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Mocking Music

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[two agents are being pursued and they are in mortal danger; "The Ride of the Valkyries" starts playing]
Agent Mulder: Wagner?
Agent Doggett: What do you want?
Agent Mulder: I take it back. It's perfect.

A character is upset about something. They turn on the radio, only to be confronted with a song that's about exactly the thing that's upsetting them. They may constantly change the station, only coming across more songs that appear to mock their situation.

A subtrope of Source Music. Related to Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere and The World Mocks Your Loss. Sister Trope to Your Television Hates You. A Super-Trope to Losing Horns, where it's just a musical sting that's used for mockery. Compare and contrast AM/FM Characterization, when the character's taste in radio listening also tells us something about their personality, but by choice instead of coincidence. See also Suspiciously Apropos Music, when a character is a musician In-Universe and provides a song that seems to comment on the story.

Not to be confused with "The Villain Sucks" Song or "The Hero Sucks" Song, where a character deliberately makes music that mocks another one. Also don't confuse with Mocking Sing-Song, that little tune children sing to tease someone.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Death Note Misa sings a sweet little song ("Misa no Uta" / "Misa's Song") while walking down the street and killing people with the Death Note "Careful what you do / Because God is watching your every move" right after she's been released from prison and her boyfriend with a God complex is using her as bait.
  • In Elfen Lied there's the music box that plays an instrumental version of the show's theme song "Lilium" the lyrics of which are Ominous Latin Chanting for "O Pure Lily" and "God have mercy". Lucy later hums the song while slaughtering people.

  • Comedian Richard Jeni had a routine on the brutality of listening to "nothing but love songs" radio after a breakup.
    Richard Jeni: That's right, every city in this country has a station on the radio whose whole purpose is to get lonely people to commit suicide. Just when you're feeling better, you're in your car and there's some guy going, "You're listening to nothing but love songs. No rock, no jazz, nothing but throw-yourself-off-a-goddamn building love songs. And now for all you people who just broke up and are feeling bad, here's a song called 'You'll Be Alone the Rest of Your Goddamn Life'."

    Comic Books 
  • In the MAD parody of Jaws 2, the mayor of Amity is reopening the beaches and thanks the town band for their accompaniment, but thinks they could have picked something more appropriate than "The shark has pretty teeth, dear".
  • Tintin:
    • Pictured above from Explorers on the Moon: The gang are left with a very limited time to repair the spaceship before they run out of oxygen, so they listen to Radio-Klow while working to keep their spirits up... and as soon as it comes on, the announcer says they'll be playing Schubert's "The Gravedigger".
    • In the original French version of Land of Black Gold, the Thom(p)sons listen to the song "Boum" by Charles Trenet being used as an advertising jingle on their car radio when their car explodes.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot: When Ridiculous Procrastinator Peter is trying to cram for his finals the night before, he hurls a book at the stereo when "Time Is on My Side" by The Rolling Stones comes on; bitterly commenting that some songs are not intended for students.
  • In a Peanuts strip, Schroeder mentions that he heard Lucy skinned her knees while roller skating. Lucy crabbily replies that she doesn't want to talk about it, and Schroeder apologizes for bringing it up. Then he begins to play a piano piece entitled "Music for Skinned Knees."

