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Mind-Control Music

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"Using music to control people. Why does that sound so familiar?"
Tucker, Danny Phantom, "Pirate Radio"

Music has great power. It can soothe the savage beast, inspire courage in the hearts of men with a stirring march, or bring tears to your eyes with an eulogy of loss and longing. Is it really such a stretch to assume that, with the right resonance, the right voice, the right instrument, it can fully control the very hearts of man?

Quite often, however, the enchantment lasts only as long as the song does... but depending on the particulars, it may do anything from simply putting everyone who hears it into a paralytic trance, to inflicting a specific, overpowering compulsion (such as homicidal rage or suicidal despair) to putting them under full and permanent More Than Mind Control.

This is the preferred method of the Enthralling Siren, and indeed pops up a lot in mythology. The Evil Diva also has a good chance of utilizing her music to enslave her fans. A Snake Charmer often uses this kind of music as well. May involve Subliminal Seduction. Subtrope of Magic Music. Inverted by the The Music Meister who uses Mind Manipulation to make music (although the Trope Namer did both).



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    Anime & Manga 
  • The second season of Black Butler featured an Armonica (also known as a Glass Harmonica or a Hydrocrystalophone) being used to control a ballroom filled with noble guests, turning them into savage killers. Amusingly enough, it was countered by Sebastian playing a Glass Harp, also known as an Angelic Organ - an instrument that uses a similar principle.
  • The Parapara brothers from Dragon Ball GT use a stereo to cause their opponents to uncontrollably mimic their dancing, leaving them open to attack.
  • Kiddy Grade features one instance where a song is used to broadcast a mind-control signal.
  • Used in episode 79 of Lupin III (Red Jacket) by Kyoransky, an eccentric musician and the episode's villain. Whomever hears Kyoransky's music sets out to attack Lupin in a violent rage.
  • Macross:
    • Macross Plus has Virtual Idol Sharon Apple paralyze an entire world with her hit single, 'Information High'. Listening to it, you can kinda' feel how it might work. It's strangely hypnotic, especially when combined with her lightshow.
    • In Macross Delta, it's revealed that those infected by Var Syndrome are susceptible to being mind-controlled by the songs of Windermere's Wind Singer; in fact, Windermere is deliberately spreading Var for this very reason.
  • Brook from One Piece plays music that can influence the actions of others by "reaching to their very souls". This is seen when he causes an entire stadium to riot against the Marines.
  • The original Read or Die OVA was centered around a group of villains trying to put together a particular, lost symphony by Mozart, which had the power to make anyone who heard it so utterly depressed that they would instantly commit suicide by whatever means was closest at hand. Dubbed 'The Suicide Symphony', for obvious reasons.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: The hypnotizing monster in Season 2 episode 16 hypnotizes people by playing a violin.

    Comic Books 
  • In Superlópez, a rock band allied with the mob uses this.
  • On the cover of issue #152 of House of Mystery, an organ grinder's music causes people to give his monkey money.
  • The Flash:
    • The villanous Fiddler is a master hypnotist who can focus his abilities through his violin.
    • An ex-villain and ally, the Pied Piper. He can control people with his music from his sophisticated flute capable of hypnotizing anyone within range of its sound.
  • One Bronze Age Superman story pits him against a mad scientist using a machine to use music to mind control kids at a rock concert.
  • Likewise, Spider-Man infamously once fought the disco-themed Hypno-Hustler, often held up as one of the goofiest villains ever.
  • In "The Pied Piper of Steel" (Action 398, March 1971), Clark's first television assignment is to cover a Woodstock-like rock concert, where he observes that "the kids" mindlessly obey whatever the lyrics say. The "hypnotic power of rock" was an actual concern of Moral Guardians at the time. In the story, it turns out to be a Mad Scientist with a Fiendish Machine.
  • In Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, a villain named Axe has a guitar that can hypnotize people. He gets a whole crowd of adults and Mary under his spell, forcing Billy, who temporarily has to avoid turning into Captain Marvel, to figure out how to stop him alone.
  • In the Eros Comix Domino Lady miniseries, the villains learn that the flute the natives use to control the dinosaurs can also be used to control the natives, and use it to take control of the tribe and set themselves up as kings.
  • In Arak: Son of Thunder, Satyricus can use his pan flute to elicit emotions in his listeners that vary from lust to terror.

