Follow TV Tropes


Values Dissonance / Music

Go To

  • A lot of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock and Shock Rock and Visual Kei and similar, in that the high drama and desire to shock and offend to make a point often runs counter to the mainstream societies it originates within. There's too many examples, but they go both ways with this trope: from Visual Kei bands using being out about bisexuality to make a point about sexual freedom and equality that was way beyond Fair for Its Day and bands singing passionate anti-war and anti-violence songs (even if they gained a Misaimed Fandom because Truffaut Was Right) all the way to the other side of the spectrum - bands and songs irresponsibly glorifying rape and murder and pedophilia and whatever else solely for shock value or for being edgy.
  • Advertisement:
  • Finnish military march Sotilaspoika (Soldier Boy). Originally a poem by J.L. Runeberg, the lyrics are about a boy of perhaps ten or eleven, whose father was drafted in the army when he was 15. The boy himself can't wait till his fiftteenth birthday and is eligible to get drafted like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. While in 19th century the lyrics implied patriotic fervour, in 21st century they are easily interpreted as gung-ho militarism and use of child soldiers.
  • Not even KISS is immune to this. Listen to "Deuce." Just a wee bit sexist, isn't it? Plus, "Domino" and "Christine Sixteen" might be seen badly in today's Pædo Hunt world (especially "Domino," which never gives the girl's age but it can easily be taken as less teenager and more paedophilia). In fact, a lot of Kiss songs fall into this. Seeing as some Kiss albums contain nothing but songs about sex (Gene Simmons has claimed to had sex with over a thousand women; and for crying out loud, this is the band that has a song called "Let's Put The X In Sex"), the chance for sexism pops up quite often.
    • If you think that's bad, check Love/Hate's song "Rock Queen" - "met a little girl, just thirteen, she's a knock-down blue-eyed slut psycho-virgin tease. Rock queen, thirteen, buxom blonde, bad dream, let me touch your cookies - let me eat your cookies - now" [1]
  • The song "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg (not the same as Auld Lang Syne, a Robert Burns song) is about a chance meeting between former lovers who have since gone their separate ways. They talk with each other about their life, buy a six-pack of beer (admittedly, American beer is relatively low in alcohol compared to most places) at a liquor store after failing to find an open bar, split it, reminisce, and drive away to go on living their lives as they had been doing. The offhand reference to driving after drinking alcohol introduces an element of Squick into what is otherwise a heartfelt romantic ballad. The song was written in 1981, which was before all the "Don't drink and drive" Public Service Announcements began to appear. Values Dissonance can be Newer Than They Think.
  • Advertisement:
  • In Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, Zerlina wins back her fiancé's good graces by singing him an aria inviting him to beat her. However, if you listen to the music, it is obvious that she's actually suggesting something much more pleasant for both of them.
  • Mungo Jerry's 1970 hit "In the Summertime", which reached #1 in the UK and Canada and #3 in the US, says, "Have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find". Even the edgiest rock today doesn't advocate drinking and driving. It was presumably for this reason that the song was used in a famous PIF for the British advertising campaign Drinking and Driving Wrecks Lives, wherein it begins with many people enjoying themselves at a pub garden and drinking; two of those people drive off in a car, and the song slows down to a disturbing stop before we cut to the car inevitably wrecked and bloodied.
  • Advertisement:
  • The music video for the They Might Be Giants song "The Statue Got Me High" featured a couple brief scenes depicting fire, one of which had band member John Linnell covered in flames. The scene aired on US music video stations without complaints, but an edited version was made for air in the UK, showing the same scenes but without the fire. According to John Flansburgh, this was done because fire and ninjas are not allowed on British television, but in the commentary for the video, they indicated that the Brits objected to fire because it may result in imitative behavior, which led to the joke to the effect that "It's like how you can't say the word 'ninja' or kids will want to go become ninjas."
  • The music video for Mel Brooks' "To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap)" was shocking to many Europeans, since it was not widely known that Brooks is Jewish.
