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Unbuilt Trope / Music

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  • Franz Liszt's Totentanz with its dissonant usage of the Dies Irae theme, making it sound like actual post-Stravinsky Modern Classical, when it's "only" Liszt's progressive style coupled with Romantic Irony.
  • Bill Haley might get a response nowadays of, "Look at that 30-something clown, with his dweeby bow tie and stupid curled cowlick note , trying to convince us he’s cool. What a poser"...and yet he helped invent modern pop music.
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  • Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah has a title and a melody fit for a cheerful interpretation in forte. In contrast, the self-referential lyrics describes the song as not a victory march, it's a cold and broken Hallelujah... in Cohen's iconic style. Ironically, most of the countless cover artists disregard the lyrics.
  • Tom Lehrer's "The Masochism Tango" seems like a parody of the Obligatory Bondage Song, though it predates most serious examples.
  • Tom Lehrer's Pollution was arguably the first popularized song with a Green Aesop, before the rise of environmentalism in The '60s. The serious trope is Played for Laughs, sung in creole-sounding English to a calypso tune, depicting the United States to be an exotic and dangerous place, similar to The Savage South.
  • Kraftwerk was an early Kraut Rock band, and transitioned in the early 70s to become Trope Makers of Electronic Music. Today, they seem like an Affectionate Parody of electronic music, with minimalistic songs based on one or two futuristic tropes, such as Ridiculously Human Robots or Trope 2000.
  • The entire "heavy metal" style of rock music is an Unbuilt Trope for purely semantic reasons. Throughout The '70s and The '80s, groups that we rightly think of as heavy metal today (Black Sabbath, etc.) were disdained as "not music" or even outright ignored by the music media. (A notable exception was Judas Priest, who – at least for a time – successfully bridged the divide between "serious" metal and pop-metal.) Until The '90s, what heavy metal really meant to most people was the "wailing guitar" music of groups like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Van Halen, or Bon Jovi. Good luck finding any of those groups in the "metal" section of your record store today. Also, at the time, many groups (including Black Sabbath) didn't define the music they were making as "heavy metal", but "heavy rock", "hard rock", or other similar terms.
    • Led Zeppelin are also a good example because whilst they were very influential on metal, it's often glossed over in favor of Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden's influence. It should be noted that Robert Plant and John Bonham were actually very good friends with the members of Black Sabbath, and often exchanged ideas, and the two bands saw themselves as peers. As an example, the influence of "Communication Breakdown" on "Paranoid" should give a clue.
    • Black Sabbath were subjected to a lot of Misaimed Fandom and Misaimed Hatedom from supporters and detractors alike, who assumed that they were a "Satan-worshipping" band. In truth, Ozzy and the gang considered themselves a "hippie" band, and they experimented with other styles of music besides "death rock." They were also Roman Catholics, and their music contained many Christian themes. For example, the Title Track from their Self-Titled Album features an image of Satan inspired by a nightmare of Butler's, a depiction that is very clearly evil with Ozzy screaming out to God for help. The track "After Forever" from their third album also has a very clear Christian message. Their inclusion and portrayal of the occult could be seen as a deconstruction of Satanic symbolism in later metal. Also, today, most people tend to think of metal as a genre focusing on aggression and speed. While this is true for the most part, this was not the kind of music Black Sabbath played, instead relying on slow tempos to create an atmosphere of fear, despair, and magic; it can be said that their music became less and less extreme with the years in that regard. The style their early albums spawned is known as Doom Metal today, which many people (falsely) assume is a reaction to more aggressive forms of metal.
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    • Korn, one of the pioneers of Nu Metal, seemed to counter many of the stereotypes that got attached to nu metal musically. Many believe nu metal as being "metal meets hip-hop, with a little bit of electronica" and that nu metal bands use turntables. However, Korn didn't embody that stereotype at all. They didn't rap, they didn't use turntables, they didn't play electronica,note  and their most famous stylistic touch was their use of bagpipes. Their first album even featured some Progressive Metal elements, which don't really go hand-in-hand with nu metal. If anything, they were closer to Groove Metal than the bands that embody the "stereotypical" sound of nu metal such as Limp Bizkit. While they did embody the visual stereotype of "dreadlocks and baggy pants", that's because they invented that stereotype that countless others had copied.
    • Then there's a sub-example with Venom, the coiners of the phrase "Black Metal". Musically, the only thing their first albums have in common with modern black metal is poor recording quality. Unlike later black metal bands, they were absolutely not serious about what they sang, and occult/Satanic songs were alongside one or two silly songs about sex or music itself. The band are in fact very similar to Motorhead, but their Satanic elements made people think of them as more metal.
