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Music/Age Dissonance

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Characters singing, dancing, or listening to songs that don't correspond to their age.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Pichu-kun on Jun 11th 2016 at 9:29:13 PM
Last Edited By:
Lawman592 on Jul 26th 2018 at 11:55:03 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Music/Age Dissonance occurs when characters sing, dance, or listen to songs that are clearly outside their demographic group. It can be played straight or Played for Laughs - such as when the characters are ignorant about a song's meaning because they're either too young and innocent or old and culturally out-of-touch to notice the profanity and/or sexual/violent themes (especially if the song is also in a different language).

In the case of children, this trope can be the sign of an Adorably Precocious Child, a young person who is Wise Beyond Their Years, a Dirty Kid trying to get a rise out his or her elders, or, in darker cases, a child exhibiting Troubling Unchildlike Behavior. In the case of older adults, it can indicate someone who's desperately trying to be up to date by dropping the latest slang terms and rashly diving into whatever the hottest new musical genre is at the time or that a seemingly morally upright senior citizen is really a Dirty Old Man (or Dirty Old Woman). Still, it is possible for an older adult who falls into the category of Cool Old Guy or Cool Old Lady to successfully carry it off.

Compare with Isn't It Ironic?, Age-Inappropriate Dress, and Ironic Nursery Tune.

This trope is limited to In-Universe examples. The appropriateness of someone in Real Life unironically listening to or performing music clearly not aimed at his or her age group is subjective and, in the case of older singers, can only lead to Complaining About Music You Don't Like. Real Life examples involving children and "adult" songs are extensively covered by Age-Inappropriate Art.


Examples:

Advertising

  • An E-Trade TV commercial features an 85 year-old woman having to work as a club DJ ("DJ Nana") ostensibly because her Social Security and retirement pension aren't enough to cover her financial needs.
  • In the Pepsi "Shady Acres" commercial, the residents of a retirement home are wildly dancing to hip-hop music as a result of deliverymen mistakenly bringing a shipment of Pepsi that was supposed to go to a college fraternity.

Literature

  • In the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, twelve-year-old Greg Heffley gets caught listening to his older brother's CD that is said to have a parental warning sticker on it.

Live-Action TV

  • On one episode of Black-ish, Jack sings the uncensored version of "Gold Digger" for a school talent show. This leads to a discussion on N-Word Privileges.
  • One episode of Grounded for Life sees Sean fighting Lily's teacher because Lily and her friends want to perform "Hey Big Spender" (which is officially about taxi-dancing, but the lyrics suggest otherwise) for their Catholic-school talent show.
  • In one episode of Jane the Virgin, a flashback shows the elementary-age Jane and Lina breaking out into Nelly's "Hot in Herre" at their Catholic school's talent show, to the consternation of the nuns.
  • Enforced and parodied in an episode of The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale. In a segment called "That Happened" (which dramatizes blatantly false stories on internet forums), a girl goes to purchase several Led Zeppelin albums from a music store. The clerk tells her the One Direction albums are elsewhere, and has a breakdown trying to wrap his head around the notion of a teenaged girl purchasing Led Zeppelin discs.
  • ''The Muppet Show" featured Geri and the Atrics, a rock group consisting of six elderly woman who went on the show to sing "Hound Dog" and "Do Wah Diddy Diddy". (These episodes originally aired in 1979 which was well before the people who were young when the songs were new became elderly themselves.)
  • Arrested Development: In one episode Michael and his niece Maeby are doing karaoke together and pick the first song on the playlist to sing. Unfortunately it is "Afternoon Delight", which has very suggestive lyrics, especially given Maebe's age. Latter, Michael's sister Lindsay and his son George Michael also sing the song together.
  • In the Supernanny episode, "The Amouri Family", it is revealed that 4-year-old Hayley listens to gangster rap on her mom's MP3 player. When Jo finds out, this is one of the things she confronts the parents, Tamara and Michael about.
  • There is an episode of Yeralash where teenagers start what looks like a 19th Century ball with the appropriate music and expressions. Suddenly, a terrible noise drowns the music out... turns out the hostess' obsolete 20th Century grandparents are nostalgic for their Heavy Metal youth.

Film

  • Mean Girls:
    • One of the scenes has Regina's kid sister dancing to "Milkshake" by Kelis.
    • Several of the girls do a flirtatious dance to "Jingle Bell Rock" at their high school talent contest.
  • In Little Miss Sunshine, the seven-year-old Olive performs a burlesque dance to "Super Freak" by Rick James (which is about a highly promiscuous girl) at a child beauty pageant.

