Authority) has stunning CGI of an apparent war between aliens and robots commanded by disembodied human heads. All of this is rendered in a quasi-realistic style... up until the close up shot of one of the aforementioned heads' face (the lead singer). Beautifully-textured skin... flat, unshaded cartoon eyes reminiscent of The Sims. The rest of the video is difficult to enjoy.
- Kate Bush's acting in her music videos, with wide eyes and odd, flowing movements, looks very off.
- The music video for Bat Country by Avenged Sevenfold has weird stuff happening all over, although none of it is over the top. Justified in that it's a song based on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which is about drugs.
- FKA Twigs effectively applies this to her music video for Water Me.It displays FKA twigs with her face edited to have eyes slightly too large and too close to the nose and lips, while her head ticks side to side to the beat of the song, quite jarringly. She also displays this in her other works, including a commercial for Google Glasses.
- The puppet-people in the video for Falls Apart by Thousand Foot Krutch. This troper wasn't expecting anything of the sort the first time she started the video, and was thusly scared of it for a month or so.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic intentionally creates this effect for his "Perform This Way" video, a parody of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way". The video has a female dancer wearing a bunch of outlandish outfits, with Al's face digitally superimposed over hers. Not only is it obviously fake in and of itself, but it's also disturbingly out of sync in some places.
- Audio example: Adriano Celentano's Prisencolinensinainciusol, a standard 70s funk song written by an Italian artist to sound like English. The thing is, to a native English speaker, it can be pretty disturbing, because it keeps almost sounding like English and then failing.
- Daft Punk's videos invoke this trope a lot, mostly in the Human After All and Homework eras. Of particular note is the weird robot baby thing from the Technologic video. It's the teeth behind those wireframe lips...
- The music video for Basement Jaxx's "Where's Your Head At" stars a bunch of adorable monkeys... with the band member's faces. The faces just look wrong.
- Not to mention the singing baboon... or the mutated dog.
- Just about any Vocaloid song that doesn't have to do with happiness and ice cream involves a mix of this trope with Mind Screw (see Wide Knowledge of Late, Madness; Alice Human Sacrifice; and Dark Woods Circus for more details).
- As if that wasn't enough, they made Hatsune Miku, the most popular Vocaloid, into a real-life realistic robot that doesn't even look like her (it's on the web somewhere). This is just overkill.
- Vocaloid songs in general, regardless of the content, are just robotic and twangy enough to fall into the Uncanny Valley. For some songs, the voice sounds perfectly human (or close enough to be out of the valley), but then there is just that one note where the creator didn't quite tune the voice right...
- A special mention should be given to Circle You, Circle You/Kagome Kagome (the Miku & Luka version). The images in the video are disturbing in and of themselves, but certain ways Miku and Luka's voice match up falls right into this trope.
- Miku herself (despite being real now) is also featured in this video, Machine Muzik. Watch and know the truth about Vocaloid...
- Also, the trailer for Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2. Realistically-moving characters with anime faces, rubber skin, and plastic hair are extremely unsettling.
- KAITO's box art◊ might be the closest to Uncanny Valley if compared to the others', most noticeably his eyes and torso.
- To summarise, Vocaloids as an entity are polarising to the public, and as shown in things like 'Kids react to Hatsune Miku', this is primarily because they have trouble getting over the logic of something that is not human not only being the face of a performance, but being the principal reason people went to the concert in the first place. It doesn't help that Vocaloid voices are still very robotic and Auto-tuned, stopping them being human and dropping them into the valley for those who do not like or see the point of them. Plus the fear of a robot uprising, but that's a whole other kettle of fish ...
- The faces and almost anything on Aphex Twin's music videos. Just watch for yourself.
- And who could forget Kraftwerk? They were defined by this trope!
- Case in point: "The Robots". German version here.
- It's actually pretty impressive with their ability to stand that still during a performance.
