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Sinister Tango Music

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And now: the six merry murderesses of the Cook County Jail, in their rendition of the Cell Block Tango...

For added atmosphere, play the music from this track while reading on.

Like a few other types of music, tango music is often used in fiction for creepiness. Unlike genres such as jazz and rock, tango music isn't exactly "rebellious".note  In fact, the reason it is played for creepiness in fiction may be because of how elegant it sounds. The tune itself is tantalizing, captivating, and decadent within its melancholic vibe. It has a syncopated march rhythm, which gives the air of mystery and uncertainty. It helps that it's usually played in a specific chord progression making use of minor chords, which are generally associated with negative things (see the "Multiple Ensemble" section in Mood Motif).

The music is typically associated with Wicked Cultured characters, due to its elegant mood. But because the dances are usually intimate, it is also often associated with seductive characters, such as Femme Fatales.

Contrast Creepy Jazz Music, which is also conducive to dancing, and Rotten Rock & Roll. Not to be confused with Death Trap Tango.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Arrancar leitmotif from Bleach often makes use of this trope, especially in Nube Negra, which has a tango/flamenco-esque sound.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • Addams Family Values has Gomez and Morticia doing a Tango that is equal parts sinister and sexy.
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus features a brief tango between Mister Nick (played by Tom Waits) and Valentina (played by Lily Cole).
  • Once Bitten opens with a Tango number as Sebastian gets his vampire mistress all done up for an evening of hunting virgins.
  • Sunset Boulevard: Tango music plays as Norma Desmond forces protagonist Joe Gillis to dance with her.
  • True Lies plays with the trope. Arnold's character has a weakness for the Tango and dances it with his sexy but evil target. At the end, he dances another with the wife he loves, inconveniencing their partner in the van.
  • In 12 Monkeys, the title theme is also the leitmotif of the Army of the 12 Monkeys, the Animal Wrongs Group believed responsible for causing the apocalypse. It's written and performed by legendary tango musician Astor Piazzolla.
  • Waking Life: Most of the soundtrack is tango music—and so when The Dreamer starts to become more and more unhinged and the visuals become (literally) more nightmarish as the movie nears its climax, this Trope is pretty much in play.

    Live-Action TV 



    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • The opening sequence of The Adventures of Figaro Pho, which shows Figaro being frightened and chased by some of the monsters that appear in the show, is accompanied by a classy-sounding tango tune.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012) has an episode wherein Pepper and Blythe duet "The Guilty Tango" and the animation goes all dark and gloomy.
  • The Villain Song "A Better Way to be Bad" from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is done in this style.
  • In the Disney short Lorenzo, a Mime and Music-Only Cartoon, tango music is used as the background for a story about a gluttonous, prideful cat with a beautiful bushy tail. After failing an Old Beggar Test, Lorenzo's tail is enchanted into sentience and sweeps him into a tango around town. He tries various, increasingly dangerous methods to quiet it, including electrocution and having it run over by a train, until the old beggar cat returns and suggests he cut it off. Lorenzo is reluctant, but eventually relents, only to have the tail grab the knife to defend itself. Lorenzo is eventually successful in cutting off as the song reaches its triumphant end.


Video Example(s):


Gomez and Morticia

Gomez and Morticia do a dance at their bistro. Being Addamses, their dance occasionally takes a few turns into the deadly.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

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Main / SinisterTangoMusic

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