Music

  • Chiaki Ishikawa's song "House" is about an adult looking back nostalgically at their carefree childhood. One of the verses is about singing and laughing at a song with their friends, despite not understanding half the words in it.
  • There is an Israeli song named Yeladisko (Kidisco, that is), where the narrator, a kindergarten girl, complains she is tired of kid songs and dances, and invites her pals to a proper disco night in her backyard.

Newspaper Comics

  • Subverted in Calvin and Hobbes:
    • When Calvin buys a record from a band whose songs "glorify depraved violence, mindless sex, and the deliberate abuse of dangerous drugs". When Hobbes predict Calvin's mom throwing a fit, Calvin tosses the record in the trash since that's the main reason he got it.
    • Calvin asks his mother for mone so he can buy a Satan-worshiping, suicide-advocating metal album. She explains to him that they're Only in It for the Money, which is enough to put him off the idea.
    Calvin's Mom: Calvin, the fact that these bands haven't killed themselves in ritual self-sacrifice shows that they're just in it for the money like everyone else. It's all for effect. If you want to shock and provoke, be sincere about it.
    Calvin: Mainstream commercial nihilism can't be trusted?!

Western Animation

  • South Park being South Park has done this for laughs:
    • One episode had the Camp Straight Butters singing "What, What In The Butt".
    • When Cartman became a Christian Rock singer he had one God Is Love Song parody that was very sexual sounding.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Lisa's Pony" had a kid singing "My Ding-a-ling" at the school talent show. Principal Skinner quickly yanked him off the stage.
    • "C.E. D'oh" had Homer/Marge's and Maggie's tapes switched, so the adults are listening to a lullaby, and Maggie dancing to a song called "Sex Bomb".
    • In "Dude, Where's My Ranch?", Marge comments that ever since the Simpsons started staying at the ranch, the kids are acting like teenagers, pointing out to Homer that Maggie is dancing to Britney Spears.
  • In the The Loud House episode, "Potty Mouth", it is revealed that Lisa likes rapping and dancing to songs not suitable for four-year-old children, and because she and her infant sister, Lily share a room, Lisa worries she might have been a bad influence on her. She attempts to be a good influence on her by rapping a Blarney the Dinosaur song.

Feedback: 62 replies

Jun 12th 2016 at 2:41:07 AM

  • Chiaki Ishikawa's song "House" is about an adult looking back nostalgically at their carefree childhood. One of the verses is about singing and laughing at a song with their friends, despite not understanding half the words in it.

Jun 12th 2016 at 5:56:47 AM

On one episode of Black Ish, Jack sings the uncensored version of "Gold Digger" for a school talent show. This leads to a discussion on N Word Priviledges.

Jun 12th 2016 at 11:33:22 AM

Live Action TV

  • One episode of Arrested Development has Michael Bluth and his niece Maeby performing a duet of "Afternoon Delight", completely unaware that it's about having sex in the afternoon.
  • One episode of Grounded For Life sees Sean fighting Lily's teacher because Lily and her friends want to perform "Hey Big Spender" (which is officially about taxi-dancing, but the lyrics suggest otherwise) for their Catholic-school talent show.

Music

  • Brian "Head" Welch has said that he decided that he needed to quit Korn after finding out that his daughter was singing "A.D.I.D.A.S." (which stands for "All Day I Dream About Sex".)

Western Animation

  • During the eighties and nineties, Disney created a bunch of music videos that spliced together oldies with footage from their older cartoons. One of those videos was for the Mamas and the Papas' "I Saw Her Again Last Night"... which is about one guy bragging about how he's sleeping with his best friend's wife.

Jun 12th 2016 at 12:03:36 PM

Do only cases where children sing age-inappropriate songs count? Or do cases where they dance to such songs count too? Because in that case:

  • In Little Miss Sunshine, the seven-year-old Olive performs a burlesque dance to "Super Freak" by Rick James (which is about a highly promiscuous girl) at a child beauty pageant.

Jun 12th 2016 at 1:56:13 PM

^ I don't know if we have characters wear kids dance to inappropriate songs. I can think of many examples but can't find the trope for it.

Jun 22nd 2016 at 8:45:44 PM

Changed the YKTTW to include dancing.

Jun 23rd 2016 at 2:09:46 AM

I don't have any specific example in mind, but it often happens when a work uses a song in a different language. From the point of view of the creators, it is often innocent as they just view it as a popular and catchy tune, ignorant of the true meaning of the lyrics.