  • Billy Idol, with his good looks and stage presence, not to mention a love of catchy pop hooks, brought Punk Rock to MTV stardom, with hit singles like "Rebel Yell" and "Dancing With Myself." This was long before Pop Punk became a more specific thing in The '90s, courtesy of bands like Green Day and The Offspring. So, Billy could adorn his punk rock sound with flashy guitar solos (courtesy of songwriting partner Steve Stevens), some New Wave elements, synthesizers and some stylistic workouts. Billy's "Pop Punk" was, more or less, the sound of MTV pop with Punk Rock energy.
  • Killing Machine, the first Judas Priest album to generate a hit single or two (and generally considered the first metal album to receive mainstream media attention), was released in 1979 and therefore sounds a great deal like a 1970s record. The intro to the very first track, "Delivering the Goods", suggests that Priest deliberately mashed together the hard "funk" rock of the early-to-mid-'70s with the speed and thrash metal of the '80s and beyond - in fact, that's almost exactly what they did.
  • KISS have long been perceived as a silly subversion of the Heavy Metal genre, specifically in their performance of music that is usually nowhere near as grotesque as their appearance would suggest. In fact, along with Alice Cooper, they created the metal stereotypes, and thus were free to tweak them as much as they wished. In fact, early Kiss were unsure of what their own sound should be; ironically, their earliest albums hardly sound like they are by Kiss at all: their debut album from early 1974 sounds more like a The Rolling Stones record, particularly on the tracks “Firehouse” and “Cold Gin.” Their second album, Hotter Than Hell, is radically experimental and innovative, with songs that seem to predict the future, anticipating thrash and death metal (“Parasite”) and the “grunge” alternative style of Nineties groups like Pearl Jam (“Goin’ Blind”, “Got to Choose”). Not until their third album (Dressed to Kill) would Kiss really begin to promote their trademark high-energy “power-pop” style; and not until their fourth album (Destroyer) would they embrace it fully (and even that album had the soft ballad "Beth" on it).
  • The band that in 1978 released the self-titled Van Halen is definitely not the caricature that typified the later Hair Metal bands with which Van Halen is often identified. Eddie’s guitar solos on this album, while impressive, are not as gonzo as the ones later heard from copycat groups like Quiet Riot (or, for that matter, as the ones on later Van Halen records); their emphasis is on artistry, rather than shock value or cheesiness. Van Halen also deconstruct the “party-animal” image of the later groups: while the tone of the first album is generally lighthearted, there are also some brooding, relatively low-key songs such as “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love.”
  • Listen to any Punk Rock band from the mid-seventies. They sound almost nothing like what we think of as punk music, and barely have anything in common with each other musically. At the time, Punk Rock was just that: music played by punks. Some particularly pedantic critics even define the rockabilly of the 1950s and the "garage rock" of the 1960s as "punk," which sounds pretty misleading until you remember that those styles of music indeed directly influenced punk (and metal to a lesser extent).
    • For more specific examples, compare The Ramones (almost like a deconstruction of the '90s pop punk bands) and Richard Hell and the Voidoids (chaos with a loose basis in rockabilly, aka psychobilly 10 years before it happened).
    • The fact that a lot of the original punk rock sound harkens back to eras earlier than the 1970s (from Phil Spector's "wall of sound" to '50s rockabilly) is because punk rock sought to rebel against the rock music conventions of the time. This was the era of big arena rock bands and prog rock bands that had overly elaborate orchestration (though punk rock pioneer Johnny Rotten was a big fan of some prog rock bands). Additionally, the most notable proto-punk band, The Stooges, played fast little rock & roll numbers with great enthusiasm and was an antidote to the hippie rock that was in the mainstream in the very early 1970s (another such band was the Velvet Underground, who was the original "indie" rock band).
  • The Dictators were a part of punk rock from the very beginning, getting started even before The Ramones did. But to many present-day listeners hearing their most famous song, the aptly-titled “Faster and Louder”, for the first time, the Dictators sound not so much punk as they do metal - specifically, a poppier take on speed/thrash metal (if it had existed in the late 1970s).
  • Minor Threat are sometimes cited as the first punk band to treat politics in a more socially conscious and "politically correct" way rather than just general rebellion and are the godfathers of most of today's political punk. But there were a lot of huge differences between them and what followed:
    • The very song they got their name from, "Minor Threat", is not meant to be sarcastic or ironic. Rather it's a very cynical and self-depreciating take on growing into adulthood and admittance that they are in fact a "minor threat" to society and probably aren't going to change anything. The narrator is actually lamenting how he should grow into adulthood like most people but just can't seem to.
    • Rather than talk about white privilege, they have "Guilty of Being White", a song complaining about reverse racism and discrimination against whites that existed in Washington, DC at the time.note 
    • The song "Straight Edge" may have birthed the straightedge movement, but doesn't sound like a modern straightedge anthem at all. Rather than being militant or obsessed with purity, the narrator is simply someone who seems to regard drugs as not fun and a waste of time while he has better things to do. The song isn't even critical of drinking alcohol, just drinking to excess and drunkeness.
