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Wrong Song Gag

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Sometimes, a character wants to play some music. Maybe it's for an event, maybe they want to set a particular mood, or maybe they just think it would be appropriate for the situation. But something happens and they end up playing a song or piece they didn't intend to, usually one completely unfitting for what's happening. The result, more often than not, is in-universe Soundtrack Dissonance.

One common variant is for the wrong song to be played as a result of another character's actions, either as a mistake, to make a statement, or just because they like the other song better. Another involves a character playing a fitting song, only for it to be changed to something less apropos for whatever reason.

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May overlap with Left the Background Music On. See also That Syncing Feeling.


Examples:

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  • In a TV commercial for the Visa Check Card, the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing the Tennessee Titans. But when a call is made to cheer on the Steelers, the stadium loudspeakers start playing "Lovin' You" by Minnie Riperton. The premise was that they were supposed to play "Who Let the Dogs Out?" by Baha Men, but the record store wouldn't accept a check from the sound crewmember assigned to buy the music CD.
  • An Australian ad for the Yellow Pages had the officials at an international sporting event flying into a panic when the tiny African nation of Robatya unexpectedly wins a gold medal and they discover they don't have a copy of the Robatya national anthem. The control room hurriedly calls a music store and asks them to play the Robatya anthem other the phone, which they broadcast straight into the PA system. Cut to the athletes on the podium, and what comes out of the speakers is "Row, Row, Row Your Boat".

    Fan Works 
  • In Episode 20 of Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Vegeta demands some cool entrance music to go along with Recoome's whole pro wrestling gimmick before they fight. What he gets instead is Mark Menza's "Step Into The Grand Tour" from the Funimation dub of Dragon Ball GT, which pisses him off.
  • Hellsing Ultimate Abridged: In "Trigger Warning", Alucard was about to burst into a meeting with a certain song playing, only for either Seras or Pip to forget the song. Alucard then instructs them to instead take his phone and hit "random". This results in Meredith Brooks' "Bitch" playing during his big entrance.
    Alucard: Okay, turn it off, turn it off. It didn't work. It did not work.

