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- Nada Surf's song "Popular" sounds kind of angsty, like it should be a song about being dumped or cheated on or something like that. The lyrics in the verses are extracts from an advice book to teenagers like 'keep your hair clean' and 'don't prolong breaking up with someone' that starts off being recited in a sarcastic tone and end up being screamed, and the chorus is all about how popular the protagonist is.
- "Everlong" by Foo Fighters sounds dark and gloomy, but it is actually a love song.
- Pretty much every Throwing Muses song works on this. 'Hate My Way' is a case in point; it's in several sections, but most of it is a relatively gentle waltz, in the course of which the singer sings a couplet like 'A boy he was tangled in his bike forever / A girl was missing two fingers' in a sad, muted voice, but then there's also moments of alarming weirdness of which this is just one of the least disturbing:I have a gun in my headI'm invisibleI CAN'T FIND the ice!!!
- "Runs in the Family" by Amanda Palmer is a song lamenting about how peoples genetics screw them and their descendants up, and how the singer is a mentally unsound, but it's sung to fast paced, upbeat tune.
- "Slide" by Goo Goo Dolls is a sweet-sounding, gentle tune about a girl that gets an abortion after the singer gets her pregnant, and the guilt that she and the singer feel from doing so.
- Radiohead's "Burn The Witch" is so dark and brooding, that Black Sabbath would be hard-pressed to come up with anything that evokes a stronger feeling of impending doom...but the song itself is actually played as if it was a Pop song. The music video for this song only makes the dissonance even weirder. The music video retells the classic horror movie The Wicker Man in only 3 minutes...using stop-motion modelling-clay figures that resemble something taken straight out of Camberwick Green...it's a very children-friendly horror movie music video, with Doom Metal-like Pop music playing.
- Oftentimes the case with Imagine Dragons due to the heavy topics and the varied style between the songs. Best shown in Shots, an upbeat, light tune accompanied by lyrics about the song subject's fear of failing to protect their loved ones from themselves. The chorus spells it out:I'm sorry for everything
Oh, everything I've done
From the second that I was born
It seems I had a loaded gun
And then I shot, shot, shot
A hole through everything I loved
I'm a reckless mistakeI'm a cold night's intakeAnd you are a pay rise
- The soothing, slow tune of Polaroid clashes with lyrics about isolation and the failure to find a meaning in life.
always a touch out of viewLove is a polaroid
Better in picture
But never can fill the void
- A Perfect Circle's depressing and vaguely sinister cover of John Lennon's Imagine.
- "The Impression That I Get" by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones has some of the biggest and catchiest hooks in ska-punk, if not 90s alt-rock in general. It's a song about seeing your loved ones suffer from horrible things over and over and being terrified that you're next.
- "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind is a catchy, upbeat song about someone slowly descending into a crippling addiction to crystal meth. According to lead singer Stephen Jenkins this was deliberate—the song is bright and shiny to represent the potential allure of doing meth until you dig beneath the surface and see how screwed up the end result really is.
- Michael Stipe has had the same dismay over people seeing R.E.M.'s "The One I Love" as a straight-out love song and holding hands during performances as Sting does over "Every Breath You Take", since he considers the song's voice to be a manipulator who only uses the people who believe he has fallen in love with them.
- KANA-BOON's "Naimononedari" is an upbeat, rocky song that's really about the strained relationship of a couple and their fading love for each other. The lyrics are all either arguments the pair has had or halfhearted attempts to keep each other's interests, such as promising to go to a newly opened doughnut shop together (that the music video shows has long closed).
- "Sex and Candy", by Marcy Playground is a droning, moody post-grunge song about the narrator still in disbelief about how happy his relationship makes him.
- "Terminus El Dorado", a funk-ish (for Ted Nugent) song about a girl taking Daddy's car out for a spin. Car takes her for a spin. The vocal delivery is downright celebratory, gloating over lines such as "Crows be picking at your flesh!".
- Simple law about The Cure: if it sounds cheery, it will almost definitively have some depressive lyrics (unless it's "Friday I'm In Love").
- One example is the song "Doing the Unstuck" on the album Wish.
- The title, "How Beautiful You Are" from Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me sounds like a typical love song. The music is upbeat and peppy. Then the first line: "You want to know why I hate you? Well I'll try to explain" and it goes on to tell of an experience where she was repulsed when some street people in Paris complimented her with the title line and asked him to get her away from them.
- "Lovesong" from Disintegration is a unique example of Lyrical Dissonance in that despite its morose and haunting tune, it's a very sweet love song.
- Joy Division usually averts this trope, as you might expect from a band noted for depressing songs and its lead singer's suicide. Even their more driving, rocking works are in clear minor keys. However, the band's last single, "Love Will Tear Us Apart", sounds musically uplifting, enough that you might not bother to listen to the lyrics about a decaying relationship.
- In an example of inversion, Rasputina makes Creedence Clearwater Revival's peppy song about impending doom "Bad Moon Rising" appropriately dark and foreboding.
- Danielle Dax made a living off this trope. "Jehovah's Precious Stone", a bouncy dance number, had a chorus which included: "Cast aspersions, terrorize the weak/Race relations on a losing streak/Ply the bloated ego of a white supreme".
- Evanescence has some songs like this.
Unlock your heartDrop your guardNo one's left to stop you
- While none of their music could be called happy, their song "Anywhere" from their Origin album has a distinctly hopeful (if melancholy) sound. At first blush, it's a sweet song about starting a new life with a loved one. And then...That One Line kind of ruins it.
- The song itself isn't happy, but that Ominous Latin Chanting at the end of "Whisper" sounds really, really ominous. Especially the one word most likely to be recognized, "maleficum". But the actual translation? "Deliver us from danger, deliver us from evil."
- "Imaginary" is about a dreamworld filled with "paper flowers" and not wanting to be part of the scary real world. Not that you would know that from the minor key and 'epic' guitar riffs on the Fallen album version of the song
- They've recently topped themselves again with "The Other Side", which is your classic Grief Song / Obsession Song where the narrator is left devastated and possibly suicidal by the loss a loved one...except she went psycho and determinedly waiting for their loved one to come back/to bring them back/join them in death. To reflect the narrator's morbid point of view, the music is, save for a brief piano interlude, catchy, almost upbeat, if not downright seductive. "Awaken and release my loooooove...."
- "The Change" a music as weapon contrast with its rather I'm not as strong as you think/I'm disappointed in myself tone of the lyrics.
- "Never Go Back" is one of their hardest songs ever, also one of their most desperate and grief-filled.
- Pretty much every song off their latest self-titled album. All the songs are depressing. A lot of them have very fast-paced beats.
- Jack Off Jill's "Horrible". Keeps this catchy, upbeat tune while singing about a cannibal.
- Just about everything by Rufus Rex, a side project of Creature Feature. "Rise Lazarus Rise" is an electronic waltz about death and reanimation. "Personal Demons" is an upbeat number about descending into madness. "Dead Air" could easily be a radio hit - if it weren't about the end of the world. "Ingenious Forms of Torture" is probably the biggest offender. Although the music is an almost bouncy, catchy rock melody, just guess what the lyrics are about.
- And it doesn't even let up. "You'll Never Guess," the last song on the first Rufus Rex album, sounds like a cheery, acoustic road song. A cheery, acoustic road song about finding bodies hidden in various places. The opening lines are "You'll never guess / What I found beneath the floorboards in the basement."
- Just about everything by Voltaire. Such delights as 'Headless Waltz,' a song about decapitation, 'When You're Evil,' 'Death, Death, Evil, Evil Songs,' and 'Brains,' a song about a brain-eating alien. All sung to a cheerful polka tune!
- "Shooting Star" by Bad Company is an up-tempo rock song that tells a story about a rock star's fame, loneliness, and, eventually, suicide. The song may be a tribute to all the real rock musicians who died too young—which doesn't make the tune any less cheerful and does make the lyrics even more tragic. Paul Kossoff, guitarist of Paul Rodgers' last band, Free, died in 1976 of drug addiction. "Shooting Star" might be a heartfelt tribute to him.
- Shark Punch's "Dinocore" is a heavy, screaming, guttural straight-edge rock screamer...about the singer desperately trying to look cool, failing to get a club to dance to his immature lyrics (I BETTER SEE SOME TWO-STEPPIN' ON THIS ONE!), trying to keep up with his band ("HEY, THIS ISN'T THE BREAKDOWN!"), and being told hardcore dancing is not allowed in the club. (FUCK THAT!)
- Bon Jovi:
- "Someday I'll Be Saturday Night": all the characters mentioned within are either desperate, suicidal, abused, or all three, but eventually they will be like a Saturday Night. This could either mean that they will be jubilant and free of oppression (indicated by the bouncy and joyous tune and vocals), or it could mean that they'll be like Saturday Night in terms of it being at the end of the week, all the bad stuff having happened and no more is going to come. These people are essentially looking forward to the sweet release of death!
- "Always" is a love song with the singer declaring his ever lasting dedication to his one true love. The release video, along with the correct interpretation of the lyrics, makes it perfectly clear that he has been abandoned and is pining for someone he can never have again.
- "One Wild Night" seems like a description of a great night out partying. Listen carefully, and it turns out that the singer is actually some kind of lecherous predator slipping into a crowd with the express intent of fleecing rubes for their money ("Take 'im for a coupla weeks pay") suggesting sexual favours from their victims' girlfriend in lieu of an unaffordable monetary debt ("If ya lose this roll/ I'll take ya girlfriend home/ Well, alright!"). One could even go so far as to make a link between the lines "Blinded by the moonlight/ Twenty-four hours of midnight/ I stepped into the Twilight Zone" and being rendered blind and mindless by a drug or alcohol induced fugue...
- "Livin' On A Prayer" echoes the way fellow New Jerseyan Bruce Springsteen's upbeat songs about working-class struggle are actually not as upbeat lyrically as musically. While the couple in the song are willing to give it "their best shot", they know it's not a guarantee, and "it doesn't make a difference if we make it or not / We've got each other, and that's a lot".
- The Def Leppard album-only song "Gravity" is a great example of this, with rather sinister-sounding lyrics ("I can't sleep at night / The darkness enslaves me")...and it's an upbeat song in a spritely major key. This may be more understandable with the knowledge that the song was originally performed as a rather formulaic and forgettable pop-rock piece called "Perfect Girl", as revealed by bootleg recordings of the demo.
- AC/DC aren't entirely safe from this. Most of their songs fit the music just fine. "Riff Raff", though, is a catchy song about someone who's wrongfully accused of having murdered someone. "Whole Lotta Rosie", on the other hand, is a lighter example, a heavy love song about a Big Beautiful Woman.
- "Highway To Hell" is about someone whose life is on the wrong track, living a lifestyle that solicits sex, drugs, and alcohol...it's also one of the most iconic classic rock songs ever, fitting the recipe perfectly. Major Key? Check. Upbeat tempo? Check. Positive, cheerful lyrics? Eh, not so much. Just several months after the song's release, the band's original singer Bon Scott drank himself to death.
- "Get Rid Of That Girl" by The Donnas. It's a fast paced and catchy song about a girl beating up and killing the girlfriend of a boy she likes. The song even ends with the background singers chanting, "Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!"
- "She Hates Me" from Puddle of Mudd, a pretty upbeat song about disillusionment in a relationship.
- Stone Sour's "Through Glass" provides the listener with a light acoustic rock song with a good vocal melody and little aggression. The song is actually a scathing lashout on the plastic nature of the world of pop music.
- Serj Tankian uses this trope a bit, notably in the song "Lie Lie Lie," which sounds like something you'd hear from a busker at a carnival, but portrays a broken suicide pact between lovers.
- "Castles Made of Sand" by Jimi Hendrix from Axis: Bold As Love has a lively rock backing for lyrics that are a collection of separate stories about failures — an abusive boyfriend, a promising young man who dies in a war and a crippled girl who commits suicide by drowning.
- Similarly, his cover of "Hey Joe", a nice psychedelic song about a guy who kills his cheating girlfriend and flees to Mexico.
- Van Halen's "Runnin' With the Devil", from their first album, is essentially about living alone, broke and possibly homeless, at a "pace that kills"—which never stops audiences from pumping their fists to the chorus. The album also has the "Atomic Punk", who brags that "nobody rules these streets at night but me" also seems like a homeless person.
- Guns N' Roses:
- "Used to Love Her" A cheerful, upbeat song about how the singer murdered his girlfriend and buried her in his backyard. Still fun to sing after break-ups,note due to what Axl summed up in one of their concerts, and on Live Era: "...but this is the only song we've ever written out of fantasy, as a kinda joke, since it's a sick subject. But sometimes, you can feel this way, when your girlfriend or boyfriend is a pain in the fucking ass and you just wish you could cut their fucking head off and stuff it in a bag and put it in the backyard."
- Another Guns N' Roses example is "Don't Cry (Alt. Lyrics)". While the original "Don't Cry" was pretty dark in itself, being about someone who was leaving someone else in tears, the Alt. Lyrics version is even darker, especially since the narrator implies at least once that the person he's talking to might not have a future. The problem only gets bigger when you reach the second chorus, at which point it becomes obvious that they simply recorded the new lyrics on top of the original ones since you can easily hear the "times we've had now, baby!" from the original...