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, when Gromit is on a stake-out for the were-rabbit, he turns on the radio. It starts playing Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes", from Watership Down, and he turns it off again.
  • In Zootopia, after her first day on the job, which ended with her being hustled by Nick, Judy tries to lift her spirits by playing the radio but keeps coming in on song lyrics that further depress her, including "Everybody Hurts", "All by Myself", "You can't do nothing right, babe" and "I'm a loser".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Bedtime Stories (2008), Skeeter worries that he'll catch fire because his nephew told a story in which Skeeter's character is incinerated. On the radio, Skeeter keeps changing the station and each one is playing a fire-themed song: "Disco Inferno," "Eternal Flame," "I'm On Fire," and others. In the end, by "fire", it meant he was going to be fired from his job.
  • In Better Off Dead, John Cusack's character's girlfriend has just broken up with him. As he drives despondently, every radio station is playing a breakup song - he rips the radio out and hurls it out the window.
  • In The Final Destination, when the Klansman mechanic that ends up killed by being set on fire and dragged behind his own truck in his attempt to put a burning cross on the black character's lawn, Death adds a bit of extra insult to injury by kicking his truck's radio on with "Why Can't We Be Friends" by War.
  • In Guess Who (the race-inverted remake of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner), the father and future son-in-law are driving along in steely silence to avoid talking about the big issue on their minds. The boy turns on the radio for a distraction and goes through a rote of such situationally ironic songs as "Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, "Brother Louie" by Hot Chocolate, and "Walk On The Wild Side" by Lou Reed, just as it's singing:
    And all the colored girls sang...
  • In The Martian, it's bad enough Mark Watney's only source of music on Mars, millions of miles away from the nearest humans, is Commander Lewis' disco soundtrack which he detests, but the song selection seems to go out of its way specifically to mock his situation. For a standout example, after retriving a radioactive power generator to use as a heater so that he doesn't have to drain battery to keep himself warm, Mark notes that the least disco song he could find and play for the drive back to the Hab is Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff".
  • Seen with stuff besides songs, too: like, in Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin's character is awkwardly sitting on a bench next to the parson's wife, and her stomach keeps gurgling loudly. Charlie turns on the radio for a distraction, and a commercial says, "If you are suffering from gastritis..."
  • Shaun of the Dead: "Who the 'ell put this on?" "It's on random... *sob*" Used for Ironic Echo value. The first time, the hero is bemoaning his girlfriend dumping him when the jukebox has the nerve to play Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now". The second time, the jukebox pipes up with Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now!"... as the pub the characters are in is being surrounded by zombies and a loud, fast, pumping rock track seemingly designed to attract their attention is the last thing the characters want.
  • In the film version of Silent Hill, Rose wakes up after being scared to the point of passing out by screaming, crying, burning, BABIES. When she wakes up, a jukebox in the back just HAS to start playing, what else, "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash. This also serves as some dark foreshadowing; we later learn, in flashback, that the entire plot was put into motion when a girl being executed by a cult literally "fell into a burning ring of fire", evacuating the town and trapping the cultists in a curse.
  • Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen: Invoked. When Sam is being seduced by a girl at college, Bumblebee's response is to manipulate the radio so songs like "Your Cheating Heart" start playing constantly. Though it then turns to songs like "Super-Freak", "Brick House" and others while Bumblebee tries to tell him that Alice isn't what she looks like. She's a Decepticon.
  • In Urban Legend when Damon (who is played by Joshua Jackson, who played Pacey in Dawson's Creek) starts his car the radio is playing "I Don't Want To Wait". He is not amused.