    Film — Animated 
  • Megamind: After destroying Metro Man, Megamind triumphantly approaches city hall with "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC playing on the boombox Minion is carrying. When Megamind signals for the song to end, Minion ends up struggling with the controls, hilariously causing the boombox to switch between AC/DC and "Lovin' You" by Minnie Riperton.
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    Film — Live-Action 
  • Apollo 13 showcases an Invoked example during the mission's pre-explosion in-flight broadcast as the astronauts start out by playing a tape recorder of what was supposed to be "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", the opening to 2001: A Space Odyssey in honor of the craft's name being Odyssey, but apparently Haise switched it out without telling Lovell as the tape player plays Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky".
  • In Dirty Work, Jimmy the crazy bus driver tries to spice up a Bar Brawl by putting The Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" on the jukebox. In his over-enthusiasm, he presses the wrong button, however, and the jukebox ends up playing "Escape (the Pina Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes instead.
  • The Dish: In honor of the visiting NASA dignitary, the mayor of Parkes, Australia asks the band at the town dance to play the American national anthem. The band, local teenagers, bursts out with the Hawaii Five-O theme.
  • In Dog Days (2018), while putting together a playlist for Ruth's baby shower, Greg accidentally includes a track from Schindler's List, and Ruth later says this put everyone in a weird headspace.
  • Both Micki & Maude are in third stage labor with Rob Salinger's babies in the same delivery room. Already mortified that Rob has been two-timing them, Rob tries to calm the women with some Lamaze relaxation music. The tune that plays, however, is Paul Anka's 1974 tune "(You're) Having My Baby." This does not make things better; quite the opposite.
  • In Heart Breakers Max, who is pretending to be a Russian woman as part of an elaborate con, is asked to sing a Russian folk song while at a restaurant. As the music begins she does some obviously bad improvisation, to the confusion of the audience, and then saves herself by playing it off as a joke, and then launching into a cover of "Back in the USSR" instead.
  • At the piano bar in The Naked Gun 2½, Jane asks the pianist Sam to play her and Frank's song. Sam then starts playing "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead" from The Wizard of Oz. After a moment of confusion, Frank tells him to stop and play that other song of theirs. Watch the scene here.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the 'Allo 'Allo! episode "Communists in the Cupboard", René and Yvette conspire to prevent Edith from driving customers away from the café with her terrible singing by having her mime along to a recording of Jeanette MacDonald singing "Love is Where You Find It".note  When they are ready to perform, Leclerc gets the records mixed up, forcing Edith to mime along to Paul Robeson (whose voice was notoriously deep) singing "Old Man River" instead. The café patrons still find the results an improvement over her usual standards.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Played with in the episode "The Zarnecki Incursion". After Penny decides to help out Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj on their quest to confront Todd Zarnecki (who stole Sheldon's World of Warcraft stuff online prior), Raj gives Penny a Beyoncé CD to listen to on the trip, only for her to find out that it plays Ride of the Valkyries instead (Raj had recorded the track over the CD specifically to set the mood for this occasion). Her response: "This ain't no Beyonce."
  • Cheers:
    • After Robin went to prison, Sam started mocking Rebecca by playing "I Fought the Law and the Law Won" on the jukebox. Rebecca decided to respond by playing "Stand by Your Man", only to find that Sam had switched it with "I Fought the Law and the Law Won".
    • One Halloween Episode saw Phil go over to the jukebox and put in some money. Appropriately for the holiday, "Monster Mash" starts playing. Except Phil selected "Funky Town". It turns out that Gary sabotaged the jukebox as a prank.
  • Dad's Army: In "A Soldier's Farewell", the captain was not impressed with the soldiers' behavior of the platoon after the cinema. He has them practice standing at attention for the British National Anthem, but by mistake, Wilson plays the German National Anthem instead.
  • In the "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" episode of Degrassi, Jimmy and Spinner are competing in a dance contest at an 80s Themed school party and actively sabotage each other. Whereas the latter's rap music is swapped with ballroom music (in spite of dressing up in sweats to dance) and he runs out, the former gets his own sweats stolen, forcing him to dance in his Michael Jackson outfit, which leads to him splitting his pants.
  • In the Father Ted episode "Think Fast, Father Ted", the priest DJ-ing the raffle brings along only one record (an incomplete recording of "Ghost Town" by The Specials), so at the end of the event, when Ted calls for the audience to stand for the national anthem, "Ghost Town" starts playing again.
  • Less Than Perfect: In the episode "Claude the Terminator", Owen reveals that he has a romantic fantasy about running into Lydia at the bar jukebox, providing a quarter and suggesting "Can't Fight This Feeling", asking her to dance... Later it looks like the scenario is actually happening, only for him to mishear her and select J5 instead of A5. Cue the jukebox blasting "Feliz Navidad".
  • In the Gene Kelly episode of The Muppet Show this is invoked by Kelly. He doesn't want to sing "Singin' in the Rain", but Rowlf tries to encourage him by playing the opening vamp. Gene plays along as if he's going to start "Singin' in the Rain", but then starts to sing "'S Wonderful" instead. Rowlf tries again, but Gene turns it into "You Were Meant For Me." Third time, "For Me and My Gal."
    Rowlf: I give up, Gene! This vamp goes with too many songs!
    Gene: It sure does, and you know something? It even goes with this one, too. (He gestures for Rowlf to start again, then does "Singin' in the Rain" properly)
  • The Office (US): For a CPR course, Michael is supposed to press on a dummy's chest at one hundred beats per minute. To help him stay on track, the instructor tells him to do it to the tune of 'Staying Alive'. Michael then proceeds to sing 'I Will Survive' by mistake, causing him to push down at an extremely slow rate.

    Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy 
  • In Anna Russell's comic synopsis of The Ring of the Nibelung, when she gets to the part where Alberich puts a curse on the ring, a few bars of "Mysterioso Pizzicato" are played on the piano instead of the appropriate Leitmotif. She then says, "That's the wrong curse, isn't it?", and then continues correctly by playing and singing "Wie durch Fluch er mir geriet, verflucht sei dieser Ring!"

    Theatre 

    Urban Legends 
  • There's a story of a bride at a wedding who wanted her walk down the aisle to be accompanied by "the song from Robin Hood". She meant "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)", the famous Award-Bait Song by Bryan Adams from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. However, the organist misunderstood and played the theme song from The Adventures of Robin Hood television show instead ("Robin Hood, Roobin Hood, riding through the glen...")
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    Video Games 
  • In Chapter 2 of Deltarune, as Sweet, Cap'n, and K_K are preparing to battle Kris, Susie, and Ralsei, K_K tries to get some music going... and selects a silly-sounding, 11-second jingle. Sweet and Cap'n don't mind it, but the heroes confusedly try to walk away before the former pair realize that they've picked the wrong song for the situation; K_K then switches to an actual battle theme as the fight begins.

