Follow TV Tropes


Music / Pet Shop Boys

Go To
"We were never being boring — we were never being bored."
"I was faced with a choice at a difficult age,
Would I write a book? Or should I take to the stage?
But in the back of my head, I heard distant feet,
Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat."
— "Left to My Own Devices"

Pet Shop Boys are a British pop duo formed in 1981, when Blackpool native Chris Lowe and Newcastle native Neil Tennant met by chance in an electronics store. Singer Neil and keyboardist Chris rocketed to fame with their first international hit, "West End Girls", in 1986, and dominated the #1 spot in the pop charts in Britain for another two years.

The two became famous for their unique sound, which they famously described as "Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat". Behind the intensely danceable beats lie Chris Lowe's subtly skillful compositions and Neil Tennant's poetic lyrics. Tennant, a former editor and journalist for the music magazine Smash Hits and a professed bibliophile, gives a lot of the songs a literary bent.

Despite popular misconceptions due to Tennant's typical dry delivery, their music is not inherently ironic. While they have done a few ironic songs ("Opportunities"), a surprising proportion of their songs are honestly emotional. Another interesting bit about their music is that Neil often plays a character in their songs, and not necessarily a male character. In "I Made My Excuses and Left", for example, he sings as Cynthia Lennon walking in on John and Yoko and realizing her marriage is over.

They are also successful producers and collaborators, having produced Dusty Springfield's Reputation and Liza Minnelli's Results, and having co-written or produced songs for Tina Turner, David Bowie, Robbie Williams, Electronic, Girls Aloud, Kylie Minogue, and The Killers. Many other artists are fans and have publicly cited them as influences, including Madonna, The Killers, Coldplay, George Michael, Belle and Sebastian, and, curiously enough, Axl Rose and Trent Reznor.

Since "West End Girls", the duo have released fourteen studio albums and in 2009 received the "Outstanding Contribution to Music" award at the BRIT Awards.


  • Please (1986)
  • Actually (1987)
  • Introspective (1988)
  • Behaviour (1990)
  • Very (1993)
  • Bilingual (1996)
  • Nightlife (1999)
  • Release (2002)
  • Fundamental (2006)
  • Yes (2009)
  • Elysium (2012)
  • Electric (2013)
  • Super (2016)
  • Hotspot (2020)

They have also co-written and produced a musical, 2001's Closer to Heaven, starred in a film, 1987's It Couldnt Happen Here, written a new score for the classic movie The Battleship Potemkin in 2004, and premiered a ballet, The Most Incredible Thing, in March 2011.

East End Tropes and West End Tropes:

  • Age-Progression Song: "Being Boring". Snippets of Neil's life in his teens, twenties, and forties.
  • Animated Music Video: "Liberation" (and actually, all of the Very album singles), "Love etc." and the background of the second version of "Opportunities", so retro and pixelled!
  • Anti-Christmas Song: "It Doesn't Often Snow At Christmas". The verses are about how the Christmas message is getting lost and it never snows like it's supposed to, but the chorus is about enjoying it anyway because you're with someone you love.
  • Anti-Love Song:
    • "I'm With Stupid", "Pandemonium", "Rent" ("I love you, you pay my rent..."), "So Hard", "Love Is a Catastrophe".
    • "Love Is a Bourgeois Construct" is a subversion. The last lines of the final verse make it clear that it's all sour grapes—that the speaker's philosophical objections to love will completely disappear if his former lover returns.
    Love is just a bourgeois construct/ so I've given up the bourgeoisie / until ... you come back to me.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: "In Denial" is about a father who is in deep denial with the fact that he's gay and Kylie Minogue plays his daughter, who tries to confront him about coming to terms with it.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "I don't know what you want but I can't give it any more" is an Armor-Piercing Song, but the opening couplet really drives the knife in:
    "Did you get what you want? Do you know what it is? Do you care?
    Is he better than me? Was it your place or his? Who was there?"
  • Attention Whore: Brutally satirised in "Shameless". Also: "Flamboyant". Or "How Can You Expect to be Taken Seriously".
  • Auto-Tune: Release marked the beginning of the Boys' Auto-Tune usage, with "London", "Love is a catastrophe" and "Here" featuring the trademark effect on their lead vocals. The software's normal function – slightly correcting the pitch of a singer's voice so it remains on key – was used from Release onward as well.
  • Back to Front: "One Thing Leads To Another": The song begins with a man dying after a car crash, and ends with the man's girlfriend moving out to live with her mother. In between, the man falls into depression and loses his job, goes to a bar, gets drunk, picks up a woman and gets her in bed only to find she's a pre-op transgender woman, tries to drive home in drunken confusion, and wrecks. They did record a chronological-order version with the US single market in mind, they never released it but it has surfaced.