    Fan Works 
  • "The Smurphony of the Night" from the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story of the same name was used by Lord Vladimir Smurfula to control Smurfette's mind to draw her closer to him. Near the end of the story, Empath is able to disrupt its effect on Smurfette by whistling the Smurfs theme song.
  • Lullaby from Ultimate Sleepwalker uses her singing to brainwash people into being her personal thugs (or, in Rick's case, her boy toys). Sleepwalker is immune to her singing, being an alien, and Lullaby's control is usually broken when she is silenced.
  • The Life and Times of a Winning Pony: The rusalka’s song in the side story “The Incredibly Thrilling Investigation of Storm Kicker”, which hypnotizes ponies and turns them into thralls under the rusalka’s control.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: A side-story has Octavia facing a musician who uses an enchanted guitar to control people, mainly into listening to and buying his albums, though there are hints it could do more. Octavia is able to resist his music because the guy's a talentless hack.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Dazzlings from My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks naturally employ this, as the three of them are both Enthralling Sirens and Evil Divas. They mostly use it as a Hate Plague, but the influence they exert on Principal Celestia and Vice-Principal Luna heavily implies that they're capable of more traditional mind control as well.
    • One of their songs, "Under Our Spell," is about this in addition to being it. Of course, they don't perform it until it's already too late to resist.
  • Home on the Range: Cattle rustler Alameda Slim uses mind-control yodeling to put all the cows under his control. Luckily, tone-deaf Grace is immune to it and manages to snap Maggie and Calloway back to their senses.
  • The plot of Project Itoh: Genocidal Organ involves the hunt for a linguistics expert who's discovered a language of genocide and is using it as a Hate Plague. It's implied at one point that this can be spread via music, and the protagonist has to kill a fellow soldier when he's affected.
  • The titular magic flute in The Smurfs and the Magic Flute makes people dance when they hear it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Zoolander, the Musical Trigger for Derick's brainwashing to kick in and have him assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia was a remix of the song "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (the justification being that the villain was The Pete Best of the group), which they also played while brainwashing him.
  • In the Japanese horror film Suicide Circle, it's implied a popular music group may be subliminally responsible for all the suicides.
  • In Hocus Pocus the witches keep the adults from stopping them using the song "I Put A Spell On You". The youngest later uses her own siren-like singing to lure children to the witches' house.
  • The movie of Josie and the Pussycats features a plot to build subliminal messages into the music of manufactured pop bands.
  • Help!: In an scene dropped from the final movie, The Beatles, at an acting school, are put into a trance by droning music played by Clang and his thugs. A scene that was used has them trying again, all crammed in a phone booth calling the band up while they're in Scotland Yard. Clang intones "Go... to... the... window!... Go... to... the... window!"
  • The song "Gloomy Sunday" is used as a suicide trigger in the film The Kovak Box.
  • The Genie in Pretty Cool Too works by emitting a special noise that forces anyone who hears it to obey any command they hear, but it can also contain commands in itself.
  • Siren (2010): Silka is a siren, and her song has magical properties. Sung softly, it can hypnotise. Sung loudly, it can deafen and drive mad.