Jun 23rd 2016 at 7:16:04 AM

Would IRL examples count, or would that be contentious enough not to warrant one? For instance in the Philippines it is fairly common to hear songs like "Twerk It Like Miley" on variety programmes, and being played on sound systems on occasions like feast days despite the song's risque premise.

Jun 23rd 2016 at 12:40:07 PM

The whole Mini-Pops thing on British TV, On its inception, Channel Four came out with a children's talent show where precocious kids of five, six or seven would dress up like adult stars and perform cover versions of their songs. It was pointed out that having, for instance, a six-year-old girl dress up as Madonna and warble "Like A Virgin'' carried lots of Unfortunate Implications. The show was dropped because of all the Lolicon that could be read into it by suitably inclined viewers.

Jun 23rd 2016 at 12:43:37 PM

Then there's the whole beauty pageant thing In the USA, which for many people brings up the memory of Jon-Benet Ramsey, a girl of five who was deliberately made up and dressed and coached to act as if she was twenty-five; the pageant circuit involved girls of this age singing and dancing to adult-oriented songs which might perhaps be viewed as somewhat incongruous for children of that age.

Jun 23rd 2016 at 3:28:38 PM

Besides the infamous Toddlers and Tiaras "reality" show of course. Remember the Pretty Woman incident where one girl was made to mimic a risque scene from said film? That one of course fueled controversy over child exploitation.

Jul 5th 2016 at 11:35:25 AM

There was a minor uproar about videos of preteen girls singing and dancing along to "Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir", which means "Do you want to sleep with me tonight" in French.

Jul 5th 2016 at 3:19:42 PM

  • An episode of The Simpsons had a kid singing "My Ding-a-ling" at the school talent show. Principal Skinner quickly yanked him off the stage.

Jul 7th 2016 at 2:08:32 PM

The video for Alison Gold's "Shush Up" generated controversy due to how the then eleven year old singer was depicted in it - https://vimeo.com/87515710

Jul 7th 2016 at 2:11:37 PM

Serge Gainsbourg sailed very close to the wind, even for laissez-faire 1980's France with the video for "Lemon Incest" featuring his twelve year old daughter Charlotte - https://vimeo.com/87515710

Jul 7th 2016 at 2:15:59 PM

Sia ran into this issue with the video for "Chandelier" featuring Shia La Beouf dancing with Maddie Ziegler (who was around 12 or 13 at the time) which was accused of pedophilic overtones. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWZGAExj-es

Jul 9th 2016 at 5:28:17 PM

I don't know if a Real Life section should be added. Talking about child pagent stuff in general seems like it could cause flamebait.

Nov 9th 2017 at 6:38:54 AM

Not sure if inverted examples are okay for this one (adults hearing a sing meant for young children/babies):

  • Another The Simpsons episode had Homer/Marge's and Maggie's tapes switched, so the adults are listening to a lullaby, and Maggie dancing to a song called Sex Bomb
  • In another episode, Maggie is dancing to Brittany Spears.

Nov 9th 2017 at 9:10:58 AM

  • In the first Diary Of A Wimpy Kid book, twelve-year-old Greg Heffley gets caught listening to his older brother's CD that is said to have a parental warning sticker on it.

Nov 9th 2017 at 9:28:07 AM

Live Action TV

  • In the Supernanny episode, "The Amouri Family", it is revealed that 4-year-old Hayley listens to gangster rap on her mom's MP3 player. When Jo finds out, this is one of the things she confronts the parents, Tamara and Michael about.

Western Animation

  • In the The Loud House episode, "Potty Mouth", it is revealed that Lisa likes rapping and dancing to songs not suitable for four-year-old children, and because she and her infant sister, Lily share a room, Lisa worries she might have been a bad influence on her. She attempts to be a good influence on her by rapping a Blarney the Dinosaur song.

Nov 9th 2017 at 10:57:24 AM

Subverted in Calvin And Hobbes:

  • When Calvin buys a record from a band whose songs "glorify depraved violence, mindless sex, and the deliberate abuse of dangerous drugs". When Hobbes predict Calvin's mom throwing a fit, Calvin tosses the record in the trash since that's the main reason he got it.
  • Calvin asks his mother for mone so he can buy a satan-worshiping, suicide-advocating metal album. She explains to him that they're Only In It For The Money, which is enough to put him off the idea.
Calvin'sMom: Calvin, the fact that these bands haven't killed themselves in ritual self-sacrifice shows that they're just in it for the money like everyone else. It's all for effect. If you want to shock and provoke, be sincere about it.
Calvin: Mainstream commercial nihilism can't be trusted?!