  • Based on a True Story:
    • "Your Funny Uncle", "Being Boring", and "Postscript" were all inspired by and dedicated to friends who had died of AIDS.
    • "So Hard" is about an unfaithful couple they knew at the time.
    • "Do I Have To?" was dedicated to a lover who Neil found out was two-timing him.
    • The condescending and pretentious Stealth Insults in "Yesterday, When I Was Mad" are apparently all real things that have been said to the Boys over the years.
  • The Beard: "Can You Forgive Her?", "Bet She's Not Your Girlfriend".
  • Big Applesauce: "New York City Boy".
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Neil and Chris sported these as part of their Nightlife getup.
  • Book Ends: Alternative was a two-disc compilation of b-sides and rare tracks. It features a variety of styles, as PSB were influenced by the trends in electronic music over the years. But the final song (1994's "Some speculation") is stylistically and thematically very similar to the first song (1985's "In the night"). The liner notes even lampshade this.
    Chris Lowe: We've kind of come full circle from "In the night". We end the album with this umba-bumba-bumba thing again.
    Jon Savage: And the same thing about people not knowing quite what's going on, and people being unfaithful, and... general sneakiness.
    Chris Lowe: Back where we started, like it never happened.
  • Brains and Brawn: The singer in "Opportunities" claims that he has "the brains" while a second party has "the brawn" and "the looks", so he proposes that the two of them work together to get rich.
    You've got the brawn
    I've got the brains
    Let's make lots of money!
  • Bread and Circuses:
    • Mentioned amongst the fascist regimes of the antagonist in "The sound of the atom splitting".
    • "Luna Park" describes an amusement park being used for these purposes, even name-dropping the trope. Subverted in that the populace knows that the bread and circuses are superficial enjoyments, but prefers them to confronting reality. (Neil states that the song is a metaphor for the United States.)
  • Break-Up Song: "I Get Along", "I Made My Excuses And Left", "The Way It Used To Be," "You Choose".
  • Captive Audience: The video for "I'm With Stupid" reveals at the end that Neil and Chris were this.
  • Changed for the Video: several of their singles differ noticably from the album versions.
    • "Suburbia", "Heart", "Always on my mind", "It's alright", "How can you expect to be taken seriously", "I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing", "Yesterday, when I was mad", "Integral" and "Memory of the future" are especially obvious examples.
    • Some ("Suburbia" and "How can you expect to be taken seriously") even have 7" mixes (New Version and Perfect Attitude Mix respectively) that differ noticably from the video mix (but not nearly as much as from the album version; confusingly, the video mix may also be used as an alternate 7" mix).
    • Justified for "Integral" in that it was officially released from remix album Disco 4, not from Fundamental.
    • "Always on my mind" is actually an inversion: it was released as a non-album single and then heavily remixed for the next album.
  • Cold War: Oh, so many. Touched on by "West End Girls", "It's Alright", "My October Symphony", "Go West", "London", "Building a Wall"... Neil is a history major, and Russian history is one of his favorite subjects. Once Chris jokingly described one of their songs as "the only PSB song which is not about Russian history".
  • Coming Out Song: Very, very thinly veiled in "Was It Worth It?", three years before Neil publicly came out. The official coming out song is "Metamorphosis". Nevertheless, they had given thin hints all over their career: that whispering of East End boys in "West End girls", the lyrics of "Later tonight" going about "that boy never cast a look in your direction / never tried to hook for your affection"...
  • Concept Album: A good number of their albums have some unifying theme—Actually satirises yuppies and Thatcherism, Introspective is about, well, introspection, Behaviour is about grief, depression, endings of various kinds and AIDS, Bilingual is the story of a hapless businessman soul-searching in a foreign land, Fundamental is about life in the mid-2000s, and then there's Nightlife, which is about, well... Elysium and Electric are paired, as songs for both of them were written at the same time: Elysium is about growing older, while Electric is about rediscovering one's youth.
    • While not a full album, the Agenda EP criticises the social and political landscape of the late 2010s.
  • Conscious Hip Hop: "West End Girls", one of the first rap songs to hit #1 on the Billboard chart (and possibly the only time a couple of nerdy white Brits have made it onto the US R&B charts), which drew heavy influence from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message".
  • Continuity Nod: The 2006 video for "I'm With Stupid" had the guys from Little Britain parodying the 1993 videos for "Go West" and "Can You Forgive Her?"
  • Confusing Multiple Negatives: The song "Tonight Is Forever" has the line "Tonight is forever, tell me now you don't disagree". Justified as it wouldn't fit the meter otherwise, and it just sounds better that way.