  • Susan Cooper's novel The Dark is Rising. Will is about to experience the power of the Dark.
    And the singing began.
    It was wordless; it came in the wind; it was a thin, high, cold whine with no definable tune or pattern. It came from a long way off, and it was not pleasant to hear. But it held him transfixed, turning his thoughts away from their proper direction, turning them away from everything except contemplation of whatever happened to be closest at hand. [snip] As he listened to the singing, he saw a twig on a low branch of the beech close to his head that seemed for no reason so totally enthralling that he could do nothing but gaze at it, as if it contained the whole world. He stared for so long, his eyes moving very gradually along the tiny twig and back again, that he felt as if several months had passed, while the high, strange singing went on and on in the sky from its distant beginnings. And then suddenly it stopped, and he was left standing dazed with his nose almost touching a very ordinary beech twig.
    He knew then that the Dark had its own way of putting even an Old One outside Time for a space, if they needed a space for their own magic.
  • The sirens in Our Bloody Pearl have this ability.
  • The Lord of the Rings.
    • In The Fellowship of the Ring both Tom Bombadil and Old Man Willow can affect other creatures' minds by singing.
    • In The Silmarillion Lúthien Tinúviel gains control over Morgoth himself by singing to him.
  • This trope is the focus of Trill, a short story by Shanna Germain. The protagonist is something of a Pied Piper analogue.
  • Coda has this with the Corp's music being equivalent to a drug. It can control what you see, think, and feel, and can even kill you.
  • The Lady of the Green Kirtle in The Silver Chair used a monotonous melody played on a mandolin-like instrument (combined with a sweet-smelling powder) to make her victims receptive to her suggestions. The effect can be resisted, but doing so takes phenomenal willpower.
  • Implied in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. One of the magical items found in the Order's headquarters is a music box that, when played, makes the listeners feel drowsy and sluggish. Snapping it shut ends the enchantment, which allows them to throw the music box out.
  • In Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, the professor plays Cher's greatest hits to the gerbils in order to make them turn evil.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Mule": Magnifico the jester uses a special musical instrument/holographic projector called a Visi-Sonor which amplifies his own Psychic Powers to influence people's emotions and, in at least one case, to actually kill someone.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who
    • One (lost) episode of First Doctor serial "The Celestial Toymaker", has Dodo and Steven come to a dance-floor, with the supposed prize of the TARDIS and possible escape waiting on the other side of the room. But as soon as they come into contact with the dance-floor, music starts to play and they find their feet magically compelled to dance. Steven and Dodo must find a way to overcome the magic power of the music long enough to make it to the other side of the floor and their chance at escape.
    • Harold Saxon/The Master uses a downplayed example in "The Sound of Drums". He uses a worldwide network of satellites to project the four-tick drumbeat he hears onto the population, with their subconscious absorbing the rhythm and the messages that come with it, telling them to "Vote Saxon", and "Believe in Me". The Doctor explains that anything more powerful would be questioned, but something so subtle would go unnoticed by most.
  • An episode of Get Smart had Max and 99 fighting "The Groovy Guru" (played by Larry Storch), who was producing music with subliminal messages aimed to get kids to overthrow the government and authorities. While the kids were supposed to be affected by subliminal mind control signals, the lyrics weren't too subtle, either.
    Thrill, thrill, thrill!
    Kill, kill, kill!
    Make a scene,
    Knock off the Dean.

    Yea yea yea,
    Bump off a square,
    That's what it's about
    Hate is in.
    Love is out.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In season 7, the First Evil brainwashes reformed vampire Spike into killing humans again; the trigger is the folksong "Early One Morning."
  • One episode of Wonder Woman featured a flute-playing rock star who could control his female fans with his music.
  • Similarly, the villain Glitter Rock uses mind-control music in one episode of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.
  • The first episode of the short-lived Fox show The New Adventures of Beans Baxter had the villain using a singer's music to control the minds of teenagers.
  • Adam Adamant Lives!: The villains in "Sing a Song of Danger" plan to use a subliminal message embedded in records to cause fans to rob banks and deliver the money to them through fan clubs. They use another album to try to compel Adam to murder Georgina.
  • A story arc on NCIS involves the Big Bad using music to brainwash children into becoming Child Soldiers. And one of them shoots Gibbs.
  • War of the Worlds (1988): This is the Evil Plan in "Choir of Angels", though only one person is the specific target — a scientist working on the serum what will make the Martians immune to Earth's bacteria. Harrison inadvertently listens to the music and becomes affected, leading to a painful withdrawal.
  • Heroes has a downplayed example with Emma, a deaf woman whose main power of "enhanced synesthesia" allows her to see sound waves as bright, flowing colors. A secondary power, though, gives her the ability to naturally draw others to her while she plays her cello. It's not exactly mind control, in that people aren't being robbed of their free will—they simply gather around to listen. Regardless, it's still incredibly dangerous when combined with the villainous Samuel Sullivan's terrakinesis—he grows stronger as more individuals with enhanced abilities gather around him, so his Evil Plan in Season Five is to use Emma's "siren song" to bring thousands of people to the carnival he runs, which would supercharge his power to unstoppable levels.