- "Street of Dreams" is an up-tempo piano and guitar melody talking about how much he now hates the person he once loved.
- "Catcher in the Rye" is about his insanity in the eyes of others.
- Use Your Illusion had a few good examples of this. "Dead Horse" is an upbeat tune, about someone who feels like giving up on saving his relationship (though while it starts desperate, the narrator gradually shows he's getting over it). "14 Years" is essentially a happy song about Izzy and Axl having grown to hate each other. Couple that with "Double-Talkin' Jive", which Izzy wrote for Axl, and it's no wonder the band broke up. Then there's "Breakdown", which is about Axl's mental breakdown that eventually led to everyone but Dizzy leaving the band.
- "November Rain" is a Power Ballad that has been played in weddings. Probably by people who didn't understand that it is a Break-Up Song where the narrator is realizing his relationship is failing. It gets worse during the reunion tour where the song was sped up to reduce its length, making a song that was melancholic even in the guitar solos sound happy.
- While "Estranged" is one of the most downbeat songs of the group, during one concert of the Use Your Illusion Tour (or Get In The Ring Tour), Axl introduces it sarcastucally as "a nice, happy song, kinda like a walk in the park, the sun coming through your window in the morning and you've got nothing better to do than commit hara-kiri, so..."
- Of all GNR-songs, "Paradise City" is probably the last song you would expect to fit this trope. It has an upbeat melody, cheerful vocals and less than positive lyrics (the complaining verses make clear the anthemic chorus is an anguished scream of "I wanna go home!"). The entire backstory behind the song only helps make it darker. And they've been using it to finish shows for the last 25 years because it sounds happy!
- Slash, the former lead guitarist for Guns N' Roses isn't innocent in this respect either. Both Velvet Revolver and his solo project has some instances.
- Anastasia, one of Slash's hits, has some pretty dark lyrics despite sounding just as cheerful as "Sweet Child O Mine". It starts off with "Blood-red sky on a desert road/gotta make my way down to Mexico/for what I did/I know that it/was wrong" and just gets darker from there. The chorus: "Oh my love/Anastasia/Anastasia/this will be our last goodbye/you can't save me/I am fading/blood is on my hands tonight". The last chorus even adds "Throw your heart/I took your life". And it still sounds happy despite the lyrics!
- "Love Is Only A Feeling" by The Darkness. It sounds like an upbeat Power Ballad, but it's really the cynical inverse of "I Believe In A Thing Called Love".
- "Growing On Me" is a very upbeat song about love, right? Nope...actually about having an STD.
- "Holding My Own" is a downbeat song about a break-up, right? Nope. Masturbation.
- A lot of Andrew W.K. songs use this trope. He often sings like he's annoyed about something, but the lyrics are about fairly mundane things — partying, hot girls, enjoying yourself in various ways.
- His song "Get Ready To Die" is an upbeat song about how somebody's going to get murdered. Granted, it's upbeat in a pretty rockin' way, but it's still not what you'd expect given the lyrics. It also may not be about literal murder given some of the lyrics, such as "we shoot without a gun" and "we cut without a knife".
- His cover of "Soldiers of Sorrow" is, essentially, a cheery upbeat-sounding rock anthem about a soldier horrified at the fact that he's surrounded by death and only survived his battle by killing people just like him.
- "The Hill" by the Legendary Pink Dots is a wonderfully cheerful little murder ballad.
- "Detroit Rock City" by Kiss is an upbeat rock anthem about a fan who was killed in an auto wreck while driving to a concert.
- "Blockbuster" by The Sweet is an extremely cheery song about a young criminal who is proving difficult or impossible to catch. The Lyrical Dissonance is underlined further by the fact that the title is a pun — the thug's name is Buster, so the people are striving to "block Buster".
- The Norwegian hard rock group TNT:
- Their song "Desperate Night" is a heavily epic sounding song that's pretty upbeat...about a soldier who basically is suffering from shell shock and is waiting to die "He'll wait for the light". It's considered one of the group's greatest songs ever.
- A 2000's example "Satellite", one of TNT's more mainstream songs, with a power pop feel to it. The lyrics talk about how material and shallow some people seem to be when rich and famous. Here's the song performed in playback in 2003 Enjoy.
- Alter Bridge's Watch Over You, a softer tune that is frequently played acoustically, has a love ballad feel to most of it while the lyrics essentially boil down to "I'm sick of your crap and leaving you out in the cold".
- There's still no mention of Alice Cooper? Really?
- His first solo album alone, Welcome to My Nightmare, is built on this trope. A lot of the songs are either rocking ("Devil's Food", "Department of Youth", "Cold Ethyl", "Escape"), swinging ("Welcome to My Nightmare", "Some Folks"), there's a soulful ballad in the form of "Only Women Bleed", and the rest are the dark and creepy songs you expect from Cooper ("Black Widow", "Years Ago", "Steven", "The Awakening"). Other than those last four songs? Yeah, they're rather upbeat. The entire album is about nightmares. Once you realize how the songs are interwoven together, not even "Only Women Bleed" is safe from becoming really creepy. Here's a hint: "Only Women Bleed" and "The Awakening" are related. Yeah.
- How about "School's Out"? Pretty much every kid and young adult who's ever heard it will joyfully sing it when the school year is over. And yet, I doubt that their schools were blown to pieces like the one in the song (which explains why school's out forever...)
- A number of Rob Zombie and White Zombie songs have pretty upbeat and catchy danceable tunes while the lyrics are of course invariably about vampires, demons, mutants, and other grotesque horror-movie themes. In fact, "More Human Than Human" is so catchy that it was used in the official trailer of Planes. Yes, you heard that right. A direct-to-DVD Disney/Pixar film for kids used a freaking Rob Zombie song, of all things, as its trailer music.
- Europe came back after over a decade to record their sixth album, 'Start From The Dark'. The music was dark, hard and moody, not out of place in a Soundgarden album. The lyrics, however, were very upbeat and motivational, throughout the album. This continued once more for 'Secret Society', and then toned down a little for the following albums.
- One Step at a Time by Four Year Strong sounds like a typical hard rock song, but the song's about getting through the death of a loved one, and the lyrics are oddly uplifting.
- Mötley Crüe's "You're All I Need" sounds like a romantic ballad, yet it's about a man who's murdered his girlfriend.
- Sixx:A.M. has a couple of examples of this. Their first album, "The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack", was fairly safe from this, since the entire album is about a book written by a man who was out of his mind most of the time. Their second album was mostly safe as well. "Stars" from "Modern Vintage", however...right from the first line, it sounds like someone asking their love interest if they want to die!
Do you wanna go to Heaven tonight?
Leave the evidence far behind
and say alright, alright.
Do you wanna be my lover tonight?
We can leave everybody else behind
and say alright, alright.
- Especially freaky is "Help Is On The Way". The song is a happy, upbeat rock-song, then the bridge comes along, played slowly and sounding almost melancholic, with the words: "Sometimes I'd wish you were dead, and I'm not even joking. I'll put a gun to your head."
- Gary Moore's "Out in the Fields" is a driving rock tune conveying the message that war does not discriminate between one's race, gender, faith, nationality, or political views. In particular, it was written about The Troubles.
- Canadian rock band The Glorious Sons released "S.O.S. (Sawed-Off Shotgun)", an upbeat song that sounded like it came straight out of someone's garage...about a guy who lost his job, got addicted to opioids (oxycodone, to be exact), failed to pay his bills, got most of his belongings repossessed, and eventually buys the titular sawed-off shotgun, with the implication being that he'll use it to turn to a life of crime or kill himself.
- The Trews have "I Can't Stop Laughing," a song that fittingly sounds like an upbeat bar tune, about a guy who drinks himself into such a stupor that he can't stop laughing because his girlfriend broke up with him, with the implication that it'll catch up with him the next day and he has nowhere to go.
- The Killers have the Murder Trilogy: the first song, called "Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf", sounds fairly cheerful at the beginning, but as you get closer and closer to the end, the lyrics become a bit eerier. The next song, "Midnight Show", sounds like a basic club song, until you listen to the lyrics — they describe how he kills his girlfriend and then drives around looking for a place to dump her body. Whether the third song, "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine", is an aversion or is played straight depends on your perspective, and possibly which version you're listening to ("She couldn't scream when I held her close" sounds way more innocent than "She couldn't scream when I held her throat", which is how the band plays it live occasionally. The first one's the album lyrics). But neither version sounds all that innocent when the narrator is a suspect in a murder investigation.
- On the flip side, there's "I Feel It In My Bones", a heart-pounding, sinister-sounding number about what happens when your sins catch up to you...except that the minister of justice is Santa Claus. (It's the middle section of a full-blown holiday revenge epic, the "Santa Trilogy")."Maybe I was naughty once but now I'm nice!""Boy, I made the list. You know I checked it twice!"
- On the flip side, there's "I Feel It In My Bones", a heart-pounding, sinister-sounding number about what happens when your sins catch up to you...except that the minister of justice is Santa Claus. (It's the middle section of a full-blown holiday revenge epic, the "Santa Trilogy").
- Dynamite Hack covered Eazy-E's "Boyz N The Hood" in folk-rock fashion.
- The Hush Sound is in love with this concept.
I wake up, and I feel aloneI was just asleepRight where I belongInside this sad, sad song
- "Crawling Towards the Sun" is one of the cutest, most upbeat music songs you'll ever hear before reading the surprisingly pessimistic lyrics.
- "Like Vines" similarly starts out sounding like a cute and upbeat song about lovers, but the chorus proves otherwise.
- "Molasses" is another love song that sounds slightly vague in its subject matter, but the lyrics are certainly darker than the music behind it. And then the bridge of the song gets eerie.
- Ed Sheeran's "The A Team" is light, easy, and relaxing. However, the lyrics are about a broke drug user turning to prostitution to get her fix.
- "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People is one of the most famous examples of this trope, often showing up on "Songs that you didn't know were actually dark and tragic"-type lists. It sounds upbeat and is very catchy and danceable, but paying any attention to the lyrics reveals they are about a teenage loner, seemingly neglected/ignored by his father. The chorus of the song describes a Columbine-style school shooting from the point of view of said loner. In a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, bassist Cubbie Fink's cousin survived Columbine.
- Rilo Kiley's "Silver Lining" is an upbeat, cheerful song. The lyrics are about the singer leaving her boyfriend because she decided that she'll end up happier that way. And according to the music video, this happens during the wedding and the groom drowns himself.
- The Protomen have the song "Light Up the Night", an upbeat ditty that sounds like the kind of music you'd set one of those '80s training montages to. It's about planning a bombing.I've got this burning like my veins are filled with nothing but gasolineAnd with a spark it's gonna be the biggest fire they've ever seenCut me down or let me runEither way, it's all gonna burnThe only way that they'll ever learn
- Jonathan Coulton:
- "Blue Sunny Day," an unreleased track, that features bubbly and cheerful backing music in sharp contrast to the lyrics about a lonely vampire that decides to commit Suicide by Sunlight.
- "Shop Vac" is a positive, energetic song whose dissonance reflects the fact that it's about an empty nest couple who waste their time on pointless diversions to try to ignore their depressing lack of fulfillment or purpose.
- Coupons: "Mardi Gras" is about people doing drugs and and drinking alcohol to distract themselves from their regrets and the sad state of the world. It's sung in an upbeat tone and has an uplifting background track.Welcome to the underground
Handshake drugs all night
This is where I live
In between denial and regret
- Cheekface's "You Always Want to Bomb the Middle East" is a bouncy, campy summer jam à la The B-52s, but is fundamentally an unflattering character portrait of a politician who would rather start wars and conflict over doing literally anything else. Downplayed in that that the tone of the lyrics themselves play the subject matter in a comical, deliberately absurd way, framing such destructive actions as less morally heinous and more a case of seriously Skewed Priorities.
- The Pogues are occasionally fond of this. "Rake at the Gates of Hell" is an energetic Irish jig featuring a very nasty narrator, and "Fairytale of New York" is a sweet-sounding Christmas song about a bitter couple whose dreams are all dead.
- A lot of people think the Flogging Molly song "Drunken Lullabies" is an Irish party song, mostly because none of them have ever looked at the lyrics to realize that it's about the way England's interference has torn Ireland and the Irish apart for centuries.
- U2's version of Cole Porter's classic "Night and Day" counts as an aversion...while the song is usually done with a playful, light tone, they use a driving, incessant beat, mechanistic, horror-soundtrack synth, and a mostly deadpan, monotone vocal to bring out the stalkerish, obsessive aspect implicit in lyrics like "In the silence of my lonely room / I think of you night and day
- Marillion rather liked doing this. See, for instance, "Cannibal Surf Babe," a happy, upbeat song about a cannibal woman apparently eating her lover, the protagonist. No, really.
- Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Karn Evil 9: First Impression" has a melancholy beginning, but later becomes a cheerful upbeat song about the "greatest show on Earth" — ie, human evil and cruelty.
- "Legend of a Mind" by The Moody Blues is an upbeat soft-rock track — about the infamous psychologist and LSD guru Timothy Leary.