  • "Judy's Turn to Cry", the sequel to "It's My Party (and I'll Cry if I Want To)" by Lesley Gore. Our heroine, jilted by her boyfriend, kisses another guy — whereupon the jealous Johnny hits this interloper and takes her back. This is presented as a triumph over rival Judy. Lesson learned, girls — don't expect your boyfriend to be faithful to you, but you had sure better be faithful to him.
    • Another popular Gore hit, "Maybe I Know", has its own dissonance, with a chorus like, "Maybe I know that he's been a cheat/Maybe I know that he's been untrue/But what can I do?" In more enlightened times, as All Music Guide pointed out in its contemporary review of the song, maybe the girl would think to confront his boyfriend over the matter, or find someone more faithful to her. It may be no wonder that she took to "You Don't Own Me" later, with its more defiant, independent lyrics.
  • The original version of Kentucky's state song, "My Old Kentucky Home," written in 1853, featured lines that referred to black people as "darkies." In 1986, after the term was deemed offensive, the word was replaced with "people."
  • Many Sixties songs were written and/or sung while high. But back then, drugs were used for "expanding your mind" rather than trying to be cool. (I'm lookin' at you, Jerry Garcia!) These days, though, singers who do drugs get a lot of flak from fans and bandmates, or at least more than sixties singers would.
    • Garcia, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc. most certainly were criticized and served time in jail for their substance abuse and rock excesses in The '60s as well; Mick Jagger and Keith Richards' drug bust in 1967 was very controversial.
    • It really depends on the singer. Marilyn Manson (and for that matter, his band) have been joked to have been single-handedly funding the cocaine industry throughout the 90s.
  • Some older rock songs, such as The Beatles' "Run for Your Life" and The Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb", can be a little problematic for post-feminist ears. "Run for Your Life" is a good example of something that led to values dissonance within years; shortly before his death, John Lennon said that he was himself embarrassed by the message contained in the song. He later wrote the song "Jealous Guy", which seemed to be an Author's Saving Throw.
  • Neil Diamond's "Cracklin' Rosie" is not about a woman named Rosie; it's about a group of First Nations men in Ontario getting drunk on red wine (the "Rosie") because all the women are gone. This may seem benign, perhaps, to an American, but it's unimaginably horrifically racist in Western Canada, not just because of the awful "drunken Indian" stereotype but also because of the actual plight of the women, who were being sexually exploited and murdered. The equivalent would be a fluffy pop song about lynching.
  • Not even Schoolhouse Rock is immune. It's a lot more mild than most of the examples on these pages, to be sure, but their song "The Great American Melting Pot" doesn't exactly fit with today's era of multiculturalism. Another one of their songs from the America Rock compilation, "Elbow Room" (on the subject of manifest destiny), is either this or Politically Correct History.
  • The Crystals' "He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss)", which is about a woman who believes her abusive boyfriend only hits her because he loves her, is more likely to raise hackles now than it was back in the '60s. What's interesting is that contemporary reactions may be more in line with songwriter intent. Goffin and King wrote the song in shocked reaction to learning that Little Eva was getting beaten up by her boyfriend and didn't object. More details on Wikipedia.
  • The holiday standard "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is notorious for not aging well since its release. The wintertime duet (it technically has nothing to do with Christmas) is about a man using a snowstorm to convince his girlfriend to spend the night with him, while she repeats that she should go home and worries what people would think if she stayed. When the song was first released in 1944, her resistance was meant to sound flirty and coy (especially since she decides to stay after all). At the time, it wasn't socially acceptable for an unmarried woman to spend the night with a man, while the boyfriend is saying that the weather makes a perfect cover story. But in this day and age, women are able to be more straightforward about whether or not they want sex, so it sounds like he isn't respecting her wishes and is forcing himself on her. In particular, the line "Say, what's in this drink?" sounds way more sinister nowadays than originally intended, as she was simply commenting on the alcoholic strength of her beverage rather than the presence of an illicit substance.
  • "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" gets this reaction from more than a few people who actually bother to focus on the lyrics. Sure, the underlying message is that the father is dressed as Santa, which the mother finds cute enough to kiss him over, and the child just so happens to catch them in the act and find it comical. However, the song leaves a number of things open to interpretation, such as infidelity, and a Broken Home situation.
