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Lyrical Dissonance

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Pinkie Pie: Wanna hear the song I sing to my parents? Oh, sorry, I mean—the song they sang to me?
Applejack: Doesn't matter which one, Pinkie. As long as it's not one of those sad ones with a deceptively happy tune.
Friendship is Witchcraft Episode 7: Cherry Bomb

So, you're listening to this new song. Nice and bouncy, sounds like it's gonna be a fun little ditty. Then the lyrics start. You might be happily sing along to the catchy melody for a little bit, before it starts in: The singer is actually telling a woeful tale about miserable subjects, including struggling with depression, descend into insanity, committing murder, committing suicide, witnessing the end of civilization and the downfall of mankind, and being a victim of line-cutting.


And the worst part is, the happy, upbeat music just keeps going. That's Lyrical Dissonance: when the music and lyrics are going in opposite directions. Happy upbeat lyrics set to sad music also qualifies. This can also be used for comic effect, either by putting serious, dramatic music to silly lyrics, or by simply treating the subject matter as if it did fit the tune. This trope also applies with lyrics that seem unfitting for reasons other than happiness versus sadness - for instance, a particularly angry or violent-sounding song that has lyrics that are clearly humorous, or sad, or perhaps just thoughtful and introspective; or the reverse, a cheery tune with angry or violent lyricsnote .

A rather old trope. One of the archetypal examples involves an evil chief of police plotting to blackmail a woman into having sex with him in order to save the man she loves, then having the man killed anyway, while all around him parishioners beg for God's mercy, all set to some of the most gorgeously beautiful music the composer ever wrote. That's from Puccini's 1900 opera, Tosca. Not the oldest by any means — but one that can easily compete with most of the examples below.


Sub-trope to Mood Dissonance. Compare to Soundtrack Dissonance and The Mel Brooks Number, where the upbeat showtune melody is used for ribald or sarcastic effect. May lead to Isn't It Ironic?, if the song is used in a place where the people who selected it didn't listen to the lyrics very well. As one of the folders in this page shows, it might be related to The Cover Changes the Meaning.

Example subpages:


In-Fiction Examples:

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  • "VD Is For Everybody" is a 1969 PSA warning us about how anyone can have nasty sexually transmitted diseases set to a rather romantic tune and played over clips of cheerful and pleasant people happily living out their lives.
  • There have been innumerable commercials that have used the repetitive chorus of Everclear's "Wonderful" to put forth a message of sunshine, rainbows, and puppies happiness, all-is-right-with-the-world fun, togetherness, and all other sorts of wonderful, positive emotions. People who have never heard the rest of the song probably don't have the first clue that's its actually about how traumatic it is for a child to watch their parents descend into mutual hatred and domestic violence.
  • For a long while, Carnival Cruise Line was using the chorus from Iggy Pop's Lust for Life as background music to their commercials showing happy families having fun during a Caribbean cruise. Forgotten in all the bright colors and good cheer is the fact that the song is about living with a serious heroin addiction and how said addiction almost killed Iggy Pop. The song was also used in a motivational feel-good advert for New Zealand-brewed Steinlager beer during the 1990s.
  • A few commercials, including one for department store jewelry, have used a peppy cover of 99 Red Balloons. How they thought the threat of apocalyptic nuclear war would make someone want to buy fake diamonds, I don't know.
  • Back in The '90s there was an anti-meth ad which sounds like an upbeat commercial tune, singing about how it won't make you sleep or eat, but it will make you clean a lot. The commercial itself however, is fitting to the message.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Macross Frontier, Ranka's signature song Aimo is later modified into a war song. The dissonance doesn't fully set in until the last episode when it's revealed that Aimo is a love song. In fact, they let the first line (Aimo, aimo, netel lhushe) intact - and Aimo means Anata.
    • It doesn't help that half of the song is in Zentran.
  • Umino's father in Satou Kashi no Dangan wa Uchinukenai is famous for singing a song about a mermaid who falls in love with a human. It being a victim of the Second Verse Curse is a part of the reason no one remembers that this cute romance song ends with him killing her, chopping her up, and making her into sashimi. This is foreshadowing as he ends up killing Umino and tries to dispose of her body by cutting it up.
  • In the final season of the original Sailor Moon anime, Minako sings in public her Image Song "Route Venus", a song with a cheery melody about giving up her love life for duty. Minako being Minako, she sung it at an idol audition she took part in just to see if she could once her battles as Sailor Venus were over, and actually felt she had to have Usagi's permission to even try out.
  • In chapter 11 of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid (episode 3 in the anime), Tohru sings a cheerful tune about bringing about the end of the world while she's dusting.
    Kobayashi: Well, that's nice and disturbing.

