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Rotten Rock & Roll

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Some rockers are more rotten than others.
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Ah, rock and roll. Loud, violent, rebellious and, most importantly, powerful. Since these traits also perfectly fit a villain, in media, rock music is often associated with evil characters. Whether a simple Leitmotif or a full-blown Villain Song, these villains rock!

In Real Life, some rock musicians wear outfits that also invoke a villainous image: dark clothes (leather and metal spikes optional), heavy makeup, or long beards. However, nowadays these type of outfits are mostly reserved for the metal subgenre — regular rock musicians will dress more "normally".

The association between rock music and evil is the origin of the trope The New Rock & Roll. If both the hero and the villain are associated with music, the latter will be harder. Considering the sheer popularity of rock music, this often results in Evil Is Cool.

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Supertrope to Rock Me, Asmodeus!, where rock music is associated with Satan himself. Freaky Electronic Music is a Spiritual Successor, as electronic music has the same violent and rebellious association as rock and roll had in the past. Creepy Jazz Music, on the other hand, precedes both. Often counts as an Anachronistic Soundtrack if the work takes place before the 1950s. Compare and contrast The Power of Rock, where rock and roll is used to defeat the villain. May overlap with Musical Assassin, if playing rock music is the main tool of the villain, and with Autobots, Rock Out!, if the villains' rock music theme is heard when the heroes fight them. Compare All Drummers Are Animals, where drummers of rock bands are portrayed as savage and beastly, although not necessarily evil. Contrast Scary Musician, Harmless Music, where the musician only looks the part in a Dark Is Not Evil vein. See also Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll, where rock stars or fans adopt a more realistic libertine lifestyle. Can overlap with All Bikers Are Hells Angels, as the biker subculture is heavily associated with rock music. Contrast Rock is Authentic, Pop is Shallow.

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Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Played with in Jem and the Holograms (IDW). The titular band is a pop band while the rival band The Misfits is a metal band. Due to some Adaptational Heroism compared to the original Jem cartoon, the Misfits aren't "evil", but they're the antagonists and are less friendly than Jerrica's bandmates.
  • An issue of Princess Natasha has the villain Lubek using hypnotism to get his favorite metal band Burnt Toast to play whatever he likes.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Anastasia, Rasputin sings a rocking Villain Song titled "In The Dark of The Night", about the return of his powers and how nothing will stop him from killing the final Romanov.
  • In The Lorax, the Once-ler accompanies his Face–Heel Turn with a rock song, "How Bad Can I Be?"
  • In Megamind, the titular Villain Protagonist underscores his appearances with hard rock songs like "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC, "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne and "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses. This continues even after his Heel–Face Turn, so it's sort of a subversion.
  • In Moana, Tamatoa the Giant Enemy Crab sings the David Bowie-esque "Shiny" about how much he loves treasure and how fabulous he is. This is the only rock-style song in the movie.
  • My Little Pony: A New Generation: "Danger, Danger", the Villain Song sung by Sprout Cloverleaf, has some rocking electric guitar riffs sounding very similar to "Smells Like Teen Spirit", complete with some head-banging coreography by the background ponies, in contrast to the pop-like songs sung by the protagonists.
  • Canadian studio Nelvana produced Rock & Rule, which both uses and averts this trope. It's about an egocentric "super-rocker" bent upon summoning a demon from another dimension during his concert. Although his Evil Plan succeeds, it is also undone by another rock song, this time a duet. For reference, the villain is voiced by Iggy Pop, while the heroine is voiced by Debbie Harry.
  • Trolls: World Tour features a rock-loving tribe of trolls, whose leader, Queen Barb, who wants to destroy all other music genres, including pop, funk, classical, country and techno. The rock trolls have grey and black colors and an aggressive demeanor, opposed to the bright colors and cheery attitude of the pop troll protagonists. Ultimately subverted when they're redeemed in the climax, as they're just as misguided as anyone tempted by the power of the strings.

    Films — Live-Action 
Creators

Specific examples

  • In Joker (2019), the first thing Arthur does after becoming the Joker is to dance insanely on the stairs to the backdrop of Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll (Part 2)" (fittingly, Glitter has become infamous for his own crimes).note 
  • Jareth the Goblin King, the Big Bad of Labyrinth, sings several pop-rock songs over the course of the movie. Not surprising, considering that he's played by David Bowie.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: Immortan Joe's army prominently features a guitarist (whose guitar is also a flamethrower) who constantly plays regardless of the action around him. He also serves a more practical purpose of sounding general orders during battle.
  • The entire premise of Rock: It's Your Decision is that listening to rock music will make you lose your faith in Jesus and bring you to a life of sin.