  • "Kung Fu Fighting" was a big hit for Carl Douglas in 1974 and is still commonly heard on the radio in the United States, but it's been banned from airplay in Canada and a man was arrested for "racial harassment" in 2011 for covering it with his band in the UK. (This, it should be pointed out, is not the typical reaction to the song in the UK, where it's not generally considered offensive, just very very cheesy. The charge was dropped, and the singer in question ended up releasing a cover version.) Like the "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" example above, this also seems to depend on how close you're paying attention to the lyrics. While some of it can be interpreted as racist by today's standards, and "Chinamen" is no longer the preferred nomenclature, it's pretty obvious that the song is a reference to Wuxia movies, rather than Chinese people in and of themselves.
  • Even cerebral Progressive Rock band King Crimson couldn't avoid this. The 1971 album Islands includes a tribute to "Ladies of the Road" (read: groupies). Granted, this was 1971. Still, there's a cringe-worthy verse about seducing a school reporter, not to mention this passage: "High diving Chinese trender/Black hair and black suspender/Said, 'Please me no surrender'/'Just love to feel your Fender'"
  • 10cc's hit single "Dreadlock Holiday" passed without comment in the 1970's. It was based on a real life incident in which Graham Gouldman was mugged for his (minimal) bling in the West Indies - the mugger made it look like an agreed, if not unforced, sale by deliberately paying Gouldman a dollar for jewellery worth many times that. The song has since been criticised for its implication that all dreadlocked Jamaicans are violent robbers and all Jamaican women are hookers. The "dark voices" in the song have also been described as stereotypical, and the fact it was done to a (quite good) reggae beat has also been criticised as reinforcing the "all blacks are criminals" message perceived by some in the song. The Jamaican Tourist Board wasn't exactly inclined to use it in adverts, either.note  It was alleged that two white British Jews (Goldman and Creme) were mis-using West Indian culture (reggae) to reinforce prejudice.
    • However, many reggae stars had actually spoken of the violence in Jamaica (a notable example being "Johnny Too Bad" by The Slickers), which was (and continues to be) very real. A lot of dreads were poor and had the choice of becoming reggae musicians or resorting to crime (sometimes both). It appears that the criticism of "Dreadlock Holiday" has more to do with the appropriation of black music and accents for white musicians. The senseless gun deaths of Peter Tosh, Carlton Barrett and Junior Braithwaite proved that the famous continued to be a target for criminals in Jamaica years after "Dreadlock Holiday" was released.
  • Similarly, the remake of seventies feelgood summer hit "I'm Going To Barbados" by long-forgotten band Typically Tropical, when it was reworked in the early 2000's as "I'm Going To Ibiza," omitted the introduction by the pilot, spoken in a thick West Indian accent, and the cod-West Indian singing voice used for the song....
    Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Tobias Willcock, welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways Flight three-seven-two to Bridgetown, Barbados. We will be flying at an 'eight of 32.000 feet and at an air speed of approximately 600 miles per hour. Refreshments will be served after take-off. Kindly fasten your safety belts and refrain from smoking until de aircraft is airborne.
  • The song "That Doggie in the Window" by Patti Page was just a light-hearted song in its day but nowadays brings to mind puppy mills. Shelters and animal welfare organizations have satirically used the song in promotions. Patti was well-aware of this and prior to her death revamped the song as "That Doggie in the Shelter".
  • Julie Brown's "The Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun", which depicts a homecoming queen with a gun shooting absolutely everyone at her high school prom. Except, it's a parody of Teenage Death Songs. It was made in the '80s as a novelty song, but is almost rarely played today even on novelty song stations since the rise of school shootings. Brown has admitted that she no longer feels comfortable performing the song in today's climate.
  • The music video for *NSYNC's "I Drive Myself Crazy" was seen as a rather silly and literal interpretation of Love Makes You Crazy when it was released in 1999. If it aired today, it would have been extremely controversial, as the video implies that mental illness is a choice, an opinion that is considered extremely offensive in regards to mental illness today.