    Web Original 
  • In the Diamanda Hagan Memory Run review, she makes a joke about how the film should have been called "Mammary Run" and then tells the minions to play "her music" to go with her post-awesome joke pose. "I Love You" from Barney & Friends starts playing, leading for her to tell them to play "the other music" and Mozart's "Dies irae" starts playing instead.
  • Everyman HYBRID: During "Upper Body & Arms", Evan tells the viewer that a good soundtrack will set the mood when you're exercising, and decides to put on Motörhead. What instead plays when he turns on the radio is a creepy distorted growl that he quickly turns off.
  • Phelous: In his Automaton Transfusion review, he keeps asking for "fitting music" to play during dramatic scenes or moments of gorn. Skitch keeps attempting to play actually dramatic music that fits the intended tone, only for Phelous to interrupt him and make him play much more comedic music.

    Western Animation 
  • Doug: In "Doug Throws a Party", Doug tries to have a party, but his parents arrange something more like a five-year-old's birthday party. Fortunately, Skeeter brought along the new Beets CD to liven things up. Unfortunately, his little brother has been into his CD's and so what actually plays is a kids' song.
  • The Fairly OddParents: In "Fairy Idol", when Jorgen Von Strangle is preparing to take away everything Timmy has ever wished for due to his fairy godparents quitting their job, he tells Binky to play more ominous music on a boombox, track seven specifically. Binky plays "Pop Goes the Weasel" instead, prompting Jorgen to yell "I SAID TRACK SEVEN!" This gag is repeated near the end of the special when Jorgen is about to once again take away Timmy's wishes and fairy godparent memories due to his new fairy godparent, Norm the Genie, quitting before setting everything back to normal. A different but also silly piece of music plays before Jorgen makes his entrance, causing him to once again demand that Binky play track seven.
  • In a case of actuality, back in 1958, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were preparing to screen the pilot for The Huckleberry Hound Show to Kellogg's, the sponsor. As the Yogi Bear cartoon came on, the soundtrack for the Pixie and Dixie cartoon was heard. They stopped the film so they could cue the correct soundtrack. Fortunately, Kellogg's was won over.
  • In the Kid Cosmic episode "Kid Cosmic And The Big Win", Kid attempts to create an addition to a fight sequence with a cool song on the diner's jukebox, only to accidentally choose "The Martian Hop" by The Ran-Dells, a cheesy novelty song.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Equestria Games", Spike volunteers to sing the city anthem for the winners of the aerial relay race, because he assumes the Ponyville team won. Seconds before the song begins, he discovers it was actually the Cloudsdale team who won—and he's never even heard that anthem. Spike ends up awkwardly ad-libbing lyrics for the song, to an audience nearly as embarrassed as he is himself.
  • Rugrats: In "Let Them Eat Cake", a woman accidentally plays "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" on an organ during Ben and Elaine's wedding. Everyone gives her weird looks, so she awkwardly starts playing "Here Comes the Bride".
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "I Love Lisa", which takes place between Valentine's Day and President's Day, KBBL DJ Marty strangely decides to play Bobby Pickett's "Monster Mash" both times, which is associated with Halloween. Bill embarrasses Marty by pointing out that he'd played the wrong record.
      Bill: Marty, why did you play that song today? There must be thousands of love songs.
      Marty: Well, it's kind of a love song, all the monsters enjoying each other's company; dancing, holding their evil in check.
      Bill: You played the wrong record, didn't you?
      Marty: Why are you doing this to me?
    • In "Marge On The Lam", Ruth places a cassette of Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" in her car stereo in an attempt to show that she's a rebel. It ends up playing Lesley Gore's "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" instead for a few seconds before it switches to the proper tape. Wiggum later makes the same mistake whilst he's trying to play "chase sequence" music on his patrol car. He's not too bothered by it however and sings along with Homer.
    • In "Bart Sells His Soul", Bart passes out Iron Butterfly's 1968 rock song "In A Gadda Da Vida" in church as a hymn entitled "In the Garden of Eden", with composer credit given to "I. Ron Butterfly." The elderly church organist does a commendable rendition of the full 17-minute song before collapsing from overwork.
    • In "Mother Simpson", Mr. Burns tries to play "Ride of the Valkyries" as the authorities raid the Simpson house, presumably to "set the mood". However, it quickly cuts to "Waterloo" by ABBA due to Smithers recording over part of the tape.
  • Sonic Boom: In "Hedgehog Day", as Dr. Eggman boards his Egg Tank to attack Sonic and his friends, he asks the Egg Tank's computer to play his battle music. The music it plays is calming Hawaiian music. Eggman says "Eh, close enough." and sets off on his mission.
  • South Park: When Stan wanted to win Wendy back, Bebe recommended that he stand outside her window, hold a boom box over his head, and play Peter Gabriel. Unfortunately, Bebe didn't specify which Peter Gabriel song to play, so instead of "In Your Eyes" he played "Shock the Monkey". It ends up being worse than he thought because Token Black was staying over that night.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Plankton's first appearance has a Running Gag where he pulls out a record player that plays an ominous musical sting to accompany his Evil Laugh. One time he does it, it plays a nursery song instead, causing him to stop laughing and hastily flip the record to the correct side before resuming.
  • In the Thunderbirds Are Go episode "Inferno", when Thunderbird 2 uses module 1 for the first time, Alan accidentally causes the "low-frequency fire suppression system", essentially a set of giant subwoofers, to play loud techno music. A few button-presses later, and the speakers emit a deep tone a bit more suited for firefighting.
  • Total Drama: In the Revenge of the Island finale, an intern uses a radio to play a gong sound and signal the start of the challenge. However, he messes up before getting it right, playing a jaunty maritime tune instead, much to Chris's displeasure.
  • Trollhunters: In the episode "The Battle of Two Bridges", when Jim and the others barge in to save Blinky from the clutches of Bular, Toby dramatically introduces himself, and hits Play on his phone. Cue smooth jazz music, earning awkward looks from everyone, Bular included. He quickly realizes this and switches to a more befitting rock song afterwards.
  • Wander over Yonder: In "The Big Day," Lord Hater is about to zap Wander and Sylvia to their deaths when they suggest a little mood music. He presses a button on his MP3 player, which starts playing a sultry R&B song with him singing the lyrics "I hate to say that I love you..." He angrily presses skip and "Night on Bald Mountain" starts playing.