- Kansas' "Song for America" is about how humans have completely destroyed the beauty of America. You wouldn't know by the quick, jolly sound and peppily sung lyrics:Cross the sea there came a multitude, sailing ships upon the waveFilled with visions of Utopia and the freedom that they craveRavage, plunder, see no wonder, rape and kill and tear asunderChop the forest, plow it under.....Highways scar the mountainsides, buildings to the sky, people all aroundHouses stand in endless rows, sea to shining sea, people all aroundSo we rule this land, and here we stand upon our paradise,Dreaming of a place, our weary race is ready to arise.
- Jethro Tull's famous song "Aqualung" from the eponymous album has a catchy, upbeat tune, after a catchy introduction. It's about a pedophilic hobo with creepy, raspy breath that sounds like scuba gear. It also happens to be probably their most famous song of all time. Everyone is horrified when they first hear what the lyrics actually are.Sitting on a park bench
Eying little girls with bad intent
Laughing in the playground
- This song provides an example of Fridge Brilliance when you realize that the harder parts at the beginning and end of the song show how other people see Aqualung but the more upbeat part in the middle of the song is how Aqualung sees himself. So while other people think Aqualung is a creepy, disgusting hobo, Aqualung thinks he's just a lonely old man who ran out of luck and is surviving the only way he can.
- The song directly after it on the same album, "Cross-Eyed Mary", is about a little girl who actively seeks out pedophiles like Aqualung. After a minute-long flute introduction, slides rockily into a growling, proto-metal tune that is possibly the most rock-out-inducing tune in the band's repertoire.
Gets no kicks from little boys
Would rather make it with a leching grey
Or maybe her attention
Is drawn by Aqualung
Who watches through the railings as they play
If Jesus saves, well He'd better save himself
- And then on side two, there's "Hymn 43", which attacks those who live vicariously and use Jesus' name for instant forgiveness, set to a melody you could drink and be jolly to. (Indeed, on recent tours, the beginning is played in the style of an Irish jig before it goes back to its hard rock arrangement.)
From the gory glory seekers who use His name in death
Oh Jesus, save me!
- "Kelpie" is a very chirpy song about the titular creature from Scottish folklore. That is, a demon horse that shapeshifts into a handsome man to seduce and drown young ladies.
- A lot of Pink Floyd's early songs, especially those penned by Syd Barrett, exhibit this trope.
Hush now baby, baby, don't you cry.Mama's gonna make all of your nightmares come true.Mama's gonna put all her fears into you.
- "Free Four" is musically one of the most upbeat (post-Barrett) songs Pink Floyd has ever written, with lyrics about the horrors of dying in war.
- "Time" from The Dark Side of the Moon. It sounds so upbeat, but its concept most certainly isn't.
- The cover album Rebuild the Wall by Luther Wright and the Wrongs. All the content of the original album, but twice as fast and with country accents.
- "Mother" from The Wall, mostly when "the mother" is singing. It sounds like a mother reassuring her child that everything's fine and will be fine in the future, but...
- The song "Friday 13th" by Atomic Rooster is surprisingly catchy to contain lyrics likeNo one in the world will love youNo one in the world will miss youNo one in the world will need you
- A One-Hit Wonder song, "Timothy," is a bouncy pop rock song with a brass and strings backing, about miners trapped in a cave-in, two of whom eat the third guy (or a mule, if you believe the record company; songwriter Rupert Holmes, on the other hand, has admitted he was inspired by the cannibalism elements of Suddenly, Last Summer)
- Porcupine Tree's catalog consists almost entirely of dark depressing-sounding songs with dark lyrics, and happy or at least pleasant-sounding songs with dark lyrics (such that when one of the occasional songs with actual happy lyrics comes around, like "Rest Will Flow" it's hard not to look for some dark subtext). There are too many examples of happy or pretty sounding music with depressing lyrics to name them all, but "Mellotron Scratch", "Trains," "Lips of Ashes", "Stranger by the Minute", "Piano Lessons" are all good examples.
- Bonus points are definitely included for Lips of Ashes. A gentle acoustic song featuring an amazing guitar solo...which is about necrophilia, judging by the lyrics.
- And also Blackest Eyes, which is a bouncy rock song, about serial killers.
- A particularly egregious example is "Meantime", a folksy upbeat song which rather predictably has depressive (albeit stoic) lyrics. However, it contains the line "a poison spreads through * key change to major* fresh air". Lyrical Dissonance at its most subtle?
- "South Side of the Sky" by Yes sounds fairly upbeat at first until you listen to the lyrics - it's about a group of explorers who freeze to death in Antarctica.
- "Illuminati" by Malice Mizer is a catchy industrial/pop/rock/electronica/hybrid thing that sounds perfectly radio-friendly — but if you look at the lyrics (or even watch the video) you will see that the song is about sex, orgasms and possibly cults. It's a great song, but Jesus, it's strange.
- "Breakdown" by The Alan Parsons Project. One of the most upbeat tunes on that album, but the lyric is Exactly What It Says on the Tin - the protagonist is suffering a mental breakdown.
- "Sooner or Later" is nice and upbeat too, but the lyrics are about breaking off and getting over a dishonest relationship with the person the singer is singing it to.
- Dream Theater's "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence" does this in multiple movements, particularly the two parts of "About to Crash" and "Solitary Shell" (written about bipolar disorder and autism, respectively).
- "The Knife" by Genesis is a powerful punkish uprising song. Which graciously describes severed heads being on display and blood flowing in the street:I'll give you the names of those you must kill,
All must die with their children!
Carry their heads to the palace of old,
Hang 'em all high and let blood flow NOW!
I'll give you the names of those you must kill,
- The live version is only slightly less graphic:
Hang 'em and burn 'em quickly!
Cover them up in Trafalgar Square,
How easy to see them dead!
In this ugly world, get ready to fight for your freedom NOW!
When I give the word, hang 'em all high and let blood flow NOW!
(Ohh-ho)/On the finest day the sea is black/(Ohh-ho)/And they say no one has ever come back from there...The island's rocks have many caves that smell of dying flesh...(Ohh-ho)/The empty cave is filled with sound/ (Ohh-ho)/A man is lying on the ground below
- They had this in their deepest roots - a demo track from 1968 called "The Mystery of the Flannan Isle Lighthouse" is an upbeat ditty, complete with harmonious "ahh"s that might make you puke rainbows. But the "charm" comes in the lyrics, which tell the legend of a trio of lighthouse keepers that went missing. It gets pretty grim...
Here, in a ball that they made,
- "The Battle of Epping Forest" is an upbeat eleven-minute song that sounds like a Robin Hood tale in both musical feel and title, but is lyrically about gang turf wars in northeast London.
- "Harold the Barrel" is a cheery but darkly comical song about a restaurant owner who cuts off his toes and serves to his customers. After a huge public outcry, Harold runs off and is later found at a window threatening to commit suicide. The ending implies that he does.
- And then there's "Snowbound", a gorgeously orchestrated song about hiding a dismembered body in a snowman.
From the snow on the ground
See it rolling away, wild eyes to the sky.
They'll never, never know...
- "Eleventh Earl of Mar" is another example, sad lyrics set to some very upbeat music.
- This continued even after their prog phase ended, especially when Phil Collins' wife dumped him and he dealt with it by writing songs...hit songs, they usually were, mostly for his own work but sometimes for the band. "Misunderstanding" lifted a classic Motown riff to tell a story about the singer looking all over town for his partner, only at the end to find she was entertaining a lover. The bouncy "Behind the Lines" is about his failing relationship, although Collins' solo version better fits this trope.
- Abacab's first single is the upbeat, funkynote "No Reply at All", about (again) the singer's attempts to save his failing relationship.
- "Just a Job to Do". Upbeat song about being a hit man. From the same album, "Illegal Alien", is another fun-sounding song about ... the travails of being an illegal aliennote
- '"Number City" by Coheed and Cambria is a catchy, upbeat, almost ska-like ditty about how the singer's wife is bleeding to death after a car crash.(Defibrillate! Defibrillate!)
A radio transmission sent to get the heart to listen
A radio transmission sent to get the heart to listen
Oh, oh, this is love from a gurney
Oh, this is love from a gurney
Oh, this is love from a gurney
- Rush has "Red Sector A", a catchy upbeat song that you can't help but dance to. It's about the Holocaust.Ragged lines of ragged grey
Skeletons, they shuffle away
Shouting guards and smoking guns
Will cut down the unlucky ones
- They also have “Subdivisions,” a rocking, catchy song about the soul crushing conformity and confinement of growing up in the suburbs.
- Klaatu's "California Jam" is an upbeat surf song about California sinking into the ocean.Goodbye mythical Malibu
The San Andreas Misfortune
Will claim the lives of sons and wives
The headlines will fill page after page
- Saga's "Perfectionist" has a very upbeat sound, but the lyrics involve a man planning on murdering his dinner guests.
- Caravan's "Love to Love You" has some surprisingly bloody lyrical imagery beneath its cheerful tune:I dreamed of all the magic things there'd be
When we'd ride to a dock on bended knee
But you'd just smile and gently shake your head
And put a hole through me so I was dead
All Hell fell down and I was left alone
With a feeling of you still that was my own
- "My Mistake" by Pholhas is a romantic-sounding soft ballad with light progressive elements, then it turns out that the "mistake" the singer made was murdering his cheating wife. The dissonance is softened a little bit since he speaks of serving time in prison for his crime, and seems genuinely remorseful about what he did. Still, there's some serious Mood Whiplash between the first two stanzas:There was a place that I livedAnd a girl so young and fairI have seen many things in my lifeSome of them I'll never forgetEverywhereI was sent to prisonFor having murdered my wife...
- Country Joe and the Fish have the "Feel-like-I'm-fixing-to-die rag" which is an upbeat carnival-style pitch...about The Vietnam War with satirical lyrics to boot. It's considered one of the greatest satirical songs of the '60s.And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well, there ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.
- "Tracy Took A Trip" by The Executive is a joyous-sounding 1960's psychedelic pop song about a failed actress committing suicide by drowning herself. The Beatles-inspired horn section and harmony vocals add a lot to the dissonance.
- "Bad Kids" by the Black Lips is an upbeat, catchy song about exactly what it sounds like. Did we mention the lyrics casually mention parental abandonment, dropping out of school, underage drinking, and is set to clips of riot footage?
- The MGMT song "Time to Pretend". If you visit the YouTube page, the comments tend to fall along the lines of "yay drugs!" because the song has lyrics like "I'll move to Paris, shoot some heroin, and fuck with the stars", all while using a harmonic, upbeat melody. However, if you read the rest of the lyrics, you'll notice that the entire song is really a sarcastic, tragic tribute to people who live their lives as if there was nothing more important than feeling good, for example: "There's really nothing, nothing we can do / Love must be forgotten, life can always start up anew" and "We'll choke on our vomit and that will be the end / We were fated to pretend".
The memories fade like looking through a fogged mirror.Decisions to decisions are made and not bought.But I thought this wouldn't hurt a lot.I guess not.
- Also the MGMT song "Kids". It's quite an upbeat sounding melody, but the lyrics are about the sorrow of childhood fading and how depressingly natural it is.
Control yourself.Take only what you need from it.A family of trees wantedTo be haunted.
- And don't forget how the chorus points out how pointless childhood is in the end:
- There's also "Congratulations", a breezy, vaguely tropical-sounding ballad that seems to be about how alienated the band's sudden success has made them feel.
- Also, see the 60s-70s psychedelic band THE MOPS, whose melodies sound groovy, if you don't know what "Goiken muyou" or "Orewo koroshitekure" really mean.
- Virtually any song written or sung by Elvis Costello, either solo or with The Attractions, qualifies here. Certainly, all of his big hits include some form of lyrical dissonance. Elvis is the master of lyrical dissonance!
- "Oliver's Army" is a bouncy number inspired by the musical stylings of ABBA. It's so upbeat the listener can easily miss that the lyrics are about The Troubles and military imperialism.But there's no danger
It's a professional career
Though it could be arranged
With just a word in Mr. Churchill's ear.
- "Oliver's Army" is a bouncy number inspired by the musical stylings of ABBA. It's so upbeat the listener can easily miss that the lyrics are about The Troubles and military imperialism.
- "Khe Sanh" by Cold Chisel is regarded by many Australians as one of their many unofficial anthems. Many blast it at nightclubs and have generally happy connotations associated with it. The lyrics themselves are about a soldier suffering from PTSD. 'How there were no V-Day heros, in 1973.' All in all, it's really not a happy song...though you are not Australian if you don't know and love it.
- Another example is "Cheap Wine", which sounds like a badass heavy rock song, but the main character has essentially given up on everything except booze. Admittedly that's a fairly common ideal in Australia and it's kinda hard to tell what the lyrics are at any given moment.
- Mental As Anything:
- "Too Many Times" is a bright, jaunty pop song about a post-breakup man who has trouble sleeping and spends his days sitting around drinking alone. Oh, and one night he takes too many sleeping pills.
- "Nigel" is a very upbeat-sounding Grief Song about an implied junkie who had been estranged from his openly disapproving parents.
- German Punk Rock band Die Ärzte are notorious for this (probably one of the reasons few people outside the German-speaking countries know them) to wit:
- Their song "Schlaflied" sounds like a typical lullaby but contains lines like "Ohne Blut bist du bleich wie Kreide// dann frisst es deine Eingeweide" (without blood you're pale as chalk, then it eats your intestines)
- "Männer sind Schweine" is also rather cheerful in tone for its content ("men are pigs")
- Death From Above 1979's "Trainwreck 1979" is a catchy, upbeat song about the 1979 Mississauga train derailment, which caused harmful chemicals to spill and authorities to order a mass evacuation of everyone in the city. However, this is mostly downplayed, since, as the song itself points out, not a single injury was reported during the entire ordeal - hence the lyric "200,000 people and no one died".