- There's a story in Karl Bartos' memoir about the band being pulled over by a cop once while on tour, and the cop nearly having a heart attack when he opened the back of the truck and found the robotic dummy versions of the band members that were used in concerts, thinking they were corpses.
- The song Papaoutai (a phonetic rendering of "Papa, où t'es?" or "Daddy, where are you?" in French) by Rwandan/Belgian singer Stromae is based on his real-life experience of having lost his father in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, although it is obscured by a catchy EDM beat. In the video, a young boy representing Stromae runs around his neighborhood looking for his father, but all he finds is a Stepford Smiler Demonic Dummy. That's creepy enough, but it becomes even creepier when one realizes that the "dummy" is actually Stromae himself wearing makeup that makes him look eerily like an Auton. Hard to tell whether this is more Nightmare Fuel or Tear Jerker.
- The album cover for Hybrid's Wide Angle◊ has this in spades. The back is color inverted, which makes it worse.
- This music video by Butterfly for the Taiwanese online game Fairyland 2 does an unsettling method in deforming their live action members to the game's scenes. Just the Roger Rabbit Effect in reverse plus the creepy deformations in conjunction with the game's cartoony characters and mediocre CG effects.
- Mindless Self Indulgence's Shut Me Up video. Everything in the video is just a bit off, and the guy's movements are so exaggerated and such that it's like watching a cartoon with realistic people.
- Covenant - Bullet
- The music video for Keep it Goin' Louder, by Major Lazer, has four, *ahem*, women, whose lips are enlarged and whose eyes are brought closer together and lowered so they they are almost touching their noses. Possibly Played for Laughs, as it helps give the video a "What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?" feel.
- Laurie Anderson loves this trope. It's probably most notable in her video for "Sharkey's Day," in which she wears an eerie Chroma Key mask with fake white eyes and articulated lips that move as she sings. Also, any time she uses the "Big Voice" (her own voice electronically treated to sound male).
- Some of the stranger music genres such as avant-retard and lowercase can invoke this seeing as they sound nothing like what usually springs to mind when you think of music, in some places not even conforming to the usual rules of music.
- Steam Powered Giraffe is a band consisting of three human performers portraying robots. They invoke this trope rather effectively through their movements, which are choreographed to look as convincingly robotic as possible. Or rather, choreographed to look like robots who are trying their hardest to look as convincingly human as possible, but are not quite managing it. This, coupled with their glitching and occasional outright breakdowns, can make them very jarring to watch if you aren't used to them.
- That being said, once you've adjusted and learned more about the world they're in and their backstory, these can become rather heartwarming, or even outright adorable.
- In the video for "Two Weeks" by Grizzly Bear, the band members' facial features and movements are digitally altered just enough to give them the deliberate appearance of singing automatons. Their unnaturally shiny skin, large eyes, and un-synchronized blinking are unnerving enough, but eventually light starts pouring out of their mouths and sparks fly out of the backs of their heads.
- Puffy Ami Yumi's video for "Hataraku Otoko" (the theme song of Hataraki Man). We get close ups of lips and backs of heads, but The Reveal comes in at 1:10 and scares you half to death. You can go here to see some pictures from the video.
- Even before then, you can just tell there's something...wrong with how the backs of their heads look.
- The video for HEART by group_inou features animated characters with lovingly rendered detail but (purposely) terrible anatomy.
- The music video for Sakanaction's "Bach no Senritsu o Yoru ni Kiita Sei Desu" has the main singer dancing with some pretty creepy life-sized replicas of himself.
- Cradle of Filth takes this up to 11 with their video for "From Cradle to Enslave." Danger, NSFW.
- The band member costumes in the music video for Wyona's Big Brown Beaver by Primus. They were so cumbersome that they had to mime the song at half its original speed to get the performance down correctly.
- Any music video made by Tool would qualify as Uncanny Valley-esque, due to the weird CGI and puppets they use in their videos.
- Epica embraced this trope like it's own for "Requiem For The Indifferent"
- The "mile-wide-grin" from Warrant's video for "Cherry Pie".