    Film — Animated 
  • Don Bluth's adaptation of Thumbelina has a song with a syrupy-sweet melody performed in an equally saccharine tone by Carol Channing, with the following lyrics:
    Here comes the bride is a lovely little ditty
    But marrying for love is a foolish thing to do
    'Cause love won't pay the mortgage or put porridge in your bowl
    Dearie, marry the mole
    True it's a fact that he's not exactly witty
    He's blinder than a bat, but at least his eyes are blue
    His breath may be alarming but he's charming, for a troll
    Dearie, marry the mole
    Romeo and Juliet
    Were very much in love when they were wed
    They honored every vow and where are they now?
    Poor Thumbelina, your brain's so itty bitty
    I hate to seem a pest, but I know what's best for you
    Just think of all the ways that you can decorate a hole
    Take my advice, I'll bring the rice
    Dearie, Marry the Mole!
    Marry the Mole!
    Marry that Moooole
    M is for money. O-L-E
  • Tim Burton is a master of mixing the macabre and the lighthearted, so it's no surprise that the music in his movies is the same. The best example is "Remains of the Day" from Corpse Bride, a swinging jazzy tune about death and murder. Even while you're tapping your feet to the beat, you probably don't miss the extremely dark chorus:
    "Die, die, we all pass away, but don't wear a frown, cause it's really ok! You might try to hide, and you might try to pray, but we all end up the remains of the day!"
  • "The World's Greatest Criminal Mind", from The Great Mouse Detective, is one of Disney's cheeriest villain songs. The most disturbing lyrics?
    Even Meaner? You mean it? Worse than the widows and orphans you drowned?
  • Hoodwinked has Boingo's Villain Song, "Top of the Woods," a song about oppressing other creatures, getting children addicted to junk food, and becoming a ruthless dictator, all to a very upbeat jazz band.

    "When your only desire is to dominate the land of the wolves and the squirrels
    You've got to think with a open mind and learn to detest little girls
    And everyone knows at the end of a show the villain puts his plan into words
    Except there won't be a rescue before the credits roll cause I'm gonna be top of the woods!"

    "Now the kids will be packed with my BoingoSnax
    Construction begins in a day
    And all of the bears will be ruled by the hare
    As I maniacally plot from my evil lair!"
    [cue evil laugh]
  • The Lion King II: Simba's Pride has "My Lullaby", a brutal declaration of war and violence set to the tune of a children's lullaby. On the other hand, it grows to be pretty creepy...
  • "Let It Go" from Frozen, an uplifting-sounding song by Elsa about finally accepting her powers... which is also about choosing to live a life in isolation and cut herself off from the world. Ironically enough that's inverted on a meta-level, seeing as by many people it's viewed as an empowerment anthem and has actually encouraged many, which is arguably the opposite of what some dissonance may suggest it means for Elsa. Also of note is that it was originally intended to be a Villain Song before Idina's performance led the writers to completely changing the story, and the song led people to treat it as... well, the exact opposite. Irony at its finest.
  • Moana:
    • "Shiny" veers back in forth in tone between the menacing tones of a Villain Song... and upbeat '70s glam rock. While most of the song consists of Badass Boasts that fit the tone of both halves, Tamatoa's intent to kill and eat the heroes is mostly expressed in the bouncy parts, and the lyrics do not at all sugarcoat this desire. Just look at the way the lyrics swerve...
    I'm too shiny
    Watch me dazzle like a diamond in the rough
    Strut my stuff, my stuff is so shiny
    Send your armies but they'll never be enough
    My shell's too tough
    Maui man, you can try try try
    But you can't expect a demigod to beat a decapod (look it up!)
    You will die die die
    Now it's time for me to take apart your aching heart

    Maui, now it's time to kick your heinie
    Ever seen someone so shiny?
    Soak it in 'cause it's the last you'll ever see
    C'est la vie, mon ami
    I'm so shiny
    Now I eat you so prepare your final plea
    Just for me
    • The tail-end of "You're Welcome"; Maui's "I Am Great!" Song starts out with a recap of all the awesome things he's done, but near the finish he sings on how he's taking Moana's boat, and then traps her in a cave, while still keeping the upbeat melody.
    Hey, it's okay, okay,
    "You're welcome" (You're welcome!)
    But come to think of it, I gotta go!
    Hey, it's you day to say
    "You're welcome" (You're welcome!)
    'Cause I'm gonna need that boat
    I'm sailing away, away
    You're welcome (You're welcome!)
    'Cause Maui can do everything but float!
    You're welcome! (You're welcome!) You're welcome! (You're welcome!) You're welcome!