- Subverted with the Riverboat Gamblers' "Blue Ghosts". The instrumental is fast and catchy, but the lyrics seem to be about someone suffering a severe trauma. Taking the lyrics literally rather than metaphorically, however, reveals that the singer is just playing Pac-Man.
- Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, whose whole gimmick is playing melodic punk covers of songs from other genres, can have this effect depending upon the source material. For instance, playing "Leaving On A Jet Plane" as a fast punk rock song (instead of a bittersweet folk ballad) has the effect of making the narrator sound sarcastic (or at least insincere) about how much he'll miss his girlfriend. On the other hand, their version of "Sloop John B" ends up being less lyrically dissonant than the most famous version (by The Beach Boys) - the angry-sounding music makes sense considering it's supposed to be about a disastrous boat trip.
- Bad Religion has a fun time with this:
- Played with the song "Slumber" from Stranger Than Fiction. It starts out somberly, tries to give hope to the listener, then tells the listener that we're killing the world.
- The upbeat song "Sorrow" is all about the Book of Job, which is basically a story of Job playing the Butt-Monkey to God and the Devil.
- The incredibly catchy "Television" is all about a kid who relies on his TV as a babysitter, parent, and information source exclusively.
- "Infected". People dedicate this song to their boyfriends and girlfriends... but it has the lyrics "you and me have a disease. You affect me, you infect me. I'm afflicted, you're addicted. You and me. You and me."
- Please, those lyrics are tame. Have you forgotten near the end?"I wanna bathe you
In holy water
I wanna kill you
Upon the altar"?
- Also, it is rather ironic that people dedicate it to their boy/girlfriends, considering it's about the cycle of domestic abuse, starting with the abuser building up tension, snapping, then finally apologising, before realizing that he will end up doing this forever.
- Please, those lyrics are tame. Have you forgotten near the end?
- The song "A Thousand Smiles" by Ellegarden sounds upbeat and cheery and starts out sounding like a light-hearted boy-meets-girl love song but after the first chorus it goes on to tell how the boy MURDERED the girl, all while it keeps it cheery sound.
- Subverted in "Happy" by Liam Lynch, a über-upbeat song which is occasionally broken in with things like "I can't do this, man, I'm not happy".
- I'm special, I'm happy
I am gonna heave
Welcome to my happy world
Now get your $# !+ and leave!
I'm happy, I'm good, I'm...outta here!
- The Clash's "Somebody Got Murdered" is about... well, somebody getting murdered. While the tone of the singer himself is pretty somber, the music sounds more like peppy new wave than punk rock.
- This goes for a lot of their songs. "Clampdown", which is similarly peppy, is either about the Nazis or just fascist regimes in general ("Taking off his turban they say is this man a Jew"). "London Calling" (about the city's destruction and the end of the world), "Train in Vain" (their only love song, which is a Break Up Song), "Julie's Been Working For The Drug Squad" and "This Is England (a song featuring bombastic football chants about the sad state of Thatcher's Britain).
- Let's not forget "Spanish Bombs", which is an upbeat, poppy rock song about the horrors of the Spanish Civil War.
- "Jimmy Jazz" is an upbeat song about some sort of fugitive who will be killed if found.
- On the other end, "Guns of Brixton" is a monotone, drawling, laced-with-anger pessimistic song - about how you'll never break the spirit of the working class.
- The Ramones wrote several songs about Joey Ramone's Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. However, they had the same upbeat power chord sequences as every other Ramones song. For example, the peppy "I Wanna Be Sedated", a Sanity Slippage Song caused by getting stuck in the hotel for the entire day before a concert (namely, it was London on Christmas Eve):
- Just get me to the airport, put me on a plane
Hurry hurry hurry, before I go insane
I can't control my fingers, I can't control my brain
Oh no no no no no!
- The Ramones were made of this. "Beat on the Brat", anyone?
- "Pour Decisions" by Scottish-Canadian Celtic punk outfit The Real McKenzies is a jolly dinkalong about a guy who's pissed his life away as a drunken punk rocker, looking back on the opportunities he's missed.
- "Jet Boy Jet Girl" by Elton Motello is a celebratory-sounding catchy pop-punk song with saxophone and rockabilly-influenced guitar leads. It also happens to be about a 15-year-old boy in a sexual relationship with an older man, and the homicidal thoughts he starts having when he sees said older partner with a woman on his arm:Can you tell what's on my mindShe's with him it's driving me wildI'd like to hit him on the head until he's deadThe sight of blood is such a highOoh ooh ooh oohHe gives me head
- LA punk band X's song "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts" sounds cheerful (and is certainly catchy), but the lyrics (and the title) show that the song is actually a protest song seething with irony and sarcasm towards the atmosphere of fear and anxiety in the Reagan years.
- "Johny Hit And Run Paulene" is kind of on the borderline of this: the actual melody is suitably dark for a tale of a drug-induced raping spree, but it's juxtaposed with some very happy-sounding 50's rock guitar leads (and it's intro is nearly identical to that of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode").
- The band actually refused to play that one on concerts after a short while when crowds would embrace the very dark song as another uptempo punk anthem.
- "Johny Hit And Run Paulene" is kind of on the borderline of this: the actual melody is suitably dark for a tale of a drug-induced raping spree, but it's juxtaposed with some very happy-sounding 50's rock guitar leads (and it's intro is nearly identical to that of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode").
- For its first two verses, The Buzzcocks' "Promises" is a cheerful song about a man and a woman promising to be faithful and honest with each other, set to an appropriately optimistic melody ("We promised to be true, there'd be no other, we promised that forever we would care"). The reason that it's an example is that during the bridge it's revealed the woman had been cheating on him, and then the next two verses directly contradict the first two, while still being set to the exact same melody ("You've never been true, and it's plain to see, the fact is you never really cared").
- Pretty much everything ever written by Alkaline Trio who have monopolised the lyrically dissonant dark pop-punk genre. And written some damn good lyrics while they're at it.
- "Beach Party Vietnam" by the Dead Milkmen:"Hey, Frankie, are you gonna give me your class ring?""I'm afraid I can't do that, Annette.""Why not?""I haven't got any arms."
- "Watching Scotty Die" is a gentle, country-esque ballad about a man seeing his son slowly die from exposure to poisonous chemicals. There's even more dissonance involved if you know that the chorus parodies "Watching Scotty Grow", a sugary-sweet hit by Bobby Goldsboro about the proud father of a healthy young boy.
- "California Babylon" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It's essentially a song about the hell that is L.A., and how it's the modern Babylon, and it's to the tune to a piano and guitar on the same chords, giving it a very vaudeville type of sound, similar to Killer Queen.
- The Offspring, "Come Out and Play", a catchy punk song with a singalong chorus... and lyrics about school violence.
- Its "sister song" (both were off the same album, and released to radio at the same time), "Self Esteem", is an equally-catchy power-punk tune about a guy who is being used sexually by his girlfriend, who treats him like crap and cheats on him, but he goes along with the relationship anyway because he's afraid people will see him as a "dweeb" if he breaks it off with her.
- There's also "The Kids Aren't Alright" with catchy punk rock music, but the lyrics talk about children in a neighborhood who had big dreams, but then reality came and crushed them.Chances thrownNothing's freeLonging for what used to beStill it's hardHard to seeFragile lives, shattered dreams
- Let's not forget "Why Don't You Get A Job", with its Caribbean melody (reminiscent of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da") and lyrics that basically say, to the narrators' significant others (one male, one female), "You're a worthless fucking leech, but they won't tell you, so I will: fuck off and get a job!". Or "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)", laughing at wiggers over a good punk/alt-rock riff. Or "Special Delivery": catchy riff, lyrics about a stalker with voices in his head. Or "Walla Walla", another fast tune about how you, the subject of the song, are going to prison and it's a good thing because you're an idiot reprobate.
- "Hit That" is a ska-punk tune with a bouncy synth line; the tune and the title makes it sound as though it could be an ode to getting laid, when in fact it's a cautionary tale about promiscuity, complete with unplanned pregnancy.
- "You're Gonna Go Far Kid" is a complicated example, but the music video helps make it clearer that it's about the thin lines between Will Not Be a Victim and From Nobody to Nightmare.
- There's also "The End of the Line" which is an energetic, fast rocker about mourning someone who died. Or "Jennifer Lost the War," which is also really fast but about the suffering of girls caught up in a war.
- "Hammerhead". School shooting song that sounds like it wouldn't be out of place in a soldier's iPod, with lyrics like "Risk my life to keep my people from harm", "I'm just doing what I'm told", and "I'll take this life so others may live"...and then there's The Reveal at the end.Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of deathI will fear no evil: for Thou are with meLocked and loaded gonna find my truthNow I'm busting through,All hell breaks looseMy aim's true!
- Dropkick Murphys definitely have songs which qualify:
- "The State of Massachusetts" — pretty upbeat, but it's about a woman having her children taken by social services (A sweet banjo riff just makes it worse); "Sunshine Highway" — far more upbeat, but about alcoholism; "The Spicy McHaggis Jig" — about an attack of 'Beer goggles'; "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" — about someone who lost a leg; "Buried Alive" — about miners being trapped in a cave-in; "The Dirty Glass," a swinging Irish jig that turns out to be an Anti-Love Song between a man and his siren of a pub; and many more.
- Played for humor in The Vandals' "Get In Line" - an aggressive headbanging punk/metal song about... waiting in line for a rollercoaster. The closest thing to an angry sentiment in the whole song is "someone cuts the line/ they're adding to your time/ and that's not very nice/ kick 'em outta line!", and the chorus is a frantic shout of "Up, up, up, up, up, up, up, up, WHEE!".
- Jeff Rosenstock has a tendency for this. "Last" by the Arrogant Sons of Bitches is a generally upbeat tune about what seems to be a person who died in a car accident. “5 Funerals”, by Bomb the Music Industry! is even more upbeat... and it is a song about becoming desensitized to the death of friends because he's had to go to so many funerals.
- Die Toten Hosen's "Weihnachtsmann vom Dach" (Santa from the Roof) is a cheerful holiday tune with child-like, giddy vocals...about a child finding Santa Claus dead and swinging from a noose, along with a note saying he (Santa Claus) hopes he has not spoiled their Christmas with his suicide. It is, however, clearly intended as comedy.
- German punk rockers Die Ärzte seem to enjoy this trope immensely, as they are known for their satiric and sometimes plain weird songs. A very noteworthy example is "Baby", a song that appears to be an empowering ballad for vegetarians at the start... And then goes on for several verses with suggestions to eat people, instead of animals.
- Just one album later, the highly-upbeat song "Breit" has the protagonist praise the joys of doing drugs — clearly including the fact that he's wasting his life and slowly loses control of his bodily functions.
- Now I'm almost thirty and still alive / I'm still the coolest in this room / I drool a little and smell badly / Because I'm hanging around on this couch for years / Social contacts, I don't need / I'm stoned seven days a week (Translated)
- "De ce Plang Chitarele" is a song summed up pretty good with the title which translates roughly to Why the Guitars Cry. But of course, being O-Zone, it's happy, upbeat and danceable.
- "Schlaflied" might qualify. It starts out all mellow and soothing and sweet and cute. Unfortunately, it's about an Eldritch Abomination that comes to you in the night, gouges out your eyes, rips out your throat and drinks your blood.
- Just one album later, the highly-upbeat song "Breit" has the protagonist praise the joys of doing drugs — clearly including the fact that he's wasting his life and slowly loses control of his bodily functions.
- The French punk song "Manu Chao" by Les Wampas sounds like a happy, upbeat, Ramones-like punk song. Then you look up a translation of the lyrics and find it's a song lamenting that the members aren't rich, especially compared to certain other French "punk" artists.
- The Misfits do this constantly. "Last Caress", "Astro Zombies", and "Die, Die My Darling" stand out. They're all perfect examples of the influence that early rock & roll had on the band and have amazing blues-style vocals, and they deal with a suicidal rapist/child-killer, an extraterrestrial invasion, and a man murdering his girlfriend, respectively.
- The Dead Kennedys have a number of perfectly cheery sounding songs (by hardcore standards) about killing things, like "Chemical Warfare" and "I Fought the Law (and I Won)", both politically charged songs about murder with beats that make listeners want to dance.
- "Jimmy Jimmy" by The Undertones is pretty ambiguous lyrically but seems to be about child abuse. Regardless, it's pretty peppy sounding for a song that concludes with the following:Now little Jimmy's goneHe disappeared one dayBut no one saw the ambulanceThat took little Jim away
- There's a Punk Rock remix of the Mickey Mouse Club March. The same lyrics that praise Mickey as the leader of the Mickey Mouse Club is now accompanied by a (mostly) angry-sounding melody.
- Bad Brains' "Sailin' On" and "Attitude" are, respectively, a happy-sounding breakup song and an angry-sounding song about keeping a "positive mental attitude". However, both sort of work in context: "Sailin' On" is about how the singer is able to move on from a bad relationship, and "Attitude" is about defying those who would try to keep you down.
