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Hollywood Tone-Deaf

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Kate: You won't ever have to see me again. Until, that is, I'm on The Voice, and you'll see me [singing] EEeevErywhere! Oh, you don't like my singing? Well, good, because that is the last time you get it, [singing] for frEEeeeEEee!
Jake: [to himself] She's gonna do bad on The Voice.

When a character is supposed to be a bad singer, they will often use a ridiculous fake voice to simulate a supposedly "strangling a bag of cats" sound. Sliding the notes up and down randomly and screeching at the top of one's lungs, often complemented by bad lyrics, is a popular portrayal of bad singing, even though it is blatantly fake to anyone who has ever heard the real thing. If you listen to genuine bad singing (for example, certain American Idol contestants, or Jeremy Hardy on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, or any unskilled person trying to karaoke at a party), it typically sounds nothing like the kind of bad singing you hear in mass media.


There's a very good reason for trained (or even just "decent") singers to do this: they have to ignore everything they've learned about singing (which is naturally hard for people who've trained for years). Even after just a year or two of singing the proper way, the physical mechanics of singing mean that it's genuinely hard for someone to return to their untrained or "bad" singing because trained singers habitually try to correct being off-key or off-tempo as soon as they realize it or someone points it out. Hence, the best way for them to consistently sing poorly is to make their singing so horrendously godawful that they stop trying to correct themselves. It's like a self-inflicted Informed Flaw. (Also, trained singers are quite sensitive to the stress on their vocal tract that most styles of bad singing cause—they shy away, voluntarily or otherwise, from what feels like it's doing damage.)


Even if not familiar with proper vocal techniques, the majority of people are capable of hitting the approximate notes and even harmonizing within a group. In addition, almost anyone when listening to music can recognize when a note is off-key. Because this includes the audience as well, the extreme is usually needed in order to properly convey someone who cannot sing at all. Another consideration is that it's OK to laugh at fake bad singing, but most audience members are hesitant to laugh at bad singing that seems too real, just in case it is.

Expect "tone deaf" to be misused as a blanket term to describe anyone who sings poorly. A truly tone deaf person lacks "relative pitch," the ability to hear the difference between musical notes.note  A great deal of self-proclaimed "tone deaf" people can't sing because they're untrained, not because they have any sort of impairment.


The "cause" of true tone deafness, if it can be called that, is the fact that people's own voices sound very different in their heads from how they do to other people, due to the fact that people hear their own voices through bone conduction, rather than just air conduction. As a result, there are some people whose voices in their heads are pitched several notes higher or lower than the way they sound to other people (leading to Do I Really Sound Like That? as soon as the phonograph was invented). If this is the case for someone, it takes a great deal more work and training for that person to learn to match pitch in a way that sounds good to other people.

This trope is something of a Truth in Television, since singing poorly on cue is actually quite difficult for someone who hasn't had vocal training or genuinely is tone deaf. Therefore an actor needs to be a good singer in reality in order to have the vocal discipline required to play a bad singer in character (don't think about that too much). Of course, another solution would be to just cast someone who really is a bad singer, but that would be kind of mean, and anyway most actors do have at least a bit of training in diction and vocal production.

For extra comedy, the bad vocals may become a Glass-Shattering Sound.

A close cousin of Stylistic Suck. Related to Vocal Range Exceeded, where the notes are too high or too low for the singer's voice, and Inopportune Voice Cracking, where someone who can normally sing quite well suddenly drops an octave or loses tone due to their young age and growing vocal cords. See Bad "Bad Acting" for this trope applied to acting. Compare Cute, but Cacophonic. Dug in Deeper is this trope masquerading as a plot. See also Irony as She Is Cast. Also compare Dreadful Musician, when this is exaggerated beyond the bounds of impossibility. Contrast Beautiful Singing Voice.


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  • The 1986 National Arbor Day Foundation PSA with Carly Cardinal and kids singing how "Trees are Terrific" has Carly sing this way, obviously as a bit of comic relief to the important message about trees presented here.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Lucia without her pearl in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch. Accidentally averted in the same series with Caren, a genuine terrible singer.
  • In Azumanga Daioh Yomi is supposedly a bad singer, but when you consider that her VA is Rie Tanaka, another very famous actress known for performing anime theme songs, the "bad" singing ends up sounding completely fake.
  • Averted in StarMyu - the issues with Hoshitani's technique in his audition in episode 1 are real. Also, compare most of his diegetic singing - e.g. that audition, or his attempts at Alexis' Shadow's song in season 2 - with his non-diegetic "Hoshi no Stride" in the end of episode 1. (His diegetic singing is good when the song matches the mood of Hoshi no Stride).
  • In episode 16 of My-HiME Natsuki attempts to sing and does a horrible job of sounding like she can't. As a bonus for viewers, the song she's pretending she can't sing was sung by Saeko Chiba, who voiced... Natsuki.
  • An obscure show called Koi Koi 7 features singing (go to about 1:50) by a character named Miya that is truly indescribably horrible and you can understand how it knocked everyone out.
  • The otherwise angelic Aya Hirano's screaming/singing as Konata on Lucky Star.
  • Show Within a Show Kujibiki Unbalance takes this to the n-th degree with Tokino's karaoke. Not only is her singing completely over-the-top tone-deaf, it's not even her own voice actor doing the singing.
  • A recurring gag in Doraemon is that Gian/Big G is a terrible singer. One time he was on TV, his singing voice was so bad that it actually hospitalized several people.
  • Several characters exhibit this trope in a karaoke-themed episode of Digimon Adventure. It's present in both the Japanese and English versions.
  • Eimi Date in Pretty Sammy TV (aka Magical Project S). Her classmates have to silence her whenever the class sings.
    • In the soundtrack CDs, Eimi's seiyuu sings her signature song straight, proving that she's at least a competent singer—except it sounds completely wrong and disappointing, because Eimi's song should be sung lethally off-key and with great gusto.
  • Coco from Pecola. In one episode, she was practicing her singing for Pecola's band, which was assaulting on the ears of everyone in Cube Town. Towards the end of the episode, Coco's screechy voice became smooth during vocalization, and Pecola compliments her on it.
  • Whenever Kirby copies a singing ability in the anime, his own allies shudder in dread of his apocalyptically bad singing. The Manual stats this is how the enemy-erasing "microphone" ability in the game works. One of the opening sequences in one of the games even has him being attacked by his own music notes.
  • Shinichi (and therefore Conan) in Detective Conan is tone deaf and can't sing worth beans. (His Japanese voice actress, however, makes up half of the J-Pop duo Two-Mix.) This isn't consistent; in a Non-Serial Movie he has perfect pitch, but still sings terribly.
  • Akira Nagisa in Chrome Breaker - so bad she scares magical sidekick birds.
  • In Hidamari Sketch, Yuno's bad singing manifests as a completely different (but consistent!) melody line — which Miyako can subsequently sing back perfectly.
  • Maya Natsume in Tenjho Tenge; she loses her karaoke "battle" with Friendly Enemy Mitsuomi because she's a terrible singer. Since her voice actress in the anime was Aya Hisakawa, they telegraphed this by making her this trope - in the karaoke scene, she basically just groans into the mic.
  • Magic Knight Rayearth: According to Word of God, Hikaru Shidou has singing as her worst subject in school. Surprisingly, her seiyuu Hekiru Shiina was actually an accomplished singer. This is played around in one moment when Hikaru seems like having No Indoor Voice.
  • Some characters' renditions of the Zetsubou Sensei Drawing Song in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei delve into this, most noticeably with Kaere Kimura. Who is voiced by Yuu Kobayashi, who, like Rie Tanaka, is a fine singer.
  • One episode of Maple Town has Puriprin picked for the lead role in a play. Hilarity Ensues as everyone is kept up at night by her ear-shredding attempts at "singing practice". The kicker? The VA for Puriprin is none other than Satoko Yamano, who sings the opening and ending theme songs.
  • Averted with Takehito Koyasu, of all people, in Macross 7. Even though he's an accomplished singer, he manages to be very believably, incredibly off-key when singing the theme song. (His character, Gamlin, is tone deaf.)
  • Both English and Japanese versions of female Ranma in Ranma ½ belt out an off-key verse during the "Tendo Family's Christmas Scramble" OAV, where she's shanghaied into joining Kasumi, Nabiki, Akane, and Shampoo in a song to entertain the guests. Similarly, the Japan-only "Hot Song Battle Contest" album and OAV have her screeching out a cloyingly cute kiddy song about balloons. While Brigitta Dau's singing credentials are unknown, Megumi Hayashibara is actually an excellent singer, including her in-character performances as part of the DoCo supergroup (which is composed of those same five characters) as well as the rest of the Ranma ½ Image Song collections.
  • Rio in Sound of the Sky — played by the aforementioned Yuu Kobayashi — sings a god-awful snippet of the opening theme song in one of the DVD-only extra episodes. Then again, the character is a trumpeter, not a singer, and is completely drunk at the time.
  • K-On!:
    • Although Yui's seiyuu is quite a talented singer, during a childhood memory scene, she sings an ear-grinding song about turtles, not only off-key, but mostly off-beat as well.
    • Azusa can't sing at all.
  • In the Karaoke Box episode of Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens, some of the characters sing their songs pretty badly. The singing is made better for the Image Song release.
  • In Bakuman。, Miho is nervous about Mashiro hearing her singing, because she says she's not very good. The first time she's heard on TV, her best friend Kaya laughs at her and Mashiro feels as embarrassed as he thinks she must have felt. Saori Hayami, on the other hand, is praised as one of the best singers among modern voice actresses, and sings fairly well. Eventually, however, Azuki gets better at singing, and sends Mashiro some of her songs on a disk.
  • Once in Gosick Victorique singing was mistaken for her moaning in pain.
  • Giroro from Sgt. Frog has no singing talent at all. Made painfully clear when he's ordered to lullaby the temporarily age reverted Kururu. His screeching singing is so horrible, it drives Kururu to hit the self destruct button on his human suit to make it stop.
    • However, his voice-actor is the lead singer on the show's first theme song.
  • In the last episode of the first season of The World God Only Knows, a sleep-deprived and delirious Keima sings a beautiful song - with backup singers!
  • Haruka in Kotoura-san does this with the anime's OP and ED.
  • In Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, the titular character sings the ending very half-heartedly. The fifth episode, she duets with Kagami — the former sings normally and the latter sings half-heartedly and doesn't know the words.
  • In Recently, My Sister Is Unusual, Yuuya cannot sing, at all. He even butchers something as simple as the "Happy Birthday" song. Even Hiyori, who practically worships the ground he walks on, cannot stand his singing.
  • Tomoko Kuroki's voice actress sings the Ending Theme of No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! with an exaggerated whiny, nasal voice and off-key and, as the song goes on, she starts to have an emotional breakdown, resulting in singing worse.
  • In the seventh episode of the original Sailor Moon anime, Usagi and Naru sing the title theme, but are badly off-key. Usagi's Japanese voice actress, Kotono Mitsuishi, is an accomplished singer who recorded multiple CDs both related to the show and not. Also, Naru's voice actress in the Viz Media redub, Danielle Judovits, has sung in theatrical musicals.
  • The main protagonist Urno from Damekko Doubutsu has a terrible singing voice. So bad that it can be heard throughout the entire forest.
  • Mana Aida of DokiDoki! PreCure has a singing voice so hideous that Rikka and Alice covered their ears and ran for cover when she tried singing a lullaby for baby fairy Ai-chan, also sending birds flying in terror. When she tries to sing again in Pretty Cure All Stars Spring Carnival, the entire Doki Doki team covers their ears (especially for Rikka, as she went concerned as she saw Mana got hold of the microphone and has her hands halfway up to her ears before the rest of her team even lifted their hands) and it catches pretty much everyone, especially the much more musically-inclined Suite Pretty Cure ♪ team, completely off-guard.
    Mana: [completely off-key] THE WORLD IS LIKE A MERRY GO-ROUND!
    Hibiki: T-This is music?!
  • Tomoyo Kurosawa has to deliberately sing badly in episode 4 of Yuki Yuna is a Hero during several scenes where Itsuki is struggling to sing in front of other people because of her shyness. The rest of Kurosawa’s vocal work for the series, especially in episode 9, shows that she’s actually a very good singer.
  • Yuu Kashima of Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, despite being The Ace at nearly everything else, can't sing at all. When she demonstrates her ability to Seo, who she asked for voice training from, Seo reveals that she had earplugs in the whole time.
  • In the Blu-ray version of the final episode of the first season of Yatogame-chan Kansatsu Nikki Haruka Tomatsu sings her own ending theme in character as Yatogame at karaoke. While she generally hits the correct notes, she manages to stay slightly ahead of the beat for most of the song, making it sound quite amateurish.