    And thank you!
  • The children's movie The Brave Little Toaster contains a song near its end which the other wiki sums up perfectly: "Worthless is sung by the junkyard's broken down cars, each singing a few verses about their life before being smashed and killed by the compactor." However, they fail to mention the upbeat music it's sung to.
  • "L'il Ark Angel" from Cats Don't Dance starts with Darla singing about the world being destroyed in a flood and people and animals drowning in exactly the same cheerful tone she later sings about the various animals she's rescuing. If you hadn't already realized she'd be the Big Bad of the film from the foreshadowing in the intro, it's hard to miss it after that.
  • "Batty Rap" from FernGully: The Last Rainforest. It has a fast and springy beat and tune.....with the lyrics being about how Batty was used in animal testing laboratory, with strong implications that he was conscious throughout all the processes. Due to its 'adult' nature, quite a bit of the song was cut from the film, but was left in on the CD.
    "The Eye makeup, when inserted rectally, has some effect...
    Remove the brain cap...
    If you notice, by dipping the bat in a series of paints...
    After 600 packs of cigarettes, the animals seem to exhibit some carcinogenic tendencies..."
    Oh God, I'm bleeding by my genitals!
    • The tune's single most horrifying line: "As you see, the animals don't really feel pain, THEY JUST GET USED TO IT!!!"
  • The song "Mother Knows Best" in Tangled is a cheerful, bouncy song where Gothel terrifies Rapunzel by listing off all the "scary and dangerous" things in the outside world and how all of them will happen to Rapunzel if she steps out of the tower. Throughout the song, Gothel is intentionally emotionally abusing Rapunzel by playing with her fears to make her seem like she's the only one in the cruel world Rapunzel could trust.
  • Coco has one that becomes foreshadowing: Ernesto de la Cruz's rendition of "Remember Me" seems very wrong. The lyrics come from a place of love, true pure love, yet they're being presented with this upbeat melody like it's a frivolous and showoffish love. That's because it's not Ernesto's song, but Hector's. Notice how Hector's portrayal of the song is one that's slow and melancholy, and feels more genuine and heartfelt. It's something that only he was able to write, because it came from his heart. However, with Ernesto, music is a tool for him to achieve fame and nothing more. He has no care for using music as a tool to express his feelings, which is why the only way he could achieve anything was to steal music from somebody who legitimately cared about music: Hector. However, while Ernesto stole the lyrics and melody of the song from Hector, the one thing he couldn't steal was the heart and passion of the song, which is why Ernesto's version is glorified and over the top. Ernesto missed the point of Hector's song, thus making the song feel artificial and soulless, when compared to Hector's version.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Georgy Girl: the theme is about how the protagonist is insecure but you can't tell it from the outside...but it has a very light, upbeat tune.
  • The 2005 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film opens with the Guide narrating to us about how on Earth, man was only the third-most intelligent species on the Earth. The second most intelligent species, were in fact dolphins, who curiously enough knew of the impending destruction of the planet Earth. They made many attempts to alert mankind to the impending doom, but most of their communications were misinterpreted as amusing attempts to punch footballs or whistle for tidbits. So they eventually decided to leave Earth by their own means. The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double backward somersault through a hoop while whistling the Star-Spangled Banner, but in fact the message was this: "So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish", an upbeat song with these catchy lyrics:
    The world's about to be destroyed
    There's no point getting all annoyed
    Lie back and let the planet dissolve around you
    So long, so long, and thanks for all the fish!
    • The "Share and Enjoy" song from the radio series is a cheerful little ballad, which must be sung a flattened fifth out of tune by a badly-programmed choir of robots. The lyrics are about how, when malfunctioning Sirius Cybernetics robots tear off doors and rape cats, the company's complaints department (which takes up the masses of three planets and is the only part of the company to turn a profit) won't give a fig. "Go stick your head in a pig!"
    • Disaster Area's song "Only the End of the World Again" can be heard on the now-rare Hitchhiker's Guide EP (with the rubber duck on the sleeve). It's a heavy rock ballad about a guy who kills his best friend to be with his girlfriend, takes her for a crash in her dad's car, and then makes out with her as the moon explodes for no adequately explored reason.
  • "That Thing you Do" in the movie of the same name is an upbeat, Beach Boys-esque song about a guy lamenting his girlfriend leaving him.
    • In story, the songwriter intended for the song to be a slow ballad, but it became the peppy dance hall song it is after the new drummer decided to up the tempo without telling anybody