- The Gaslight Anthem's signature track "The 59 Sound" is uptempo and pretty upbeat sounding, but is, in fact, a heartwrenching lament about the last moments of a friend before death in a car accident.
- Teenage Bottlerocket's "Bloodbath at Burger King" is a very upbeat pop-punk tune about a disgruntled employee fantasizing about slaughtering everyone at his restaurant in fairly graphic detail.
- French group Les Fatals Picards often do this. La Française des jeuxnote is a very upbeat song about a sad housewife, beaten by her husband, who loses all her money gambling. Sucer des caillouxnote is another upbeat melody about a man trying to accommodate his Granola Girl girlfriend, and the lyrics remain funny until the girl dies of a gluten allergy.
- "Superman" by Goldfinger (alternatively, the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater song) is an upbeat, happy song that follows the chord progression of Pachelbel's Canon in D key, a favorite of Western weddings. The lyrics are about a man who's trying to hold his life together while everything falls apart around him.
- The New York Hardcore Punk band 25 ta Life loves this trope. Not only do their heavy and aggressive sound and hip-hoppish bravado conflict with their lyrics, but their lyrics conflict with their lyrics. The band intersperses hip-hoppish use of "motherfucker" while extolling the virtues of friendship, brotherhood, etc.
- "People Who Died" by the Jim Carroll Band is certainly upbeat, but the title is quite literal. It's essentially a list of people the singer knew who have passed on due to causes from cancer to getting murdered by bikers.
- The Association's "Along Comes Mary" is a happy, bouncy song about a destructive addiction. Nowadays many people know it in The Bloodhound Gang's (dissonance-free) version, in which they drop most of their usual clowniness: it is probably their darkest-sounding song.
- Nina Gordon covering "Straight Outta Compton" as if it were a torch song.
- Tom Waits took "Heigh Ho" (from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) and turned it into what one YouTube poster called "the theme tune for midget slave labor."
- "Table Top Joe" starts out with a relaxed, jazzy piano line. Once the words start, you learn that the eponymous Joe is a circus freak without a body below the waist. Even stranger is the fact that he was a real guy. Although, with a voice like Tom Waits', it may be difficult to trick people into thinking you're just being happy.
- David Bowie loved this trope. Examples include:
- "Janine" is a poppy little love song, outwardly no different from other early songs of his like "Letter to Hermione" or "An Occasional Dream" — except it's from an Ax-Crazy man to a Love Martyr.Janine, Janine, you'd like to know me well,
But I've got things inside my head that even I can't face.
Janine, Janine, you'd like to crash my walls,
But if you take an axe to me, you'll kill another man,
Not me at all.
- "Young Americans" from Young Americans is a poppy, R&B type tune, with very cynical lyrics about American youth and events.
- "Bombers" is an incredibly catchy and peppy sounding song about bombs destroying the world. Sample lyrics:A-bombs, H-bombs, even very small ones
Ripped apart the sand
Till the stench was just revolting
And the sky a greenish tan.
- And from "Oh! You Pretty Things" from Hunky Dory, a catchy, mellow song about humanity's obsolescence and replacement by a superior species:Look out my window and what do I see?
A hand in the sky reaching down to me
All the nightmares came today
And it looks as though they're here to stay...
The earth is a bitch
We've finished our news
Homo sapiens have outgrown their use.
- "Cygnet Committee" sounds just like any 1960 hippie song...but here are some lyrics.And I open my eyes to look aroundAnd I see a child laid slain on the groundAs a love machine lumbers through desolation rowsPloughing down man, woman, listening to its commandBut not hearing anymoreNot hearing anymoreJust the shrieks from the old rich
- A rather nightmarish one is "Running Gun Blues", an upbeat hard rock tune about a former soldier who likes to alleviate his boredom by committing random acts of violence:It seems the peacefuls stopped the warLeft generals squashed and stifledBut I'll slip out again tonight'Cause they haven't taken back my rifleFor I promote oblivionAnd I'll plug a few civilians
- "Tonight" from Lust for Life sounds like any other trippy pop song...but only because the opening dialogue from Iggy Pop's 1977 original — spoken to a lover dying of a drug overdose — was deliberately cut out from Bowie's version on the album Tonight. Depending on who you ask, Bowie didn't want to upset Tina Turner — who duetted with him on the song — with the dialogue, or it was simply made more radio-friendly.
- The overall nastiness of the Thin White Duke and the coldly calculated, insincere aspect of most of the lyrics are not obviously reflected in the album Station to Station.
- "Sound and Vision" from Low is an upbeat song about isolation.
- "Janine" is a poppy little love song, outwardly no different from other early songs of his like "Letter to Hermione" or "An Occasional Dream" — except it's from an Ax-Crazy man to a Love Martyr.
- Several songs from The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album are beautifully composed Anti Love Songs, particularly "Here Today" ("Well you know I hate to be a downer / But I'm the guy she left before you found her"). Additionally, "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" is a rather upbeat tune about not fitting in with the rest of the world. Outside that album, there's the song "Help Me Rhonda" which, in a chirpy, catchy style, tells Rhonda that the singer is really wrapped up with this girl who dumped him, but would she like to be his rebound?
- To chip in another $.02, since "Wendy" is on the same record, it seems like "Wendy left [him] alone," and thus he turned to help from Rhonda. There were owls pooping in his bed, after all.
- And don't forget their cover of "Sloop John B" on that album, possibly the most upbeat music on the whole album (and from the Beach Boys, that's saying something), with lyrics about a really bad boat trip ("This is the worst trip I've ever been on.")
- The Beatles:
- The original "Day Tripper" (try listening to the Type O Negative cover, and you'll see). It's the only song the Beatles ever publicly admitted to being a drug song, in case you were getting a little too morbid about it."Got a good reason
For taking the easy way out
Got a good reason
For taking the easy way out now..."
- "Lady Madonna" is an incredibly cheery song about a poor single mother who's resorted to prostitution to make ends meet.
- The original "Day Tripper" (try listening to the Type O Negative cover, and you'll see). It's the only song the Beatles ever publicly admitted to being a drug song, in case you were getting a little too morbid about it.
- Please Please Me: "Misery" is a cheerful, bouncy song about a guy who's deeply depressed because his girlfriend dumped him.
- A Hard Day's Night: "You Can't Do That." Although the singer threatens only to dump the girl, his reasoning makes it creepy—"That's the second time I caught you talking to him." That's a reason to end a relationship?
- Beatles for Sale:
- "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" is about a guy who's just been dumped, has been drinking and is now out looking for his ex to tell her that he still loves her.
- The song "I'm a Loser" ("I'm a loser / And I've lost someone that's near to me / I'm a loser / And I'm not what I appear to be.)
- "I'll Follow the Sun" is a break-up song set to a sweet, upbeat melody. "Someday you'll know I was the one..."
- "Help!" was written by John Lennon as a genuine cry for help, but was performed as a jaunty, up-tempo number for the group's film of the same title. Deep Purple later covered the song in a more somber style, which Lennon described as being exactly how it should have been done.
- "Ticket to Ride": According to Lennon, Rhyde is the location of a home for unwed mothers.
- Rubber Soul:
- "Norwegian Wood" is set to a trance-inducing 3/4 waltz with a sitar in the background, in a very laid-back manner. The lyrics are about the narrator burning down a woman's wooden house because she didn't put out the night before.
- "What Goes On" is written in Ringo's preferred peppy, almost country style. The song is about a man who goes completely unnoticed by the woman he loves.
- "I'm Looking Through You," a poppy upbeat little number about basically writing off an ex's existence. "You're thinking of me / The same old way / You were above me / But not today / The only difference is you're down there / I'm looking through you, and you're nowhere" (the contrast to "You Won't See Me", which is a similar complaint on a failing relationship but at least gets slower as it goes to denote the unhappiness)
- "Run For Your Life" is a happy, peppy tune whose lyrics are, in essence, "BITCH IMA CUT YOU IF YOU EVER LEAVE ME!" Interestingly, the opening line of "Run For Your Life" ("I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man") is taken verbatim from Elvis Presley's "Baby Let's Play House" (which like other Elvis songs is a cover song). Not only is that song also a peppy rockabilly number, but the rest of the lyrics just focus on the narrator wanting the girl to get back together with him, with no other implied threats, so that one line comes from out of nowhere.
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: The opening lines of the boisterous, horn-driven "Good Morning, Good Morning" are:"Nothing to do to save his lifeCall his wife in"
"I used to be cruel to my womanI beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved"
- There's also "Getting Better". Downplayed in this case, because its just the second half that becomes weird.
- The White Album:
- "Piggies" seems to imply that the smaller piggies get slaughtered and eaten by the bigger piggies. This is made creepier by Charles Manson's misinterpretation. The song is a Shout-Out to George Orwell's Animal Farm where the pigs, after leading the animals in a revolution against their human master, take control the farm and begin acting like the human beings who previously oppressed them.
- "Helter Skelter" inverts the trope. Who'd guess that what may be the first proper heavy metal song would be about a CARNIVAL SLIDE?
- Abbey Road: "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is about a nice young man who, halfway through the first stanza, turns out to be a serial killer who clubs people to death with the titular hammer. All set to an old-school melody that John Lennon dissed as "old granny music". It's a fun song. The folks at Newgrounds gave us this disturbing yet nifty video.
- Blacktop Manhattan's "Hollywise". The first verse is about a heroin addict whose "kids have all turned their backs", the second is about an alcoholic man Driven to Suicide after losing his money in a market crash and his wife walking out on him.
- Crowded House: most obviously in "She Called Up". A tribute to Paul Hester, it's upbeat and bouncy like the sort of music he liked, complete with falsetto la-la-las like a children's choir - and it's about his suicide.
- "She called upand gave me the newsIt made me so sad, sad, sadThere was nothing I could do
- Two of Bob Dylan's early classics fall into this trope:
- The chorus of "Like A Rolling Stone" is musically exhilirating and uplifting, but while on their own the lyrics can be taken as celebrating the unlikely freedom of having nothing left to lose all of a sudden, in the context of the verses the singer is clearly mocking the other person's shock at discovering the truths behind society's facades.
- And then there's "Positively Fourth Street", in which a cheerful organ line backs what's basically a Reason You Suck Speech set to music.
- The Fine Print has one of these, "1995 Penny", which is, in the lead singer's words: "a bouncy, poppy song with lyrics that concern blind acceptance of abuse, sexual harassment, and complicity in one's own annihilation."
- George Harrison's "All Those Years Ago" is happy and poppy, but its lyrics are bittersweet, nostalgic lyrics about how much the world will miss the recently-murdered John Lennon.
- Another song of his, the slightly-less-well-known "When We Was Fab," done several years later, is very similar in nature.
- Most Billy Joel songs are happy, with the words being horrifying. A good example would be "Moving Out (Anthony's Song)", about wasting life working hard to obtain things they cannot enjoy. "You can pay Uncle Sam with the overtime/ Is that all you get for your money?"
- "Miami 2017" is an upbeat, exciting rock song about, apparently, some kind of apocalyptic event destroying New York City.
- And then there's "Allentown", a rather peppy little number in which the narrator talks about how the region (and especially nearby Bethlehem) is full of crushed dreams and dying factories. Depending on your interpretation of the lyrics, the last verse possibly ends with the narrator succumbing to a depressive episode, or possibly even dying or killing himself.Well, I'm living here in Allentown
And it's hard to keep a good man down
But I won't be getting up today.
- "The Entertainer", about the frustrations of being an artist, constantly struggling to stay in the spotlight and having to sell out in order to have any sort of success.Today I am your champion
I may have won your hearts
But I know the game, you'll forget my name
And I won't be here in another year
If I don't stay on the charts
- "She's Always A Woman" has a pleasant, lilting melody. It seems to be about a type-A tsundere.note
- "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." The bouncy, highly danceable middle section's lyrics describe how two of the narrator's high school classmates got married, ran short on money, had a tearful falling out and got divorced. Another interpretation is that the narrator is the husband, Eddie, and they are recounting their own tale as if it occurred to others, as the framing device of the song indicates a similar familiarity between the narrator and his partner, someone he was once with.
- "Big Shot," about waking up hungover and realizing you made a total ass of yourself last night.
- "We Didn't Start the Fire" rattles off a number of very dark events amid its fast-paced lyrics, most memorably:JFK, blown away
What else do I have to say?
- "Angry Young Man," about a frustrated political radical who'll "go to the grave as an angry old man".
- The protagonist of "I Go To Extremes" seems to be either something of a Tsundere or is going through a bipolar/manic depressive state.note Too high or too low, there ain't no in-betweens.
- The Eagles' "Life in the Fast Lane": A bouncy rocker seemingly made for cruising along to ... which tells the story of a couple whose willingness to take drugs and party makes them socially popular, but at an ultimately terrible price.
- "Moonlight Drive" by The Doors from The Doors sounds like a nice, upbeat love song — and most of the lines are indeed in the Intercourse with You category — until you get to the very end, where it turns out the song is about drowning your lover.
- Elton John has written a few of these by putting dissonant music with the lyrics given him. "Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting," for instance, has an upbeat melody that dares you to sing along, but is about someone who is in a dead-end life and knows it.