  • Cool Shades: Chris Lowe, usually.
  • Cover Version: "Always on My Mind" (Elvis Presley), "It's Alright" (Sterling Void), "Where the Streets Have No Name/Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" (mashup of U2 and Frankie Valli), "Go West" (Village People), "Losing My Mind" and "Somewhere" (Stephen Sondheim), "If Love Were All" and "Sail Away" (Noël Coward), "Viva La Vida" (Coldplay), and "The Last to Die" (Bruce Springsteen). Some music bits of "Se a vida é" were famously taken from a previous Latin song.
    • The Cover Changes the Meaning:
      • "Go West", released in 1993, added another layer of meaning to the original—the video makes it clear that it's also addressed to the former USSR. It also refers to how the gay utopia described in the Village People's original had been all but destroyed by AIDS and homophobia in the ensuing years.
      • Also, their cover version of "Always on My Mind" features the line "Maybe I didn't love you." without any qualifiers (which is the last lyric in both in the album version and the early-fade version of the single mix), which doesn't exactly change the meaning, but does make it substantially less ambiguous.
      • They actually stated their cover of "Always on My Mind" was done as they felt that the lyrics of the original unintentionally came across as very selfish and neglectful on the narrator's part, so in their cover made it as cold and unfeeling as possible.
      • Springsteen's original chorus lyrics for "Last to Die" were "Who'll be the last to die for a mistake?" For PSB's version, they changed it to "Who'll be the last to die for our mistake?", adding an air of shared remorse to the anti-war theme.
      • Their cover of "Where The Streets Have No Name" pretty savagely deconstructs both the original song and the concept of 'rock 'n' roll' in general.
    • The Cover Changes the Gender: notably averted in "Try it (I'm in love with a married man)", "If love were all" and "In private" (the version they made in 2006 with Elton John), giving the three of them a heavy helping of Ho Yay.
      • Played straight with their cover of "Glad All Over" by The Dave Clark Five, which changes "other girls may try to take me away" to "other boys may try to take me away", again adding Ho Yay.
  • Crapsaccharine World: "Luna Park".
  • Darker and Edgier: Actually was this to Please, featuring much darker and more political lyrical themes than its predecessor, as well as being their first album to deal with the bleak topic of AIDS, with the songs "King's Cross" and "Hit Music".
    • Behaviour is one of their gloomiest and most introspective albums, both musically and lyrically, and of all their albums is arguably the one most linked with the theme of AIDS, along with Very.
    • Fundamental is arguably their darkest album, with many songs dealing with the themes of death and the political state of the world in the mid-2000s.
  • Dark Reprise: "Dreaming Of The Queen"— The chorus starts off as Her Majesty and Lady Diana discussing how fleeting love is. It ends with the narrator waking up alone in a cold sweat and realizing he has AIDS.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Every once in a while, Chris will sing lead on a track. On rare occasions, it ends up on an album (e.g. "Postscript") or becomes a single (e.g. "Paninaro").
  • Deadpan Snarker: "Shopping", "Shameless". In Real Life, both of them. Also, "I'm With Stupid".
  • Deconstruction: The covers of "Go West", "Where The Streets Have No Name" and "Always On My Mind", as well as deconstructing an entire genre with "How I Learned To Hate Rock And Roll".
  • Design Student's Orgasm: While most of their album art is pretty minimalist, the famous "orange Lego" cover for Very arguably counts as this.
    • As does the "rainbow stripes" artwork for Introspective.
    • Nightlife too, for that matter.
  • Distinct Double Album: The Greatest Hits album PopArt was structured in this style; one disc called Pop with the more poppy stuff and one disc more experimental and arty, called Art. The limited edition version carried a third disc called Mix - no prizes for guessing what that consisted of.
  • Double Think: What sustains the constructed reality of "Luna Park".
  • Downer Ending: Several of their albums end with gloomy or melancholy songs:
    • Actually closes with "King's Cross", a downright bleak Tear Jerker dealing with themes of AIDS and the damage that Thatcherism had done to the UK by that point. The association it later gained with the 1987 King's Cross tube station fire didn't help matters.
    • Behaviour ends with the song "Jealousy", a breakup song sung from the point of view of an Unreliable Narrator whose implied obsessive and controlling behaviour likely caused the relationship to break down in the first place. The big orchestrated ending represents the narrator wallowing in self-pity, and is a pretty gloomy way to end a gloomy album.
    • While their cover of "Go West" from Very doesn't sound outright depressing, seemingly averting this trope, it turns out to zigzag it due to the Lyrical Dissonance and The Cover Changes the Meaning in the Boys' version, with the song being much more melancholy and ironic after over a decade of AIDS and homophobia by 1993 in contrast with the optimistic gay utopia that the Village People's 1978 original is about.
      • The hidden track "Postscript" after "Go West" on the album plays this trope straighter, being a melancholy goodbye to a friend of the Boys who was dying of AIDS during the album's creation and died shortly after its release.
    • Fundamental, already one of their darker efforts, finishes with "Integral", a song featuring heavy Lyrical Dissonance and lyrics about a dystopian future that is frequently compared with the political state of the world in the mid-2000s.
  • The '80s: Too many people still relate them to The '80s, mainly because they started their career then and enjoyed worldwide success then, although their career spans more than three decades, up to now, and still were successful from the 90's onwards (although noticeably less mainstream).
  • Epic Rocking: The entirety of Introspective, especially "Always On My Mind/In My House"(9:05) and "It's Alright"(9:23). Also, some of the extended/12" mixes, eg "It's A Sin"(7:40) or "Suburbia (The Full Horror)" (8:55).
  • Everybody Knew Already: Neil Tennant's sexuality, which isn't a Transparent Closet because he never really was in the closet before officially coming out in 1994.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: "In the Night", "Legacy", and the French version of "New York City Boy", retitled "Paris City Boy". A lot of songs on Bilingual include Spanish or Portuguese.
    • The "Winner" B-side, "A certain "Je ne sais quoi""
  • False Utopia: "Luna Park", which, according to Word of God, is a metaphor for the United States.
  • Fanservice: Reportedly, Chris Lowe once posed as a centerfold in a teen mag. Also the entire point of the video to "Domino Dancing"—while there was a lot of Ho Yay with the two shirtless wrestling boys, the girl they are fighting over is definitely something to look at too.
  • Glory Days: "Young Offender", "The way it used to be", "Hit and miss".
  • Gold Digger: The narrator of "Rent" ("I love you / You pay my rent...").
  • Gone Horribly Right: "Twentieth Century".
    Sometimes the solution is worse than the problem
  • Grief Song: "Your Funny Uncle", about a funeral of a friend of Neil's who succumbed to AIDS. It really, really shows in the vocals, and they only did one take because Neil broke down crying afterwards. "Being Boring", written about the same person, is also this to a lesser extent.
  • Heavy Meta: "All Over The World" is a pop song about pop songs. And an interesting case in "We're The Pet Shop Boys"—originally written by My Robot Friend, they were so amused by it that they recorded their own cover.
    • Oddly, "Hit Music" is a subversion—it's not about hit music at all, but about going to the club as a form of escapism.
  • I Want My Jetpack: Combined with Zeerust in "This Used to Be the Future".
  • I Was Quite a Looker: The narrator in "Gin and Jag".
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming:
    • They've stated that their use of one-word titles on most of their works is deliberate.
    • Strictly speaking, all of their song titles are supposed to be capitalised according to proper sentence structure, Instead of Using Capitalization That Is De Rigeur of Song Title Naming.
  • Innocent Innuendo: The beginning of "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" ("You always wanted a lover, I only wanted a job") may be this. As soon becomes apparent, that's actually "job" as in employment.
  • Instrumentals: Most of the "Chris tracks", namely "Music for Boys", most of the Relentless album, and most of their Battleship Potemkin score.
  • The Invisible Band: The videos for "Liberation", "Home And Dry", "Miracles", "I'm With Stupid", "Numb", "Integral", "Love, etc"... As they get older, they appear less on their own videos (and record sleeves). For "Yesterday, when I was mad", Chris was completely replaced by CGI images.
  • Isn't It Ironic?: "Shopping" gets used a lot in scenes where characters are shopping. It's a socialist-influenced criticism of privatization during the Thatcher era.
  • Larynx Dissonance: In the songs where Neil plays a female character, he sings in his normal voice. Odd, because his falsetto is very convincing.
  • Last Note Nightmare: Inverted with the video mix for "Suburbia" (essentially a length-edit of the 12-inch extended remix, used for the video and also for PopArt), which opens with dogs barking, an eerie tribal drumbeat, ominous synths, and foreboding speech, before segueing into an upbeat dance-pop song (the 7-inch version of the single remix uses a shorter and less dramatic intro, whereas the original album version isn't especially dramatic).
    • The full 12" "Full Horror" remix does play this trope straight though, fading into the sounds of explosions, roaring flames, rioters, sirens and glass smashing, as does the original album version.
    • The original version (both the 7" version and the 12" version, where it's even longer and creepier) of "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)" ends with a discordant Drone of Dread and Neil murmuring these downright eerie lines:
    "All the love that we had
    and the love that we hide
    Who will bury us
    when we die?"
  • Lighter and Softer: Introspective was a slight example of this after Actually, as while its lyrics were still pretty dark, they weren't so to the extent of its predecessor's. The more upbeat, house-influenced style of this album was also this after Actually's often-gloomy Synth-Pop. On top of this, Introspective features a Bittersweet Ending in "It's Alright" as opposed to the Downer Ending of Actually's "King's Cross".
    • The energetic, house-influenced dance-pop of Very was this after the moody, introspective Synth-Pop of Behaviour.
    • Yes was a much brighter, more optimistic and extroverted album coming after the bleakness of Fundamental.
    • Electric was also a lot more upbeat than Elysium.
  • Limited Lyrics Song: "The Samurai in Autumn" on Release was their first venture into this, and the trope has popped up on an increasing basis as their career continues, to the point where a solid quarter of Super is made up of these.
  • List Song: The bridge of "I Want a Dog" (the original B-side version) is just Chris reading off a list of dog breeds (the Frankie Knuckles Club Mix was used for the album - its bridge is a lengthy instrumental section). "Paninaro" rants about passion, love, sex, money, violence, religion, injustice and death, all mentioned as a list in the song. And "We're The Pet Shop Boys" ends with a list of their song titles.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Simultaneously Played for Drama and Laughs in "Casanova in Hell".
  • Lonely Funeral: "Nothing Has Been Proved" (written by the Pet Shop Boys for Dusty Springfield, but performed by the Boys on the live album Concrete) gives one of these to Stephen Ward, a physician who committed suicide in 1963 after becoming embroiled in the Profumo affair.
  • Longest Song Goes Last:
    • Introspective ends with "It's Alright" (9:24).
  • Long Title: "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes off You)", "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Anymore", "You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk", "This Must Be The Place I Waited Years to Leave". Inverted with the album titles, which are always one word.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Many PSB songs are a good example of this. They are well-known for their upbeat, hi-nrg music populated with sad, melancholic or pessimistic lyrics.
    • "Opportunities" is a Double Subversion in that what seems to be at first listen a song about success is actually a Sophisticated as Hell Small Name, Big Ego in a City Noir trying to convince a potential Lancer (and possibly himself) his Missing Steps Plans really can work... but the reprise and story hinted later in the album Please suggests they might just have made it to the top of the heap, for a time at least.
    • "The End of the World" is a really upbeat song, despite all the interpretations of the lyrics.
    • "It's a Sin" is also quite upbeat, with lyrics about how Neil's education at a strict Catholic high school instilled him with a strong sense of guilt and made him believe that anything he did or he was going to do is a sin in some capacity.
    • "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" is about acquiring a job and falling in love with someone there, then getting dumped and losing his money.
    • "Go West" sounds so poppy and optimistic. But it's about AIDS, dead friends, lost gay utopia, and the fall of the communist dream. (At the time PSB covered it, in the wake of AIDS, the song's original gay-utopia ideal had given way to irony.)
    • "Love Is a Bourgeois Construct" is probably their "tranciest" song to date, but it's about a man swearing off love completely in the aftermath of a sudden breakup.
    • "Jealousy" sounds like a lush, warm ballad on the surface, complete with an epic orchestral ending. However, the song is sung from the viewpoint of an anxious man who is paranoid that his love might be seeing someone else, with heavy implications that his behavior has driven his partner away. The orchestral coda can be seen as a symbolization of an anxious breakdown, or a view of the narrator's self-pity.
    • "Shameless" is a very upbeat and majestic sounding song about celebrities acting like total scumbags.
    • While sincere and heartfelt on the surface, the wording of "E-Mail" seems to hint to the spread of the ILOVEYOU virus.
    • "Suburbia" is an upbeat dance song about social unrest, riots, the callousness and cruelty of the police and British government and the stifling, claustrophobic atmosphere of the titular suburbia.
    • "So Hard", one of the most danceable songs on Behaviour is about a couple that are constantly cheating on and distrustful of one another, but seemingly unable to stop.
    • "Hit Music" is a really energetic, danceable Synth-Pop song about the looming dread of AIDS and the fear of your own death at a young age.
    • Very is practically built on this trope.
    • Their cover of "Where the Streets Have No Name" sounds really upbeat and even euphoric, however it's a pretty vicious deconstruction of both the original song, and 'rock 'n' roll' in general.
  • Madness Mantra: The title line in "I Want to Wake Up", eventually morphing into "I want to wake up with you" as the narrator sounds increasingly terrified.
  • Man on Fire: The sequence to "King's Cross" in It Couldn't Happen Here.
  • Mating Dance: "Tonight Is Forever", "Hit Music", "We All Feel Better in the Dark", and "The Boy Who Couldn't Keep His Clothes On" are all pretty much metaphors relating dancing to sex.
  • Mind Screw: It Couldn't Happen Here. The whole movie.
  • Money Song: Subverted in "Rent", "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)", "Shopping". Sadly, for some listeners who didn't get the joke, these songs cemented them falsely as amoral children of the profit-loving '80s.
  • The Movie: It Couldn't Happen Here was intended to open in cinemas instead of their going on tour. It didn't work out.
  • Narcissist: The B-side "Delusions of Grandeur".
  • Non-Appearing Title:
    • "Postscript", "The Night I Fell in Love", "Love, etc", "Legacy".
    • In fact, "Postscript" holds the distinction of the title not appearing... anywhere, in fact... (neither in the lyrics nor the liner) for some time as an occupational hazard of being a hidden track, leading it to become known by its first line of "I believe in ecstasy". The title eventually showed up in the commentary booklet with the 2001 rerelease and on the official lyrics on their website.
  • "Not Wearing Pants" Dream: "Dreaming of the Queen".
  • One-Word Title:
    • Every album. In particular, every studio album without fail (see the list at the top of this page), but also most other album releases. Although other types of album get a bit more leeway, and limited releases even more so.
    • Even their release of "It doesn't often snow at Christmas" with revamped album track "All over the world" and two cover songs ("My girl" and "Viva la vida"), which charted as a single but is considered an EP, was accordingly given the one-word title Christmas.
    • Singles collection PopArt downplays this, although PopArt is written as one word, and the discs themselves have the one-word titles Pop and Art (and Mix, in the limited edition). Although its predecessor, Discography, played this straight, as do both of their B-side compilations (Alternative and Format).
    • Live albums (Concrete, Pandemonium) and even live video releases (Performance, Somewhere, Montage, Cubism, Pandemonium) mostly follow the format, though DiscoVery plays with it somewhat, and Inner Sanctum unusually averts it.
    • They put out a few limited edition releases in Japan only through the years, which sometimes (but don't always) avert this. These include Now playing (containing selections from Please and Actually) and In depth (a compilation of B-sides and single mixes associated with Introspective), with a non-aversion being Mini (a compilation of various Nightlife-era recordings). Although these arguably don't count as full-fledged albums.
  • Oop North: Chris is from Blackpool and Neil is from Newcastle. Also the subject of "Sexy Northerner"—"Don't you dare imply/that it's grim up North"...
  • Ordinary People's Music Video: The duo is well-known for their Surreal Music Videos, but a few of their videos like "Being Boring", "Se A Vida E (That's The Way Life Is)" and "Vocal", are noteworthy for featuring regular people who are just having fun in front of the camera, often shot in the style of home movies.
  • "Pachelbel's Canon" Progression: "Go West", in which the progression is more prominent than it was in the Village People original.
  • Poe's Law: The examples when the song is frequently taken at face value and sarcasm is lost are too numerous to list. Common offenders include "Opportunities", "Shopping", and "Delusions of Grandeur".
  • Protest Song:
    • "Shopping" is about Thatcherism.
      • Pretty much all of Actually is this trope about Thatcherism.
    • "This Used To Be The Future" is about Iran and nukes.
    • A lot on Fundamental is meant to protest the Iraq War and Tony Blair, especially "Integral", which is about the proposed national ID cards in the UK. It's the only song they've ever done where Neil sounds genuinely pissed off (well, maybe bar "The theatre" - another protest song), and one of their very few songs where the video correlates to the message of the song. See Surreal Music Video below. Not to mention "I'm With Stupid," which is a satire of the relationship between Tony Blair and George W. Bush done as a gay love song.
    • Basically the purpose of the entire Agenda EP, protesting against the social and political climate of the late 2010s.
    • "Suburbia" is about the many riots in Britain during the early to mid eighties, and criticises the police and British government.
    • "A Red Letter Day" is one about how gay people didn't have equal rights to straight people in the UK in the mid-90s, when the song was written and released, with the "Red Letter Day" in question being the day when gay people are treated equally to straight people and have all the rights that straight people have.
      • It can also be interpreted as another protest song against the Tory government of the UK at the time, which was on it's last legs and would next year lose in an election against the Labour party, whose main colour is red.
  • The Quiet One: In interviews Chris seems content to stay back silent, often wearing covering eyewear. He rarely sings on the duo's tracks, though there are exceptions. The music videos even play with this image. Rather than show Chris playing an instrument or otherwise doing something actively, they often just have him be there, quietly watching.
  • Real Life Writes The Song: The exuberance of Very is a direct result of Neil being in love at the time.
  • Real-Person Fic: "The Night I Fell In Love" is Author Avatar/Eminem. According to Word of God, "I Get Along" is Tony Blair/Peter Mandelson and "I'm With Stupid" is Tony Blair/George W. Bush.
  • Remix Album: Their series of Disco albums are all remix albums, though they all use the concept slightly differently.
    • Disco is a collection of extended dance mixes.
    • Disco 2 is another remix collection, this time arranged as a continuous megamix, and not quite as extended.
    • Disco 3 contains remixes and a handful of new songs.
    • Disco 4 sees the Pets remixing other artists, such as David Bowie, Madonna, The Killers, and Rammstein.
  • Rewritten Pop Version:
    • "Positive role model" was originally written as the finale to their Closer to Heaven musical, but they later recorded and released a poppier version on Disco 3. Their recording, however, has completely different verse lyrics from the musical version, turning the song into a satire about ineffective drug rehabilitation.
    • The title song ("Closer to Heaven") is present in several different reprises in the musical, as well as a track on the Nightlife album, all with different lyrics. (They also did their own recording of one of the musical versions, available as the "slow version" on some promotional and bonus discs.)
    • Although they did record several of the other songs from the musical ("Shameless", "In denial", "Friendly fire" and "Vampires" ), these generally had same or similar lyrics to the musical versions. "In denial" in particular differs in Kylie's part simply due to the draft of the lyrics at the time of recording differing from the final musical version.
  • Rhyming with Itself: "Where the Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes off You)" when the medley entwines, the last line of the third verse replaces "it's all I can do" with an altered Title Drop.
"And when I go there
I go there with you
Where the streets have no name
Can't take my eyes off of you"
  • Ripped from the Headlines: "Nothing Has Been Proved" thoroughly and explicitly tells the story of the Profumo affair, which notably occurred 26 years before the song was released. Justified because it was written as the theme song for Scandal, a movie based on the affair.
    • "I'm With Stupid" and "Integral" are satires of UK prime minister Tony Blair and his policies, specifically his close relationship with George W. Bush and the Identity Cards Act 2006 respectively.
    • Notably averted with "King's Cross", which many assume to be written about the 1987 King's Cross tube station fire due to the song mentioning the "dead and wounded on either side" in the titular station, however the song was actually released two months before the fire even happened.
    • Averted again (!) with "Dreaming of the Queen." The song's tragic tone ("there are no more lovers left alive") and references to Princess Diana appearing in a dream could make you believe that it owed something to her untimely death, but it had actually been released four years previously.
  • Sampling: The electronic voice saying the song's title in "Two Divided by Zero" is taken from a talking calculator Neil Tennant bought for his father.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Mocked in "How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?" and "How I Learned To Hate Rock And Roll".
  • Shout-Out: To name a few, The Beatles, Disco-Tex and the Sex-o-Lettes, Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, Oscar Wilde, Dmitry Shostakovich, Che Guevara, Debussy, Harold Pinter, Gerhard Richter, Yevgeny Zamyatin...
  • Significant Anagram: Likely unintentional, but "Pet Shop Boys" is an anagram of "They boss pop". Also, music producer Shep Pettibone named a mix for a PSB song as "Shop Pettibone mix".
  • Single Stanza Song: They've done a few. "The Samurai in Autumn" comes to mind.
  • Song of Song Titles: Second half of "We're The Pet Shop Boys", in an interesting self-example (which as pointed out above is actually a cover of My Robot Friend's Shout-Out to them).
  • Soprano and Gravel: More like "countertenor and baritone", but anytime Chris appears in a track this happens. Interesting is the Dusty Springfield duet "What Have I Done To Deserve This?", where her voice is actually lower than Neil's.
  • Spelling Song: "Shopping", "Minimal". Mashed up together wonderfully during the 2006 tour. And then "Happiness".
  • Spoken Word in Music: Done a couple of times, but most notably in "It's a Sin", where they sampled a NASA countdown because it sounded cool. Also: the intro for "DJ Culture", their extended mix for "Somewhere", their 1986 "italian" mix for "Paninaro" (sampling Chris Lowe's words from a TV interview), some TV snippets on "Electricity" and Neil repeating "I hope it's gonna be alright" at the end of the album version of "It's Alright".
  • Stealth Insult: The verses of "Yesterday, When I Was Mad" involve some rather mean insults dressed up as compliments being delivered to the subject:
    Then we posed for pictures with the competition winners
    And argued about the hotel rooms and where to go for dinner
    And someone said "It's fabulous you're still around today.
    You've both made such a little go a very long way!"
  • Stepford Suburbia: "Suburbia" which discusses the endless boredom and consequent potential for trouble inherent in suburban life.
  • Straight Gay: "The Truck Driver and His Mate". Possibly Chris Lowe himself—he's never confirmed or denied one way or the other. Neil Tennant also comes across this way in his personal style.
  • Surreal Music Video: Several of theirs:
    • Most so, the video to "Can You Forgive Her?". The song is about a guy with a girlfriend who knows more about his sexuality than he does. The video? Two guys in traffic cone hats and orange jumpsuits riding tandem bicycles, feeding geese, playing psychic air hockey with a spiky blue potato, turning into human drills, walking on a miniature Earth with a couple of emus, and burping orange bubbles. And no, they don't do drugs.
    • Actually, every music video from Very. They mix together bizarre outfits and backgrounds done with early CGI all in bright garish colours, presumably just because they could since they rarely have any connection to the actual song lyrics. Go West is the most sensible of the bunch.
    • The video for Home and Dry also has to be seen to be believed...
    • And the video for Love etc. looks like some Monty Python-esque video game.
    • Yesterday When I Was Mad is supposed to actually represent a madman's hallucinations.
  • Take That!: Two notable examples.
    • U2: PSB mashed up their very poppy cover of "Where The Streets Have No Name" with the very poppy "I Can't Take My Eyes Off of You", and released it as a double A-side with "How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?". U2 reportedly said "What have we done to deserve this?" But after that, U2 stopped taking themselves so seriously, and we got the wonderful Achtung Baby.
      • "How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously" is itself a Take That! to pompous-but-shallow pop acts with a tendency to self-righteously spout off about various social issues without a great deal of understanding of them. Given the nature of the single the Take That! to U2 is clear, but it also references a then-popular boy band double-act called Bros.
    • Eminem: Due to Mr. Mathers' rampant homophobia, they recorded "The Night I Fell in Love", a sweet Affectionate Parody about a college kid having a one-night stand with an Eminem Captain Ersatz. (It could be about any rapper, but the lyrics reference "Stan", a single of his, and Dr. Dre, his producer - Neil always held that the song was not intended to insult Eminem, but inspired by the contrast between Eminem's belligerent controversy-bait image and the sweet, sensitive personality he displayed in interviews.) In response, Eminem dedicated a line to them in his extremely silly Canibus/Jermaine Dupris diss "Can I Bitch":
    Dr. Dre: What was that [you just ran over]?
    Eminem: Pet Shop Boys.
  • Take That, Critics!: "Yesterday, When I Was Mad" was inspired by actual negative remarks that the duo received for their Performance tour.
  • The "The" Title Confusion: Officially, the band is "Pet Shop Boys", no "the". However, they don't mind if it's included, and they even refer to themselves as "the Pet Shop Boys" during live shows.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "I Want to Wake Up", "How can you expect to be taken seriously?", "Saturday Night Forever", "You only tell me you love me when you're drunk", "I don't know what you want but I can't give it anymore"...
  • Title Track: Averted throughout their career, for studio albums at any rate, with a few borderline cases:
    • "Single-Bilingual" (sometimes shortened to "Bilingual" by fans) was listed simply as "Single" on Bilingual.
    • "Nightlife" did not appear on Nightlife. Rather, it appeared on some "Home and dry" singles and eventually on Format. However it was included on one of the Nightlife bonus discs from the 2017 series of Further Listening releases.
    • Whereas "Pandemonium" did feature on Pandemonium ... as part of a medley. With Pandemonium being a live album. Similarly "Inner sanctum" features on Inner Sanctum, also a live rather than studio album.
  • Totally Radical: From "I Want to Wake Up": "Turning in my sleep, you called me a fool/To fall in love, is it so uncool?" Really breaks the mood in an otherwise haunting Sanity Slippage Song.
    • Averted in "The Night I Fell in Love"—for a 48-year-old singing the part of a maybe 19-year-old, he sounds incredibly natural.
  • Transparent Closet: Chris Lowe's sexuality, at least in media coverage; he has never confirmed or denied any statement about his sexuality.
  • True Art Is Angsty: invoked Poked fun at in "Miserablism".
    Just for the sake of it, make sure you're always frowning. / It shows the world that you have substance and depth.
  • Uptown Girl: "West End Girls" ... probably.
  • We Can Rule Together: Taken literally, "Opportunities" is essentially this trope in song form, an aspiring Don looking to recruit a Red Oni to his Blue Oni
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: UK rapper Example drops some verses over the bridge of "Thursday".
  • While You Were in Diapers: Subverted in "Young Offender" with the line "I've been a teenager since before you were born"; it sounds like the kind of boast usually seen with this trope, but the narrator continues "I'm younger than some, I've only begun" admitting he has not emotionally/mentally matured since his teenage years.
  • Zeerust: Commented on in "This Used to Be the Future", and combined with I Want My Jetpack.