  • The opening number for Phantom of the Paradise, "Goodbye Eddie Goodbye," is about a singer who commits suicide in order to promote the sales of his upcoming album. The song is sung in catchy 50's style complete with "ya-ya-ya-yaahs" and the lead singer pantomiming Eddie's death throes.
    • The end credits song contains a bouncy piano breakdown along with the lyrics "Good for nothing / Bad in bed / Nobody likes you / You're better off dead / Goodbye."
  • The Hangover has a band playing 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" in lounge style as well.
  • This Is Spın̈al Tap had fun with this one while parodying some of the more overblown conventions of the Heavy Metal genre.
    • "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" seems to be a fairly straightforward parody of sexually-charged, self-promoting Rock and Roll anthems directed at adoring female fans; until you realize it's talking specifically about pre-pubescent female fans.
    • At one point in the film, guitarist Nigel Tufnel plays a short piano piece. It's a hauntingly beautiful excerpt from a trilogy he's composing in D-minor, "The saddest of all keys", inspired by his love of Mozart and Bach. The name of this melancholy tune? Lick My Love Pump. Admittedly, his inspiration might have been Mozart's piece named Lick Me In the Ass.
    • In a deleted scene (available on the DVD), after the breakup of Spinal Tap, David St. Hubbins discusses his long-time desire to create an classic, upbeat-style musical a la ''Oliver!'' titled Saucy Jack; based on the life of Jack the Ripper.
  • How is the best way to promote Roland Emmerich's latest film 2012? Give it a trailer tune sung by Idol Runner-up Adam Lambert, that's what! And the title of this song is "Miracle", of all things.
  • Team America: World Police features a parody of RENT's songs and the subject matter with an uplifting song of: "EVERYONE HAS AIDS! AIDS AIDS AIDS!" Etcetera.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail has "Brave Sir Robin," who was not at all afraid to be killed in nasty ways indeed.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian contains the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," with such lyrically dissonant lines as, "always look on the bright side of death," being sung by Brian during his own crucifixion.
  • Richard Cheese swanks out a cover of Disturbed's "Down With The Sickness" in the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004). This is, of course, his entire schtick.
  • Mary Poppins invokes this with a soft, sleep-inducing lullaby called "Stay Awake".
  • Sweeney Todd (both the original play by Stephen Sondheim and the cinematic adaptation by Tim Burton) has the song "A Little Priest". Todd and Mrs. Lovetts are singing about murdering random strangers and cooking them into meat pies...but it's such a pleasant and upbeat tune!
  • Speaking of Tim Burton, in his adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Oompa-Loompas' morality ballads are all fun and energetic, but the lyrics graphically detail the potential gruesome fates of misbehaving children. Perhaps the most egregious example is the Augustus Gloop song, an upbeat Bollywood-style number about how poor Augustus is going to be mixed into Wonka's fudge. It's worth noting that all those lyrics came directly from Roald Dahl's original novel, which shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with Dahl's trademark style of Black Comedy. What's more, Danny Elfman was responsible for putting those lyrics to musical accompaniment, and Elfman is no stranger to Lyrical Dissonance, as Oingo Boingo fans will readily attest.
  • Air America has a pair of chinese singers singing America's "Horse with no name" a song about desperate loneliness in an upbeat longue-singer fashion.
  • In Borat, Borat sings the National Anthem of fictional Kazakhstan to the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner".
  • The movie Grumpier Old Men starts with a bouncy song about the singer killing his wife's lover and leaving his corpse for the crows
    "I'm gonna kill you just for fun, you rascal you
    I'm gonna kill you just for fun, you rascal you,
    (Verse 1) I'm gonna kill you just for fun, the birds can have you when I'm done, (Verse 2) You slept with my wife, now I'm gonna take your life
    I'm gonna kill you just for fun, you rascal you"
  • In Billy Madison, during the musical number where Billy vows to go back to school, the clown who fell down during a party earlier in the film suddenly comes to life and starts singing.
    Clown: (singing cheerfully) Hey, kids, it's me! I bet you thought that I was dead! But when I fell over, I just broke my leg and got a hemorrhage in my head!
  • Lana Del Ray's cover of "Once Upon A Dream" for 2014's Maleficent takes the sweet, happy Disney love song and gives it a creepy new feeling.
  • One of the songs in the movie Begin Again has a song called "A Step You Can't Take Back". If you listen to the lyrics, it's pretty clear the song is about someone committing suicide, but you wouldn't know it from the upbeat melody.
  • Mel Brooks's History of the World Part I features a catchy Busby Berkeley Number about The Spanish Inquisition.
  • The 1971 film Taking Off contains a scene in which a young Ingenue-looking girl sings very sincerely and accompanies herself on the lute. The music is charming, restrained and reminiscent of the Elizabethan era. The lyrics, by contrast, are filthy. The Lyrical Dissonance is played up when the word "fuck" is, several times, given classical melismatic treatment. Can be watched here.