- And "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" has lyrics of defiance, of choosing to walk out on a Svengali. But musically, it's one of the saddest songs on record. And the video includes a clip of the song being performed in The Muppet Show...Wordof God says it has to do with Bernie being tired of the rock star lifestyle, the rich people he and Elton encountered who made their lives miserable (including the rich publishers who wanted bubblegum hits from them in their early years, and the pickle heiress portrayed in "Someone Saved My Life Tonight") and the big city, and preferring the simpler life in the country, where he grew up. "Mongrels who ain't got a penny, sniffing for tidbits like you on the ground" refers to the droppings the heiress' dogs left behind constantly.
- Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics to "Since God Invented Girls" expecting it to be an upbeat rock song full of macho swagger. Instead, the song ended up being an ethereal ballad.
- "I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself" has a tap-dance solo in it. The title alone is enough to count as Lyrical Dissonance, but as the song goes on you realize that, more than just suicide, it's about teenage suicide.
- "Crocodile Rock", set to an organ-driven upbeat bubblegum rock tune with "la la la la la" refrain, is about a man reminiscing about his happy teenage life, dancing to rock-'n'-roll with his beautiful girlfriend, driving an "old gold Chevy" and "having a place of (his) own". Suddenly, the girl dumps him for "some foreign guy", "rock just died" on him, he gets older and all he has to cling to are his memories.
- "Elderberry Wine" involves an alcoholic loser, poor and heavy in debt, who pines for the days his wife got him drunk so he could blow off his responsibilities. The couple would appear to be divorced or separated a year ago. The song is set to a very upbeat, happy-go-lucky soul-rock song with punchy horns.
- "Who Can It Be Now" by Men at Work. A rather bouncy, jazzy number with surprisingly dark lyrics about a person so paranoid he views any attempt at social contact as stalking. Word of God says it's just inspired by being hounded by debt collectors, but even then it's a pretty upbeat-sounding song for such subject matter.''Who can it be knocking at my door?Make no sound, tip-toe across the floorIf he hears, he'll knock all dayI'll be trapped, and here I'll have to stayI've done no harm, I keep to myself
- The band also has "Overkill", an upbeat reggae tune all about fears and paranoias taking the narrator's sleep.
- "Married With Children" by Oasis sounds like a carefree acoustic number, which is actually about how much the singer despises the person he is now stuck with for the rest of his life.
- Of course, that title should be an indicator.
- Ok Go's song "Don't Ask Me" is another upbeat pop-rock song about a break-up. "Don't be so damn begine/and don't waste my fucking time."
- The Police had an affinity for this trope throughout their lifetime.
- The downbeat yet gentle melody of "Every Breath You Take" (enhanced in, of all places,Wii Music) probably helped people see it just as a love song and miss the strong Stalker with a Crush vibes of the lyrics. Sting is downright appalled that people play the song in their weddings!
- Likewise, "Don't Stand So Close to Me" is a very happy song, about an affair between a teacher and his student, which downright starts with how the mutual attraction makes them uncomfortable... because she's half his age. The situation only gets worse, with the teacher raping the student (as confirmed by Sting in an interview) and the latter only facing bullying from her classmates one word gets out, all set to the same jaunty tune. Most people get that one, however, due to a Lolita Shout-Out in one verse. ("Just like the/Old man in/That book by Nabokov".)
- "Can't Stand Losing You" is catchy and cheerful— and about a guy who's planning to commit spiteful suicide after a breakup. The Subdued Section near the middle drops the dissonance for a bit, and makes the verse that much more powerful.
- Gee, the fun little ditty "De Do Do Do De Da Da Da" contains the lyrics "Their logic ties you up and rapes you." Crikey.
- "Message in a Bottle" is another song that sounds catchy, but is about a castaway who fears the prospect of being alone.
- How about "Synchronicity II"? Pretty upbeat song about a man being driven insane by his family, job, and life in suburbia.
- Or for that matter "Murder by Numbers", a nice, catchy song about how to be a Serial Killer.
- "Tie Your Mother Down": frustrated lyrics advocating extreme measures to avoid family interference with a date, sung in big massed choruses to an incredibly upbeat guitar riff.
- Then there's "Who Needs You" which is about breaking up with someone who is a 'spoilt thing", with a catchy, upbeat tune.
- And yet even more from Queen: "Don't Try Suicide". It's a swinging jazz tune with a cheery refrain all about the pointlessness of suicide.
- "Keep Yourself Alive". Same theme in hard rock guise.
- "Put Out The Fire", a cheery pop-rock tune...and the lyrics are told from the perspective of a man who used his gun against everyone he had a problem with, including his unfaithful lover and his neighbor she was having an affair with, and an allusion to the murder of John Lennon.
- "Under Pressure" is an incredibly upbeat and cheery song with lyrics such as "It's the terror of knowing what this world is about/Watching some good friends scream 'let me out'".
- "'39" is written in a fairly upbeat, A-flat major melody evoking jolly old sea shanties. Never mind that the entire song is about time dilation and its effects on a man's relationship with his daughter. The man doesn't age at all while on his mission, but relative to earth, it has been a hundred years and he never got to watch his kid grow up. Now, he's staring at his old daughter who is over 100, watching her die. "For the earth is old and grey, little darling went away, but my love this cannot be, for so many years have gone though I'm older but a year, your mother's eyes, from your eyes, cry to me." It's quite a depressing song, actually.
- "Hammer To Fall", an energetic arena rocker about waiting for death to inevitably arrive.
- "Good Company", a bouncy upbeat song (apart from a short, sad bridge) about a man who gets so caught up in his work that he ends up alone in his old age.
- The structure of Skunk Anansie's "Glorious Pop Song" sounds like just what the title suggests — Complete with clapping parts and "nanana"'s...and the chorus goes "You're still a fucker/ You're still a fucker/ You're still a fucker/ To me". And that's not even indicating half the anger and bitterness of the rest of the lyrics.
- Several songs by Sparks fall into this category, notably "Here in Heaven", which is sung from the point of view of the successful half of a broken suicide pact.
- Also of note is their 1974 single "Something For The Girl With Everything", a deceptively frothy and upbeat glam rock song which is actually about being blackmailed.
- Patti Smith performed an upbeat reggae-themed track on her Horses album, called Redondo Beach. On the face of it a summery light number about a California beach paradise, colonized by lesbian women. Listen more closely. It's a lament to Smith's younger sister Kimberley. She and Patti had a fight and Kimberley went off to sulk, and Patti later heard that a woman had been washed up on Redondo Beach, which was near where she was living at the time, and she freaked out that it might be Kimberley (because Patti Smith is a bit of a Drama Queen), but it wasn't, and when Kimberley returned home, Patti was so grateful to see her that the fight was completely forgotten.
- Bruce Springsteen often employs this. Many of his songs have an upbeat sing-along chorus, and it's only while listening to the lyrics in the verses that you discover what the song is actually about:
- "Born In The USA" sounds like it should be about how great being a U.S. citizen is...but it's about a man who's been beat down all his life, gets sent off to Vietnam, loses his brother (whose death also crushes a Vietnamese woman he was seeing), and ends up unemployable when he gets back. Some people who should have known better (George Will and Ronald Reagan among them) apparently didn't bother to listen to the rest of the song before talking about it.
- "Born to Run" is all about how horrible New Jersey is and how badly Springsteen wanted to get out of there as a kid. Naturally, it's been nominated as New Jersey's official state song by politicians who haven't listened too closely to it.
- Then there's "Glory Days", an energetic, high-tempo rocker about.. getting older and realizing the best part of life has passed you by, leaving you nothing to do but reminisce while you wait to die.
- There's also "Lonesome Day," which sounds anthemic and badass, but the lyrics are more a Survival Mantra for 9/11 widows and widowers.
- The title track from the album "The Rising" sounds like a triumphal song about a community effort equivalent to a barn raising or something, but once you realize that the album was a 9/11 tribute, you realize the part where it slows down for the bridge is the life of a fireman in one of the Twin Towers flashing before his eyes as he realizes the building is coming down on top of him.
- "Hungry Heart" sounds like a nice, upbeat 50s-style tune, but the lyrics are about a guy who got married, had kids, and then ran away from his family because he stopped being in love with his wife.
- "Working On the Highway". It is not about a dream summer job outdoors, but of forced labor as a prisoner.
- "Livin' In The Future." Quite up-tempo and the saxophone solo has a lot of swing to it, but the song is about the government's abuse of Americans' civil liberties.
- "Death To My Hometown" sounds like an upbeat folk song but, as the title suggests, the lyrics describe the destruction of a small town by rapacious corporate activity.
- "We Take Care of Our Own" appears to be a raucously upbeat song about how much Americans care for one another, but is actually about how, despite our good intentions and chest-pounding about how great it is to be American, we really don't take care of our own.
- "Easy Money" sounds awfully cheerful for a song about armed robbery.
- "Without You" is about a bad breakup, but you wouldn't know this from the raucous, cheerful music and the background laughter.
- "Photograph," as sung by Ringo Starr, has lyrics about losing a loved one forever, but is performed almost cheerfully and in such a way as to encourage singing along, complete with dramatic string crescendo at the end.
- Lynyrd Skynyrd did this a couple of times:
- "Saturday Night Special": a rocker not about partying, but about gun violence and how maybe banning them entirely wouldn't be a bad thing.
- "Gimme Three Steps": The title suggests a song to dance to, and the music delivers ... while the lyrics tell the singer's side of an incident where a jealous boyfriend points a gun at him and threatens to kill him for unknowingly dancing with the man's girlfriend at a local dive bar.
- "That Smell": Not Southern cookin' ... but the literal smell of marijuana and the figurative pall of death that was around the band due to everyone's increasing substance use.
- Stereophonics do this a lot — most effectively in "Local Boy In The Photograph" — an uptempo rock song...about the anniversary of a friend's death, who committed suicide by standing in the path of a train. Ouch.
- Also with "Innocent", an upbeat, happy sounding song about how a girl called Jenny gets drunk and high one night and possibly accidentally kills herself.
- Sting's "Brand New Day" is a bright, shiny, upbeat song about getting caught up in memories of an ex from years ago, bumping into them in the street that same day, and trying (possibly succeeding) to rekindle that romance. Naturally, it's the current title song of The Early Show and is constantly used in commercials for The Next Big Thing.
- It was also used in a promotional video for Compaq not long before the HP merger. "I'll sell the stock, we'll spend all the money" indeed.
- Sting's "Love is Stronger than Justice" sounds like it's about The Power of Love, and the chorus leans that way too - but in the verses you're treated to vigilantism, polygamy, and fratricide. (Specifically, the seven brothers fight some bandits in return for brides, but there's only one girl for them to marry; they all marry her, then the narrator murders the other six)
- Of course, the fact that the song is firmly in Sarcasm Mode is made clear in the chorus. Sting has some odd lyrics, but "love is a big fat river?" Seriously, Gordon?
- "La Belle Dame Sans Regret" (The Beautiful Woman with No Regrets, a reference to "La belle dame sans merci," a poem by John Keats) sounds like Caribbean-flavored bossa nova, the kind of stuff you'd hear at a poolside bar in Key West. Translate the lyrics, though, and it's about a woman who basically gets off on abusing the men who are entranced by her beauty, as sung by her current victim.
- The origin of that song is explained here. (Ctrl+ F is your friend.) It's based in mythology.
- Coincidentally, La Belle Dame Sans Merci is a well-known trope of dark romantic (mostly French, thus the name) literature. Strong sadomasochistic and mystical overtones included.
- It was also used in a promotional video for Compaq not long before the HP merger. "I'll sell the stock, we'll spend all the money" indeed.
- Styx's "Too Much Time on My Hands" has a bouncy, danceable sequencer rhythm part ... offset by lyrics about the plight of a guy who's got "nothing to do and all day to do it" and describes the abundance of time he suddenly hasnote as "tickin' away with my sanity."
- Venerable English songwriter Richard Thompson has done this on occasion. The best example is probably "Read About Love," an innocent-seeming upbeat dance tune with lyrics about a little boy who learns what "making love" is from magazines because his father won't talk to him about it; he ends up raping a girl because he thinks it's "supposed to feel nice" and doesn't know any better.
- His song "Bad Monkey" on his Sweet Warrior album is a ridiculously catchy song about drug addiction.
- And there's "Shane and Dixie", a peppy, danceable tune about the (unsuccessful) murder/suicide of the eponymous bank-robbing couple.
- "Feel So Good". An upbeat song that starts with the line "I feel so good I'm gonna break somebody's heart tonight"....
- "Jenny (867-5309)" by Tommy Tutone is a catchy tune about a guy who gets a (presumed to be loose) girl's phone number off the wall of a public toilet and plans on calling (or stalking) her. Subverted in Zayra Alvarez's cover on Rockstar: Supernova, where she made the creepiness explicit, bringing the performance into the headspace of the lyrics.
- "Band On The Run" from Band on the Run by Wings is a perky, cheerful song...about a rock band who were imprisoned for some unstated reason (though one verse implies that the reason might be robbery) and have escaped. It's thus also an example of Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Warren Zevon liked to use this. Examples are "Excitable Boy", an upbeat song with electric guitar solos that tells the story of a mad killer who is apparently "just an excitable boy", and "Werewolves of London", a bright little tune about, well, werewolves, including delightful lines about people getting mutilated and having their lungs ripped out. Not to mention "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner", which about...Roland...the...you get the idea.