    Fan Works 
  • Shadow of the Dragon: Both Meiling and Toya describe Syaoran's singing in chapter 14 as sounding like a strangled cat.
  • In Queen of Shadows, Jade's kitsune slave handmaiden Koeri is eventually shown to be both absolutely awful at singing, and completely oblivious to this fact, much to the aggravation of Jade and all the other Shadowkhan.
  • The The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Game Mod, Beyond Skyrim: Bruma, has the hilariously inept Nord bard, Renod Even-Toned of Bruma, who also suffers from a serious case of Small Name, Big Ego to boot.

    Films — Animation 
  • Shrek: a sequence in which Fiona's singing kills a bird actually had a talented singer come in and replicate the sound of an incredibly off-key note. This was noted on the DVD, in which they explained that a true bad note required either a truly tone-deaf person or a professional singer that knew the difference.
  • Home on the Range: Grace has extremely putrid off-key singing. Turns out it's actually important because it was the one thing keeping her from being brainwashed by Slim's hypnotic yodeling, unlike all the other cows.
  • Garth from Alpha and Omega. He is such a bad howler that birds drop from the sky every time he sings. However, it actually portrays this trope rather realistically, as he just hasn't learned how to properly howl; once Lilly gave him some lessons, he sings very well.
  • Peewit in The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, particularly in "The Ballad of Friendship". His singing is so bad that it brings on the rain. He also gets constantly kicked off the stage when he tries to join in with the minstrels playing "Life Is A Voyage" in the United States English version and "Gentle Lady" in the United Kingdom English version.
  • In My Little Pony: The Movie (1986), Baby Lickety Splitnote  is commonly perceived to be this during the "I'll Go it Alone" number, especially during the end.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, the Dazzlings are given incredible singing abilities by magical pendants, and are revealed to be horrific singers once they're destroyed. This is aided by two of them being played by non-singers, with separate actresses being used for their singing until this scene.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Minnie Driver's character in GoldenEye.
    James Bond: Who's strangling the cat?
    Zukovsky: [shoots Bond's chair] That is Irina, my mistress!
    Bond: Very talented girl.
  • Cameron Diaz has done this multiple times in her films.
    • In My Best Friend's Wedding, Cameron Diaz's karaoke actually sounds realistically off.
    • Amanda in The Holiday, also portrayed by Cameron Diaz. She's singing along with the radio. Badly. And inordinately loudly [though the reason she's doing it is a plot point].
    • In Gambit, Cameron Diaz, as Puznowski, again delivers a slightly off-key and off-tempo performance in karaoke.
  • Anna Faris' character in Lost in Translation...who is said to be a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Cameron Diaz.
  • Faris does it again in the second Scary Movie. She butchers Vitamin C's "Graduation" so badly that the track on the radio stops and tells her to "shut the fuck up and let me sing.''
  • Summer, the band manager from School of Rock. The DVD commentaries tell us (and prove to us) that Miranda Cosgrove, her actress, actually sings really well, and she had to be taught how to sing badly.
  • Averted in Steven Spielberg's The War of the Worlds when Tom Cruise's character sings to his daughter. It toes the line between off-key and too-good-for-an-average-Joe nicely.
  • American Beauty: Kevin Spacey sings along to "American Woman." Terribly.
  • Hammer in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, who sings a very poor rendition of "Grazing in the Grass" as it plays on his car radio. It's funny to begin with, but he's played by singer Isaac Hayes, which takes it into Casting Gag territory.
  • The singing girls in Dick Tracy were coached to sing worse than they normally would so that they could have the nasal, squeaking sound that invokes recordings from the 1930s.
  • Two words: Bridget Jones. Especially in the first movie.
  • Cacofonix in the live-action film Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar (based on the popular French comic series) is portrayed by Pierre Palmade; the character is supposed to be a really awful singer, but Pierre Palmade had to practice singing badly.
  • Clarke and Rogers (Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty) in Ishtar.
  • The nuns of Sister Act are all hilariously off-key and screechy. A few pointers from Whoopi Goldberg's character, however, has them singing like a proper choir. All of the actresses playing the nuns are genuinely good singers—except for the novice, the nun who ended up with most of the solos; her voice was dubbed over for those parts.
    • She essentially assigned each nun a part within her vocal range, and made sure the sopranos, altos, and so on were standing in clusters rather than scattered around the risers. That alone really can make a good difference.
  • Cleverly averted in Citizen Kane. In order to put across the idea that Kane's mistress, Susan Alexander, is out of her depth in the opera, they overdubbed the actress with a professional opera singer, but hired an alto and had her try seriously to sing a soprano part. As a result, her singing voice sounds realistically strained.
  • Older Than Television: One of Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer's trademark shticks in The Little Rascals was his (deliberately, at least later on in life) off-key singing, which Alfalfa was oblivious to. Subverted in that Switzer was allegedly a gifted singer in real life.
  • Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth fumbles his off-key way through a simple church hymn. Subverted in that he was portrayed by David freakin' Bowie
    • Bowie played a bad singer again in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, in which his character Jack Celliers sings noticeably off-key with the other prisoners when the group sing hymns. Celliers even lampshades this later in the film.
  • A number of the students auditioning for the Winter Musicale in High School Musical displayed this trope (in addition to other bad singing tropes...)
  • In the film version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid the drama teacher has auditioning students do a group sing of Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler. Most of the auditioners sound pretty much like what you'd expect from a bunch of middle schoolers, but one of the kids sings extremely nasally, and so off-key that it doesn't sound like singing at all. He also has a heavy foreign accent.
  • Averted by Denise Richards's off-key, whispered performance of "You're Just Too Good to Be True" (tastelessly addressed to Jesus; watch here) in Drop Dead Gorgeous. She may be actually tone deaf, at least if the video of her singing at the 7th Inning Stretch of a Cubs game is any indication.
  • Randy Watson (Eddie Murphy) in Coming to America, who performs Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All" with his band Sexual Chocolate. In real life, Murphy is a very talented singer and even recorded a music album titled "How Could It Be?" which included the Top 10 hit, "Party All The Time."
  • Frank Drebin from The Naked Gun. Made worse by the fact that he was impersonating a famous opera singer, Enrico Pallazzo, while the said singer was tied up and forced to watch.
  • In the film The Losers, Jensen sings a painfully screechy rendition of "Don't Stop Believing" while infiltrating the computer security company in order to convince bystanders that they don't want to join him in the elevator.
  • In Ted, John tries to win back Lori by singing "All Time High", the theme song of Octopussy, their favorite movie. Unfortunately, John's singing is so bad that the crowd boos and an angry man tries to assault him. In real life, Mark Wahlberg is a talented singer.
  • Earlier on, Wahlberg also did some bad singing in Boogie Nights, mangling "The Touch" in a scene in which Dirk Diggler attempts a singing career.
  • David Spade and Chris Farley have a scene in Tommy Boy that ends with them singing along to "Superstar" by the Carpenters at the top of their lungs. They're realistically bad (i.e., not great, but not terrible either).
  • In the beginning of The Three Stooges' short Brideless Groom, music student Dee Green is rehearsing an ear-wrenching rendition of "The Voice of Spring" in front of her teacher, Shemp. Actually, Green was a classically trained soprano who taught music after retiring from the movies.
  • Played straight in the film Florence Foster Jenkins, a biopic of the famously Giftedly Bad opera singer mentioned below. Meryl Streep (who is of course a trained and experienced singer, as seen in some of her other film roles) does a spectacularly bad job at screeching and warbling entirely out of key and tempo, reducing several characters to helpless giggles. However, the trope is averted a bit as far as the "Hollywood" aspect goes— although it sounds completely over the top, the real Florence really did sing that badly, and Streep is doing a dead-ringer imitation of her recordings.
  • In The Comedy of Terrors, Amaryllis has dreams of becoming an opera singer, but she has no real talent for it. While Trumbull is repulsed by it, Gillie is too smitten with her to notice.

  • The Elenium: When a character asks The Archmage Sephrenia why she only taught them the Language of Magic and didn't mention the existence of Magic Music, she sings something completely unrecognizable, then admits that that was her best rendition of one simple, well-known tune. They then collectively remember what Magic Misfires can do...