  • Maskerade has the "Departure Aria". It's said to be about how hard it is for the heroine to leave her lover, and when the last great diva sang it, "there wasn't a dry eye in the house". The lyrics translate to:
    This damn door sticks
    This damn door sticks
    It sticks no matter what the hell I do
    It's marked "Pull" and indeed I am pulling.
    Perhaps it should be marked "Push"?
  • Julian Velard fit H. P. Lovecraft's poem "Nemesis" to the tune of "Piano Man" by Billy Joel.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inverted in a Running Gag on The Mary Whitehouse Experience, where they make fun of Robert Smith of The Cure's (brief) attempts to show his cheerful, happy side in his music. They perform songs such as Ernie, The Fastest Milkman in the World and The Laughing Policeman to the band's signature melancholic style.
  • The Arrested Development episode "Afternoon Delight" involves a running gag in which several characters belatedly realize that the song of the same name is much more overtly sexual than its innocent tune suggests.
  • In an episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles John Henry and Savannah sing the Scottish novelty song "Donald Where's Yer Troosers?" It's sung slow and hauntingly over images of Sarah being arrested and Derek being buried.
  • The song "What A Difference A Day Makes" from Mongrels, a happy melodious love duet about underage sex and statutory rape. Just listen to it here.
  • Mr G's songs in Summer Heights High when he's trying to write an upbeat musical about a girl at the school who died from an ecstasy overdose.
    Annabelle Dickson
    When girls take drugs
    And then they die
    Who would have thought
    At Summer Heights High
    On days like these
    It's a Bummer Heights High
  • Neighbours: The opening theme's lyrics are about neighbourly support and friendship, and while the show does explore such themes, it also necessarily thrives on common soap opera themes such as deception and betrayal. There have been a few incarnations of the tune over the show's long run - it was originally sung jovially by Barry Crocker - but all of them are upbeat.
  • The jaunty, upbeat Red Dwarf theme: "It's cold outside, there's no kind of atmosphere, I'm all alone, more or less..."
    • The song "Tongue Tied" is an upbeat pop song which graphically deconstructs the Cardiovascular Love trope.
  • Deliberately, blatantly, and hilariously invoked by Andrew Hansen of The Chaser's War on Everything, in his lounge arrangement of the Cannibal Corpse song "Rancid Amputation".
    • During "Yes We Canberra", they had a song with fast-paced and cheery music about the candidates. It's called the "Fucked Song".
  • Pretty much all the music-based games in Whose Line Is It Anyway? are built around this trope - except when it's Colin Mochrie trying to sing, then it's funny for a different reason.
  • Victorious does this from time to time, the most recent being "Freak the Freak out" a techno-pop, autotune, dance song about someone getting fed up with being ignored.
  • The theme from Mash was usually played in instrumental form, and if not overly cheerful, it's at least a nice, relaxing tune. Then there are the lyrics, which are less so.
  • On Glee Blaine decides "Candles" by Hey Monday is the perfect song to sing a romantic duet with Kurt at regionals. The problem? It's about a girl who is alone for the first time after breaking up with her abusive boyfriend.
    • Also, similar to the Arrested Development example above, Emma decides that Afternoon Delight is the perfect song to sing with the celibacy club. When Holly informs her that it's about a nooner, we get this gem:
    Emma: Exactly! A nooner is when you sneak out for dessert in the middle of the day... right?
    • And we can't forget Glee's choice for a graduation song, Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen. The problem? It's about a bunch of people who look back fondly at their high school years while wallowing in the drunken monotony of their adult lives.
  • Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger has "Yorokobi no Uta" (Song of Happiness), which is very much a Villain Song that Candelila first sings on Brave 6. Already there you can see that it's a bouncy J-Pop song that talks about Deboss destroying the world, but when she (in her human guise) sings it again in Brave 11, the lyrics go into further detail, by exalting Deboss as Earth's true overlords and stating that all humans should be maimed and killed, all this in front of a crowd of adoring fans. While still sounding very much like a J-Pop song. You couldn't get a better musical representation of Sugar Apocalypse if you tried.
  • In Doctor Who, the full version of Murray Gold's Song for Ten (featured in part at the end of David Tennant's first full episode) is a cheery tune with lyrics describing his eventual separation from Rose.
    "So have a good life
    Do it for me
    Make me so proud
    Like you want me to be
    And wherever you are,
    I'm thinking of you
    Oceans apart.
  • Drew Careys Improvaganza had an Elizabethan era song about strippers.note 
  • The theme song to Pretty Little Liars is the chorus of the song "Secrets" by The Pierces. It's very catchy, but the lyrics are absolutely bone-chilling:
    "Got a secret, can you keep it? Swear this one you'll save
    Better lock it in your pocket, takin' this one to the grave
    If I show you, then I know you won't tell what I said
    Cause two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.
  • The theme song to Community mixes cheerful tones and theme music with lyrics like "We could be roped up, tied up, dead in a year..."
    • "Troy and Abed, off to Dreamland, catching the train to Sleepytown. And when they wake up, the Dean will be here staring at you... Sweet Deans!"
  • On A.N.T. Farm, Chyna wrote a few songs like this. First, when she and Fletcher are trying to get Gibson to stop from hanging out with them so much. The tempo and melody are upbeat and happy, however the lyrics are quite dark. She says things like, "...feed him fatty foods till his heart explodes" and "dehydrating his skin and make Gibson-jerky".
