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Hypocritical Singing

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Hypocritical singing is like singing, but with hypocrisy.

It could be directly self-referential, i.e. the character is contradicting themselves within the song, or the song contains both lyrics which propose a maxim and also break that same maxim: for instance, a song about being truthful which itself contains lies.

It could also be a character singing about a maxim whilst breaking that maxim in their actions rather than the song itself: for instance, a song about being truthful sung while the character is on their way to deliver false information.

Sometimes Played for Laughs, in the form of Hypocritical Humor. Also can be used to show that a character should not be trusted.

Related to and may overlap with Lyrical Dissonance.


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    Films — Animation 
  • "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from The Little Mermaid is a slight variation in that Ursula, while trying to get Ariel to make a deal with her, sings of how she [Ursula] uses her powers to help people. The song's hypocritical in that Ursula makes herself seem to come off in the very best light. While she does help people, she compares herself to a saint, but she also always has something to gain from her deals, and she goes out of her way to make sure that those under contract will fail to uphold their end of the bargain.
  • Meg's "I Won't Say I'm In Love" from Disney's Hercules is all about how she's not in love with Hercules, which becoming less and less believable as the song goes on, as The Muses themselves point out.

    Films — Live Action 
  • In High School Musical 2, one of the characters sings about how he doesn't dance. Which is odd, considering that he was doing perfect choreography in the last movie.
  • In Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins sings the kids to sleep with "Stay Awake".
  • Muppet Treasure Island has 'Professional Pirate,' with the lyrics:
    We'd never stab you in the back; *guy with a knife in his back falls in front of the singer's feet.*
    We'd never lie or cheat; *one pirate steals another's watch.*

  • The Hobbit: When pressed to do Bilbo's dishes, the dwarves begin to sing about smashing his plates and destroying his property, while actually taking care to do no damage at all. The last line of the song (Which didn't make it into the film adaptation) mentions that wrecking Bilbo's property like that would displease their host, which is why they won't do them.
    That's what Bilbo Baggins hates/So carefully, carefully, with the plates!

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Saturday Night Live, Justin Timberlake showcased his singing talents with a song saying that he wasn't there to showcase his singing talents.
    • Taylor Swift did something similar, discussing various topics in her opening monologue song and ending each verse with "But I'm not going to talk about that in my monologue song."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Musical Episode "Once More With Feeling" has two examples:
    • "I'll Never Tell", in which Anya and Xander list all the secrets they're keeping from each other. This plays around with the Musical World Hypothesis; in an "All In Their Heads" musical these could have been counterpoint Thinking Out Loud (and it's possible that characters think they are at the time), but they can in fact hear each other.
    • "Rest In Peace", in which Spike sings of wanting Buffy to leave him alone, but he wants the exact opposite of that.
    Spike: (watching Buffy run like hell when the song ends)'re not staying, then?
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend lives for this trope. The best example is "I'm A Good Person", in which Rebecca actually threatens the people around her with a knife in order to get them to say what a good person she is.

  • "One Time". Justin insists that he's only going to "tell you [this] one time", then repeats it over and over again.
  • Jonathan Coulton with "Not About You". Where he proceeds to make the song all about the one it's not about.
  • Monty Python's "Never Be Rude to an Arab", which is not exactly polite.
  • Genesis's 1991 album We Can't Dance provides two instances of this trope: "Jesus He Knows Me" is about an Egocentrically Religious televangelist who says "Won't find me practicing what I'm preaching/Won't find me making no sacrifice", as well as a verse about how "I believe in family" while cheating on his wife with both men and women. Later, there's "I Can't Dance", a very catchy song about how they have no musical talent.
  • Famously, Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" takes this to the point of logical paradox — it's impossible for the lyrics not to be hypocritical. By definition the song is about the "you" to whom it's addressed, and while it might indeed be vain for them to assume its about them, it doesn't change the fact that they happen to be right.
  • Rodney Crowell sings a song called "She's Crazy For Leaving," observing that "you can't stop a woman when she's out of control." Meanwhile, he's describing the increasingly erratic and dangerous stunts he's pulling as he tries to stop her from leaving.
  • "The Apathy Song" by Mitch Benn, in which the verses decry all the apathy in the world and have Mitch declare that he decided to do something about it, and then the chorus goes:
    But I really couldn't be bothered,
    I put the telly on instead,
    Got about halfway through Neighbours,
    Gave up and went to bed.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "(This song is just) Six Words Long" (to the tune of "I've got my mind set on you")... well, for starters, that first line is seven words long.
    • Also, "Don't Download This Song", a spoof of Digital Piracy Is Evil, is available as a free download on his website.
  • This is a recurring trope in Country Music, where it is Played for Laughs. It's almost always a break-up song that starts with the singer assuring their ex that they're doing fantastically since they were dumped, and to prove it, they list all the ways they're fine...which are all the ways they're not. Examples include:

  • In Thenardier's song "Master of the House" from Les Misérables, he sings about what an honest and decent innkeeper he is, all while constantly cheating and conning everyone in the inn.
  • "Were you not to Ko-Ko plighted" from The Mikado. Many productions have Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum punctuate "This, oh, this, is what I'll/he'll never do" with kisses. Pooh-Bah also has this line in "So Pardon Us": "To our prerogative we cling, So pardon us, So pardon us, If we decline to dance and sing, Tra la la la la la..." while dancing and singing.
  • In The Drowsy Chaperone, "Show Off" is all about how Janet doesn't want to show off anymore, complete with an encore.
  • The Pirates of Penzance has "With Catlike Tread", in which the pirates loudly sing about sneaking.

    Western Animation 
  • Or in The Simpsons during the all-singing clip show when Homer says, 'Singing is the lowest form of communication." Marge says, 'But you sing all the time," and Homer replies, "No I don't, I hate to rhyme."
  • In Phineas and Ferb, the song "Ain't Got Rhythm" is about librarian and former rockstar Swampy saying that he lost his ability to make rhythm after he fell asleep in a metronome factory... despite making a spontaneous and incredibly catchy improvised rhythm as he sings this. Phineas even points out how clearly untrue this is.
    Phineas: But listen what you're doing right there!
    With that stamp and a book
    You've got a real nice hook
    Sounds to me like you've got rhythm to spare
  • The Ollie North song from American Dad! is about the Iran Contra affair. The lyrics at some point says that "North volunteered to take the blame/to save Reagan from presidential shame" while the video shows Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush ditching Oliver North, leaving him to deal with mess and the press.


Video Example(s):


Ain't Got Rhythm

Librarian and former Love Händel drummer Swampy mentions that he lost his ability to make rhythm after he fell asleep in a metronome factory... despite making a spontaneous and incredibly catchy improvised rhythm as he starts singing a song about it. Phineas even points out how clearly untrue this is.

How well does it match the trope?

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