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Freaky Electronic Music

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"Watch me obliterate Tokyo with my secret weapon — DJ Play will summon up demons!"
Gōji Rokkaku, Jet Set Radio

The main characters are in a very bad place. They are surrounded by dozens of mooks, The Ace is down, and they are out of Applied Phlebotinum. Suddenly...

Oh, Crap!... Do you hear that ominous bass drop? There is no more doubt: the Big Bad is coming.

Basically, this is when Electronic Music is associated with the villains. Historically, it comes from several factors. First of all, this trope is the natural evolution of the association of Evil and Rock'n Roll in public consciousness: it's popular (so it's dumb), it's loud and unartistic. In other words it is bad music, so it is logical that it should be associated with bad guys, right? Then, Rock & Roll and all his punk and metallic siblings (the previous musical scapegoats) progressively lost their "rebellious" vibe throughout the years, and the use of this genre for the villains' Leitmotifs mostly appears as a Dead Horse Trope.

In effect, the electro soundtrack gives to the villain an overwhelming aura, while the association of extremely sharp and low noises also gives to its presence an uncanny feeling of disharmony. Because of the rift between the electro fans and haters, the music could at the same time make the bad guy look awesome and badass or an unbearable and tasteless Scrappy, turning the character into a Base-Breaking Character.

Despite the "Evil Electro" name, the trope does not only apply to Hip-Hop inspired electronic music. As a villain theme, the main characteristic is that it must be scary in some way, which is usually done by the aggressiveness of the beats. All Electronic Music does not necessarily work well for a villainous leitmotif:

The trope also has its own little Sub-Trope: the Deadly DJ. After all, what could be more evil than the guy who creates Freaky Electronic Music? This Musical Assassin (who doubles as a Dreadful Musician for some) will often be portrayed as a cocky clubber, flamboyant but lazy (because Electronic Music has the bad reputation of being "easy to make"; the use of samples is often considered a "theft" showing how unimaginative they are) and wasting all their money — that they earned thanks to all the sheeple who bought their crappy music, remember? — in extravagant parties.

It also allows to include Evil Electronic Music in a more diegetic way, wherein the heroes have to use the Power of Rock (ironically enough) in order to defeat the DJ in a Battle of the Bands and prove that "real" music will always win over their engineered and soulless noises. Obviously, their own composition will serve as Battle Theme Music, or it could be a fitting Boss Remix.note 

Outside of the army of bodyguards and corrupted people in his pocket, the Deadly DJ's favorite weapons usually are the Dubstep Gun and Sharp Vinyl Discs. A usual representation of the Deadly DJ is an Expy of Daft Punk or deadmau5 and their eccentric helmets, or Lady Gaga and her no-less eccentric outfits and hairstyle for a female variant.

Electronic music is also the theme of most Killer Robots, malevolent AIs and other Mechanical Abominations. When the metallic creature appears and its electronic tune starts playing, it feels like if the distorted noises were coming directly from it, almost like if that amalgamate of codes and circuitry was screaming its rage and its pain at the face of mankind. It would be poetic, if it wasn't simultaneously trying to disintegrate your face with some deadly lasers. Similarly, Industrial is often and fittingly enough the soundtrack of Eternal Engines and Nightmarish Factories, the violent slams of the presses marking the beat.

Visually, it is often represented by distorted Tron Lines, Epileptic Flashing Lights and rainbow-colored volume bars — all of this potentially attacking the target with Hard Light.

Compare Cyber Punk Is Techno when its Black And Grey characters have electronic leitmotifs, Creepy Jazz Music for the Jazz equivalent of this trope, Rotten Rock & Roll for the Rock equivalent of the trope, and Rock Me, Asmodeus! when rock music is associated with the Devil himself. No direct relation with Psycho Electro, though electricity is often an Elemental Power associated with this kind of villains. May overlap with Circus Synths, in Creepy Circus Music.

One final note: if you didn't get it, a lot of this intro is written with Sarcasm Mode on. Of course, Electronic Music is not "soulless", "unartistic" and "evil", everything is a matter of personal taste. Thus, No Real Life Examples, Please! This page has no vocation of listing all the electronic music that you hate, no matter how terrible you think it sounds and how douchey their creators could be.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The Wicked + The Divine:
    • Woden has a character design clearly modeled after the Daft Punk members and is also one of the most morally reprehensible Jerkass characters in the series.
    • Inverted by his “nemesis”, Dionysus, who is the in-universe divine equivalent of a DJ with Hive Mind / Mind Control powers...and is totally a Nice Guy to the Nth degree. He just wants people to be happy! His debut issue even features a visual beat with mood-based color shifts.