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Brady Bunch: In real life, of the younger four, Mike Lookinland was a very good singer, and as Barry Williams (also a very good singer) said, was the most musical of the six kids, but he had two left feet when it came to dancing. On the other hand, Eve Plumb and Susan Olsen were varying levels of tone deaf, but Chris Knight was the most obvious one; by his admission, he cannot sing a note. This worked perfectly into the Season 3 episode "Dough Re Mi," where Peter's voice is going through puberty and begins to crack just as the kids are rehearsing Greg's newly written song. Still, Chris did record an entire album of duets with Maureen McCormick (who is a decent singer) and got a solo on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour (covering The Carpenters' "Sing"). If you are familiar with the lyrics, "Sing" is the perfect song for the worst singer in the group.
  • In the "Just Move Your Lips, Sergeant" episode of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Sgt. Carter, who fancied himself as quite a singer in his youth, decides to coach some of the troops when they're singing, but his voice is so raspy, he thinks that someone in the group is off-key, failing to recognize that he's the one whose voice is so bad, the other Marines go sour whenever he insists on singing along with them, and they try to rehearse in secret without him, until he gets laryngitis and the others have him join the group and lip-sync to cover for his hoarse throat.
  • Little House on the Prairie: Both the Oleson girls. With Nancy, it's funny because her portrayer, Allison Balson, is a very talented singer. Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie, will be the first to admit she is a very bad singer.
  • A prime example of this is Madame Edith from 'Allo 'Allo!, who fancies herself a cabaret singer, and insists on singing to the customers of her cafe. (Some customers jam cheese in their ears to avoid the horror.)
  • Lily in Hannah Montana, London on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, a subplot on That's So Raven, Paolo was exposed by Gordo, Isabella, and Lizzie to put a stop to his lip-synching in The Lizzie McGuire there a Disney Channel show that hasn't featured this?
  • Not likely. Echo in another Disney series, Mr. Young, is a very off-key singer. Naturally, she believes otherwise, and the episode we find out is, of course the one where her friends try to stop her from embarressing herself at the school talent show. Though unlike others, Echo doesn't learn she can't sing by the end, even attacking Brendan for admitting she can't sing seconds after telling him he could tell her honestly.
  • That one episode of Full House where Jesse gives Rebecca singing lessons. Becky is shown to be a horrible singer when she joins Jesse, Danny, and Joey in singing Nicky and Alex to sleep. Jesse attempts to surreptitiously give her singing lessons and Hilarity Ensues. However, it's later shown that she's a wonderful singer when she's singing them actual lullabies.
    • Another example from Full House is Kimmy Gibbler, as exhibited during the 1989-90 season. One episode where D.J. is having trouble with her first babysitting job leads to Kimmy showing up early in the episode where the kid doesn't go to bed and Kimmy volunteers to sing (or more accurately, scream) a lullaby to him. Later that season, after Stephanie somehow backs the car into the kitchen window, she walks in nonchalantly. At that point, we hear Kimmy singing a little bit of the chorus of "Straight Up", sounding much better.
  • Hyacinth in Keeping Up Appearances. Fits this trope to a T because Patricia Routledge is an accomplished stage actress with a more-than-adequate singing voice.
  • A non-singing example is Klink's violin playing in Hogan's Heroes. His violin playing is hideous but he's the only one who doesn't seem to notice. Of course, in real life Werner Klemperer was a concert-level violinist.
  • In an episode of Mama's Family, Mama has to audition to sing the town's anthem "Raytown, O Raytown" for a Founder's Day event and mangles it rather badly before getting the part anyway and refusing it. The actress, Vicki Lawrence, had a #1 hit in 1973 with "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia".
  • Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! gives us Casey, who is (or appears to be) a severely mentally challenged young adult, who suffers emotional breakdowns on stage, in addition to having poor singing talent. Note that Tim Heidecker is actually a skilled musician. In fact, most singing on the show isn't that great, but considering Tim and Eric's pool of actors, it's a mystery as to which singers are faking it and which ones are genuinely bad.
  • Any show on the "TNBC" Saturday-morning block had at least one episode dealing with someone who's "tone deaf" (and usually a love interest who's lying to them, saying their singing is wonderful.) Fun Fact: The California Dreams episode of this trope (in which the girlfriend of the lead guitarist tried to join the band so she wouldn't be a "groupie") was named... "Yoko Oh No!" (No bands were disbanded, however.)
    • Subverted on City Guys as the gang is concerned Cassie's bad singing will humiliate them at a public contest. They let her go on stage which point, Cassie reveals she's a great singer and faking being bad in order to get the spotlight solo. Rather than be upset, the others have to give her credit for fooling them and the fact she is the best singer.
  • This was a running gag on I Love Lucy. Lucille Ball was a decent, if not quite stellar, singer in real life.
  • Beautifully averted in an episode of House, with a little girl singing along — only slightly off-key and off-rhythm — to a CD as she gets dressed in the morning. As a bonus, the fact that she wasn't singing quite right took the scene from overly-cute to realistic and affecting.
  • Averted in Peep Show when Mark decides to sing "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" to Sophie, in a romantic moment. He's in tune - he just sounds nervous and as if he isn't putting much breath into it.
  • Scully in The X-Files episode "Detour", after being cajoled by Mulder into singing despite warning him that he wouldn't want to hear her singing, as she "can't carry a tune".
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Averted in "Once More With Feeling". Alyson Hannigan was a self-admitted poor singer and requested that she be given minimal singing lines in the episode to the point where "I'm Under Your Spell was changed from a duet between Willow and Tara to a solo for the latter. Michelle Trachtenberg also requested that Dawn's singing be minimized, and was given a ballet number to perform instead.
  • Angel:
    • "There's three things I don't do: tan, date, and sing in public." When forced to do the last at Lorne's karaoke club in the second-season opener "Judgement", Angel's completely monotone, and badly off-tempo. (Then the outtakes of David Boreanaz that close the episode turn into one huge lampshade of this trope.) This was later lampshaded as being because of shyness and being self-conscious about picking love ballads every time.
      • However, when David Boreanaz sings on Bones, (which he does in a couple of episodes) he has a perfectly respectable voice.
    • In "Disharmony", Cordelia takes Harmony to sing for Lorne. After listening to her butcher "The Way We Were" he comments, "I think your friend should reconsider the name Harmony." (In truth Mercedes McNab sings a bit too well in that scene.)
  • Supernatural justified it in "No Rest For The Wicked". Jensen Ackles is known to be a very good singer yet when Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead Or Alive" comes on the radio, Dean (and later Sam) sings it obnoxiously loudly and badly. Why? Because it's his last day alive and he wants to cheer Sam up like the awesome big brother he is, that's why.
    • Dean seems to alternate between being completely unable to sing a note and not being all that bad. He's not awful doing the REO Speedwagon tune, but when he sings a Christmas carol at one point, he's awful. Jensen Ackles actually said in an interview that he thinks Dean is the kind of character that couldn't carry a note if he tried, so he makes a deliberate attempt to sing badly.
    • Jensen also confirmed at a convention that the writers wrote on his copy of the script, "JENSEN—DON'T SING ON-KEY."
    • Averted by Jared Padalecki, who plays Sam and genuinely can't sing.
      • Not necessarily. Jared may not be the best singer in existence, but he's not tone-deaf.
  • Barney Fife had a whole episode devoted to how bad of a singer he is on The Andy Griffith Show, even though he had sung with Andy on earlier shows, and Don Knotts had a fine country tenor voice.
  • Averted in an episode of Frasier, featuring someone who is superior to Frasier in many ways but is a somewhat realistically awful singer.
  • Played straight in Moesha. Professional R&B singer Brandy has a terrible voice in the show, to make way for the talents of her co-stars.
  • Averted in Dexter: When he's singing his girlfriend's children to sleep, Dexter's voice isn't horrible, just a little off-key. In real life, Michael C. Hall's a trained singer and Broadway performer with a very good voice. Jennifer Carpenter, on the other hand...
  • Averted in Gilligan's Island: Dawn Wells by her own admission is a terrible singer, so whenever an episode called for her to sing, her voice would generally be dubbed in by a professional singer. However, the episode "The Second Ginger Grant" called for an amnesiac Mary Ann, believing herself to be Ginger, to sing badly. Rather than faking a bad singing voice, Wells, knowing her own restrictions, made an earnest attempt to sing the song properly. The result ended up being just off-key enough to sound believable and fit the plot at the same time.
  • Andy Kaufman's Alter-Ego Acting persona Tony Clifton, a Lounge Lizard, averted this. Tony's problem wasn't that he couldn't hit notes, but that 1) his voice itself was incredibly nasally and unpleasant by nature, and 2) he was a usually grouchy Jerkass who picked on his audience. This aversion was probably one of several reasons many people (at least at first) were successfully fooled into thinking Andy and Tony were separate people.
  • Subverted by Grace in Will & Grace. In real life, Debra Messing has a perfectly serviceable, if not gorgeous, singing voice. Her character Grace kept to the tunes relatively well, but always started out way too high, and when the key of a song was supposed to change, she changed too far. A lot of poor singers actually do sing this way. Grace was also incredibly loud.
    Grace: (singing) "My baby don't mess around becaus she loves me so and this I know for sure...HEEEEY YAAA! HEEEY YAAA! HEEE— *phone rings* Hello? ...I'm sorry, I'll stop. Hold on, I have another call...hello? Yes, I'm sorry, I'll stop."