  • In the Agent of Hel book Autumn Bones, when Daisy Johanssen and Sinclair have come back to Daisy's apartment together after a somewhat awkward date during which they avoided discussing having had sex together for the first time under complicated supernatural circumstances, Sinclair starts a conversation about Daisy's musical tastes and asks to hear her favorite song. It's only after Daisy starts up the music that she realizes that "At Last" by Etta James is a bit too on the nose.
  • From Good Omens: "Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me..." Unfortunately for rogue demon Crowley, it's more likely than you think.
  • At one point in Wet Goddess, Zack turns on the radio to take his mind off Ruby's death. Cue Ruby Tuesday playing.
    ''Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
    Who could hang a name on you?
    When you changed every new day
    Still I'm gonna miss you.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Battlestar Galactica (2003), when the final four Cylons activate they repeatedly hear music playing, a song that only they can hear and repeat seemingly nonsense phrases which turn out to be the lyrics to "All Along the Watchtower."
  • The Boys (2019). A brief version occurs when Starlight goes on a mission with Hughie and Mother's Milk to get away from the stress of working as a Celebrity Superhero. She turns on the car radio only to find herself singing a cheesy power ballad, then changes channels only to find the same song, before finally finding Billy Joel.
  • B Positive: In the pilot, protagonist Drew Dunbar, in renal failure, calls the National Kidney Registry helpline for aid in finding a donor. The hold music is "Stayin' Alive".
  • In the fourth season of Dharma & Greg, after Greg learns that Dharma has kissed another man, every song on the radio mentions infidelity.
  • In an episode of The Drew Carey Show, all of Drew's friends leave him, angry at him about one thing or another. He lies down solemnly in his car, turns on the radio, and gets Walking on Sunshine.
  • The Flash (2014): Joe and Eddie have an awkward moment while sitting in their police car due to the fact that Joe is not happy about Eddie dating his daughter Iris. Eddie tries to fill the awkward silence by turning on the radio, but the first song that comes on is "When a Man Loves a Woman". He changes the station, and ends up with "Let's Get It On". He turns the radio off, stating "Quiet is good."
  • In Full House, the popular song performed by the Rippers (now with Barry Williams as its leader) serves as this to Jesse in "Making Out is Hard to Do", as it's a painful reminder that the Rippers are more popular with Barry now than they ever were when Jesse was leading the band. Unfortunately for Jesse, all of the local radio stations — including the Spanish-speaking one — play it frequently due to the sheer popularity of the song, much to his immense exasperation.
  • Having left her husband Ned after finding out that he's a bigamist, General Hospital's Lois is driving back to her parents house, frantically changing radio stations as every one of them is playing a sappy love song. She finally shrieks "Doesn't anyone sing about anything else, dammit!", pulling over and bursting into tears.
    • Luke Spencer raped Laura Webber to the tune of the jazz classic "Rise". For weeks afterwards, Laura seemed to hear the song everytime she turned on the radio, and in one particularly cruel incident, Luke deliberately played it in order to rattle her. He got a bit of Laser-Guided Karma years later after confessing to his son Lucky, who promptly did the same thing to him.
  • Gilmore Girls: In "Forgiveness and Stuff", after Lorelai is uninvited from her parent's big Christmas dinner, she orders pizza delivery and eats a bagged salad while "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses plays on her radio.
  • Heroes: Sylar tries to explain to Luke that while he may fit many of the criteria, he's not technically a serial killer. He tries to end the conversation by turning on the car radio, only to be greeted with "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads.
  • In the Legends of Tomorrow episode "Compromised", just after Mick, who's not really one for sharing his feelings, finally admits how much his misses the dead Captain Cold, he turns on the radio... only for "(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight" by Cutting Crew to play. Mick punches the radio and complains that he hates The '80s.
  • At the end of the Saved by the Bell episode "The Last Dance", Zack and Kelly are breaking up (due to Kelly falling in love with Jeff) while the gang is inside the gym playing "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You".
  • Space: Above and Beyond: In one episode, the squad gets an eccentric mentor who likes pancakes and the song "I Walk the Line". The day after their mentor is killed, the Squad gets pancakes for breakfast (and subsequently dumps them out the airlock) while the song "I Walk the Line" plays.
  • Strangers with Candy: In an episode centered around eating disorders, Jerri is constantly bombarded by a song on the radio about someone who is very fat. There's even a Spanish version.
  • In That '70s Show:
    • In "Water Tower", Eric accidentally walks in on his parents having sex, and the morning after, he imagines them being naked during breakfast, which is accompanied by Rufus & Chaka Kahn's "Tell Me Something Good". That night, after having nightmares about accidentally walking in, and when he finally wakes up, "Tell Me Something Good" plays on his radio.
    • In "Eric's Depression", when Eric broke up with Donna, the next morning every song on the radio station was about breaking up, e.g. Eric Carmen's "All By Myself". Worse, Ritchie Valens' "Donna" starts to play.
  • In "Hooch Machina" from Turner & Hooch (2021) Scott Turner Jr. is upset about giving up on working alongside Hooch and turning him over to his sister to care for. He turns on the radio while out driving, only for the sad song "Somewhere" by Airkraft plays, with lyrics like "I sit here alone and I dream about you / Somehow I know that you're needing me too." He shakes his head and says that he can't do that, changing the station, only to get "If I Can't Have You" by Orion. He changes it again and gets another sad songnote  - "How could you give up on me? / All I did was love you." He turns the radio off.
    Scott Jr.: You know what? No music.
  • In the second season of The Wire, Ziggy is sitting in the bar, getting as drunk as possible because he got a letter saying that he'd inadvertently got some woman pregnant. As he's relating this, the jukebox is playing Love Child, by The Supremes. He was being pranked by someone in the bar.
  • Wiseguy. After being divorced by his wife, Federal agent Frank McPike is drowning his sorrows in a bar when the jukebox starts playing "Hit The Road Jack". Without changing expression, he walks over and shoots it.
  • The X-Files: In the episode "Vienen", Agents Mulder and Doggett are pursued by oil rig crew members who have been infected by the alien black oil. They are banging on the door of the communications room. Mulder blocks the door by any furniture he can find and Doggett tries to get the radio working. The static changes to The Ride of the Valkyries.
    Mulder: Wagner?
    Doggett: What do you want?
    Mulder: I take it back. It's perfect.
  • Young Sheldon: After chastising Missy in the car, George turns on the radio as the song "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge comes on. George very quickly turns the radio off.