    • And again when she forms a phony children's band in which the band is dressed in stuffed animal costumes. Some of the songs are safe but just plain odd, such as "You Gotta Wear Pants in Public" and "Don't Go Potty in the Tub", however, there is a song with an up-tempo Punk Rock melody that even has a Gothic teen saying "Wow, they're dark."
      When you're doing crafts with art supplies,
      Don't run with scissors, it's not too wise
      You can stab your chest, your arms, your thighs,
      You could lose one or even both your eyes.
  • The NCIS "Newborn King" is a Christmas Episode, so it's not too surprising that a Christmas Carol would be used... except it is while Ziva is gunning down several Russian mercenaries while Gibbs is the Delivery Guy for a female army lieutnant.
  • Since Horrible Histories is much about the gorier, grimmer parts of history (within reason for the younger viewers) and many of their songs are quite upbeat, it's a given they'd have some of these. A few examples are Work, Terrible Work, Do the Pachacuti and The Evil Emperors Song. All cheerful numbers about, respectively, the horrors of Victorian child labour, the various ways Incan warlord Pachacuti would dismember his dead enemies and make use of their body parts, and the atrocities four Caligulas (including the Trope Namer) commited.
  • Galavant is largely made of this trope, including multiple cheery tunes about various characters plotting various murders and assassinations, dramatic tunes with humorous or otherwise ill-fitting lyrics, a cheerful love song highlighting the prevalence of death and disease among peasants in the era, a love-song tune entitled "Maybe You're Not The Worst Thing Ever", and more. Yet another love song plays with the trope a bit, as it is primarily the singers pointing out flaws in each other, yet sincerely affectionate in doing so.
  • The opening theme to Good Times. If you don't pay attention to the lyrics, it almost sounds like an upbeat gospel song.
    Keeping your head above water,
    Making a way when you can.
    Temporary layoffs! (Good times!)
    Easy credit ripoffs! (Good times!)
    Scratchin' and survivin'! (Good times!)
    Hangin' in the chow line! (Good times!)
    Ain't we lucky we got 'em?
    Good times!
  • The show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend being a dark comedic musical is filled with these. Just some examples include: "Feeling Kinda Naughty", which sounds like a Katy Perry song and starts off like one...before it turns into a Misery-like obsession song; "Sex with a Stranger" which starts like a traditional pop song about stepping into the club and taking a guy home...until the singer starts hoping that the guy isn't a murderer and won't harvest her kidneys; and "You Stupid Bitch", which is a Whitney Houston-like ballad, but all about self-loathing and self-hatred.
    • A few personal favorites of this tropers are "I'm a Good Person" in which the singer attempts to make one guy believe she is, indeed, a good person... and, in the process, threatens: "Say [that I'm a good person]! Say it or I'll gut your husband! I'll do it, I'll gut him like a fish!" to a Pharrel-inspired tempo.
    • There's also "Friendtopia", completely inspired by The Spice Girls, that details having such a close bond with your friends, you're going to stage a coup and turn America into an Orwellian dystopia.
    • Finally, "Let's Generalize About Men" isn't actually that bad up until you get to the very final stanza... Her sons are gonna be rapists! Ironically, it's set to a tune very similar to "It's Raining Men".
      • Three words to describe Crazy Ex-Girlfriend songs: "that escalated quickly."
  • The Saturday Night Live sketch "This Is Not a Feminist Song" has the season 41 female cast members, and Ariana Grande, perform a stirring anthem about...the difficulty they experienced trying to write a stirring anthem about feminism. Fortunately, they decide in the last verse that by writing and singing the song without help from any men, they actually did make a feminist song.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Once More, With Feeling", Buffy sings "Going Through The Motions" and "Something to Sing About", two cheery-sounding tunes about losing the will to live.
  • Played with in the full version of the theme to Cheers, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name". The song's melody is quite uplifting and sweet, but the lyrics describe increasingly depressing things happening to the subject of the song. However, the point of the chorus is that it's nice to have a place to go where you can escape your troubles, where you feel safe and loved and where everybody knows your name, so it can also be quite sincerely sweet and uplifting as well.
  • In Once Upon a Time, the episode "The Song in Your Heart" features a Villain Song, "Wicked Always Wins", sung by Zelena, in which she revels in the prospect of bringing down her sister (along with Prince Charming and Snow White). The dissonance comes in when the music is a cheerful, upbeat heroic musical theatre number — which, thanks to Rebecca Mader's bright, peppy vocals, sounds eerily like that of a Disney princess! This could be seen as an Affectionate Parody of Wicked.
  • Sesame Street:
    • "Doctor, Please" has an upbeat tune, but it is about why the people and animals are at the doctor, and some of them are quite bad (such as, "this fever's got my goat").
    • "When Bert's Not Here" has a bouncy tune, but it has lyrics about how Ernie feels when he misses Bert that can be quite dark (e.g. "When Bert's not here, the hours last forever, the toys aren't fun and the cookies don't crunch/When Bert's not here, I don't feel so clever and I never even feel like having lunch.")
    • Little Jerry's "Sad" song is about sadness, yet it has a jaunty doo-wop tune.
    • "Lead Police" talks about lead and how it can get in your body and make you sick and that it could be anywhere, but it's sung in a jaunty way.
    • "You Have to Be Patient to Be a Patient" is relatively upbeat-sounding, but its lyrics talk about staying in bed and resting.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The chirpy Ending Theme from Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons: "They crash him, and his body may burn. They smash him, but they know he'll return... to live again". Accompanied by images of a terrified Captain Scarlet in a variety of perilous and painful-looking situations.