  • World's Dumbest... has featured quite a few musicians unlikely to ever get an award:
    • One spot featured a Polish singer mangle the "Star-Spangled Banner" before a boxing match (including a mention of Madonna), coining a word in the process
    And the rockets would glrrrnote  (subtitled as "glure")
    Danny Bonaduce: "Butterbean"note  weighs four hundred ninety pounds, has an American flag and wears red, white and blue trunks. F**king up the national anthem, bad call.
    • On another occasion, the show had had a song entitled "Goodbye", performed by a young aspiring "rapper" from England. The lyrics were basically out of rhythm, and the singer had serious issues with the Auto-Tune.
    Goodbye to the people who hated on me
    Goodbye to the people who loved... me
  • Touched by an Angel has Monica, who is also a bit self-conscious about this, because, as an angel, she loves to sing.
  • Averted on Seinfeld, where Broadway star Jason Alexander was able to sound quite convincingly amateurish on George's musical answering machine message in the episode "The Suzie". But played straight when Jerry's girlfriend (Miss Rhode Island) tries to sing in "The Chaperone".
  • In an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Broadway actors Avery Brooks and Rene Auberjonois sing "You Can't Take That Away From Me" together. Brooks' character has a good voice, but Auberjonois sings in Odo's gravelly monotone, even though he's appeared on Broadway in musicals like Dance of the Vampire, Big River and Coco.
  • Jeopardy! has a recurring category that avoids this: the clues will be the lyrics to a song, which are read automatically by either Alex Trebek himself, or occasionally by The Announcer, Johnny Gilbert.
  • 30 Rock has Cheyenne Jackson's character Danny Baker doing this very intentionally during a duet with diva Jenna Maroney in the 2009 Christmas Special so as not to steal her spotlight. At one point, he slips into his natural (and excellent) singing voice and quickly switches back to tone-deaf after a Death Glare from Jenna.
    • Bonus points for knowing that Cheyenne Jackson and Jane Krakowski were both in the stage play of Xanadu before 30 Rock started (though not in the same cast. Jane was in an industry-only workshop performance of the musical with a different actor. Cheyenne joined the show later when the original male lead was injured and performed on Broadway with Kerry Butler.)
  • In Degrassi, Hazel affects a terribly fake "bad" singing voice when she is trying to show off her vocal skills to Paige and Ashley. Further proof that the voice was fake came when Andrea Lewis released a music video on the same channel and sang just fine. In season 9, Fiona auditions for the musical and has a similarly fake failure.
    • This trope was also averted in that same episode with Hazel's "bad singing". When the girls perform at a talent show, Paige sees her rapist sitting in the audience. After this, she grabs the microphone from lead singer Ashley and sings the song (which happens to be about rape) herself. Her singing was a little bit...rough, but realistically so.
  • Katey Sagal is a good singer (she got her career start as one of Bette Midler's Harlettes), but her character of Peg Bundy from Married... with Children isn't.
    • She fakes bad again as Leela (see below).
  • Parodied in Harry Enfield and Chums. When Lance makes a painfully bad attempt to sing "Who's That Girl Running Around With You", Lee attempts to put him right by inserting correctly-pitched noises such as "bing", "bong", "ding" and "dong" into the melody. Lance begins to get the hang of this, only to revert to his initial attempt when the noises are removed. He then remarks that he's only tone-deaf in English, and not in Italian, proving this by launching into an impressive rendition of an operatic piece.
  • Played straight in the Glee episode "Laryngitis", when Rachel gets sick and loses her voice. Kind of subverted earlier in the series when Kurt blows the high F in "Defying Gravity". His voice doesn't slide so much as break, very realistically, even though Chris Colfer really can hit the note.
    • Mike Chang doesn't think he can sing, so when he has to do a duet with Tina, they play this trope for laughs with a rendition of "Sing!" from A Chorus Line.
      • He later proves himself wrong in season 3, when he auditions for West Side Story. His singing is actually not that bad.
    • Let's not forget Sugar's awful rendition of "Big Spender." Vanessa Lengies is a pretty accomplished singer (American Dreams).
  • On a Private Practice/Grey's Anatomy crossover episode, Naomi (Audra McDonald) and Sam (Taye Diggs) were heard singing quite badly. - McDonald in particular is a six-time Tony winner!
  • The opening to All in the Family. Jean Stapleton could apparently sing quite well in real life.
  • Galina Sergeevna from Daddy's Daughters screeches through a song in Episode 14.3. Her actress, Liza Arzamasova, can actually sing decently, so to sing badly, she has to caterwaul.
  • There was an episode of the TV series "Clueless" where Cher tried out for her school's Holiday play. Problem was, she couldn't sing to save her life (or so we were supposed to believe). Of course, her "bad singing voice" was so fake that it was laughable to anyone who's heard genuine bad singing. This ended up being revised later in the series when the writers decided they wanted Cher to sing in her school's production of Grease. Turned out, she actually had a pretty good voice once she learned the right technique (which was said to be something along the lines of squeezing your buns and breathing).
  • In the Korean Drama Twinkle Twinkle, Jung Won loves to sing popular music and trot tunelessly. I mean, really tunelessly.
  • Averted in The Night Shift, when Olafur sings for a judge on the Icelandic version of The X Factor. It's realistically weak - generally in tune but a little strained and with a trying-too-hard kind of sound to it.
  • Averted in Victorious with Tori's sister Trina. Trina is clearly a bad singer, but her tone-deafness isn't over-the-top and she usually sounds realistically bad.
  • The Orgs in Power Rangers Wild Force are this: They consider human music to be repulsive, yet Flute Org's terrible tunes are music to their ears.
  • Averted in The Big Bang Theory, in the episode "The Vengeance Formulation", when Howard is singing a song for Bernadette. He actually sounds like he's trying to sing well, and while it definitely doesn't sound good, it's still possible to understand why he doesn't get that.
    • Played straight in the first season episode "The Loobenfeld Decay" with Penny's painfully awful singing to play as Mimi in RENT. It's implied that it's mostly that she did not have the talent for a boisterous stage solo number, in later episodes she sings a bedside lullaby to Sheldon "Soft Kitty" that, while not pristine, shows a passable singing voice.
  • An initial plot point in Nashville is that Juliette Barnes is a bad singer who'd be lost without AutoTune, as illustrated in this clip, but it sounds suspiciously like Hayden Panettiere deliberately singing off-key as called for in the script. Ironically, while the show itself regularly claims Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) is more talented than Juliette, more than a few people find Panettiere to be the better singer of the two... and it's telling that the show's stopped pretending Juliette sucks.
  • Aethelwynne in Pixelface is constantly shown as this, and most of the cast appears to suffer from this in "Rock Star" (the only episode where most of them sing).
  • Cleo in H₂O: Just Add Water is revealed to be a horrible singer in the episode "The Siren Effect". Even the dolphins dive underwater for cover when she starts to sing. Rikki parodies the trope later on in the episode when she sings karaoke so dreadfully she's clearly doing it on purpose.
    • The plot of "The Siren Effect" was that under the power boost of the full moon, Cleo's singing enthralled everyone around her. Someone even called a radio DJ who immediately recorded her. After the moon set, even the playback of the performance sounded like tone-deaf scales.
  • This godawful rendition of "One Love" by The Daily Show's Stephen Colbert, a very able singer who has performed in musical theatre.
  • Gloria from Modern Family after she got a karaoke machine. Her husband Jay once dropped a metal spoon in the garbage disposal in the hopes of drowning her out with a more pleasant noise.
  • Summer in School of Rock. Her actress is actually a fairly good singer but in "Cover Me", she is awful.
  • Starsky & Hutch: Most of Starsky's attempts at singing sound like this, although he manages to sing on-key in "The Avenger."
  • Sesame Street: Downplayed in "The Golden Cabbage of Snufertiti". One of the many differences between Bob and his Adventurer Archaeologist brother Minneapolis Johnson is that Bob loves to sing but Minneapolis prefers adventure and being active. Minneapolis' singing voice on their duet "A Sibling" wavers and is often off-pitch, but it's not unpleasant. He's played by Jeff Goldblum, who is best-known as an actor but is also a professional-quality jazz pianist more than capable of carrying a tune (as the masses found out a few decades later, when he began recording albums with his band after years of concerts in Los Angeles).
  • Workaholics: In the episode "Menergy Crisis", Blake has a singing voice more reminiscent of screeching than anything else. His singing is so bad, Ders and Adam end up editing him out of their song.
  • What We Do in the Shadows: Laszlo reveals that he had a career as a singer/songwriter dating back to the 1850's, though when we hear his records, he sounds ridiculous. Matt Berry is actually an accomplished singer in real life, and there is a very stark difference between his comedic singing on the show and his actual music career.
  • Kirby Buckets:
    • In the episode "The Gil in My Life", is is revealed that Dawn has an absolutely horrendous singing voice which only improves when she is looking at a reflection of herself, especially with toilet water. When she tries to audition to have her voice used in a commercial, the judges instead decided to use the toilet instead of her.
      • She gets another short song in "Battle of the Ballot" when she is happy she no longer has to listen to Kirby's chewing in the cafeteria, and everyone boos her and throws garbage at her.
      • Of course, this trope gets turned on its head in "Queen for a Dawn" when Dawn is treated like royalty in an alternate medieval universe. Kirby tries to get her to sing in order to convince her to return home, but it backfires because she actually can sing in the universe.
      • That being said, Dawn's singing was just fine in "All Hands on Dexter", which predated "The Gil in my Life", when she was auditioning for a spot on a TV talent show.
    • In the episode "The AV Kid", Chip, the titular AV kid, is also a terrible singer with the short friendship song he dedicates to Kirby over the school intercom.