  • The Lonely Island:
    • "Boombox." The eponymous box causes people to lose control when they hear music coming from it.
      A boombox can change the world
      But you've gotta know your limits with a boombox
      This was a cautionary tale
      A boombox is not a toy
    • The song in "Go Kindergarten" convinces the audience to do all sorts of weird things, including things which shouldn't even be possible, like making their butts drink helium and speak in a high-pitched voice.
  • The music video for Fatboy Slim's "Ya Mama" shows people losing control of their limbs whenever they hear the tune. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Hypnosis Mic: Division Rap Battle takes place in a future that prohibits physical violence. In the absence of that, what do the violent turn to? Hypnosis Microphones, dangerous weapons that make their opponents compelled to do what they say as long as they sing or rap into them. That's right, weaponized rapping is the name of the game here.
  • Peter Schilling's "Lifetime Guarantee" has this verse:
    Harmonious melodies that sound familiar,
    Specialized in mind control;
    From computers they offer
    Less obvious merchandise for the believers.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The title character of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Initially, it seems like he's limited to controlling rats, but when the town stiffs him on his bill, he reveals similar hypnotic power over children. (This is, of course, where the old saying "Time to pay the piper" originated, meaning that going back on a deal can have consequences.)
  • Sirens in Greek Mythology. Listening to their song causes sailors to wish to dash their ships on the rocks just to get closer.
  • There is a Swedish folktale about the village of Hårga where the Devil is disguised as a musician appears and plays a song on his fiddle that is so captivating that everyone just keeps on dancing to it's tune. The dancing crowd is then lead out by the fiddler to the top of Mount Hårga where they keep on dancing until everyone drop dead and the peak of the mountain is flattened.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The singing and music of bards can charm (control) other creatures.
    • Some magical musical instruments can do this even if played by someone other than a bard.
  • Call of Cthulhu. The spell Soul Singing requires the caster to play a bone whistle. It allows the caster to control the target's mind, leading them in a trance-like state to their doom.
  • Champions supplement C.L.O.W.N. has two of these.
    • One of Merry Andrew's gadgets is a crank organ that plays "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" tune. Anyone who hears it starts to act like a monkey.
    • Beuford the Bard has a magical mandolin which controls the minds of people who listen to its music.

  • The Phantom of the Opera: The Phantom hypnotises Christine in the reprise of "Angel of Music" (also known as "Wandering Child"). Some actors choose to play "Music of the Night" as this, too.