    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • In Steve Martin's famous stand-up routine, "Excuse Me!", Steve gets angry with "the backstage crew", and then cheers himself up by playing the banjo. Which leads to this lyrical dissonance:
    You just can't sing a depressing song when you're playing the banjo. You can't go:
    [grins, plays happily and sings] "Oh, murder and death and grief and sorrow!" [continues grinning and playing happily]
  • In his stand-up show "Dress To Kill" Eddie Izzard points out the difference between American gospel and European hymns:
    "There's something phenomenally dreary about Christian singing. The gospel singers are the only ones that go crazy. It's amazing, and it's borne out of kidnapping, imprisonment, slavery, murder, all of that, and this joyous singing. And the Church of England, all the Christian religions, which is mainly Caucasian white people with power and money, enough to make Solomon blush, they're all singing...(Dirge-like) "O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to... ?" They're the only people that can sing hallelujah without feeling like it's a hallelujah moment. "Haaallelujah, Haaaalleeelujah Joyfully we...Lark abooouuut..." And...No, it's...It's just not kicking, is it?"

  • Blood Brothers has - "Take A Letter, Miss Jones", a bright, upbeat, happy song sung by Mr. Lyons the factory manager as he dictates letters to his secretary, each of which fires another employee. Then he fires her.
  • My Fair Lady has "Ascot Gavotte", in which lines of motionless, expressionless aristocracy sing about how 'thrilling, absolutely chilling' the race they're watching is (the music fits the restrained visuals rather than the words).
  • The Ballads of Booth, Czolgosz, and Guiteau from Assassins.
    • And the treacly ballad "Unworthy of Your Love," in which the female vocals are addressed to Charles Manson.
  • A Very Potter Sequel has Guys Like Potter, a song with lyrics such as, "so many assholes in my face," and "you were totally pwned." It's a sad song.
  • "The Campfire Song" from Percy Jackson and the Olympians has the tune of a typical happy campfire song. It's about several half-bloods lamenting how awful it is to have a god for a parent.
  • A very darkly hilarious example comes from the Sister Act musical, where Shanke is singing of "finding" his girl (who just saw him commit a murder). It starts off like a jazzy love song, until he gets to the part about killing her in multiple violent ways. As horrible as it is, it's actually one of the most hilarious songs in the musical, especially when he starts adding the dance moves, and his henchmen begin singing in the background. It must be heard/seen to be believed...
    • When he keeps repeating the line "When I find my baby, I ain't letting her go," it only gets worse as the song moves on.
    • One verse in particular:
    "Yeah, yeah oh yes I know that girl, and man I need that girl, I gotta have that girl, so I can snuff that girl. See I know my baby, she's already running. That's how my baby, is gonna be done in. I'm gonna drown that girl, or disembowel that girl, or give her skull a big dent with a blunt instrument, I tell ya soon that girl is looking at a world of WOE! (Wo-wo-wo-WOAH!)
  • Little Shop of Horrors, true to its over-the-top comedy-horror nature, has toe-tapping, rock-out songs about impending doom ("Little Shop of Horrors"), the pleasures of sadism ("Dentist!"), and justifying murder to gain your own ends ("Feed Me (Git It)"). "Now (It's Just The Gas)" counts on some level, regardless of how it's played: some productions play it grim and scary, while others play it cheerfully. Either way, it's a song about being gassed to death with lyrics like "Though I giggle and I chortle/Bear in mind I'm not immortal".
  • In Bye Bye Birdie, Kim sings "How Lovely To Be A Woman" while dressing herself in typical trashy TV Teen clothes.