  • "Songs About Rain" by Gary Allan devotes its chorus to listing all the sad songs the singer hears on the radio while trying not to think about the fact the woman he's in love with got married to someone else that day. (The title is because all of the songs have "rain" in their titles, e.g. "Kentucky Rain.") The songs about rain aren't helping his morose mood, and he's annoyed that the radio isn't playing "all kinda songs about babies and love that goes right."
  • In Basehead's song "Not Over You", where one of Michael Ivey's friends is trying to cheer him up after he breaks up with his girlfriend, by putting on the radio, which is playing nothing but love and breakup songs.
  • In Eric Bogle's "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda", the narrator, an ANZAC who lost his legs at Gallipoli, finds the use of "Waltzing Matilda" as patriotic music for ANZAC Day to add insult to injury.
  • Eminem's "Stan", which is about an obsessed fan, opens with a sample of Dido's "Thank You" treated to sound like diagetic music on Stan's radio (which then does a Diegetic Switch as he begins writing his letter).
    And even if I could it'll all be grey,
    but your picture on my wall
    It reminds me, that it's not so bad,
    it's not so bad...
    • The sequel, "Bad Guy", opens with a Call-Back to this — Matthew complains that he gets sent right back to his trauma every time he hears Eminem's music on the radio:
      It's like I'm in the dirt, diggin' up old hurt.
      Tried everything to get my mind off you, it won't work.
      All it takes is one song on the radio, you're
      right back on it, reminding me all over again how you fuckin' just
      brushed me off and left me so burnt
  • Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" tells the story of a heartbroken character who listens to the radio playing songs with lines like "If you think you're lonely now" and "I only think of you" which only furthers their pain.
  • "The Hits" by Perfect Stranger has a similar premise in that the narrator is reminded of his breakup by hearing sad country songs on the radio. Among the ones referenced are "It Was Almost Like a Song", "Help Me Hold On", "Am I Blue", and "I Will Always Love You".
  • An example of Mocking Music pops up in an actual song: In Pet Shop Boys' "I Want To Wake Up", the narrator, distraught over his unrequited feelings for the song's subject, turns on his kitchen radio and hears "songs like 'Tainted Love' and 'Love Is Strange'". It doesn't end well.
  • In "Panic" by The Smiths an angry mob burns down a disco because of this trope.
  • "How's the Radio Know" by Aaron Tippin:
    How's the radio know she left
    How's the radio know I did her wrong
    Every record that DJ spins
    Is a good-love-gone-bad song
    How's the radio know I miss her
    And I'd die to tell her so
    Oh, how's the radio know

  • In the early 1990s, Rush Limbaugh had a “AIDS Update” section in his show, where he listed deaths from AIDS while playing songs such as “Back in the Saddle Again,” “Kiss Him Goodbye,” “I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” and “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” He expressed regrets about this.

    Video Games 
  • Gran Turismo 4 mocks the player with Yello's "Oh Yeah" if they fail a License Test.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 has an interactive jukebox, and one of the songs within is Jonathan Coulton's "RE: Your Brains", which is about zombies asking for permission to eat some humans' brains. To make matters worse, the game triggers a zombie horde attack once you hit the chorus.
  • Mega Man 3 has a very cheerful track on the password screen, but it's also jarringly used when the player gets a game over.
  • The cutscene before Level 5 of Parappa The Rapper has a food-poisoned PaRappa urgently looking for a gas station bathroom while struggling to hide his "emergency" from Sunny, the girl of his dreams. While driving, the radio comes on and starts blaring an oddly specific rap:
    I wanna let you know of my desire
    Let it, let it go
    I'm almost on fire
  • Sega Rally plays a guitar riff and a guy screaming "Game Over, YEAH!" triumphantly on that screen.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Game Over theme tune can be this at times, but the Super Mario Sunshine rendition takes the cake. And chances are, you will hear it quite often.
  • Undertale: Losing a battle normally makes the game play the solemn and serious track "Determination". However, getting killed by Sans when you accept his offer to spare you makes the game play a sped-up version of "Dogsong" instead, which is made with cheerful dog-like sounds, while you are being taunted and then given a more stern warning.

  • The MP3 player of Sandra from Sandra and Woo thinks Sandra's relationship with Cloud won't last long.
  • In one El Goonish Shive strip, Tedd has realised he spends too much time worrying about science at the expense of his relationships, and is turning into "those science nuts from the Portal games". He tries to get his mind off science, but finds it difficult to stop analysing things. And then he realises that he's listening to "Still Alive".

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Played with in BoJack Horseman: In "Best Thing that Ever Happened," Princess Carolyn decides to leave BoJack behind at the restaurant instead of trying to fix his dilemma. Her car radio plays a song, "Keep driving, keep driving, girl, don't turn that car around." It becomes clear soon after that the song is somehow targeted at her specifically. She ends up going back to the restaurant anyway.
    Song: Break your pattern of needing to fix other people...Just keep on driving away...
    Princess Carolyn: Ugh. Who do they write these songs for?
    Song: Don't go back to the restaurant, Princess Carolyn. Just keep driving awayyyyy—
    Princess Carolyn: Ugh. [turns off the radio]
  • The Fairly OddParents!: In "Mission Responsible," Cosmo and Wanda go on a fancy dinner date and leave Timmy to babysit Poof. Wanda's paranoid the whole time that something will happen to Poof. This is exacerbated by the lounge singer's song: "My baby's gone, gone, gone, gone..."
  • Family Guy: In "The Munchurian Candidate", during a long, silent, awkward drive home from Pewterschmidt mansion after Peter unknowingly gave oral sex to Lois' mother due to a hypnotic trigger being accidentally activated, Peter tries putting the radio on in order to break the silence. "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Eat It" was playing, which distressed Peter and Lois so the song was swiftly turned off.
  • From Garfield in the Rough, a broadcast about a vicious black leopard that had escaped from the zoo is followed with:
  • The Looney Tunes short "Birds Anonymous", in which Sylvester tries to swear off eating birds. He turns on the TV only to see that Your Television Hates You as there's a cooking show featuring a chef cutting into some poultry. The radio hates him, too: The playlist features "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along". Talk about Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere.
  • In the Ottifanten episode "Happy Birthday", Paul turns 40 and is not happy about it. The radio is playing a rock song that goes "Wenn ich erstmal 30 bin, hat das Leben keinen Sinn" ("By the time I'm 30, life is pointless").
  • The Simpsons:
    • Subverted in "Homer Loves Flanders", when Homer, frustrated by his inability to get tickets to the Springfield Atoms game, turns on the radio to hear the song "Two Tickets to Paradise" by Eddie Money. At first he is unhappy, but soon starts singing along and playing air guitar.
    • Played straight in "Homer vs. The City of New York". After driving his booted car down a very crowded street, he turns on the radio and immediately hears a song about taking things easy. The radio is promptly smashed with his foot.
    • Played straight in "Bart Gets an Elephant", when Marge makes the family clean the house:
      Bart: (whining) I'm tired. I'm hungry. Can't we just buy a new house?
      Marge: Oh, Bart, cleaning doesn't have to be a chore! Here, work to the music. (turns on the radio)
      Radio: You load sixteen tons, what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt...
      Bart: Amen, Ernie.
    • There's "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy", where Homer and his father get run out of town by hicks while the radio plays banjo music. Spoofed when Homer points out the hicks only started chasing them when Abe put on the "getaway music", and their pursuers give up and disappointedly turn around once Homer shuts off the radio.
    • In "Saturdays of Thunder", Homer takes a parenting quiz and is unable to answer any questions about Bart. When he calls the quizmakers to ask what he should do, they put him on hold; the song played is Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle," about a father and son who never find the time to get to know each other. He promptly breaks down weeping while listening to it.
    • In "Homer Alone", Homer attempts to dial a missing child hotline after Maggie disappears. He's put on hold and the music playing is "Baby Come Back" by Player. More weeping ensues.
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror III" segment "Clown Without Pity", where an evil Krusty doll tries to kill Homer, Marge calls the customer service number. The hold music is "Everybody Loves A Clown" ("Everybody loves a clown, so why can't you?/A clown has feelings too").
    • In "How Munched Is That Birdie In The Window?", Bart is having a funeral for his pet pigeon, and Martin, Milhouse, Nelson and Database decide to lighten the mood by singing "Put on a Happy Face". It cheered Bart up, then Martin reveals it's from the musical Bye Bye Birdie, then Bart promptly runs away, crying.
    • Invoked in "The Last Barfighter" where Bart wins a crystal skull full of tequila and refuses to give any to Homer, going so far as to mock him. At one point, Homer's driving and Bart requests a song for him on the radio. At first, it seems like he's trying to make nice. Then we hear the lone lyric: "Tequila!"
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Mid-Life Crustacean" starts with Mr. Krabs waking up to a song on the radio called "You're Old," making him feel even worse about his age.


Video Example(s):


The Sad Songs of Scott Turner

In "Hooch Machina" from "Turner & Hooch," Scott Turner Jr. has decided to stop doing police work with Hooch and have his sister care for the dog. He leaves Hooch behind and as he drives along has a sad song on the radio with lyrics like "I sit here alone and dream about you." He decides it isn't working, only to change the station and get another song in the same vein, then yet another one. Annoyed, he turns off the radio. "No music."

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