    Video Games 
  • In Far Cry 5 the herald of the Whitetail Mountains, Jacob Seed, has a music box that plays 'Only You' by The Platters, which puts you in a dreamscape, where you 'Cull the Herd/Weak'. The last time he catches you, you end up killing Eli Palmer, the leader of the Whitetail Militia.
  • AdventureQuest Worlds has Discordia, the Sixth Lord of Chaos from the Mythsong saga, whose music has the power to control people. It turns out that he himself is being controlled by Kimberly of One Eyed Doll, the true Chaos Lord.
  • Shiho of Valkyrie Profile, a 'songmistress' whose singing instills her countrymen with burning fury and bloodlust, turning them into unstoppable berserkers in combat. She's wrought with guilt, however, since her song doesn't make them invulnerable, just fearless, leading most of the soldiers to their death.
  • How the tikis mind control the animals in Donkey Kong Country Returns. The Kongs are unaffected.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Psycho Mantis uses a distinctive 'hymn' based on Russian choral music to control people's minds, referred to by Naomi as "mind control music" and supposedly a favourite song of his childhood. It is first played in-game as apparently ordinary in-game music, but when it stops, Snake and Meryl both comment on it and get justifiably worried (when it begins again, it is Mantis attempting to possess Meryl). Spoofed in The Last Days of FOXHOUND where Mantis accidentally discovers he can do this by whistling.
  • Before she escaped him, this is how Sebille's master controlled her in Divinity: Original Sin II, in combination with her Slave Brand. He would sing a song that would control her thoughts and make her do his bidding (specifically assassinating other elves). When she meets him again on The Nameless Isle, the first thing she does, after their rather tense "chat" in which he demonstrates his power over her, is stab him in the throat with her needle to keep him from singing.
  • The Big Bad of the Splatoon series is DJ Octavio, the leader of the Octarians who is also a DJ. He uses his electronic music to brainwash and control the Octarians that serve under him.
    • The same series also features an inversion in the Ear Worm known as Calamari Inkantation, which is the signature song of the Squid Sisters. It's somehow able to override the brainwashing effects of Octavio's music: even top-ranking Octarian engineer Marina Ida performed a Heel–Face Turn after hearing it, as shown in Splatoon 2's Sunken Scrolls and the Octo Expansion's chat logs.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Chaos;Head, the band Phantasm - or perhaps just their enigmatic lead singer, FES - can reduce a whole roomful of rowdy concertgoers to hypnotized zombies with their strange, prophetic goth-punk-rock. Or maybe you just imagined it...