    Films — Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks: Inverted in which dubstep enthusiast Vinyl Scratch is the one saving the day by helping the Mane Seven defeat the Dazzlings and their hypnotic siren chants with her Rockin' Convertible (although the actual song used to defeat them is more pop than electro).
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Downplayed. The theme for Hero's Duty is a dubstep piece composed by Skrillex himself. It is not associated with an evil character in particular (as it can be seen as both the theme for Sergeant Calhoun and the Cy-Bugs), but it is clearly supposed to evoke violence and fear (as Ralph feels throughout his "game session") especially when compared to AKB48's "Sugar Rush."
  • Home (2015): Although the movie has a rather lighthearted electro-pop soundtrack (which is no surprise, considering that Rihanna voices the female lead), the Big Bad has a contrasting and stressing drum'n'bass leitmotif.
  • The Angry Birds Movie: The pigs distract the birds to steal their eggs by throwing a huge party with Daft Piggy (helmet and all) at the turntable.
  • Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation: Inside the Instrument of Destruction is sheet music, that, when played, mind controls the Kraken into destroying everything. In attempt to have the Kraken kill all monsters, Abraham Van Helsing plays an EDM rendition of this song. He comes very close to succeeding.
  • Sahara: The Disney Acid Sequence where Eva is hypnotized by the Big Bad, Omar, features electronic dance music accompanied by eerie, Arabian-style female vocals.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 

    Theme Parks 
  • Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream had the "Death Jockey" — an evil DJ that kills his victims with earsplitting music and burning lights - as the "Icon" of the event in 2007.