  • In The Book of Mormon, there's first "Hasa Diga Eebowai", which seems to be a rip-off of Hakuna Matata, even with a similar upbeat melody. Until we are told that the phrase is Ugandan for "Fuck You, God".
    • "Turn It Off", where the Elders sing very upbeat verses about suppressing bad memories - like witnessing domestic abuse, missing your sister's death, and suppressing your sexuality because you think it's evil.
    • "Joseph Smith: American Moses" has the dysentery chant, which makes drinking contaminated water and shitting blood sound awesome.
  • Wicked has "Thank Goodness" - a song about how happy Glinda is, while she sounds like she's about to cry.
    And I couldn't be happier, simply couldn't be happier
    Well...not "simply"...
    'Cause getting your dreams, it's strange, but it seems
    A little, well, complicated...
  • RENT has the upbeat, catchy song "Today 4 U" in which Angel describes how she got the money for Christmas...namely, by killing a dog for a rich woman. You'll be bopping your head all the way through that song before you realize "Wait, did she really drive a dog to commit suicide?"
  • The opening number of Next to Normal is an upbeat song called "Just Another Day", which is about the apparent stress of each member of the Goodman family, and each of them treating that stress as just a part of their everyday lives, and being determined to bottle it.
  • In Company, the song "Getting Married Today" has an operatic section that sounds absolutely beautiful...and then you stop and listen to the words and find out it's about the bride having a total meltdown.
  • Hamilton has "You'll Be Back", a catchy and upbeat Britpop song that comes courtesy of King George III. According to the lyrics, also coming courtesy of King George is a fully armed battalion sent to kill the Americans' friends and family and to remind them of his love.
  • Ruddigore has "You Understand". It's one of the bounciest songs in the show, a duet between two men plotting to crash a wedding, break up the happy couple, and reveal to everyone that the groom is really the local Bad Baronet.
  • Dear Evan Hansen has "Waving Through A Window," a fairly up-tempo song about the main character's depression.
  • A David Yazbek trademark. "Big-Ass Rock" from The Full Monty is a striking example: the song is played after Dave saves Malcolm from asphyxiating himself, has an appropriately slow melody, and the lyrics boil down to "Don't kill yourself when you have friends who can kill you for you" (though it is meant to, and does, cheer Malcolm up).

    Web Animation 
  • "Off to the Henhouse" from Episode Three of Of Weasels And Chickens. It's a song about serial killing with a bouncy, snazzy tune.
  • RWBY:
    • The first opening theme is the epic "This Will Be The Day". While it starts out talking about how badass Ruby Rose is, the second half tells a different story while keeping the same beat.
    Beware that the light is fading;
    Beware if the dark returns.
    This world's unforgiving, even brilliant lights will cease to burn.
    Legends scatter.
    Day and night will sever.
    Hope and peace are lost forever.
    • Episode 8 has an epic fight sequence that is accompanied by an equally epic song entitled "Red Like Roses Part II". The song's lyrics begin with the following:
    I couldn't take it, couldn't stand another minute.
    Couldn't bear another day without you in it.
    All of the joy that I had known for all my life.
    Was stripped away from me the minute that you died.
    • Also "Die" from volume 2 episode 4, an upbeat, ass-kicking song... about how darkness is coming and ends with the lyrics "now it's time to die."
    • "Smile" details Ilia's tragic past and how it drives her to despise humanity. The melody is very upbeat and pleasant all the way through.
    Take what you need
    Leave them to bleed
    Let them know bitter while your revenge is sweet.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

Alternative Title(s): Lyric Dissonance