    Real Life 
  • In March 2012, there were two cases of a song being played instead of the Kazakhstan national anthem "Menin Qazaqstanim".
    • First, at a ski event in northern Kazakhstan, Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca" was mistakenly played instead.
    • Later that month, at an athletic event in Kuwait, the organizers mistakenly downloaded the Borat version off the Internet instead of the real anthem, then played it during a medal ceremony when Kazakhstan's team won a shooting event. For the record, the organizers also got the Serbian national anthem wrong.
  • During a 2013 baseball game between the New York Mets and the Arizona Diamondbacks, the audio operator accidentally played the opening note to Mötley Crüe's "Kickstart My Heart" while pitcher JJ Putz was in the middle of his delivery. Putz ended up spiking the ball and it was ruled "No Pitch".
  • There have been mishaps at some events when playing the German national anthem; at some sporting events, the first stanza of the national anthem ("Deutschland über alles") was sung rather than the third stanza ("Einingkeit und Recht und Freiheit"). Another time, during a state visit to Sri Lanka, the East German flag was displayed and the East German national anthem ("Auferstanden Aus Ruinen") played.
  • Overlapping with That Syncing Feeling, when Ashlee Simpson was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live (hosted by Jude Law), she performed "Pieces Of Me" as her first song. As she prepared to perform her second, the vocals for "Pieces Of Me" were heard playing over the sound system while she was holding her microphone at her waist and visibly not moving her mouth. She would later claim it was a backing track necessitated by an attack of acid reflux which was played by mistake.

 
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Video Example(s):

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Ride of the... ABBA?

As FBI agents prepare to storm the Simpson house to arrest Mona, Mr. Burns decides to set the mood with "Ride of the Valkyries". However, because Smithers taped over part of the track, it quickly cuts to "Waterloo" by ABBA.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

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