- The extensive use of cheap Halloween masks in Devo's early ouevre apply, notably Booji Boy.
- The Secret Agent Man video features the guys wearing shiny translucent masks that, combined with their performances style, make them look like mannequins that have come mostly to life.
- Daniel Amos' album Doppelgänger features photos of a department-store mannequin in the liner notes. In some of the pictures, he's wearing an eerily-realistic mask, then removes it to show that the too-human eyes are his.
- The music video for E.T. by Katy Perry ft. Kanye West. When they show close-ups of her face with the obvious CGI and makeup, it's CREEPY AS HELL! That scary albino alien dude also sends some chills. But the icing on the cake is when Katy removes her robe/dress at the end and inexplicably reveals that she has a FAUN BODY! It was frightening to see those thin hoofed legs. Who ever expected THAT?
- David Guetta's "Turn Me On", It contains the trifecta of Uncanny Valley nightmares, including half formed, yet still animated, robots, (a la AI) a terrifying amount of Conspicuous CGI, and truly abominable doll-faced humans. Most likely one of the most terrifying music videos in existence.
- The "Supermassive Black Hole" music video for the band Muse, has people with digitally projected faces. You can just imagine...
- The popularity of a certain “surrealistic realism” can elicit this response from certain Italian progressive rock album covers of the early 70s. Most notable candidates: Clowns by Nuova Idea and Dedicato a Frazz by Semiramis (and its detailed inner gatefold◊) are the most prominent examples.
- Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree is in love with this trope, and the video for his song Index, from his latest solo album Grace For Drowning, proves it most of all. It IS the trope! Steven himself even seems to look like he's one of the mannequins surrounding him, given how unnaturally still he's sitting as he sings. The death-march-like beat and sadistic lyrics only add to the Nightmare Fuel..
- The video for the latest Flo Rida/Nelly Furtado cash in on that film G-Force. Even though the computer generated Furtado has obviously been animated using motion-capture, you can't help be creeped out by her movements. Plus the real-life Flo Rida himself has some kind of visual effect on him that makes his skin look plasticy and strange.
- The music video for the Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow."
- Coachella 2012 gave us a holographic version of Tupac Shakur that joined Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg onstage to perform a couple of his songs. The realness of the projection made it beyond creepy.
- The cover of South African rap duo Die Antwoord 's Ten$ion album features Yolandi Visser done up like some black-eyed, cannibalistic angel.
- Tyler, The Creator's video IFHY gives us more human/doll people. And is creepy as hell.
- The music video for Kanye West's "Black Skin Head" invokes this by having most of the video focus on a realistic yet imperfect computer generated Kanye West model. It looks like him, but is just off enough to feel uncanny.
- The three Christina Aguileras from the Candyman music video, anyone? It's only really when they're all side by side, because they all look so animated, since they're supposed to be tributes to hand-drawn pinups, obviously, so what we essentially have is three identical three-dimensional ink people.
- Although they created the triplet effect by filming Christina Aguilera three times from the same angles and compositing the shots together. The Uncanny Valley effect might be due to the fact that you don't expect three different people, triplets or not, to look exactly the same except for hair color, along with the fact that they could obviously only pretend to interact with each other.
- News of the World◊ by Queen, based on the cover of Astounding Science Fiction (October 1953), features a disturbing childlike giant robot holding bloodied, dead members of the band in his hand.
- Robo  in "No Money Down". Pulling off the flesh almost reduces the effect.
- Face Dances part 2, by Pete Townshend. Good song, weird video. Almost as weird as the singer's nose.
- Genesis' Land of Confusion is this.
- Purposely invoked via makeup and image manipulation with the photos of the various characters in the liner notes for David Bowie's Rock Opera 1. Outside, as well as on the album itself with their spoken-word "segues" between songs, which are digitally tweaked to vary the voices further. It doesn't take long to realize Bowie is playing all of them, including the women; the low point of the valley here is Baby Grace Blue, the 14-year-old girl whose murder kicks off the story.