    Video Games 
  • Splatoon as a whole actually zig-zags this trope, as there is plenty of electronic-type music representing the good guys (which include a number of DJs), but it still tends to play it straight with regard to the villains:
    • The soundtrack for the single player levels in Octo Valley and Octo Canyon is electronic music mashed together from various samples and an eccentric array of synthetic sounds (with the "burp" synths being perhaps the most notable). In-universe, it's performed by the official band of the Octarian military (with the developers confirming that the music is meant to have a bit of a militaristic and mechanical "marching" feel to it).
    • The Octarian military leader, DJ Octavio, embodies the Deadly DJ subtrope. In-universe, he composes all of the Octarians' music (including his own boss themes, which he plays during all his battles), and pilots a DJ booth-shaped Humongous Mecha operated via turntables that he uses to bring the house down with his "spicy wasabi beats". The "defeated by 'real' music" scenario ends up happening at the end of his boss fights in the first two games; as Agent 3/4 makes their last push, the Squid Sisters hijack his broadcast with "Calamari Inkantation", which not even Octavio himself can resist dancing to. That said, even in-universe he's universally acknowledged as a genuinely capable musician and composer, and his DJing skills end up being used to help save the entire world during Splatoon 3's final boss fight, courtesy of his own remix of "Calamari Inkantation."
    • Splatoon 2's Final Boss fight features electronic remixes of Squid Sister songs done in-universe by DJ Octavio himself which make heavy use of orchestral samples. The first phase starts off with a frantic mix of "Bomb Rush Blush" with vocals provided by a Brainwashed and Crazy Callie. The second phase's music, "Tidal Rush", mixes in Marie's solo song "Tide Goes Out" and leans more towards Sad Battle Music, as it represents Marie trying to reach out to Callie and save her from DJ Octavio's "remixing". The final phase actually inverts this trope with an electronic remix of Calamari Inkantation sung by both Squid Sisters to cheer you on.
    • In Splatoon 2's Octo Expansion DLC campaign, the fight against Agent 3 under the control of the Big Bad takes the series' main theme, "Splattack!", and turns it into a frantic breakcore piece. It's never mentioned in-game, but the official Splatoon Tumblr blog and other sources states that the in-universe musician credited for the remix (as well as most of the other electronica pieces heard throughout the mysterious and rather menacing Deepsea Metro) was a willing victim of the brainwashing technique used by the campaign's Big Bad. Though if their song titles are anything to go by, they greatly regret their decision.
    • Most of Salmon Run's soundtrack is chaotic-sounding electronic music in Uncommon Time featuring cello and tympani. In-universe, it's played by an off-screen Salmonid band to help motivate the fishy hordes baying for your inky flesh.
  • ARIA, the Big Bad from the Killer Instinct reboot, has a Drum And Bass-style theme song. A bit downplayed since most of the characters actually have an electro leitmotif, but ARIA's one is arguably more aggressive than the others.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In Sonic the Hedgehog CD's Japanese version, all of the Bad Future themes are techno.
    • In Sonic Lost World, Zavok's battle theme starts out with just orchestra instruments, but later adds some wubs, essentially turning into a dubstep remix of itself.
    • Infinite's theme from Sonic Forces is a Boastful Rap set to hardcore dubstep, and his battle themes are all Boss Remixes in a similar style, but more fast-paced and intensenote . Metal Sonic's boss theme also leans into this, being a dubstep-heavy remix of the Stardust Speedway Bad Future theme.
  • The better instance of the trope in DmC: Devil May Cry's is Lilith's Club, a psychedelic and Tron-esque place managed by the concubine of Mundus. A good chunk of soundtrack has been done by Noisia, including the aforementioned club level.
  • Matt Miller and the Deckers' level in Saints Row: The Third is a Cyberspace filled with electro and dubstep music.
    • Averted in its sequel which moved away from its hip-hop roots and totally adopted an electronic aesthetic (did someone said Dubstep Gun?). Justified not only by Matt Miller's Heel–Face Turn in the previous game but also by the fact that the main characters are trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine.
  • The game Monster High: New Ghoul in School has a surprisingly catchy electronic OST. Subverted in the sense that the environment and characters are based on classical Horror Tropes but are not actually evil by nature.
  • Mass Effect: Saren's theme is a menacing sounding synthesizer piece, which also plays whenever you get a Game Over.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Adventure Mode uses an electronic Dark Reprise of the game's main theme in the levels that take place in Subspace, Tabuu's realm. Tabuu himself has electronic music in parts of his battle theme.
  • The Twilight beasts in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess are announced by distorted, muted electronic music. This is combined with use of Tron Lines and floating pixels to emphasize how alien they are in a medieval fantasy setting.
  • Omega/Photoshop Flowey's theme "Your Best Nightmare" in Undertale — which in itself is a Dark Reprise of an upbeat chiptune theme — is some kind of orchestral/breakcore combination which, combined with the Interface Screw and his over-realistic sprites, really inspires an eerie feeling.
  • Crash Bandicoot:
    • Crash Bandicoot (1996): The levels Heavy and Castle Machinery, Toxic Waste, Cortex Power and especially Generator Room are all part of Big Bad Dr. Neo Cortex's bases and they all have industrial music accompanying them. In particular, the minimalistic feel of the themes make all of those stages more ominous.
    • Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back: The stages Piston It Away and Spaced Out, parts of Cortex's factory, ere accompanied by electronic and industrial music.
    • Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped: Dr. N. Tropy, the third boss and the one who keep the Time Twister Machine in check, has a heavy industrial theme that goes well with his clockwork design. There also are the stages 19 and 21 which are set in the futuristic Neo York city (that is, a future where Cortex takes over a city), complete with electronic music.
  • Kirby:
    • In Kirby: Canvas Curse, all of Dream Land has been transformed into a painting by the evil witch Drawcia, and the entire soundtrack has a more electronic feel compared to previous games in the franchise to match. This is emblematic of Drawcia herself, as her theme music ends with an unsettling, glitchy synth. Her final boss music as Drawcia Soul extends this into a chaotic mess of electronic instruments.
    • In Kirby: Planet Robobot, most of the soundtrack is composed of electronic music, due to the Haltmann Works Company taking over and mechanizing Dream Land. The best example of this trope action, however comes from President Haltmann's battle theme, Crazy Rolling In Money, which starts off with a Dark Reprise of "The Noble Haltmann" and becomes increasingly chaotic as the fight goes on. Combined with Haltmann's constant shouts and laughter and some of his attacks (including destroying his own robotic minions with a laser), it makes the fight against him surprisingly unsettling.
  • Klonoa: In Door to Phantomile, the impish Joka is commonly associated with this type of music. His normal leitmotif, Joker Mood, is a bouncy, funky piece. No Jokes Around is a Dark Reprise of this song that plays as he gets more unhinged, Joker's Move is a creepy sci-fi sounding piece that plays when he finally snaps and kills Grandpa with Frickin' Laser Beams . And last, but not least, there's his battle theme, Facade and Blade, which starts out with Creepy Circus Music, then switches to dark techno music, symbolic of his Villainous Breakdown.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Sun and Moon has two examples:
      • Team Skull have a techno punk Genre Motif, which fits the group of thugs and delinquents like a glove.
      • The tracks associated with the Ultra Beasts have synthesizers as the main instruments to emphasize their alien and dangerous nature.
    • Pokémon Legends: Arceus is set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of 19th century Hokkaido, and appropriately the soundtrack has mostly Japanese-themed instrumentation. However, two tracks move dramatically away from that:
      • In the finale of the main story, one of Dialga or Palkia, the lords of Time and Space, goes insane and reverts to a freakish "Origin Forme" resembling a deformed version of Arceus. This causes its previously slow, majestic battle music with heavenly bells to abruptly switch to fast-paced Eurobeat.
      • The post-game Superboss fight against the avatar of Arceus itself is a Glitch remix of its (already unnerving) theme from Diamond & Pearl, which starts subtle but gradually devolves into unpredictable pauses, tempo changes and audio distortions.
  • The Donkey Kong Country music by David Wise has a few examples of Industrial music used in Nightmarish Factory levels:
    • Donkey Kong Country: "Fear Factory", although the track is more Ambient than Industrial (in accordance with the rest of the soundtrack). The track was later reprised in Donkey Kong Country Returns under the name "Slammin' Steel" and in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze by David Wise himself this time under the name "Frozen Frenzy" where it is mixed with crystalline xylophone sounds.
    • Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! uses a new song named "Nuts and Bolts" for its factory levels and is way scarier as it completely drops the ambient tones of the first game.
    • Donkey Kong Country Returns:
      • There's a factory level named "Music Madness", in which the beat of the music is marked by the presses of the machinery and serves as hints for the player for when to progress to not be squished by the giant hammers.
      • The World 7 (Factory) level selection music is also rearranged with literal industrial noises and a sharp electronic sound.
  • In Persona 5, Okumura's Palace theme, Sweatshop. It suits the concept of the factory, where workers are treated as expendable robots, and his own "space villain" image.
  • Fire Emblem:
  • If you take a look at Just Shapes & Beats you'll know much of the music is Electronic anyway. But one notable example for this trope is Annihilate, composed by Destroid members Excision and Far Too Loud, which makes for a song that is very intimidating and very fitting for the final showdown between the protagonist and the now-monstrous Boss.
  • In Magical Tetris Challenge, the Leitmotif for Pete and his gang is a discordant hip-hop tune.
  • No Straight Roads has the titular villainous MegaCorp, noted for being very restrictive towards other genres, and its megastars, each of whom specializes in a different genre of EDMnote . This is however downplayed in that the megastars themselves aren't really evil per se (barring DJ Subatomic Supernova, and even then he's more of an egotiscial Jerkass than an outright bad guy), though they are complicit in Tatiana's Control Freak nature regarding rock (that and their songs are generally considered to be well made by the fanbase). It's also turned on its head with Tatiana herself, who despite representing a genre of EDM (Drum and Bass in her case) and being responsible for banning rock in the first place, was once legendary guitarist Kul Fyra before her inability to lead her band the Goolings lead her to abandon the genre in favour of EDM and be more controlling in what she does. In the end, this trope is subverted when both she and the megastars pull a Heel–Face Turn to help Bunk Bed Junction stop a Colony Drop caused by Kliff, with Tatiana in particular promising to reform NSR and be more inclusive of other genres.
  • In later Street Fighter titles, electronic music is often (but not always) associated with antagonistic characters.
    • From IV, the theme for Evil Ryu is a Dark Reprise of Ryu's traditional theme, with dubstep samples mixed into the familiar melody. Meanwhile Oni has a harsh drum and bass arrangement of Akuma's classic theme.
    • From V, Akuma himself uses a dubstep styled arrangement of his usual theme, and his associated stage has an original dubstep track. Bison and Seth have more intense sounding electronic versions of their usual themes, highlighting how deranged they've become. For a more subdued example, Juri's theme returns as downbeat trance song.
  • Genshin Impact: Raiden Shogun's boss fight theme is an electronic track mixed with traditional Japanese music.
  • Jet Set Radio: Goji Rokkaku plays the part of a villainous DJ in the finale, and his Leitmotif Grace & Glory uses funky electronic beats mixed with discordant piano notes, domineering voice samples, and screaming to get his evil across. In universe, this song is recorded on the Devil's Contract, made by a "freaky evil sound engineer" and rumored to be able to summon a demon.
  • The final boss battle against Bowser in Super Mario Galaxy has electronic music mixed with Ominous Latin Chanting.

    Web Animation 
  • Zigzagged in the Yellow Trailer of RWBY: Second tier bad guy Junior is the boss of a club with electronic music playing in the background, provided by a mook wearing a deadmau5-esque bear mask. It's later taken over by the heroine's theme, "I Burn", which is also electronic.

    Web Videos 
  • Epic Rap Battles of History: in "Mozart vs Skrillex", although the battle is pretty even in terms of quality and overall meanness, at one point Mozart calls Skrillex a "lonely little troll [knowing] how to press a spacebar", tying with the whole "easy to make Electronic Music" bad rep. Note that Skrillex is a fair player, as he played his own part at Youtube Comedy Week.
  • Warhammer 40,000's Noise Marines are Sense Freaks who get off on (and harm enemies by) producing hideous sounds at ear-splitting volumes, so naturally the fandom likes to claim dubstep is their music of choice.

  • Noisemaster from Cucumber Quest is a villain who terrorizes the Melody Kingdom. Fittingly, in contrast to the kingdom's orchestra motif, he has the mannerisms of a rowdy DJ. His lair and weapons are covered in lights like those on a DJ's sound equipment.

    Western Animation 
  • Emperor Awesome from Wander over Yonder is an insatiable party shark who parties so hard that he literally destroys planets, usually with his leitmotif "Let's Get Awesome". He also acts as a foil for Lord Hater and his Rotten Rock & Roll theme, and both of them also act as foils for the titular Wander and his acoustic banjo.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Mane Attraction": a Lady Gaga expy called "The Countess" is about to perform at Ponyville, but by the end of the episode she fires her mean agent and drops the Countess act to finally make "true" music.
  • In an episode of American Dad!, the bad guy of the week is a deadmau5 expy called DJ Iron Monkey who secretly enslaves whales while publicly claiming to be a Nature Lover.
  • The Bikini Sisters from The Powerpuff Girls (2016) have trance music playing when they appear, very reminiscent of what you could hear on a Fashion Show.
    • Allegro is a panda who brainwashes everyone to make them happy. His own world is a giant rave party. In a nice touch, the rave music progressively turns into dubstep the more Allegro's physical body is damaged.
    • When Blossom accidentally releases a bunch of partying ghosts in the episode "Puffdora's Box", their party is managed by two Daft Punk parodies.
  • In Class of the Titans, Pan uses evil techno to mind-control the patrons of his eco-rave, until the heroes shut him down and stop what made him evil.
  • Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (2023): The Beyonder's erasure of humanity in episode 6 is accompanied by a dubstep orchestra he conducts. It really underscores the callous menace of such an act.
  • Samurai Jack:
    • In the second episode, when Jack has just arrived in Aku's future, he goes to a futuristic Bad Guy Bar. The heavy Drum and Bass music playing in this new, hostile environment is playing loud enough to make Jack's ears pulse.
    • In the episode "Jack and the Rave", a demon known as "DJ Stylbator" uses electronic music to brainwash young kids into violent vandals loyal to Aku. The show seemed to literally treat the music itself as evil, with Jack telling all the newly liberated kids to never dance to this kind of music again. This was completely ignored for Season 5, as we revisit the same rave and there's nothing sinister about it at all. The young girl Jack saved in the original episode is now the DJ, using their eternal party of electronic music to keep alive the memory of Jack. It's very heartwarming.
  • Soundwave in Transformers: Prime and Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015) is accompanied by dubstep music, mostly to compensate and contrast his creepy mute status and make him even more threatening by its mere presence.
  • Steven Universe: To emphasize the alien nature of the Diamonds, their leitmotif is heavy synthesizer beats, intended by Word of God to sound almost atonal and like no instrument on Earth.
  • The Collector's theme from The Owl House is filled with synths and other electronic instruments, in sharp contrast to the rest of the soundtrack, which only uses orchestral instruments, supplemented with the occasional electric guitar. This serves to highlight their very otherworldly nature, and illustrates that as a creature that's neither human nor from the Boiling Isles, they pose a very different kind of threat.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Deadly DJ, Evil Electro, Evil Electronic Music


Instrument of Destruction

The Doomsday Device Abraham uses to destroy all of the monsters just so happens to be a sheet of music that, when played, compiles the Kraken to destroy all monsters within sight. Extra points for when Abraham refers to it by name as the "instrument of destruction."

How well does it match the trope?

4.64 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / InstrumentOfMurder

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