- And "Mr. Bad Example", a bouncy almost carnival tune about a man who "opened up an agency somewhere down the line/To hire aboriginals to work the opal mines/But I attached their wages and took a whopping cut/And whisked away their workman's comp and pauperized the lot" This is not the only horrible thing the main character does.
- "Detox Mansion", a storming rock song with an epic riff which is about the pallid boredom of being in rehab.
- And "Mr. Bad Example", a bouncy almost carnival tune about a man who "opened up an agency somewhere down the line/To hire aboriginals to work the opal mines/But I attached their wages and took a whopping cut/And whisked away their workman's comp and pauperized the lot" This is not the only horrible thing the main character does.
- U2 usually avoids this, but their song "A Day Without Me" is a rather cheery song about someone contemplating suicide.
- The The Grateful Dead's "Touch of Grey" is about how we have to deal with all the depressing crap in our lives, but is set to a cheery, light tune.
- "Hotel California" is a soothing rock ballad that, depending on how you interpret it, may be either about drug addiction, Hell, or prostitution.
- Actually, the song is about celebrity life and the hell it turns into. So, pretty dark. Joe Walsh seems to have liked this - "Life's Been Good" sounds cheerful and peppy, but is about the same thing as Hotel California, except MORE sardonic and bitter.
- Uncle Kracker's "Follow Me" doesn't seem to have any meaning at first, but it's actually about the singer having an affair with a married woman.
- "Swim through your veins/like a fish in the sea"? It's about heroin.
- "I'm not worried 'bout the ring you wear, as long as no one knows, then nobody can care. I'm not the reason that you go astray..." Yeah, it's an affair.
- Word of God says it's sort of about both/either. Looking more closely, there are only a few lines that seem to be specifically about an affair. The rest all seem to be about a general secretive self-destructive lifestyle.
- "Swim through your veins/like a fish in the sea"? It's about heroin.
- Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" — a bouncy, happy tune about Iggy's life as a hard-living heroin addict. And going on the occasional Royal Caribbean Cruise, apparently.
- 10cc's "Rubber Bullets" is a happy, peppy, upbeat tune about a prison riot.
"I keep your picture on the wall,It hides a nasty stain that's lying there"
- 10cc are extremely fond of this trope; "The Things We Do for Love" is a bouncy song about breakups, "You've Got a Cold" is set to what is possibly the happiest music of any of their songs and "Dreadlock Holiday" is a catchy tune about a British tourist attempting to convince a group of Jamaican thugs not to mug him.
- They also like self-subverting couplets, as in "I'm Not In Love":
- Hell, the entire song is a sort of example; the whole lyric is about how the singer is absolutely, positively not in love with the person he's singing to, but his anguished delivery tells a different story. Gouldman wrote it with the idea of how you try to avoid admitting you're in love.
- George Thorogood's "I Drink Alone" is usually misunderstood as a celebratory anthem by people who don't listen to the lyrics in the verses that talk about how the singer has to down several beers after waking up to take the edge off his nightmares, or how his drinking has become so problematic that his family and friends have given up on him.
- Bob Dylan uses this from time to time. The most famous instance, however, is "Like a Rolling Stone," in which happy (or at least happy-ish) and bright music contrasts with Dylan's incredibly cynical tirade against a girl who finds herself on the street after living a life of privilege. Please note that this is often considered the best rock song of all time.note
- And there is also "Tangled Up in Blue" from Blood on the Tracks, which is one of his happiest, catchiest tunes, although the lyrics tell the story of a breakup.
- "Positively Fourth Street" juxtaposes some of the nastiest diss lyricsnote with a relentlessy cheery, carnivalesque musical backdrop.
- William Shatner's much-mocked Spoken Word version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" restores the darkness to the song that the Byrds' smooth harmonies obscured: the singer is begging his dealer for another fix as he has no money nor anything else he can give. But it, too, has a rather cheery musical backing.
- Meat Loaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" seems at first to be a love story (slightly drawn out and oddly described, but never mind) but changes fairly suddenly from the singer promising to "love you to the end of time" to regretting that promise ("so now I'm praying for the end of time...").
- Specifically, it's about a teenage boy cajoling his girl to have sex with him, with her only promising to do so if he stays with her forever. The last verse, quite upbeat and high tempo, is the two some time later realizing what a mistake that was.
- Paul McCartney and Wings' "Live and Let Die" (covered by Guns N' Roses) is pretty happy, if aggressive, and to be fair, it's sparse on the lyrics, but what is there is chastising a naive listener for caring about other people.
- But it fits the person for whom the song was written for...
- The Rolling Stones loved doing this.
No more running for the shelter of a mother's little helper
- "Sympathy For The Devil" from Beggars Banquet is an erudite, brooding meditation of the dark side of human nature, using 2,000 years of human history as a backdrop sung by Lucifer himself...set to a fun uptempo samba beat, complete with an infectious "woo woo" chant.
- "Brown Sugar" from Sticky Fingers is a rousing rocker about sexual exploitation of slaves in the pre-Civil War South.
- "Jumping Jack Flash" is about how the singer's life was terrible, such as losing his parents and instead being raised by "a toothless bearded hag", but that it's "all right now". Now listen to it in Elite Beat Agents.
- "Backstreet Girl", an incredibly beautiful Parisian tune about a high class man (possibly Mick Jagger himself?) telling his mistress that they can't be together in his public life.
- "Mother's Little Helper" is a peppy little number about a housewife who overdoses on tranquilizers.
They just helped you on your way through your busy dying day
- Dire Straits has several examples: Their famous song "Money for Nothing" is a driving rock ballad with a beat that can move your whole body. It's a bitter rant by a blue-collar worker about how ordinary people break their backs working for a living while rock stars with no talent get rich. All while the background chorus laments, "I want my, I want my MTV..."
- Pearl Jam's done this a couple times:
- "Even Flow" is a very intense-sounding song...about life through the eyes of a homeless person, who sleeps on the streets ("Freezing / Rests his head on a pillow made of concrete"), is illiterate (Even / Looking through the paper though he doesn't know how to read) and possibly mentally ill, as he "looks insane" when he smiles and struggles to keep coherent thoughts (Even Flow / Thoughts arrive like butterflies / He don't know / So he chases them away)
- "Alive" from Ten (Pearl Jam Album) sounds like a rousing anthem about life but is about a mother falling in love with her son, who looks just like his dead father, and sexually abusing him.
- Subverted: Eddie Vedder stated that the positive fan response has changed the meaning of the song into a rousing anthem about life.
- "Jeremy" comes off as a fairly upbeat song but is about a kid who killed himself in front of his high school English class (made even more disturbing by the video for it).
- "Better Man", another song grievously misinterpreted by its listeners (as a love song), is actually a song about abusive relationships from the woman's point of view, and Eddie Vedder himself said it's "dedicated to the bastard that married my Momma".
- The opposite end of the trope brings us "Spin the Black Circle", which sounds very dark and the vocals in it border on screaming at parts, but it's actually about vinyl records.
- The first few lines of that song also seem specifically written to mislead the listener into thinking it's going to be about heroin ("See this needle, see my hand, drop-drop-droppin' it down, oh so gently")
- "Glorified G", one of their peppiest sounding songs, sung from the point of view of a gun nut.
- "Do The Evolution" sounds like an upbeat song with its own dance routine. However, it's about the brutal realities of human evolution over the decades with war, poverty, pollution, the 1%, etc. The music video directed by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane brings the lyrics to life.
- "Crash Into Me" by Dave Matthews Band. It sounds like a beautiful, southern-style acoustic love song, but according to Dave Matthews the narrator is either a peeping Tom, a fifteen-year-old boy having a sexual fantasy, or both.
- There's also "So Damn Lucky", an upbeat song about a car crash after getting drunk at the bar.
- Many of Jack White's songs use this.
- Of special note is the song off of the Raconteur's second album, "Carolina Drama". A relatively upbeat bluegrassy tune about parental abandonment, murder (specifically patricide). Of course this is in keeping with the majority of bluegrass and old-timey tunes, with upbeat fiddles and bangos about horrible, horrible things.
- The White Stripes song "Apple Blossom" is a subtle example. The narrator figure sounds like a Dogged Nice Guy assuring his beloved that while other guys don't really care for her, he's different and will always take care of her. Uh-huh.
- Electric Light Orchestra, especially in the eighties, has several of songs with upbeat music and depressing lyrics. Some examples include:
- "Calling America", about a guy whose girlfriend has gone to America and gave him a fake number, but he calls it anyway, hoping that she'll pick up.
- "Four Little Diamonds", which is about a man hunting down his ex because she scammed him out of money and jewelry.
- "White Punks On Dope" by The Tubes. Probably the most upbeat song to contain the line "I'll hang myself when I get enough rope".
- There's also "Mr. Hate", which has a neurotic guy kill his family and then go on the run from the cops.
- Frank Zappa's "Bobby Brown Goes Down" from Sheik Yerbouti is a good example of this. Basically a cheerful song...about a preppy kinda jerk guy moving from raping women into gay BDS;. "With a spindle up my butt 'til it makes me scream!"
- "Fake" by The Frames is a typical rock song, but the lyrics are about a guy whose ex repeatedly tries to get him to forget she ever existed, and he continues to point out how bad her new partner is.
- The video adds a whole new layer of dissonance.
- Canadian musician Matthew Good has a few songs like this: "Moon Over Marin" (a cover of a Dead Kennedy's song) is a slow, somewhat dreamy kind of song about a guy who can't walk on the beach outside his house without a gas mask and hazard suit because it's so polluted. "Silent Army in the Trees" is a driving rock song about a military man holding his friends and watching them bleed, then getting home and still being haunted by the horrors of war. "Vancouver National Anthem" is, contrary to the title and upbeat music, is about how Vancouver is segregated between the rich and the poor, and everyone dies downtown.
- Horror punk (Exactly What It Says on the Tin) incorporates doo-wop and rockabilly influences for this effect. Trope Makers The Misfits, whose lyrics have a tendency to Cross The Line Twice, have smoother melodies than their Hardcore Punk peers.
- The Misfits' "Skulls" is already a very poppy song considering the subject matter, but The Lemonheads recorded a slowed down, acoustic cover, where Evan Dando delivers lines like "Demon I am and face I peel / To see your skin turned inside out" like he's singing a romantic ballad.
- Avenged Sevenfold's "A Little Piece of Heaven" is a jazzy, upbeat song with a vaguely "cicusy"/ska feel, which is about a man brutally murdering his girlfriend (like Cannibal Corpse brutal)because he's worried about losing her, and having sex with her corpse. Apparently, she's a better lay dead than alive. Then it gets worse.
- Eyes over easy, eat it, eat it, eat it!
- Thin Lizzy:
- "Fats" is a jouncy, swing-ish Murder Ballad about a jazz saxophonist. The Renegade album also includes the happy, Latin-tinged "Mexican Blood", which is last seen exiting the song's Spicy Latina protagonist.
- Their biggest hit "The Boys Are Back In Town" certainly qualifies. It might sound like a wistful celebration of summer and youth, but lyrics such as "drinks will flow and blood will spill/and if the boys want to fight you better let 'em'" makes "The boys" look like violent psychos.
- Upbeat songs with dark lyrics is one of the hallmarks of Steely Dan's music:
- "Everyone's Gone to the Movies" is a peppy, upbeat song with marimba-percussion. The lyrics are about a guy who shows porn movies to kids he lures into his house.
- "Kid Charlemagne" ... a funky, danceable groove underlying lyrics about a once-successful drug dealer now on the run from the police.
- "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" is about a botched bank heist.
- "Hey Nineteen" is about a failing May–December Romance.
- "Time Out of Mind": The band's last single from its original run is, musically, pretty standard smooth jazz-pop for the time, sort of like what they would have played over the PA system in arenas as fans filtered in for the game...with lyrics about smoking black tar heroin.
- "My Old School" is about how much Donald Fagen and Walter Becker hate their alma mater Bard College for being complicit in a drug raid by sheriff's deputies of the college's dorms in 1969, which resulted in 50 students (including Fagen and Becker) being arrested with little to no evidence.
- "Chain Lightning" is a 6/8 jazz shuffle with lyrics that invoke a sense of Orwell.
- "Deacon Blues" sounds somber and morose, until you realize that the lyrics are about a hipster wannabe who wants to mythologize himself by adopting the nickname of a losing college sports team (the Wake Forest Demon Deacons—as contrasted with the winning Alabama Crimson Tide).
- Donald Fagen's solo work is definitely not immune to this trope. His crowning solo achievement has to be "I.G.Y.", in which he marvels, "Here at home we'll play in the city / Powered by the sun / Perfect weather for a streamlined world / There'll be spandex jackets one for everyone," followed by the chorus of, "What a beautiful world this will be / What a glorious time to be free." Then you look up what "I.G.Y." stands for: the International Geophysical Year, when over 60 countries collaborated scientifically in 1957-58. Probably the stealthiest uses of Nostalgia Filter and I Want My Jetpack on record, the song explicitly reflects on the oft-held notion that Baby Boomers, the generation born 1954-1964 and referred to as the Generation of Promise, failed to deliver on securing a better future for their progeny. Bonus points for the song holding additional currency 30+ years after its original release, as the United States falls deeper and deeper into an ultra-politicized climate where hatred for boomers is at an all time high (for example the “Ok Boomer” meme).