Nov 9th 2017 at 11:37:37 AM

Right now, Age Appropriate Art specifically mentions music and songs as one of the art forms included, in the very first sentence of its description. If this gets launched, that trope will need a serious over-work.

Nov 9th 2017 at 7:00:18 PM

  • Arrested Development: In one episode Michael and his niece Maeby are doing karaoke together and pick the first song on the playlist to sing. Unfortunately it is "Afternoon Delight", which has very suggestive lyrics, especially given Maebe's age. Latter, Michael's sister Lindsay and his son George Michael also sing the song together.

Nov 10th 2017 at 7:10:45 AM

It's actually the video for "Elastic Heart" that features Shia LaBeouf, not "Chandelier". The latter features the girl (Maddie Ziegler) alone.

Nov 10th 2017 at 11:17:03 AM

Added a bomb until someone explains how is this not covered already by Age Inappropriate Art.

Nov 16th 2017 at 12:23:30 PM

Could this proposed trope also be about mature adults singing songs they are clearly too old to sing? Examples would include aging performers singing songs about the concerns of teenagers and young adults or desperately trying to sound up to date by rashly diving into whatever the hottest new musical genre is at the time.

Mar 17th 2018 at 4:46:19 AM

Real Live:

To comment below: It's not an example of Lyrical Dissonance since the song's mood matches the lyrics.

Feb 14th 2018 at 12:17:27 PM

It's been already mentioned a lot of this is covered by Age Inappropriate Art. Therefore, if the creator of this proposed trope is leaving it Up For Grabs, I suggest revising it so it also includes examples of people singing songs they're clearly too old to sing.

Feb 14th 2018 at 12:20:10 PM

In addition, the title would have to be changed to something more fitting.

Also, maybe leave off Real Life examples since it would just lead to endless complaining.

Feb 20th 2018 at 8:17:55 PM

^^ I don't see how the current title isn't neutral.

Jun 27th 2018 at 2:39:18 PM

Since this proposed trope was nuked as it's presently written, I'm reviving and revising it so it includes music that people are too young or too old to sing.

Unless I'm persuaded otherwise, this should be limited to In Universe Examples Only. The question of whether older performers look ridiculous trying to sing songs clearly meant to be sung by younger people is a matter of YMMV and will just lead to a lot of complaining.

Mar 16th 2018 at 3:38:36 PM

arrested development is listed twice

Mar 17th 2018 at 12:40:17 AM

^ Duly noted and corrected.

Mar 17th 2018 at 1:26:29 AM

  • In one episode of Jane The Virgin, a flashback shows the elementary-age Jane and Lina breaking out into Nelly's "Hot in Herre" at their Catholic school's talent show, to the consternation of the nuns.

Mar 17th 2018 at 4:36:27 AM

Arguably, in real life, many children sing pop songs that are about much more mature things. This is somewhat mitigated by Kidz Bop, but they have their own issues.

Mar 17th 2018 at 4:38:45 AM

And I just read your comment about no real life examples. I'd argue that something as general as I've just said should be uncontroversial enough, but I'll agree that listing that time when the President of China sang "The Wheels on the Bus" might not be wise. Also, as far as I'm aware, no Chinese President has sung "The Wheels on the Bus", at least in public.

Mar 17th 2018 at 8:53:54 AM

I had scrapped this and added the examples to Age Inappropriate Art. If it does get launched, those examples need to be remove from the Art page.

Mar 22nd 2018 at 7:04:37 AM

Music:

  • In Latin America, there're some dance music genres that are adult-oriented (in lyrics as well the dance), but anyway children usually like the rhythms and tends to dance and sing them without knowing these aren't for children: Brazil's Axe (mostly in The Nineties) and Central America's Reggaeton (since the Turn Of The Millennium until now). Both genres are polemic since the lyrics usually talk about Intercourse With You, with very suggestive dances that amplify the lyrics or even mimify the intercourse in the case you don't understand the lyrics.

Mar 27th 2018 at 1:09:17 AM

  • There is an episode of Yeralash where teenagers start what looks like a 19th Century ball with the appropriate music and expressions. Suddenly, a terrible noise drowns the music out... turns out her obsolete 20th Century grandparents are nostalgic for their Heavy Metal youth.
  • There is an Israeli song named Yeladisko (Kidisco, that is), where the narrator, a kindergarten girl, complains she is tired of kid songs and dances, and invites her pals to a proper disco night in her backyard.