  • From Panic! at the Disco's I Write Sins Not Tragedies (2006) contained the lyrics "And, yes, but what a shame, what a shame the poor groom's bride is a whore." Considering how much more controversial Slut-Shaming has grown over time, calling a woman a "whore" in a song does just not happen nowadays. That was the point of the song, however.
  • K.T. Oslin's "You Can't Do That" deconstructs the zero tolerance social climate of the late eighties and nineties.
  • Dancehall reggae has this problem. Most dancehall artists are from the Caribbean (most commonly Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago), where extreme homophobia is widespread and this is reflected in the music. For example, Buju Banton's 1992 song "Boom Bye Bye" is about how wrong gay men (or "batty bwoy" in Jamaican patois) are and how they all deserve to be shot. This has led to problems in Buju Banton's career in the U.S. and gay rights organizations have campaigned against his American performances.
  • What is socially acceptable to say in Spanish might not be in other languages. For example Celia Cruz's "La Negra Tiene Tumbao" is a popular song however referring to someone casually by their skintone like that in English would be considered offensive or even racist. Similarly, the Dominican-American artist Amara La Negra's stage name is acceptable in Spanish, but you would never see an English-speaking artist named "Amara the Black Woman".
  • Jimmy Soul's 1963 single "If You Wanna Be Happy," which hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, proudly extolls the virtues of getting an "ugly woman" to marry you. Try playing this song today post-fourth-wave feminism and see what happens.
    • Also the late-'80s Filipino rap song based on it, "Humanap Ka ng Pangit" (translation — "Look for Someone Ugly") by Andrew E.
    • A French singer did a song like that in 2011. "J'aime les moche" (I love the ugly ones). It's played for laughs and is a quite liked song.
  • Doris Day's "A Guy Is A Guy" is about a strange man following the narrator home and into her house, and it's played like a cute puppy-love story, rather than, say, an obsessed stalker. The innocence of the 50s, indeed.
  • Rap music from the 80's to early 2000's was extremely homophobic. A lot of rappers now regarded as legends (Grandmaster Flash, The Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, even Will Smith) had songs casually insulting and demeaning members of the LGBT community (usually gay men, but occasionally lesbians and transgender women). Nowadays, any rapper who wants a chance of mainstream success avoids making homo/transphobic statements, not only in their music but also in interviews and on social media (and if they do, a public apology is quick to follow). Additionally, many older rap songs are extremely sexist. While rap today has a problem with sexism, it was even more pronounced in the early days. For example, in 2013 Rick Ross got in hot water for a lyric that implied he was going to Date Rape a woman; in the 90's nobody would have batted an eye at that. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, many rappers would say "no homo" whenever they said anything vaguely gay sounding. Radio stations began censoring it due to homophobia and the practice fell out of style in the early 2010s.
  • "Seven Little Girls Sitting in the Backseat", with its lyrics about a driver trying to shy the girls away from another man in the backseat, has aged horribly. Nowadays, the driver would be accused of being a pedophile or at the very least a stalker.
  • The eponymous character in "The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)" is a drag racer who challenges any driver she sees. Decades later, such behavior by elderly drivers in particular don't make the song seem so innocent anymore.
  • Humane groups, animal rights activists in particular, would have a field day with the traditional echo song "Bill Grogan's Goat". For eating shirts off a clothesline, Bill hits his goat with a stick and ties him to railroad tracks. Had it come out in a more recent year, Bill would be seen as abusive and remorseless over attempting to kill his goatnote .
  • Squeeze's 1978 song "Cool for Cats" has the protagonist picking up a girl at a disco for sex and asking her "lots of questions as she hangs on to the wall" implying she's so intoxicated she can't stand up without support. Par for the course in The '70s but these days having sex with someone too drunk to properly consent is rightly classified as rape.
  • Several R&B/soul songs in the 1970s and 1980s were about a woman being okay with dating someone who already had a girlfriend/wife. Examples include "Sweet Thing" by Chaka Khan, "Call Me" by Skyy ("Though your girlfriend's a friend of mine/Here's my number and a dime, call me anytime"), "Just Be Good to Me" by SOS Band ("I don't care about your other girls/Just be good to me"), "Saving All My Love for You" by Whitney Houston and "As We Lay" by Shirley Murdock.