    Literature 
  • In Soul Music the main antagonist is the "Music With Rocks In" itself, manifesting through a magical guitar. The music turns young bard Imp Y Celyn into The Rock Star, and then attempts to kill him young so that he'll become a legend.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Hospital Playlist: In episode 2.10 the five doctors, who routinely unwind from the pressures of hospital work by playing in their own band, decide to take a break from Korean pop and instead play a rock song. Hilariously, they all get special leather outfits (with chains!) for the occasion. Even funnier, the song they play is "It's My Life" by notorious death-metal band Bon Jovi.
  • Ninja Sentai Kakuranger: Gashadokuro, the prince of the Youkai Army Corps and son of the Demon King, is dressed in death metal attire and carries a guitar when in his human form, Young Noble Junior.
  • The '70s drama Rock Follies concerned the lives and tribulations of an all-girl rock band who were riding high and top of the charts who seemingly had it all going for them. Unfortunately the music written for them to perform, which the viewer was asked to believe was such stellar rock that the world could not get enough of it, was... mediocre. It was agreed that this was suspending disbelief too far and the show, otherwise competently written drama, foundered.

    Music 

    Puppet Shows 
  • The River Bottom Nightmare Band in Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is a mean, flashy rock'n'roll group, in contrast to the eponymous jug band. (Averted in the original book, where they're not openly antagonistic.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The orks used to have Rokkaz, orks with electric guitars and dressed as rock stars.
    • Noise Marines as well used to have electric-guitar-shaped guns for their sonic attacks.