  • Darlene Edwards would often sing in a high grating voice, change keys without warning, and make weird sounds for no reason. Her husband Jonathan Edwards would do equivalent on the piano, playing an untuned piano, switching meters as the winds changed. (See The Kentucky Fried Movie for their rendition of "The Carioca".) They were actually a comedy duo played by respectable musicians Jo Stafford and Paul Weston, who enthusiastically claimed the two were a lounge act they had discovered.
  • The fake 80s heavy metal band Bad News consists of 4 comedians (3 of them from The Young Ones) gleefully massacring "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Pretty Woman". Okay, Adrian Edmondson has a good voice, which he tones down for the songs. The other three, however...
  • This version of "O Holy Night" is the closest to a true, unironic example of this trope you'll ever hear.
    • Producer Steve Mauldin offers some pretty good evidence that he was the original singer on the track, which would make it a straight-up example as he (claims he) did it as a spoof.
  • Mozart has fun with this trope in Ein Musikalischer Spaß (A Musical Joke).
  • The country music version of Jonathan & Darlene Edwards: The Statler Brothers recorded an entire album in the persona of a hilariously untalented group called Lester "Roadhog" Moran and His Cadillac Cowboys.
  • Biz Markie deliberately sang "Just a Friend" off-key, thus becoming a one-hit wonder.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis had not been a talented singer before 1998; he would approximate the keys for certain songs and would need hundreds of takes to record even the simplest of tracks. Starting from the Chilis' seventh album Californication onward, he began to hire a singing coach, and his voice has improved quite a bit. However, he usually saves his voice for popular televised performances, and decides to sing slightly off-key during less popular live shows.
  • Grand Puba sings off-key in 'I Like It' and a few other songs. It adds to the humorous tone of the music and also makes his rapping sound even better.
  • The song "A Word on My Ear" is from the POV of a tone-deaf singer and requires a very good ear for music, since you have to sing at odds with the pianist. Word on My Ear example 1 and Word on My Ear example 2.
  • Florence Foster Jenkins, who ironically used to command large audiences because people would flock to hear how genuinely awful she was, ultimately appearing at Carnegie Hall a month before her death. Despite lacking a developed sense of pitch or rhythm Florence herself remained fixedly assured of her own greatness; due to early recording technology we can decide for ourselves.
    • A Biopic about Florence, starring Meryl Streep (who is not a bad singer, as Mamma Mia would indicate) as Florence, was released in 2016 to great reviews.
  • Lacuna Coil once held a contest to promote their upcoming DVD, where fans could send in footage of themselves hanging out at concerts, rocking out to the band's music, or doing other band-related stuff, with the chance of having the footage appear as bonus material on the DVD. Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro made a Youtube video demonstrating the kind of thing that fans could send in, where Cristina hilariously sang a deliberately off-key "karaoke" version of the song "Closer".
  • The William Hung might count, depending on whether or not his bad singing is intentional. If it isn't, it's So Bad, It's Good instead.
  • In "I Just Wanna Love You (Give It 2 Me)," Jay-Z raps "In the club, high, singing off-key/'And I wish I never met her at all...'." His delivery of the second line is, as promised, sung off-key.
    • After Noel Gallagher criticised rappers, specifically getting one (Jay-Z himself) to headline Glastonbury, Jay-Z decided to open his performance at the festival by coming on stage strumming random notes on a guitar singing "Wonderwall" off-key, before jumping into a performance of 99 Problems.
  • Harry Chapin's "Six String Orchestra" is sung from the POV of a terrible guitarist, and includes several instances where Chapin deliberately stumbles over the notes.
  • Another rare non-ironic Real Life example: This poor guy, made somewhat famous in a viral video, has been described as the "Worst Church Singer Ever." He appears to be Southern Gospel's answer to Florence Foster Jenkins: he's completely sincere and even appears a bit smug about his singing, but there's not one note on-key in the entire song. That takes...talent?
  • In his brilliant parody of Metallica's St. Anger, Matt Smith, singer of Christian Power Metal band Theocracy, sings horrendously off-key in order to emulate Hetfield's performance on the album. The lyrics even include the line "and boy it sounds raw to intentionally sing out of key."
  • NOFX's Cover Version of "Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac, performed as a duet between Fat Mike and guest vocalist Greg Graffin: Greg Graffin sings in his normal style and plays things relatively straight, while Fat Mike deliberately sings off-key and off beat the entire time.
  • An instrumental example: The George Garabedian Players And The Awful Trumpet Of Harry Arms parodied Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass by playing standards like Spanish Flea just a little... off.
  • Legendary British music producer Joe Meek would record demos of his compositions by singing the melody, which he had to do since he couldn't write music or play an instrument. Problem was, he couldn't sing to save his life, which gave a really hard time to the poor souls who had to transcribe it into proper musical notation.
    • In an interesting misuse of the "tone-deaf" term, those demos led to the fake rumor that Meek was literally tone-deaf, which doesn't make sense because someone without relative pitch would never had been able to come up with "Telstar" or any other of the more than 200 compositions to his name.
  • The Bonzo Dog Band were in the direct line of descent from people like Spike Jones twenty years previously - extremely competent musicians who realized they could have more of a comedy impact by playing seemingly badly. Their take on trad jazz has to be heard to be believed.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • This and Gag Boobs are pretty much WWE diva Jillian Hall's entire character. Have a listen. Or better yet, don't.
    • This gimmick is what reportedly drove Hulk Hogan to TNA, as he told everyone who would listen it was done to insult his daughter Brook, whose career WWE was reluctant to promote. In reality it turns out it was just something Jillian does (she thankfully has a more bearable voice in real life) that she decided to do onscreen to get more boos (it worked), which is also why it kept up long after Jillian had left the WWE (and also likely why Hulk Hogan was willing to come back).
    • Incidentally she's not that bad of a singer when she really tries. Her in character album may still be off tone but is nowhere near as grating as her live WWE "performances". She did...decent enough... that crowds at Pro Wrestling Xtreme shows actually chanted "let her sing" though it so far seems to be the only promotion where the crowds have embraced her "music".
  • When Bret Hart signed with WCW and was supposedly going to join the nWo, the nWo celebrated his signing with an extraordinarily horrible rendition of the Canadian national anthem.
  • La Resistance's Sylvan Grenier. The rendition of the French anthem combined with the fact the team was the Foreign Wrestling Heel type made for some pretty intense heat.
  • Used straight with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who has admitted more than once that he can't sing worth a damn—yet still attempted a duet with Lillian Garcia in 2003.
    • This was played with immensely during the Invasion angle in which he sang a revised Queen song into "I am the Champion" and "Kumbaya" for a despondent Vince and singing an a capella duet of "Margaritaville" with The Rock towards the end of the story.
    • And lampshaded on the WWE Originals CD. In between the real songs (most of which featured actual bad singing) were spoken tracks of Austin getting ready to record his song for the album. Of course, the song doesn't actually exist.
    • Austin recalled a story from his upbringing where he was looking to be a rock star until one day his brother slapped the headphones off his head while he was practicing and declared, "You suck!"
  • Following Austin's lead, Kurt Angle played with this trope as well, singing "Jimmy Crack Corn" to Vince and later a revised "Heartbreak Hotel" at the prompting of the Rock. He also did the famous "Sexy Kurt" bit but that involved more non-singing than bad singing.
  • Tan Drake and Jon Moxley at CZW's Cage Of Death, singing about the pay per view while Rich Swann played (surprisingly well) on his guitar.
  • Heath Slater, who calls himself the "One-Man Southern Rock Band". In June 2012, he interrupts a guest-starring Cyndi Lauper and declares himself a better singer... and proceeds to sing horribly until Lauper and Roddy Piper beat him up.
  • Jon Lajoie's MC Vagina persona is a prime example; he doesn't so much sing as he does mumble in a monotone while music plays. And that's not even getting into the lyrics...