  • The earliest New Wave bands of the late 1970s (The Cars, Talking Heads) did not really sound like the Eighties “synthpop” groups with which they have come to be associated, or sounded like them only occasionally. This was because their genre was just getting started; in fact, it could be said that American pop music in general was getting started all over again, what with punk having reinvented the wheel. In the beginning, New Wave simply meant “hard rock done in a smooth style”, which did not necessarily indicate synthesizers. While most of the New Wave groups did eventually adopt the stereotypically ’80s “space-age” synthesizer flourishes they became known for, that was not quite the brand of music they created.
  • If you're under the age of 40, you’ll be forgiven for looking at Parallel Lines-era Deborah Harry (of Blondie fame) and thinking "aging Baby Boomer trying to co-opt the younger generation’s music." The "aging Baby Boomer" part was true enough (Harry was already in her thirties when the group hit it big, a little too old to be a pop sensation), but Blondie had been a part of the punk/new wave scene from its very earliest New York days, and in fact all those younger female pop stars (Madonna, etc.) ended up imitating Harry rather than the other way around.
  • It goes without saying that early Emo has nothing in common with bands labeled it under the mainstream definition of the term. However it doesn't sound much either like later "classic" Emo bands or their successors today. Trope Makers Rites of Spring were really just a punk band with more personal and introspective lyrics and a bit more melody to their music, something that is hardly uncommon in modern day punk.
  • Similarly, bands considered "screamo" before the term existed don't sound much like modern day screamo bands and weren't much different than Hardcore Punk of the time, just a bit screamier and more chaotic.
  • More than three decades later, the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" sounds very silly, like a passive-aggressive mockery of rap music being performed by "uncool" adults. It is in fact the Trope Maker both for the rap genre and for the hip-hop lifestyle in general.
  • Time Zone was a supergroup consisting of Afrika Bambaataa and John Lydon. In 1984, they ended up inventing Rap Metal with their protest song "World Destruction," predating Faith No More's early albums, Run–D.M.C. and Aerosmith's "Walk This Way," Anthrax and Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise," as well as Rage Against the Machine.
  • A lot of the stylistic influences and Trope Codifiers for Glam Rap did a lot to deconstruct and play with the tropes their music would later be known for. In many cases, these rappers did not flinch from portraying the "ghetto fabulous" lifestyle as incredibly negative and destructive:
    • The Notorious B.I.G. was arguably the Trope Maker for the genre, and helped to lay the seeds for its dominance from the mid-'90s through the 2000s with his album Ready to Die. Songs like "Big Poppa" and "Juicy" could lay claim to being some of the first major Glam Rap songs. The same album also portrayed Biggie's "ashy to classy" drug dealer character as incredibly paranoid ("Everyday Struggle"), driven by grinding poverty ("Things Done Changed"), and outright guilt-ridden and suicidal ("Suicidal Thoughts", which contains the line "when I die, fuck it, I'm gonna go to hell/'cause I'm a piece of shit, it ain't hard to fuckin' tell").
    • Likewise, Biggie's protege Jay-Z demonstrated this on his debut album Reasonable Doubt, which portrays his man of wealth and taste in a much more Lonely at the Top way, with an immense price paid by both himself ("Regrets") and others ("Dead Presidents II", "D'Evils"). Even the song on that album that most strongly sounds like Glam Rap, "Ain't No Nigga", plays with a lot of the player tropes, making it highly ambiguous as to whether Jay-Z or Foxy Brown (who provides the female point of view) is the real player in the relationship.
    • Even Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, who largely embraced these tropes in their early records, get in on it. Dr. Dre's "Lil' Ghetto Boy" ends with Karmic Retribution when Snoop Dogg's character is in jail and Dre's character gets shot in a robbery gone bad. Snoop would go further in each direction — on Doggystyle, the same record that gave us "Gin & Juice", Snoop portrays many Glam Rap tropes as the product of a literal Deal with the Devil on "Murder Was The Case".
  • In 1991, Just D became the first mainstream group to rap in Swedish. Their self-ironic style with a vocabulary more experimental than most Swedish hip hop acts today, deconstructed a genre which hardly existed yet.
  • The Girl Group in the late 90s and early 2000s was known for having three-five ridiculously sexy girls on Fanservice duty singing songs about love and sex. Many of them followed the Spice Girls formula or were assembled to cash in on their popularity. The Spice Girls however weren't supermodel gorgeous or overtly sexy - only Geri was the real Ms. Fanservice of the group - and their appeal was that they were just like normal British girls who got together and sing. While they had songs about sex, their message was about female friendships and the importance of girl power. What's more is that the girls helped write most of their own songs and had their own distinct identity (everyone knows who Posh Spice or Scary Spice was, but who except diehard fans would know the individual members of All Saints or Atomic Kitten?) - in some ways making them seem like a Reconstruction of manufactured Girl Groups.


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