- Don Henley's "Not Enough Love in the World" qualifies. The tune is that of a breezy, jazz- or soul-influenced love song. The lyrical content concerns a relationship fizzling because neither partner knows how to make the other happy (which, by the standards of most other songs on this page, seems relatively mild).
- Modern English's "Melt With You" is about a couple having sex during a nuclear war. When the protagonist says to his girlfriend, "melt with you", he means it LITERALLY.
- "The Enemies" by Everything Else is one of their more upbeat sounding songs. It features the line "...And we murder each other..."
- The Cars, "Just What I Needed":
- I guess you're just what I needed (just what I needed)
I needed someone to feed
I guess you're just what I needed (just what I needed)
I needed someone to bleed
- "You're All I've Got Tonight" is about a one-night stand.
- Sugar Ray's "New Direction" is a deliberate parody - a short mock-Death Metal song with lyrics like "Don't play ball in the house / Don't play with scissors / Be nice to cops".
- Played for Laughs in The Offspring's "When You're In Prison". The song's tune is very gay and catchy, performed as a 1930s crooner dinner theater-style jingle. The lyrics, well...
- This represents a very large part of Carly Simon's career — her first single, "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be", has seemingly happy lyrics about getting married to a dark, dirge-like tune indicative of extreme ambivalence. "Anticipation" is a severe case of pre-date jitters to a triumphal backing track. "You Belong To Me" appears to be about trying to convince herself that a cheater is not a cheater over a jazzy, almost raunchy sax riff, while "Better Not Tell Her" from over a decade later seems to refer to the same or a similar relationship years down the road, after it collapsed and the other has moved on; the tune is angry and bitter, but it becomes clear by the end of the song as the music begins to match the lyrics that the singer's actually not so much angry as having a jealous breakdown over the whole thing. And — possibly the most emblematic of Simon's entire career — "Jesse" is a gushy song about looking forward to seeing a guy who she knows is really bad news but who she can never say no to. (Averted, however, in her big 80s hit "Coming Around Again" — the slow, spacy synthpop melody pretty much exactly matches the lyrics of a frustrated woman wandering through her life in a fog. It does however render the reprise (actually a cover of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" to the same tune on side 2, featuring the voices of her kids singing backup) a very, very strange experience.)
- The J. Geils Band's Centerfold. The music is uplifting and fun...except you realize the lyrics are about a man finding out his high-school crush is now on the centerfold of a girlie magazine and he's not too happy about it.
- "Goin' Down" by The Monkees is a fast-paced, upbeat song...about a guy having second thoughts after trying to drown himself.
- Cryoshell, a Danish rock-band created originally to write songs for Lego-advertisements, have released an album. This album is anything but child-friendly, though. "Creeping in my Soul", one of their "Lego-songs", got a major overhaul for the album, making it sound a bit more rock-like than the pop-version Lego used in their ads. The lyrics didn't change, making it slightly unnerving.
There's a room that I can't find.A place I can't de-mystify.I cry sometimes.But the stains won't wash away.There's a place that I can't find.'Cause my weary heart won't fortify.Where are you now?Won't you...Won't you just die?
- Another example from that album: The Room. If you disregard the chorus, it's a happy love-song and all. If you don't disregard the chorus, it's a happy love-song about someone who secretly wants their partner dead.
- Generally, the entire freaking album can qualify, as only one or two songs actually have lyrics that fit the melody. Way to set a standard for your first album!
- Your Friend And Mine - Neil's Song" by Love, a Take That! to a recently deceased friend of Arthur Lee's, set to a happy country tune.
- Phil Collins has "Take Me Home". A very upbeat song, with one of the most catchy choruses of the decade (which is saying something, since the 80's was a time of catchy choruses), which was allegedly inspired by the book "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" and was written from the point of view of a mental patient. The line "They can turn off my feeling, like they're turning off a light" is downright sinister, if you have read the book.
I can see through my windows. I can see the girls and the boys. I can see through my windows, and I can imagine the noise. I can see through my windows...I can see them playing with toys
- "Thru' These Walls" is like "In the Air Tonight", but at a much peppier tempo...and if it were about a schizophrenic pervert.
- "I Missed Again" is a jaunty, danceable song about...the failure of Collins' marriage. As is "Behind the Lines" (which, written earlier in the divorce, still held out hope of saving things). Collins' version, also on his debut album, peppier and more danceable, fits this trope more than the Genesis version. Later on that album, another track in the is vein, "I'm not Moving" is the singer suggesting he's going to indulge his partner in her dalliances and tantrums in the interest of attempting to save the relationship.
- For his second album, Collins took the chords of the genuinely happy "This Must Be Love" from his first album and built the exuberant "I Cannot Believe It's True" around them. The song sounds like perfect party music, while the lyrics again turn over Collins' failed marriage and the way issues from it keep coming back.
- Years after that, "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven" is the same type of song: upbeat musically as the singer recalls the good times and tries to rekindle a relationship that seems almost over.
- With Phillip Bailey, "Easy Lover". The most cheerful warning about a maneater ever.
- Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal's "Glad To Be Here" is a great example of this. It sounds like a nice and happy song when you just see the title and hear the upbeat intro. Then Bumblefoot starts singing, and it kinda gets darker...and darker. The verses are especially bad in this aspect:Verse 1:Well, I'm so glad to be here I could slit my fucking wrist!This chaos is just what I need to keep me nice and pissed!My chest fills up with acid 'til the veins pop in my head!I wake up every morning wishing God would strike me dead!Verse 2:I'm so glad to be here I could jump of every bridge!But everybody's got a rope around one of my limbs!They're trying to get their piece, that's why they're tearing me apart!They wanna get inside me, so they can kick around my heart!Verse 3:I'm so glad I could just hang myself from the highest tree!I'm longing for the rush of crushing trains over me!I haven't had a good night's sleep since 1995!And I'm too tired to ask why I keep myself alive!
- Muse's "Guiding Light" sounds uplifting, but the lyrics talk about being "lost, crushed, cold and confused with no guiding light left inside."
- The Iron City Houserockers' "Junior's Bar" is an uptempo bar-band rocker about a barfly so desperate to score a date that he hits on an underage girl...and even then, he leaves the bar alone.
- "Rooftops" by Lostprophets. The song is very upbeat, and the lyrics are too at first...but in the bridge, "Standing on the rooftops/Wait until the bomb drops…" So, yes, the song is about people in a war comforting themselves because they know they are all about to die.
- "New York Mining Disaster 1941" by The Bee Gees is an upbeat-sounding song about two miners being trapped after a cave-in waiting for help that will never come.
- "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" is a classic, jaunty rock song with epic guitar riffs and an abundance of MORE COWBELL. It's super fun, really...until you realize it's about the inevitability of death (often misinterpreted as being about suicide).
- The Colombian band 1280 Almas has the song "El Platanal". Despite the jolly reggae rhythm, the lyrics of the song describe a bloody massacre and the despair of the people who lost their relatives in it.
- "Halloween Parade" by Lou Reed is a jaunty-sounding, country-tinged song, sung in a laid back style, with lyrics about attending the annual Halloween Parade in NYC at the height of the AIDS epidemic and being painfully aware how so many more of the old familiar faces are gone each year.
- Smash Mouth scored it big with "Walking On The Sun", a peppy, upbeat surf rock... about the struggle to overcome the generation gap and not repeat the mistakes of our elders in getting complacent and conservative.
Rock and Roll
- An accidental (and possibly apocryphal) example involving Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog." The scores delivered to the musicians of the Ed Sullivan Show were instrumental, and somehow, the conductor thought the song was a romantic ballad. There wasn't enough time to correct the error, so Elvis performed it as a romantic ballad...sung to a stuffed basset hound.
- Chris Isaak's "I Believe" is about a guy who broke up with his girl, and is now kind of sad about it (so what else is new?). The tune, however, is only one step removed from "I'm Walkin' on Sunshine".
- "Car Crash/Dead Lover" was practically a genre of its own in the 50s and 60s, many examples of which are set to melodies that are actually quite cheerful. "Last Kiss", "Tell Laura I Love Her", "Dead Man's Curve"...
- "Runaway" by Del Shannon; a bright, upbeat song (featuring an early synthesizer, no less), but the lyrics are about the protagonist's girlfriend dumping him.
- "I Fought The Law" by Sonny Curtis (later popularized by The Clash) is a pretty lively and catchy song, considering that the lyrics are being told from the point of view of a criminal who's in jail after a crime spree.
- "It's My Party (and I'll Cry if I Want To)" has music that's typical bouncy '60s pop, but you may be able to guess from the alterna-title what it's about: the singer's crush (or possibly boyfriend, which would make it even worse) is hooking up with some other girl at the singer's birthday party.
- "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival famously juxtaposes an incredibly upbeat, even comforting melody with lyrics warning of Judgment Day.
- John Fogerty seems to like the whole thing as "Vanz Kant Danz" off "Centerfield" has an upbeat backing to lyrics that are rather unflattering to Saul Zaentz, owner of Fantasy Records, who sued John Fogerty for plagarising himself. The title was originally "Zanz Kant Danz", but Zaentz's lawsuit forced Fogerty to rerecord it.
- A hallmark of Randy Newman's songs. "Sail Away" for example, is a rousing paean to America, meant to be sung by a slave trader. And then there's "Political Science", which lists the benefits of solving all America's problems with mass nuclear genocide.
- Newman's "I Love L.A." is a wholly ironic song which contained veiled jabs at LA's scorching heat and homelessness problem, but if you ignore those two lines, it can easily be taken at face value, to the point where the LA Visitors Bureau used the song unironically to encourage tourism!
- There's also a song from Peter Schilling (famous for his One-Hit Wonder "Major Tom") called "(Let's Play) USA" that is a peppy, upbeat rock song about Eagleland Type 2, and lodged firmly in Sarcasm Mode.How I love the life I leadCannot think and cannot readWatch our values slip awayPlay the game of USA!
- He also came up with a song called "Lifetime Guarantee," that sounds like a breezy vacation tune...but is about a Crapsaccharine World so synthetic and false, it makes The Truman Show look genuine.
- “Major Tom” itself also qualifies, being a fast-paced, rocking song about an astronaut being stranded in space and then burning up on re-entry.
- "Sunny Came Home" by Shawn Colvin is a calm, relaxing tune that tells the story of Sunny, who makes a few "repairs" to her gas stove before lighting a match* :Get the kids and bring a sweaterDry is good and wind is betterCount the years, you always knew itStrike a match, go on and do it.
- "The Way it Is" by Bruce Hornsby and the Range is a smooth, mellow, keyboard-driven soft rock ballad about how the apathy and willful resignation of the privileged to inherently racist and classist systems and the suffering people endure under them is just as oppressive as active bigotry.
- The Birthday Massacre loves this trope.
- "Looking Glass", which is a cheery and upbeat song about being betrayed by someone you love.
- Similarly, their song "Happy Birthday" is a bright number about — you guessed it — a birthday massacre, containing lyrics like: I think my friend said, "Stick it in the back of her head"/I think my friend said, "Two of them are sisters"/"I'm a murder tramp, birthday boy," I think I said/"I'm gonna bash them in, bash them in," I think he said.
- "Blue" swings wildly around, music-wise- it begins with heavy bass and some strange high notes, before turning into a bright song with Chibi singing sweetly about how she appears to have been stood up by someone...until the song moves into the chorus and she starts the demonic growling.
- "Video Kid" sounds sweet, but it appears to be sung by a woman who uses men, breaks their hearts and ditches them.
- "Nevermind" is a catchy dance song about an intoxicated party girl being raped.
- "To Die For" is an epic song that is about a relationship that's falling apart.
- "Under The Stairs", a sweet song which is about someone who has been abused and is planning to get revenge on their tormentor, possibly by committing suicide.
- The song "Goodnight" may also fall under this trope. It sounds fairly upbeat while having negative-sounding lyrics.
- "Play Dead" sounds like the narrator is attempting to convince someone to run away with her. All good and fine, until she gets to the line 'I'll cast you a spell/a magic where everyone plays dead forever/ and after tonight/ they'll never remind you.' Which doesn't sound so good...
- "Falling Down" appears to be about an abusive ex-partner/ex-friend and their various faults.
- "Horror Show" sounds vaguely peppy, but it's about self-absorbed teenagers who "have everything" but still insist on being miserable, stating that "they're sick and all alone," with the singer lamenting that "they will never look the same."
- Similarly, "Violet" turns out to be about dysfunctional, codependent relationships. Needless to say, the music is a catchy dance tune.
- "Always" is a bright little tune that also happens to be a breakup song.
- "Shallow Grave" is a happy, poppy song, which may possibly be about a group of friends killing or attempting to kill a girl who's annoyed them.
- "Two Hearts" is a catchy rock song about an abusive relationship ("Two hearts beating, one beats the other/while the other just looks away").
- Pathfinder does a cover of Moonlight Shadow, a song about a woman helplessly watching her boyfriend getting shot up in a crossfire between the police and a fugitive, and consoling herself with the thought that she'll get to see him again in Heaven, with soaring, speedy and fun power metal music, with an operatic bit in the middle. Which gives the impression that she's incredibly happy about it.