  • Disembaudio in RiffTrax often performs painfully off-key renditions of award bait songs (such as "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic and "I See You" from Avatar over the end credits, singing over the actual singer.
  • Rod and Karen of The Black Guy Who Tips belt out intentionally off-key lyrics to the segment themes to "Fucking With Black People" and "Guess The Race". Their real voices tend to come through when they sing along to "Do You Wanna Funk" before "Gay People News".

  • Harry Secombe's Goon Show alter-ego was an enthusiastic but Hollywood-terrible singer, in deliberate contrast to Secombe's accomplished singing in real life.
  • Jack Benny's violin playing. In reality, he was a very talented violinist, and counted virtuoso Isaac Stern among his friends. Jascha Heifitz, another virtuoso violinist and friend of Benny, once remarked of him "It takes a lot of practice to play as badly as he does." (i.e. that a genuinely bad violinist would play in a way that was unlistenable rather than laugh-out-loud funny)

  • The musical Souvenir is about the notoriously bad singer Florence Foster Jenkins. Actresses playing Jenkins have had to study bad singing in an effort to sound genuinely awful.
  • The first girl auditioned to sing "Who Wants To Live In New York?" in the "Opening Doors" sequence of the musical Merrily We Roll Along. (In some productions, she ad-libs, "I can sing it higher!") "Sopranos with voices like bees" indeed.
  • Played straight in all versions (film, theater, TV movie) of The Phantom of the Opera, where we are led to believe that Carlotta is a terrible singer, when in reality, she sounds almost exactly like any opera singer would.
    • In the film, Margaret Preece—who sings for Carlotta—obviously has a lot of training and talent, but one can also tell she's doing all she can to sound really annoying. She turns her high notes squeaky as they end, pushes way too hard in her lower range ("from our saviors, from our saaaaaaAAAAAAEEHHHVIAAAAAHS") and, particularly in her rendition of "Think of Me", uses way too much glottal emphasis at the beginnings of the higher notes.
  • Kristine in A Chorus Line, who has a song about how she can't sing.
  • In the comic opera La Fille du Régiment, Marie (coloratura soprano) has been raised by soldiers to sing rousing patriotic songs and camp ballads, but apparently needs to be retrained to sing "refined" music. Meanwhile, her mother clucks and squawks like an old hen. The contralto has to be genuinely horrible throughout, which only makes Marie's already beautiful voice sound even better.
  • On the reverse, or flip-side of the trope, Peter Schickele's "P.D.Q. Bach" operas are performed with legitimate opera singers, and orchestras, who perform them straight.
  • In Gilbert and Sullivan's Utopia, Limited, the number "A Tenor, All Singers Above" calls for the singer to purposely botch the high notes, on the grounds that he has let himself go from being too madly in love.
  • Gypsy: The strippers' singing in "You Gotta Get A Gimmick" is deliberately harsh, too loud and off-key as the whole point of the song is that they have "no talent" and are relying on their gimmicks to get by in Burlesque.

