Was having first-cup-of-tea thoughts about songwriting and parody and musical/narrative dissonance, like:

Assume a very pretty song. Assume some e.g. flatly descriptive, violent lyrics. Assume they're sung in a low-key musically appropriate way to the pretty instrumentation. Not with a contrasting threatening delivery that'd signal overt intent to *read* threatening; not with a winking, over-the-top "this delivery is too happy for these words" that'd signal overt intent to be weird/parodic.

Basically, imagine a song that taken at face value would just seem genuinely sociopathic. Not in a subtle or creeping or manipulative way, nor in an obviously winking way: just flat-out "there is something very wrong and off here" sort of mismatch between musical mood and lyrical content.

My gut feeling is we will feel in general driven to interpret it as some sort of parody, no matter how straight-faced, because the idea of raw, uninflected sociopathy in musical form is so unexpected.

That the idea that the enormous discomfort of listening to someone singing mildly and sweetly (but not TOO sweetly, not wink-wink-nudge-nudge sweetly) about terrible stuff drives us to look for the satirical or parodic intent that would resolve that discomfort.

That kind of deconstructive rationalization wouldn't be unique to music, but my instinct (in among my lack of caffeine at least) is that with music we'd feel uncommonly driven to make that rationalization, because music seems *special*.


I don't have any specific songs or artists in mind. And I wonder whether there *are* any ready to hand?

Which, again I'm not talking about music that taken under a microscope (or even some mild squinting) *reveals* itself to be thematically/logically disturbing despite a sweet presentation, nor stuff that is obviously, overtly trying to be violent or threatening.

I mean stuff that is just flatly, naively disturbing in a way that is disjoint with the music. Sociopathic in an unselfaware way.


this is much too self-aware to be sociopathic but I was informed there is a "satanic doo-wop" group out there and I can't think of much that could be worse

@fool Sorta, except I think the sociopathy of those lyrics *was* self-aware, that Sting new perfectly well the weird stalkery heft of the song and that the song itself, so to speak, also knows it.

That one's a good case in my mind of socially-constructed naive sociopathy; it's more a lack of attentive/critical listening by the audience (aided in no small part by media use of the song in emotionally inappropriate contexts) that makes the shock of discomfort possible.

@joshmillard appropriately, Daniel Knox's "Chasescene" was on the radio while I was reading this. ft.com/content/688ed99c-fd5a-1

@joshmillard I've heard a couple people say that "You Are My Sunshine" is a pretty disturbing song about codependent obsessiveness, and they can't stand to listen to it.

I'm thinking, though, that most good love songs are like that to some lesser extent; the heat of passion (or oxytocin overload) isn't supposed to be rational, and that's usually the space where love songs are swarming around. So it's all down to judgement calls I guess.

@ardgedee Yeah, I think it's sort of an essential element of a lot of love songs that how you read professions of longing and need depends a whole lot on the assumed-or-not mutuality or social appropriateness of those professions. A love song and creepy obsession song may only be distinguished by our assumptions about the second party.

@Cyannin y'know I'm gonna say this is the strongest entrant so far in the pop canon

@joshmillard two contenders might be Leadbelly's pre-polishing version of Goodnight Irene and Dick Justice's mannered delivery of Henry Lee. I don't think there's a murder ballad with the same clout as that one.

One Week is just too full of Toronto in-jokes to find worrying.

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