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Genre Motif / Easy Listening

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To most people under age 30 or so, this is the type of music so inoffensive in both sound and structure that it goes around the scale and becomes offensive. While easy listening is a specific genre of music in itself (it's also sometimes negatively referred to as "Muzak" or "elevator music"), this often gets used as a blanket term to refer to all music with no chance to offend even the most cranky elder. Generally only pops up to portray someone as extremely boring or as a contrast to the significantly more exciting actions happening on screen. Sometimes comes up as part of a gag where the characters are supposed to be doing something exciting, but end up having to wait impatiently. Common settings that has this playing include elevators, waiting rooms, lobbies, and while waiting on hold on an automated phone system. In Real Life, this style of music was relatively popular in the 1970s, with most US markets having at least one easy listening station. By the early-90s, the style was extinct on the radio.


  • In The Blues Brothers, there's a sequence where the title characters are being chased by every police force and National Guard unit in the Chicagoland area. In the climactic scene, shots of Jake and Elwood Blues riding the elevator (playing some appropriate elevator music) are spliced alongside shots of the police, SWAT units, and military organizing outside with appropriate martial style action music.
  • "Puffin' Billy", a musical piece in the British "light" style (and better known in the US as the theme from Captain Kangaroo) is an incredibly common choice whenever a documentary or comedy wishes to evoke 1950s Middle England and a somewhat Enid Blyton-esque atmosphere. Common sense tells this troper that there must have been other examples of the genre popular at the time- but you'd never know it from some programme-makers' limited musical palette!
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  • Used in the Men Behaving Badly episode "Cardigan" to emphasise Gary's discomfort with getting older (which in his case is vaguely closer to forty). Used the song associated with a particularly saccharine chocolate advertisement to great effect in the final scene. The advertisement itself - for the Quality Street brand chocolate assortment - is also an example of this trope, albeit probably genuinely trying to evoke Lostalgia than ridicule it.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "The Happiness Patrol", the Stepford Smiler planet of Terra Alpha is subject to constant bland, inoffensive easy listening muzak broadcast twenty-four seven. The Doctor's companion Ace dismissively refers to it as 'lift music'.

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