    Video Games 
  • In one of the voiced dramas for Riviera: The Promised Land, Serene's singing ability comes up. She's supposed to be a very bad singer, but when she actually has to sing part of a spell to save her friend Polly, she performs it without any screeching. Her voice isn't particularly strong, but she's not tone-deaf, so it's something of a subversion.
  • An entire tone-deaf band makes an appearance in Brütal Legend. Kabagge Boy, the Nu Metal Boy Band that Eddie starts out roadying for, is made up of posers with a tween demographic who blend rock, pop, and rap into something so bad that all three musical styles would disown it, then beat it up and take its lunch money. They suffer a Karmic Death for their terrible music (and their maltreatment of Eddie) when Ormagodden shows up. The God of Metal simply screams at them, and their heads fall off.
  • Hitman: Blood Money, The female assassin posing as a singer in the Dance with the Devil mission sings this way.
  • Edy Nelson from Valkyria Chronicles, when she actually attempts to sing Rosie's song. The results? She ends up flooring everyone within earshot of her, and not in a good way. Even Homer, who normally can take her usual punishment, can't take her singing. She'd better stick with just acting.
    • Her sister from Valkyria Chronicles II, Anisette, is also tone deaf, which might explain why she's the only person ever to be able to tolerate her sister's singing. Despite that, she's actually good at singing.
    • Vario, also from VC2. A celebrity wannabe/ Captain Ersatz of Elvis, this guy has quite the horrifying voice when he attempts to sing. He does improve, however.
  • Saints Row
    • In Saints Row 2, the player has has 6 different voices to choose from when customizing the Boss, and each gets two songs they sing along to on the radio, each one sharing "Take On Me" by A-ha and getting one other unique song per voice. The songs range from The Final Countdown, to Sister Christian, and your character can not sing worth a shit to any of them.
    • The male voice that sings to "Sister Christian" actually semi-raps it, occasionally improvising spoken word nonsense like "cuz you're a bitch!" and "aaah! Man! Guitars and shit!" at the end of lines. Not even trying.
    • Pierce, similarly, can't sing well. At all. This is played for laughs throughout the series, although he and the Boss generally get better by Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV when they sing "What I Got" and "Opposites Attract", respectively. "Generally" being the operative word.
    • The key example is in The Third when Pierce sings fictional pop diva Aisha's "Bounce Like My Checks" from the first game, while dressed in drag as her to lure out a mutant Johnny Gat clone. It has to be seen to be believed.
  • Guybrush Threepwood in The Curse of Monkey Island sings incredibly off-key while trying to convince the three Barbary Coast pirates to join his crew. Voice actor Dominic Armato described trying to intentionally sing badly as 'interesting'.
  • In Yakuza: Dead Souls, Majima can sing at karaoke clubs. His singing is off-tempo, off-key, and peppered with his unique combination of Kansai Regional Dialect and yakuza accent. It must be seen to be believed.
    • What's more, Yakuza 0 proves that Majima can sing well if he wants to - it's just that, 20 years onward, he stopped giving two shits.
  • Wei Shen in Sleeping Dogs, if you play the karaoke minigame badly. Observe.
  • In Lunar: The Silver Star, the bar in Meryod has a dancing girl who sings just like the other dancing girls except horribly off-key and off the beat.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2's Chao Garden, if a Chao learns to sing from being given a parrot their singing will upset other Chao nearby, compared to if they learned how to sing from being taken to the Chao Kindergarten.
  • As one of the Japanese promos for Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo made a version of Jump Up Super Star featuring Toad, which sounds exactly like this.
  • In Miitopia, one skill the Pop Star has is “Out Of Tune”, which causes them to sing so badly that it damages enemies (and teammates as well).
  • Muse from Demon Gaze II begins singing over the radio. The singing is so bad that it causes the radio that the characters are using to explode!

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 
  • In Whateley Universe, Merry has a rather unique version of this. When drunk on electricity, she sings exactly off-key, enough that they're pretty sure that's it's part of her abilities. Unfortunately, she's a prankster, so she's probably doing it on purpose.

    Web Videos 
  • Sarah in lonelygirl15 sings a tuneless, croaky rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" in "Mission Gamma". Actress Alexandra Dreyfus is a classically trained singer.
  • A central feature of Miranda Sings. It would be better if she actually knew the notes, but she doesn't.
  • Megami33 is actually a really good singer, but when she voices Serena in Sailor Moon Abridged, she has to make her sound bad.
  • The Nostalgia Critic:
    • The review of The King and I features a sketch of Russell Crowe (played by Doug Walker) and Shakira (played by Rachel Tietz) both performing off-key renditions of the songs from said musical. In reality, both Walker and Tietz are very accomplished singers (Walker has sung in previous episodes of The Nostalgia Critic, and Tietz's YouTube channel features her performing a mixture of original songs and cover versions).
    • Similarly, in Critic's review of Les Miserables, Brentalfloss performs his singing in a monotone with the Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble as a parody of (once again) Russell Crowe's singing style in the film. They also point out that the original is actually on-key; it's just that he's falling back on his rock/folk background instead of the usual musical theater style, which clashes noticeably with the other performances.
  • In WarpZone Project, Léa, Téo's Love Interest, is a dreadful singer to the extent of her singing teacher collapsing at the end of her lesson. Unfortunately, one of the super-villains living in their city is such a music fanatic that he considers that any "offense to music" must be destroyed.

    Western Animation 
  • Happened with Dee Dee in an episode of Dexter's Laboratory, who was so bad at singing that Dexter, after trying unsuccessfully to get her to stop singing and disrupting his work, attempted to use science to give Dee Dee a more pleasant singing voice... and instead wound up giving her an incredible barritone bass, which allowed her to join a barbershop quartet.
  • As seen in the Kim Possible episode "Hidden Talent", hitting high notes is one of the few things Kim can't do. (However, her voice actress Christy Carlton Romano is — like many Disney Channel stars — a trained professional singer.)
    • Though otherwise, she's a fantastic singer.
  • Jane and the Dragon: Both straight and subverted with Jane Turnkey. One episode shows she can't even perform scales without screeching like a sickly cat. Yet that's her singing the show's theme song.
  • In Danny Phantom, Jazz's singing is yet another misuse of the term tone deaf. But not as severe as Tucker who abuses this trope.
  • In Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, the episode "Sonic's Song" has Robotnik singing horribly off-key. Considering his voice actor is famed Blues musician Long John Baldry, this qualifies as a meta-joke.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius: Carl and Sheen. Compared to Sheen's singing, Carl's is angelic. No really, Sheen's singing voice is really horrible. It's so bad that when Sheen gets the solo for the school play, they resolve the issue by having him perform it from inside a soundproof box. However, in Attack of the Twonkies, his singing voice proved useful in stopping the horrible beasts the eponymous creatures turn into from exposure to music. His singing merely put his Twonkie to sleep because it was so bad that the Twonkies couldn't even register it as music. Carl's singing, on the other hand, was just decent enough to make his Twonkie transform.
  • In Samurai Jack, the Scotsman's bagpipe-playing is really bad. This actually comes in useful in "The Scottsman Saves Jack" when his playing proves an efficient counter for the Sirens' enchanting singing. In addition, the Siren's singing can't hypnotize the Scotsman because he thinks it is ugly and he can't stand it.
  • Peewit (from Johan and Peewit, Harmony Smurf, and Sassette in The Smurfs.
  • In the Ruby Gloom episode "Unsung Heroes", Ruby and Iris sing in off-key, off-rhythm shouts that, although still not totally realistic, are not as overdone as some examples of this trope. Misery (while awake) does sing in the top-of-her-lungs, randomly-pitched shrieking wail that exemplifies this trope, but it's justified, as she appears to actually be a banshee. They still produced a Ruby Gloom image single in Japan, though, with a professional singer portraying Ruby. All three eventually develop into fine singers, so their early stumbles can be dismissed as rookie mistakes. Or the No-Talent Ball. Whichever.
  • Clash from Jem is a groupie who really wants to be a part of The Misfits but can't actually sing or play instruments. "One Jem Too Many" has her masquerading as Jem to ruin her reputation. Her disguise was perfect until she was challenged by Jem to sing. People outright threw tomatoes at her.
  • Happened in Arthur when Francine attempted to play the drums while singing. What ensues resembles nothing so much as a sick eagle wrestling a cat in a tumble dryer. In the end, it turns out she can sing just fine; she just can't do both at once. In another episode, she sings "There's-Nothing-to-Do-Today Day" in an Imagine Spot. Cut back to the real world, she tries to reprise the song and it comes out... a little off, but believably so.
    • Arthur himself also reveals be his in Elwood City Turns 100!, so much that Francine actually tries to help him (with little-to-no success).
  • In an episode of Disney's Doug, Doug and the gang discover that Patti is a terrible singer when she tries to perform her entry in the "Bluffington anthem" contest. They spent the rest of the episode trying to stop her from performing it at the contest without actually letting her know she can't sing. Sadly, this casually disregards a few episodes of the original series in which Patti sings passably. Of course, given the reception of the Disney version, we might disregard the retcon.
    • In one of the Nick episodes, Doug, Skeeter and Porkchop heard Mr. Dink howling in agony. They run to his house to find a video of Mr. Dink singing rather horribly.
    Mr. Dink: I made it this morning. Do you like it?
    Skeeter: Like it? We thought you were dying!
    Mr. Dink: (stops the tape) What was that, Skeeter?
    Doug: He said we were dying to hear your song.
    Mrs. Dink: Right you are the first time, boys.
  • In one episode of Megas XLR, Coop uses his mediocre singing as a weapon, "The Jammer". To specify, it's the one weapon Megas has that Coop considers cruel to use and has more safety measures preventing its activation than Megas' NUKES!!! Although Coop's singing isn't all that terrible, more flat than horribly off-key. The extreme sonic amplification is what makes it devasating.
  • Huckleberry Hound ("Oh m'darlin', oh m'darlin', oh m'daaaaaaaaaaaarlin' what's her naaaaaaaaaaaaaaame...") and Quick Draw McGraw are both examples, since they were voiced by Daws Butler, who could sing rather well.
    • Yakky Doodle was as well. An episode even revolved around his lack of ability to sing.
  • Henry on KaBlam!, especially if you compare it to June's singing (which is angelic, even if she's kinda devilish).
  • Invoked by Seth MacFarlane as the plot demands on Family Guy. One of the characters he voices can be a stellar singer in one episode and totally amateur the next. Seth has perfect pitch in real life and is freakishly good at staying just out of tune enough to sound believably bad; see episode "The King is Dead" featuring Brian (fantastic) and Peter (awful) back to back. Even better the actual episode version of Peter's ''I Need a Jew'' (off-key and mediocre) vs a live performance (perfect).
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "The Show Stoppers," Scootaloo's singing voice is so horribly off-key it helps her team unintentionally win an award for best comedic act in a talent show. She does a rather better job in "One Bad Apple".
    • Pinkie Pie, whose talent for singing random songs out of nowhere is legendary, throws pitch and meter out the window when she sings about Zecora in "Bridle Gossip".
    • Sweetie Belle, normally the best singer of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, screeches her way through a campfire song in "Sleepless in Ponyville". Justified in that she's singing a G-rated version of "99 bottles of beer", which is supposed to be sung as terribly as possible.
    • Sweetie Belle tries to conduct Scootaloo and Apple Bloom in "On Your Marks" and grows annoyed that neither of them can carry a tune. In what could be seen as an animated take on Gameplay and Story Segregation, about a minute later Apple Bloom is given a solo song and pulls it off perfectly.
  • Leela is such a bad singer on Futurama that when she tried to sing Whitney Houston, she convinced the Omicronions that Earth was launching a surprise attack. Katey Sagal, as mentioned earlier, is a very good singer.
  • Invoked by the producers of Moral Orel with the character Bloberta Puppington who was played by Britta Phillips (a Truly Outrageous! woman) known for her powerful vocals, she was directed to sing loud and off-key when it came to Bloberta's enthusiasm for singing even though she couldn't sing.
  • The ReBoot episode "The Crimson Binome" has Bob singing along wordlessly and horrendously off-key to his music player. It's hilariously dreadful.
  • Eddie in one episode of Birdz sings so badly that his entire class begs him to stop. As does his family after he breaks some dishes.
  • Girl racer Ninki in The BBC's pre-school show Kerwhizz sometimes breaks horribly into song, causing her canine companion Pip to howl in agony.
  • Angelica from Rugrats is inconsistent about this. It's justified seeing that most kids at age three don't really know how to sing well yet. However, it's revealed in All Grown Up! when she's not tone deaf for the sake of comedy or the plot, her singing voice is actually decent.
  • In one episode of The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, Bamm-Bamm had a thoroughly awful singing voice — unless he was taking a shower, in which case his voice suddenly and inexplicably became gorgeous. Chances are, Jay North voiced both versions of Bamm-Bamm's singing voice. You can imagine the exaggerated bad notes of the "bad" voice....
    • That episode was basically a recycled episode of its parent show, The Flintstones. In the episode "The Flintstone Canaries", Fred forms a barbershop quartet with Barney (and two other guys), but soon discovers that Barney can only sing well while taking a bath. Like father, like son?? (Wait a minute, wasn't Bamm-Bamm adopted?)
  • Whenever Elmyra in Tiny Toon Adventures sings, it usually sounds very goofy and childlike. Cree Summer is actually a very good singer and has released an album. Unlike Elmyra's, her singing much more mature and perhaps menacing.
  • Johnny Bravo. Made even funnier considering his voice is basically an Elvis Presley impersonation.
  • A Dudley Do-Right short has Nell having such a bad singing voice, that it puts the audience to sleep, giving Snidely the idea of making her a "star" so he can pickpocket the sleeping listeners.
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "Launchpad's First Crash", Launchpad plays his harmonica, and Scrooge says the sound is "torture". This leads to a Flashback story of the time they first met, where he's able to use it to confuse some giant bat monsters who use echolocation to fly in the dark.
    Huey: Uncle Donald, your voice is terrible! Keep singing!
  • Sticks on Sonic Boom, depicted by her cacophonous nonsensical singing in "Sleeping Giant". Amy's singing is only slightly more tolerable, particularly in "The Sidekick".
  • Kahn Souphanousinphone on King of the Hill sings '80s pop songs in horribly off-key fashion every chance he gets. There's even an episode where he becomes a karaoke star, much to his father-in-law's dismay.
  • In Episode 89 of Kaeloo, almost the entire cast of characters is shown to be wonderful singers... but most other episodes show them singing horribly off-key.
  • One episode of The Fairly OddParents has Timmy having a singing voice so bad, he can't even be in the school's play. He then uses Cosmo and Wanda's help to have a voice like Chip Skylark—with disastrous results.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show has Stimpy portrayed as this in the Games Animations-era episode "Hermit Ren", where he butchers Kumbaya, despite having previously appeared on the "You Eediot" music CD where he sings quite well.
  • In The Beatles episode "I'll Be Back," three outlaws try to steal the boys' thunder and are immediately pelted off the stage with rotten fruit and vegetables. Their "singing" was actually a Beatles recording of "Ticket To Ride" distorted on purpose.
  • In one OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes short, Shannon sings a commercial Jingle for Boxmore. She sounds just as bad as you would expect a teenage girl with zero vocal training to sound. Her actor, Kari Wahlgren, can sing perfectly well, but is quite good at sounding believably out of tune.
  • Static Shock: In "Duped", the shape-shifting criminal Marvin Roper/Replikon fancies himself an awesome singer and tries to break into the music business, but everyone agrees he sucks.


Video Example(s):


Blake "Singing"

Blake's singing is more like him screeching as loud as he can.

How well does it match the trope?

3 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / HollywoodToneDeaf

Media sources:

Main / HollywoodToneDeaf