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Revenge Ballad

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You know how people have these little habits that get you down? Like... Bernie! Bernie liked to chew gum—no, not chew. Pop! So, I come home this one day and I'm really irritated and looking for a little sympathy, and there's Bernie. Lying' on the couch, drinking a beer and chewing—no, not chewing, POPPING! So, I said to him, I said "You pop that gum one more time..." And he did. So I took the shotgun off the wall and I fired two warning shots...
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Into his head!
Liz, "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 Widower, The Dog Bites Back, Rape and Revenge, Roaring Rampage of Revenge, and/or A Taste of Their Own Medicine.


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Examples:

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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.

    Music 
  • "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 for being unfaithful.
    • "Two Black Cadillacs" tells of two women who discover the same man is dating both of them and team up to take him out, only meeting face-to-face at his funeral.
  • 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
  • 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's "The Vengeful One" and its music video chronicle the arrival of a divine being come to exterminate evil from humanity.
  • 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
  • Eminem's "Kim", a sadistic little piece where the singer kidnaps his own wife and punishes her for a supposed affair.
  • "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
  • In Fause Foodrage, as soon as the son learns of his Secret Legacy, he attacks the man who killed his father and is holding his mother prisoner.
  • 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.
  • A secondary theme of Kesha's "Rainbow", where she vows to bury her offender:
    I'll bring fire, I'll bring rain
    And when I'm finished, they won't even know your name
  • 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.
  • "Just Desserts" by Marina & the Diamonds 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.
  • 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!
  • 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
  • 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".
  • 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.

    Theatre 
  • 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 Married 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.
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    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

    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.

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