Apr 5th 2018 at 4:16:54 PM

Film Live Action

  • The Rancho Carne Cheer Squad from Bring It On take a crash course in dance styles in order to develop a new cheer routine from scratch in time for the National Cheerleading Competition. One of these styles was swing dancing from The Forties, which elicited nods of approval from the judges.

Jul 10th 2018 at 8:10:53 AM

How does this compare to Age Inappropriate Art which already covers singing age-inappropriate material?

Apr 13th 2018 at 11:52:42 AM

^ Age Inappropriate Art is only about children. Music/Age Dissonance deals with both ends of the age spectrum.

Apr 17th 2018 at 11:20:28 AM

Alright. But we can't have two tropes cover the children angle.

Apr 17th 2018 at 12:28:31 PM

^ How about eliminating Real Life and YMMV examples?

Apr 18th 2018 at 11:43:30 AM

Edited so the only examples are In Universe.

Apr 26th 2018 at 2:37:13 PM

One of the Image Song CDs for Ojamajo Doremi has 12-year-old Takurou Hagiwara covering a song called "Namida No Broken Heart", which has some lyrics that have some tones of Intercourse With You.

Apr 27th 2018 at 8:47:07 PM

^ I'm limiting examples for this trope to In Universe.

Jun 27th 2018 at 3:15:09 PM

Would it also count for examples where the characters are a certain age but the music they claim is their generation is wrong — e.g. in Glee where the characters are supposedly 15 in 2010 (so born 1995) but their favorite songs are mostly if not all songs aimed at an adult audience that would have been released around the time they were born (like "Push It" by Salt N Pepper"), reflecting the fact their actors are much older and chose songs.

Jul 14th 2018 at 6:33:18 PM

^ Not quite. The content of the song is more important (e.g., dark, profane and/or racy lyrics, loud and/or abrasive instrumentation, etc.)

Jul 4th 2018 at 1:05:11 PM

Would also say that (even if such examples aren't allowed) whether or not this is Truth In Television is on a case-by-case basis.

Jul 16th 2018 at 11:54:08 AM

  • Enforced and parodied in an episode of The Joel Mc Hale Show With Joel Mc Hale. In a segment called "That Happened" (which dramatizes blatantly false stories on internet forums), a girl goes to purchase several Led Zeppelin albums from a music store. The clerk tells her the One Direction albums are elsewhere, and has a breakdown trying to wrap his head around the notion of a teenaged girl purchasing Led Zeppelin discs.

Jul 18th 2018 at 1:56:24 AM

You say that examples for children are listed under Age Inappropriate Art but the example list still has cases like the one under Literature and the Simpsons one. Clean up?

Jul 18th 2018 at 11:32:11 AM

^ I was referring to Real Life examples. This proposed thread only includes only In Universe examples.

Jul 20th 2018 at 10:39:59 AM

That sounds like a cop out. AIA is an in universe trope and hence users will still not be able to tell where to place examples of child characters listening to inappropriate music. Why not declare AIA a subtrope of your trope and list fitting examples there? That's standard procedure for super/subtropes.

Jul 23rd 2018 at 3:36:15 PM

^ How about if I completely redo this page again so it's only about older adults listening to or singing songs that are meant for far younger people?

Jul 23rd 2018 at 5:31:42 PM

I would actually prefer expanding Age Inappropriate Art with the age-inverse case and examples you are talking about and letting this draft die. After all, the sister trope Age Inappropriate Dress goes both ways as well.

Jul 25th 2018 at 12:40:31 PM

^ I'm not sure if I want to expand Age Inappropriate Art. Age Inappropriate Art includes many Real Life YMMV examples of children listening to or performing songs meant for adults (in fact, there's even a sub-page just for Kidz Bop). Although the "too old" examples cited in this proposed trope page are In Universe, moving them to Age Inappropriate Art would only encourage people to cite Real Life examples of singers they think are too old to convincingly perform certain songs thereby leading to an inundation of tropers Complaining About Music They Don't Like, Edit Wars, and—inevitably—Flame Wars. It is for those reasons that the creation of these types of pages at this site is discouraged unless it's classified under Audience Reactions. Thus, it would probably be better to cull all the Real Life examples from Age Inappropriate Art before adding the age-inverse cases.

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