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • In Brütal Legend, The Drowning Doom are a Death Metal themed army composed of undead zombies and ghosts who act comically depressed and produce a gloomy Empathic Environment that debuffs their enemies. When their army is maxed out with all the assorted debuffers, they give the appearance of a Walking Wasteland. Of course, everyone in the game is themed after some kind of Metal so the connotations here are sort of flimsy at best.
  • In Crypt Of The Necrodancer, the default soundtrack has two prominent examples:
    • The theme song of Death Metal, Metalmancy, is, of course, a fast-paced heavy metal song, occasionally punctuated by Death Metal himself casting a spell with a Metal Scream. And Crypt of the NecroDancer is a Rhythm Game; that rapid-fire metal tempo means the player needs to be able to think fast in a battle with Death Metal.
    • The True Final Boss, the Golden Lute itself, is fought to the tune of Absolutetion. It has a much more manageable BPM than Metalmancy, small a consolation as this is.
  • Darkstalkers: Vulturon's predecessor of sorts, Lord Raptor (Zabel Zarock in Japan) is a zombie rockstar. In life, he made a cult with his rock concert and his last one doubles as a massive suicide of him and his followers. Then Ozom, one of the demon lords, resurrected him as a zombie.
  • Deltarune: While not a straight-up villain, Susie starts off as antagonistic and violent - even before she ends up in the Dark World, she's enough of The Bully for her classmates to fear her - and her theme consists of a short guitar riff. The theme later gets a Boss Remix during her fight with Lancer in the basement/dungeon, which happens right before she makes a full Heel–Face Turn.
  • Played with for rock 'n' roll musician Xinyan in Genshin Impact. She isn't a villain or even evil, but she has made an infamous reputation in Liyue for her rather destructive shows, to the point that the Millelith (Liyue's city guards) are pressed to stop her performances. But despite this, she has a lot of fans, some of which come from the Millelith soldiers as well, which helped her set up places for performances. In the end, as they're unable to find evidence of any casualties in her concerts, they just decide to "keep an eye open and the other shut" on her. She also tends to weird out people when she's just walking around, due to how she prefers to stay dressed in her stage attire everywhere she goes. That said, she's so proud of her rock 'n' roll that she believes it's why the gods gave her a Vision.
  • Guilty Gear: I-No is a Sadist heavy metal musician who's a Dungeon Punk take on the Hot Witch archetype, complete with pointy hat and ability to fly. Bonus points for one of her finishing moves literally destroying your eardrums.
  • Lollipop Chainsaw: Each of the Dark Purveyors are based on different genres of music. Four of them are based on sub-genres of Rock: Zed is based on Punk Rock, Vikke is based on metal, Mariska is based on psychedelic rock (and its darker counterpart, acid rock), and Lewis Legend is based on Classic Rock.
  • Vulturon the Condorroid (aka Condorrock the Vulturoid) in Mega Man ZX Advent is one of the Pseudoroid bosses, a vulture robot who fights with an electric guitar and has a crazy rockstar personality.
  • Pokémon Black and White: Team Plasma's theme is styled off of rock.
  • Slimyscaly and Daveybird from Randle Sim Racing always have Rock as their themes and favorite music, definitely played up when they're villains.
  • Zigzagged with Wolfgang in the fourth game in the Skylanders series. After accidentally discovering the musical note of pain, he was driven mad after being shunned and turned into a werewolf of the Undead element, and has a nasty Hair-Trigger Temper, leading him to join the Doom Raiders, a gang of Skylands' worst criminals led by the Golden Queen. His instrument is a harp he plays like an electric guitar made of bone, letting him wield it like a literal axe or play notes that deal damage. He also has aspects of The Starscream, but considering that the Golden Queen showed no concern for her minions getting captured by the Skylanders while he considers them part of his pack, it makes him more sympathetic, and even offers the Skylanders a chance to join him in ruling the future. However, he can be trapped and used as a playable character, and come the sixth game, he makes a full Heel–Face Turn while becoming a playable Bowslinger Sensei, subverting the trope entirely. Through both his appearances, his Leitmotif is a very fitting rock solo with a wailing electrical guitar as the highlight.
  • Zazz from Sonic Lost World gets his own rock theme just before he fights Sonic. Fittingly, Zazz himself resembles a punk rocker thanks to features such as a mohawk and eyeliner-like Creepy Shadowed Undereyes.
  • Villains of the Super Mario Bros. video game franchise, especially the Big Bad Bowser, are often associated with rock music:
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The dance animation of the male Forsaken (the playable race of The Undead) is head-banging and playing an air guitar. While not all Forsaken are evil (some of them are examples of Dark Is Not Evil), they are considered creepy and unnatural even by their non-undead comrades in the Horde. Also, they are literally rotting away at the joints.
    • Since 2017, the Darkmoon Faire has a Forsaken band, the Blight Boar, playing in a concert cave adorned with graves and the like, the Cauldron of Rock. The Death Metal Knight is a (Death Knight class) boss who seeks to disturb concerts at the place and can be fought by players. He can drop a guitar (used as a two-handed weapon) that can turn the player into a guitar-playing member of the Blight Boar for a few seconds.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: In "Emperor Joker", the Joker pulls out an electric guitar adorned with a clown smile, and starts singing a rock Villain Song called "Where's the Fun in That?" The song is fairly upbeat, but it is about how the Joker likes to make people smile — whether they want to or not.
  • Biker Mice from Mars: Subverted in the episode "Hard Rock". While the titular character is patterned after a rock musician, uses an electric guitar that fires energy blasts as a weapon, and was employed by Plutark to cause destruction on countless planets, Hard Rock is now a changed man and is only working for Limburger because his girlfriend is being used as a bargaining chip. In the end, the Biker Mice help him save his girlfriend and ruin Limburger's plan.
  • In the DC Animated Universe, particularly in Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League, the villain Lobo has a rock Leitmotif, and he also has the "rocker" look with the leather vest, spiky belt, long black hair and face paint.
  • Played with and Reconstructed in Ever After High; Raven Queen wants to play a soft acoustic guitar ballad she wrote for the annual talent show, but the Dean Bitterman does not approve because the song is "too nice" for a student he is counting on to become the next Evil Queen. By showtime, Raven reaches a compromise: play the song but as a rock ballad. It turns out to be as big a hit with the audience as the Headmaster.
  • The Goat from Green Eggs and Ham (2019) is an extremely tough motorbike-riding bounty hunter chasing the protagonists, whose appearances are accompanied by an electric guitar leitmotif.
  • In the original Jem TV series, the Misfits were harder-rocking than the Holograms as in the later comic (see above), but were much more openly evil, several times outright trying to murder the good guys. They did have their sympathetic moments but weren't friendly, especially towards anyone outside their band.
  • League of Super Evil:
    • Famed supervillain Skullossus gets his own rock leitmotif, in contrast to the titular team of Villain Protagonists, who don't even get a leitmotif, in keeping with their status as Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains.
    • Rock Gothlington is a metal star who is popular among supervillains. He also has supernatural powers and a "Destruct-O-Beam".
  • Peculiar villain Bootes Belinda from Loonatics Unleashed invites Zadavia to a rock concert, then attempts to blast her to a frazzle in mid-performance. Bootes' bandmate is Rupes Oberon, who takes Zadavia hostage and compels Tech Coyote to build a double-neck guitar that can open spatial wormholes.
  • Old Villain Succulentus from OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes makes a lot of rock references and has a rock theme. His short scene alone contains lines referencing songs from Linkin Park, System of a Down, Evanescence, Korn, and Disturbed all set to a Suspiciously Similar Song to "Freak On A Leash". He's voiced by Jonathan Davis of Korn as well.
  • As both a case of Big-Lipped Alligator Moment and Early Installment Weirdness before the show took a Darker and Edgier tone in the Season 2 finale, the villain Megabyte from ReBoot overhears that Dot is throwing her brother Enzo a birthday party. He sends out his forces and a massive tank to crash the party... only for the tank to transform into a stage where Megabyte dramatically emerges with an electric guitar, rocking out with Hack and Slash as accompanying drums. After being joined by Bob (having turned Glitch into a bass), he gives the guitar to Enzo as his birthday gift, remarking that he "always wanted to do that."
  • Bismuth in Steven Universe isn't so much as rotten so much as morally-challenged, but her electric guitar theme becomes much more ominous during the Breaking Point scene.
  • Wander over Yonder: The Card-Carrying Villain Lord Hater is the primary antagonist that Wander constantly faces, but he's also the #1 superstar who's rocking the galaxy with his electric guitar. His music is contrasted to the cheery country ditties of Wander and the Freaky Electronic Music of rival supervillain Emperor Awesome. He even has a Bragging Theme Tune rock song!
    "Who is the universe's awesomest evildoer? HAATEEER!"

 
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Lewis Legend

Lewis Legend, the Rock and Roll Zombie and one of the Dark Purveyors.

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