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • DSBT InsaniT: This is Stephanie's specialty, and it gets stronger the more people who join in.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of the Gummi Bears episode "Music Hath Charms" had Duke Igthorn use a set of magical bagpipes to hypnotize anyone who heard its music (with the exception of the ogres}, especially the Gummis.
  • One Pinky & the Brain short on Animaniacs titled "Bubba Bo-Bob Brain" featured Brain creating subliminal messages that would brainwash anyone who heard them. He drew inspiration from Pinky's latest obsession—a Billy Ray Cyrus parody called "Empty Empty Head"—to disguise himself as "Bubba Bo-Bob Brain," a six-foot-five country music star, and hid the messages in his song "King of the World" (like some other examples on this list, the lyrics also explicitly stated that "Bubba" was actually a lab rat trying to dominate the planet). Interestingly, this was among the most successful attempts Brain made—the hypnotized citizens listened to the song non-stop, and he was one performance away from permanent mental control...only for him to grow frustrated with Pinky's constant mangling of "Bubba Bo-Bob Brain" and shout "FORGET YOU EVER HEARD OF ME!" The populace promptly did just that.
  • One episode of the first season of Aqua Teen Hunger Force features a villain named MC Pee Pants who releases a rap song called "I Want Candy" that causes anyone who hears it to crave sweets non-stop. It turns out that this is a ploy to raise people's blood sugar to insanely high levels, allowing MC Pee Pants to use it to power a drill and release demons from Hell, who would in turn run a global diet pill pyramid scheme. And all of this is expressly spelled out in the lyrics.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold has a Canon Foreigner named The Music Meister, whose singing hits a certain frequency to mind control anyone who hears it. Another effect: those who fall under his spell burst into song themselves. Batman is able to create a device which dampens its power, though.
  • There was a Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode in which the villainess controlled a swarm of bees via (awful) rock music.
  • As the page quote indicates, Danny Phantom features recurring villain Ember McLain, a ghostly punk rocker with the ability to control people's emotions via a spectral guitar; she also draws power from people chanting her name, and so brainwashed teenagers into a frenzy in her first appearance. In this case, Sam was the only person unaffected as she was wearing Fenton Phones (noise-cancelling, ghost-repelling earplugs) throughout the episode. Later, she used a more traditional method—backmasked messages in records—to hypnotize the adults of Amity Park into abandoning their children and powering a fleet of ships for Youngblood the Pirate, another ghost.
  • In Detentionaire, there is a song called the Prank Song that puts most people into a highly suggestible state. Some people are naturally immune to the effects, though.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: A one-shot villain named "Organ Grindor" used his titular instrument to hypnotize the heroic Monkey into becoming a thief for him.
  • The Magical Mandolin from the Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz episode of the same name works this way. When played during the day, it causes people to dance merrily, but when played at night, it puts anyone who hears it in an obedient trance.
  • In G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, terrorist leader Cobra Commander hires Zartan and the Dreadknocks (a group of mercenaries) to form a band called "Cold Slither" so that subliminal messages can be put into their recording.
  • An episode of Garfield and Friends involves a Tyrannosaurus Rex who, after awakening from being sealed in a cave, attempts to take over the world by hosting a children's television program as "Sidney the Pink Dinosaur" and singing an insipid song titled "Good is Better Than Bad." Anyone who hears it (and looks into the dinosaur's Hypnotic Eyes) becomes a blithering moron who agrees with everything Sidney says. Garfield avoids the hypnosis (a combination of not looking at the screen and realizing how stupid the idea is) and ends up having to save the world...again.
  • Used by Robbie in the Gravity Falls episode "Boyz Crazy".
  • Used by Dr. Wily in Mega Man.
  • Happens a couple times in Phineas and Ferb.
    • This trope was also parodied in "Bubble Boys." The tone-deaf Dr. Doofenshmirtz invents a hat that makes him a great country singer, and plans to brainwash the tri-state area with his song "Yodel-Odel Obey Me." The parody comes into play when the song's lyrics explicitly state that the listeners are being hypnotized: "You'll be my obedient mindless slaves, and nobody will blame me..." Despite the blatant mentions of mind control, it still works:
      Country Music Fan One: I like him!
      Country Music Fan Two: YEAH! LET'S DO WHATEVER HE SAYS!
  • Mandarin Orange of Rainbow Rangers, who has Music Power, possesses a Hypno-Flute which can charm anyone or anything and allow them to obey her commands. However, it can only be used once per living thing.
  • Samurai Jack has an episode called "Jack and the Rave", in which an evil DJ who works for Aku plays rave music that hypnotizes teenagers into becoming violent hoodlums.
  • The Secret Show had this as the plot of one episode, where T.H.E.M. enters a music contest with the goal of hypnotizing the world through their music.
  • The main premise of the episode "New Kids on the Blecch" of The Simpsons. Bart joins the boy band "The Party Posse", a project by the Navy to use subliminal messages in music to get more recruits. Their first song contains the lyrics "Yvan eht nioj" ("Join the Navy" backwards).
  • Madame Trilby's magic flute (no relation to the other magic flute) that Gargamel used on the Smurfs to make them sleepwalk in The Smurfs episode "Sleepwalking Smurfs". Also the Ghoulliope from the cartoon special "Smurfily Ever After".
  • In the Sonic Boom episode "Battle of the Boy Bands", Justin Beaver's music can hypnotize females.
  • The Sebastian Saga's MO from Totally Spies!. In "A Thing For Musicians", he tried to take over the world using a budding pop star's music. In "Stark Raving Mad", he used a rage-inducing song to make rave-goers destroy the spies' favorite hangouts, including Beverly Hills High School.
  • The first episode of Mighty Orbots pits the heroes against a band using mind-controlling music.
    Dia: "SHADOW's using Rock and Roll. Is nothing sacred?"
  • The Bravestarr episode that served as a Poorly Disguised Pilot for the never-produced Sherlock Holmes In the 23rd Century note  involved Moriarty using a kidnapped alien child with hypnotic singing powers to try to take over the world with a rock concert.


Video Example(s):


Lego Movie 2 ["Stuck Inside Your Head" Song]

Scene from the 2019 film, The Lego Movie 2 The Second Part. After his friends are abducted by General Mayhem, Emmett ventures into the Systar System to save them joined by another person called Rex Dangervest who wishes to help him. At the same time, Lucy tries to resist the Systar claims that they're not evil. So to help her "chill out", they subject her to catchy pop music. Which plays just as Emmett and Rex arrive into the system. A song that has an odd infectious effect on those who first hear it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / MindControlMusic

Media sources:

Main / MindControlMusic