  • While Guns N' Roses' "One in a Million" was deemed offensive back when it was first released in 1988 for its bigoted lyrics that included potshots towards African-Americans, homosexuals, and immigrants, it's absolutely nothing compared to today where such lyrics would've completely destroyed Axl Rose's career overnight.
  • 2011's "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga contains a minor example. In 2011, "transgendered" was still a common way of spelling "transgender". It's considered an unacceptable form of the word nowadays.
  • "The Emo Song" is a mid-2000s Take That! against emo teens. It was always off-colour but several of its jokes are considered more offensive than they were in 2008, such as its use of homophobic slurs.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic is American. In "Word Crimes" he used the word "spastic", which is considered an ableist slur in Europe but not in North America. He later apologized after receiving backlash.
    • There's also his song "Trigger Happy," written in 1990 as part of his Off the Deep End album released two years later. The song itself is a happy, upbeat sounding song about a man with an abundance of firearms who follows the "shoot first, ask questions later" rule. Shootings, mass or not, that have happened since the song's release, and the demand for tighter gun control laws in subsequent years have also made the song's reckless depiction of firearm usage come off as tasteless.
      • Of course; The point is Black Comedy and the song's subject is obviously presented as incredibly deranged.
    • "Gonna Buy Me a Condo", a song about a Jamaican man adapting to American lifestyles, has Al using stereotypes that would be seen as racist in this day and age.
    • Running With Scissors:
      • "Jerry Springer" from this album has several knocks against transgender people, using terms now considered slurs such as "hermaphrodite" and "shemale" (although the show it was based on did exactly that on a weekly basis). It doesn't end there: "hermaphrodite" is also used to describe a person who steals Al's snorkel in "Albuquerque" and a Wholesome Crossdresser is the subject of "Truck Drivin' Song".
      • Al also uses the term "midget" in the final chorus of "Jerry Springer".
  • While the whole song is satirical, the line "we got a lot of little teenage blue-eyed groupies that'll do anything we say" in Dr. Hook's 1973 hit "Cover of the Rolling Stone" feels incredibly jarring these days.
  • The Colombian cumbia song La Colegiala (The Schoolgirl) is about a man of indeterminate age - but clearly an adult - who tells how much he is suffering when he is in love with a teenager, to whom he asks that when he goes to school with his school uniform "Do not be so coquette" Nowadays this song would be clearly considered ephebophilia, although it is still very popular among a certain audience, the same type of audience that considers that the most modern reggaetón songs are too sexual or misogynistic.
  • Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl, which partially exposed her breast for a split second, is a major case of this between US and international audiences. In the US, it was treated by news media as a horrendous case of moral indecency and led to substantial public backlash. Outside the US, however, nudity standards are far more relaxed, so foreign audiences were either perplexed as to why it's such a big deal or saw it as a case of Political Correctness Gone Mad.
  • When Gloria Jones released "Tainted Love" in 1964, it was too risque a song for the era and was rarely heard on radio. Over the decades it's stopped being so scandalous and, as the Covered Up Soft Cell and Marilyn Manson versions show, people enjoy it specifically for its dark nature.
  • Jamie Foxx and T-Pain's song "Blame It" would be harder to release in the 2010s than it was in the late 2000s. The song outright starts with the drunk singer trying to coax an even-more-drunk woman (who has a boyfriend at that) into sleeping with him. When she turns him down, he thinks she's playing hard to get and continues to flirt with her. He keeps on getting her more drunk until she eventually gives in and sleeps with him, with the excuse being that they can blame their behavior on the alcohol they're drinking.
  • Joanie Sommers' "Johnny Get Angry" is a 1962 song where a woman begs her boyfriend to get pissed as her. She doesn't like how demure her boyfriend is, so she is pretending to break up with him in hopes that he'll react negatively and try to get her back. The song receives dissonance for two things: the singer is emotionally manipulating her boyfriend and the singer telling her boyfriend to get angry as a sign that he cares for her rings too close to Romanticized Abuse. She also tells him that she wishes he would be the "boss" of her and says that all girls want a guy to look up to.


Example of: