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Revenge Ballad

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He had it comin'!
He had it comin'!
He only had himself to blame!
If you had been there,
If you had seen it,
I betcha you would have done the same!
"Cell Block Tango", Chicago

Revenge is one of the oldest, simplest, and most compelling plots in existence. And for almost as long as the concept has been around, people have been writing songs about it.

Sister Trope to the Murder Ballad, the Revenge Ballad is any song about getting even. The wrong righted could be almost anything—popular topics for these songs include Domestic Abuse, someone else's murder, and romantic mistreatment.

Can overlap with Break-Up Song, Grief Song, or Sanity Slippage Song. If a whole bunch of people participate, it may be an Angry Mob Song. May involve Best Served Cold, Crusading Widow, The Dog Bites Back, Rape and Revenge, Roaring Rampage of Revenge, and/or A Taste of Their Own Medicine.


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    Films — Animation 
  • At one point in Brave, King Fergus sings a song about how he swears to kill Mor'du the bear as revenge for biting his leg off.
  • In The Adventures of Brer Rabbit the aptly named "Payback Time" has Brer Fox and Brer Wolf plan their revenge against Brer Rabbit which leads to them creating the tar baby.

    Live-Action TV 

  • "All the Rage" by electropop singer Allie X, where the singer plots revenge for an ambiguous rejection.
    I will be all the rage tonight
    Watch me shimmy into the light
    Filled with fury and starry eyed
    I will be all the rage
  • Annie Lennox's "Thin Line Between Love and Hate", about a woman taking revenge on her useless husband via an arranged accident to make him take her seriously.
    The sweetest woman in the world
    Can be the meanest woman in the world
    If you make her be that way
  • Avenged Sevenfold's "Strength of the World" reads as the story of someone whose family was killed by outlaws.
    I want it. I need it! Revenge is dripping from my teeth!
  • The Beatles:
    • "Norwegian Wood" from Rubber Soul, where a man takes revenge on a woman for not sleeping with him by burning her apartment down while she is gone.
    • "Rocky Raccoon" from The White Album tells of the failed revenge plot of a man called Rocky against the man who stole his girl.
  • Implied in Billie Eilish's "watch", about unrequited love:
    I'll sit and watch your car burn
    With the fire that you started in me
  • In "The Dismemberment Song" by Blue Kid, the singer takes a Torture for Fun and Information approach to revenge, fantasizing about dissecting her cruel ex-lover.
  • James Brown in "The Payback" clearly states he's out for vengeance.
    Sold me out for chicken change
    Told me that they had it all arranged
    You had me down and that's a fact
    Now you punk, You gotta get ready
    For the big payback!
    That's where I land, the big payback
  • Carrie Underwood writes a lot of these:
    • "Church Bells" is about an abused wife who poisons her husband.
    • In "Blown Away", a young woman refuses to wake her abusive father as a tornado bears down on their house, instead leaving him to die.
    • "Before He Cheats", where the singer trashes her ex's truck while he's busy fooling around with "the other woman".
    • "Two Black Cadillacs" tells of two women who team up to take their husband/lover out, only meeting face-to-face at his funeral.
      Two months ago his wife called the number on his phone
      Turns out he'd been lying to both of them for oh so long
      They decided then he'd never get away with doing this to them
      Two black Cadillacs waiting for the right time, the right time
  • Coheed and Cambria's No World For Tomorrow album is filled with these. In particular: "Gravemakers and Gunslingers", "Justice in Murder", and "The End Complete".
    Cause God knows I ain't now stoppin' 'til you breathe none!
  • Corbin's "Revenge Song" tells the story of the singer helping a woman get revenge on the man who molested her as a child.
    Grab my rifle, time to make amends
  • Daniel Kahn and The Painted Bird's "Six Million Germans/Nakam" is something of a subversion. While it starts out as a song about Abba Kovner's plan to get revenge on Those Wacky Nazis, by the end it's much more complicated.
    Now can vengeance put upon the shelf
    Be taken out later on someone else
    Be careful how you read this tale
    Lest your own prejudice prevail
  • The Decemberists:
    • "The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)"
    • "The Mariner's Revenge Song," if the title wasn't obvious enough. When the narrator was a child, he took up his mother's dying wish of seeing the man who conned them out of house and home, leading to her contracting a fatal case of tuberculosis, beaten and buried alive. He spends fifteen years thinking of revenge, and one day he finally hears of the conman now being a sadistic ship captain. The narrator sets sail, and after more than a year of looking, he finds the conman, but both ships are suddenly swallowed by a massive whale, with the narrator and the conman being the only survivors. With nowhere for him to run, the narrator finally, and very happily, exacts his brutal revenge. As an added bonus, the sequence of notes that played while the mother's dying wish was being recited is played over and over as the narrator is implied to kill the man, playing faster and more frantic each time.
    Narrator: It gives my heart great joy to see your eyes fill with fear, so lean in close and I will whisper the last words you'll hear.
  • Diamond Head's "Am I Evil?" (also covered by Metallica), about a man seeking vengeance for the burning of his mother as a witch and losing himself in the process.
  • Disturbed:
    • "The Vengeful One" and its music video chronicle the arrival of a divine being come to exterminate evil from humanity.
    • "Hell", which also has quite vengeful vibes:
      Now I can’t stay behind
      Save me, from wreaking my vengeance upon you
      Too chilling, more than I can tell
      Burning, now I bring you hell!
  • The Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl", about a woman and her best friend who take revenge on her abusive husband.
    Earl had to die
    Goodbye, Earl!
    Those black-eyed peas
    They tasted all right to me
    , Earl
    You feelin' weak?
    Why don't you lay down and sleep, Earl?
    Ain't it dark
    Wrapped up in that tarp, Earl
  • Eminem frequently engaged in this in his early career, usually about real people who had wronged him.
    • In the third scenario in "Guilty Conscience", Slim Shady is a bad angel trying to persuade Grady to murder his wife for cheating. He eventually manages.
    • "Brain Damage" is a fantasy about Slim Shady beating up DeAngelo Bailey, a school bully who, in real life, had bashed him so hard with a shovel that he ended up in a coma and with permanent mental health issues even after he recovered. In the song, he clobbers him with a broom handle wrapped in sharp objects, in a whole passage rhyming with the phrase "orange juice".
    • "Kim", a sadistic little piece where the rapper kidnaps his wife and murders her, her new husband, and the child she had with him. It's a prequel to his earlier song, "'97 Bonnie and Clyde", which describes him and his daughter disposing of the bodies after the murders.
    • "Kill You" opens with Eminem singing about the Gaslighting he experienced at the hands of his abusive mother, before rapping in Bloody Hilarious detail about murdering and raping her.
    • Subverted in "Insane", which is set up like one of Eminem's childhood revenge fantasy songs as Slim Shady describes being raped into insanity by his stepfather... but he never gets revenge on him, instead just channelling his rage into random destructive violence against bystanders.
    • Used as a Casting Gag on Eminem's guest appearance on P!nk's "Revenge". Slim gets revenge on Pink's character's infidelity by cheating on her... but the song also contains an allusion to "Kim", implying darker plans. (The bloody visuals of the video reinforce this.)
    • "Stepdad" is a fantasy about a young Slim Shady attempting to murder his worthless, abusive stepfather.
  • "Revenge" by the Eurythmics, about a woman who specializes in the matter.
    She said revenge can be so sweet
    I like to take it when I can
    I need to play with the ones I hate
    I like to see them suffer
  • Folk singer Ferron's "It Won't Take Long", about the inevitable revenge of the working class.
  • Florence + the Machine's "Seven Devils", which has been used in both Revenge and commercials for Game of Thrones to represent the concept.
    Holy water cannot help you now
    A thousand armies couldn't keep me out
    I don't want your money
    I don't want your crown
    See, I've come to burn your kingdom down
  • Garmarna's "Vedergallingen" "Vengeance", based on Swedish folklore.
  • The Grateful Dead: From the climax of their reworking of the classic song "Stagger Lee", in which the protagonist is forced into taking justice into her own hands:
    As Stagger Lee lit a cigarette she shot him in the balls
    Blew the smoke off her revolver, had him dragged to city hall
    Bayo, Bayo, see you hang him high
    He shot my Billy dead and now he's got to die.
  • Halsey's "Castle", is, according to Word of God, about Revenge Against Men.
    I'm headed straight for the castle
    They wanna make me their queen
    And there's an old man sitting on the throne that's saying
    That I prob'ly shouldn't be so mean
  • In Heywood Banks's "Revenge Song", the singer warns a bully about all the ways he could take revenge on them as soon as they're off their guard.
  • "Dark Sisters" by Inkubus Sukkubus is a rallying cry to witches to take Revenge Against Men.
  • Kate Bush's "The Wedding List" where a pregnant bride tracks down and kills the murderers of her husband before committing suicide.
  • Johnny Cash:
    • The protagonist of "Oney" has suffered under the hands of a cruel and sadistic shop foreman for decades, and celebrates his retirement party with a bit of bare-knuckle boxing:
      All these year's I've been building muscles
      Oney's just been sittin' round, gettin' soft . . .
    • Subverted in "A Boy Named Sue", written by Shel Silverstein. The Man in Black sings of spending his whole adulthood hunting down his runaway dad in order to kill him for "giving me that awful name," but ends up hugging and appreciating him in the end. Though not before the two have a knock-down-drag-out fight first. And he still hates that name.
  • Kesha:
    • A secondary theme of "Praying", where she vows to bury her offender:
      I'll bring thunder, I'll bring rain, oh
      And when I'm finished, they won't even know your name
    • In "Hunt You Down," she warns her boyfriend that, though she's usually a nice person, she won't hesitate to get revenge on him if he wrongs her.
      If you fuck around,
      Boy, I'll hunt you down
  • Leftfield has the song "Open Up", where the protagonist is pissed off at the film industry for promising him fame and then letting him down. There's one particularly evocative verse that goes:
    "Burn, Hollywood, Burn. Taking down Tinseltown
    "Burn, Hollywood, burn. Burn down into the ground.
    "Burn, Hollywood, burn.
    "Burn, Hollywood burn, burn Hollywood burn"
    "Take down Tinseltown, burn down to the ground."
  • In Lyle Lovett's "LA County", he sings of crossing the country to attend the wedding of his ex- and his ex-best friend... with a Colt 45 in hand.
  • Lolo's "Hit and Run", about a pair of prostitutes who take to murdering the johns who try to buy them.
  • Lordi:
    • "It Snows In Hell". The narrator rises from his grave to kill his lover who is implied to be responsible for his death.
    • "None For One". The brother tricks the sister into murdering their father, and she is taken away and locked up. In the last verse, she figures out his plot and escapes to get her revenge on him.
  • Machine Girl's "Suck Shit" begins with "Crushing your skull underneath my foot, I'm finally free / I take back my time, my soul and everything you stole from me", and only gets more resentful and violent from there.
  • "Just Desserts" by Marina Diamandis and Charli XCX, about getting revenge on a lover for an unspecified offence.
    Karma came around like I knew it would
    Like I knew it would
    And it feels so good when the shoe is put
    On the other foot
  • Metallica's "Here Comes Revenge", obviously, either sung from the viewpoint of a personification of vengeance itself or someone set on revenge for a death regardless of consequences to himself or others.
  • Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder & Lead," about a battered woman who waits at home for her boyfriend to make bail for assaulting her, drunk and armed.
    I'm goin' home, gonna load my shotgun
    Wait by the door, and light a cigarette
    If he wants a fight, well, now he's got one
    And he ain't seen me crazy yet
    He slapped my face, and he shook me like a rag doll
    Don't that sound like a real man?
    I'm going to show him what little girls are made of
    Gunpowder and lead
  • Panic! at the Disco: "Let's Kill Tonight", where the singer vows to destroy an ex-lover's reputation to get revenge.
    Let's kill tonight!
    Kill tonight!
    Show them all you're not the ordinary type
  • P!nk's "Revenge" plays this for laughs, listing all the ways she could get even with her lover.
    Like Leo in The Revenant
    Abel in that Bible bit
    Revenge is sweet, isn't it?
  • Patti Smith's "Revenge":
    I feel upset - let's do some celebrating!
  • "Revenge" by Plain White T's:
    Go ahead and get mad
    Never talk to me again
    I don't even care 'cause
    I got my Revenge!
  • Sound Horizon's Marchen album revolves around the spirits of seven women (all but one from the Fairy Tales of The Brothers Grimm) being granted a chance at revenge against the people who wronged them by a strange ghost who goes by the name Marchen. The seventh woman, Elisabeth, rejects this offer, content that her first and only love Marz has finally fulfilled his promise to return to her, even if only in death.
  • In Suzanne Vega's "In the Eye", the singer warns someone about the revenge she is capable of:
    If you were to kill me now, right here
    I would still look you in the eye
    And I would burn myself into your memory
    As long as you were still alive
  • Taylor Swift:
    • "Better Than Revenge", where the singer admonishes the woman who stole her man, telling her she really should have known better because "There is nothing I do better than revenge". The bridge reveals that the song itself is the revenge.
      You might have him, but I always get the last word
    • "I Did Something Bad", half-parodying her media image as a ruthless maneater:
      I can feel the flames on my skin
      Crimson red paint on my lips
      If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing
      I don't regret it one bit, 'cause he had it coming ...
      They say I did something bad
      Then why's it feel so good?
    • "Look What You Made Me Do", though she never specifies exactly what it was she did.
      But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time
      Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time
      I've got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined
    • "no body, no crime" is this combined with a Murder Ballad. The narrator's best friend Este accuses her husband of cheating, and goes missing shortly thereafter. After the cops fail to find any evidence, the narrator takes matters into her own hands.
      No body, no crime
      But I ain't letting up until the day I die
  • Tracy Byrd's "Revenge of a Middle Aged Woman" is a quite fun little song about a woman who sells her husband's Mercedes for seven hundred dollars and hooks up with a new guy as revenge for constantly sleeping around on her.
    It was a classic case of a woman scorned
    She'll make that man wish he had never been born
    She's a forty-something year old judge and jury
    Hell hath no fury like revenge of a middle-aged woman.
  • Ween's song "Buenos Tardes Amigo" is a revenge song being sung to the man who killed the narrator's brother. The twist is that the narrator was actually the killer himself, probably due to jealousy, and is framing the listener to keep anyone else from knowing the truth.
  • Within Temptation's concept album The Unforgiving has a few examples, most notably "In the Middle of the Night" and "Murder".
    • There's also "The Promise" from the Mother Earth album, about a women who goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the ones who killed her lover.
  • UB40's Rat In My Kitchen. Basically the singer has someone spreading mean rumors about him and otherwise making his life miserable, and how he plans to forcibly shut them up.
  • "Hughie The Graeme" is about an attempt at this, when a man steals bishop's horse after learning his wife has an affair with the bishop. He is, however, caught and hanged.
  • Warren Zevon. "Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner" is a song about a Norwegian mercenary who is assassinated by the CIA, but rises from the grave as a Revenant Zombie to take revenge on his killers.

  • Cats: "Growltiger's Last Stand", about the pirate cat Growltiger being finally taken down by his enemies, the Siamese.
  • "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago is the combined Revenge Ballad for the "Six Merry Murderesses of the Cook County Jail", who all (but one) murdered their husbands or lovers and explain how and why here.
  • In the musical production of The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmund sings "Hell to Your Doorstep" as he plots to destroy the conspirators who stole his life and condemned him to prison.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: "One Thing" doubles as a Grief Song, centering around Neo's anguish over Roman's death and her blaming Cinder for his demise. The song implies Roman was the 'one thing' keeping Neo's life from being a living hell, and that Cinder destroyed it by getting him killed.
    I had one thing
    And you've taken it from me
    A single light
    A single friend
    But you made that end

    Web Videos 
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Dr. Horrible sings "Brand New Day" once he decides to kill Captain Hammer after years of defeat and humiliation, and credits Hammer with instilling him with enough fury to go through with it.
    All the times that you beat me unconscious I'll forgive
    All the crimes incomplete, listen honestly I'll live
    Mr. Cool, Mr. Right, Mr. Know-it-all is through
    Now my future's so bright and I owe it all to you
    Who showed me the light
  • Empires SMP: In the official adaptation Empires: the Musical (Ocean Queen Edition), the song "The Stand-Off" covers Joey stealing Sir Strawberry, one of Lizzie's axolotls, and Lizzie taking revenge by kidnapping the Lost Empire's Tiger Blood Prince in return and declaring an exchange of kidnappees, while secretly hiring Sausage as an assassin to kill Joey at the exchange. The revenge part is deconstructed as per the source material, as Joey gets the same idea and Sausage ends up killing both Joey and Lizzie at the exchange as their respective deals required. At the end of the song, Lizzie reflects that the double assassination was deserved as "in our selfishness, we both forgot to self-preserve".

    Western Animation 
  • "Busted" from Phineas and Ferb, where Vanessa and Candace sing about how they will make their moms listen to them and bust their father and brothers (respectively) once and for all.


Video Example(s):


Before He Cheats

So the lesson is: don't cheat on Carrie Underwood.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

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