Unfortunate Implications/Music

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Important Note: Just because a work has Unfortunate Implications does not mean the author was thinking of it that way. In fact, that's the point of it being unfortunate. So, please, no Justifying Edits about "what the authors really meant." The way an author handles a trope is an important factor here; handling a trope in a clumsy manner can certainly create unintentional impressions for readers. Likewise, if a work intends the offensive message (for example, a piece of Nazi propaganda about Jews), it wouldn't count. Also, for something that may not be offensive to you personally but may offend others in a different culture or time period, see Values Dissonance.


  • Justin Timberlake has a fallen into this a few times. (Mixed with some Karma Houdini!)
    • Black female singer Ciara's video Love Sex Magic displays her as a total sex object to him, a white man. This is especially unfortunate given the history of white male slave owners using their female slaves sexually.
    • There was also his ripping off Janet Jackson's cup at the Superbowl halftime show, especially when later stories about it ignored his role and made it sound like she disrobed herself, not to mention that it effectively ignored the fact that (had both of them not been in on it) what Justin did would be considered sexual assault. Not to mention that when he rips the bodice of Janet's outfit he says "Bet I'll have you naked by the end of this song" implying that he's going to get her naked by force rather than with his charm
    • The strip tease on his FutureSex/LoveSound show, it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The women were almost entirely naked.
    • He defamed Britney Spears after she broke up with him, describing how they had sex in public. To this day he still hasn't faced serious consequences for this.
  • This gem from "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley:

A full commitment's what I'm thinking of
You wouldn't get this from any other guy!

  • In short, it's all or nothing, baby. So much for "Never Gonna Give You Up"...
  • "Do They Know It's Christmas?", the song that effectively launched the Charity Motivation Song genre in 1984 in response to famine in Ethiopia, wears its heart on its sleeve and clearly has it in the right place... if you overlook the fact that many of the people whom it's exhorting the listener to wonder about whether they know it's Christmas either celebrate the holiday at a different time to the (presumably Western) listener or don't actually celebrate the holiday. The song was parodied by one of the GTA games with a name-drop of a song called "Do They Know It's the Fourth of July?"
    • South Park mercilessly lampooned it in a Christmas special, giving Mr. Garrison a song where he obscenity fueled, racist rant about how he travels the world to wish all the non-Christians a merry Christmas. It crosses the line about six times with lines such as "God is going to kick your ass you infidel pagan scum."
    • Chumbawamba needled organizer Bob Geldof perfectly with their first album "Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records."
    • The implication when, after they sing about how horrible those people have it, comes the line "Well, tonight thank God it's them instead of you"? Bono, who sang this lyric in the original version, grew to dislike it, but this didn't stop him reprising it for Band Aid 20 in 2004 (as he came to acknowledge, the brutal nature of the line is the point of it: most people listening to the song would not want to switch places with the starving famine victims).
    • There's also the line "there won't be snow in Africa." The better question is, does Africa want snow? As you know, Africa isn't exactly known for copious amounts of snowfall. Wouldn't it be bad for the ecosystem? Also, "Where nothing ever grows / No rain or rivers flow"?
    • Perhaps the biggest problem with the song is that the famine wasn't caused by drought or overpopulation -- it was caused by a Derg government which was forcibly resettling people and stealing the food.
    • Irreverent trivia game You Don't Know Jack suggested Africa pen a response song, "Don't They Know We're Muslims?"
  • The title and lyrics of the U.S. equivalent Charity Motivation Song, "We Are The World", can be read as being rather narcissistic in nature and tone (It's all about us!). The fact that most audiences have seen the song accompanied by images of well-coiffed, immaculately-dressed celebrities singing, or by images of celebrities smiling while answering the phone banks at a telethon just drives home an unintentional image of narcissism.
    • Producer Quincy Jones actually noted that they had to be careful not to sound like they were patting themselves on the back, which was how they were convinced to change the line There's a chance we're taking to There's a choice we're making. Unfortunately, the very next line -- "We're saving our own lives!" -- opens the song up to narcissistic interpretations again; it's not about helping the millions suffering from famine and despair, it's about helping ourselves through them!
    • Also, Bobby Gandolf (he hates that) came on the telly to tell us that it was "forever to his shame" that Prince didn't attend the "We Are the World" recording session. Yeah he really is a self-righteous prick. Prince fired back with the song "Hello"; SNL parodied the whole thing with Prince and his bodyguards busting in on the recording session with the song "I Am Also the World", One of the best SNL skits ever, BTW.
    • Summarized by Adam Hills: "In 1985, British and Irish musicians told us to feed the world. The same year, American musicians told us, 'We are the world'."
    • Years later co-writer/performer Michael Jackson wrote another song of this sort, "What More Can I Give". His premiere of it via an awards show in 2003 -- after a year-plus delay -- has the same narcissism issues, starting with the title; the segment linked to ends with Beyonce presenting him with a newly-created humanitarian award. Narcissism and the Charity Motivation Song often go hand in hand, as The Onion's A.V. Club Inventory "We Care a Lot" -- which discusses this song, "Do They Know It's Christmas?", and more obscure efforts -- doesn't hesitate to point out.
  • "The Christmas Shoes" is a heartwarming, tear-jerking song about a man who is reminded of the Christmas spirit by a little boy hurriedly buying a pair of shoes for his mother, so he can give them to her before she passes away. Then the singer says that he knows God sent the kid to teach him what Christmas is all about, meaning that God would kill a little boy's mother on Christmas Eve just so he could rub some guy's nose in it. Then there's those who were of the mind of what kind of father who let a kid go off by himself, and how the kid says that making sure mommy looks pretty for Jesus is more important then spending time with her in her last hours.
  • Another Christmas example: The duet "Baby, It's Cold Outside" involves a man trying to use a winter storm as an excuse to keep his date at his place. The woman notes that her family will worry about her and people will talk. As if the "sequestered woman" implications weren't bad enough, one line actually has her ask "Say, what's in this drink?" which was intended to mean the woman tasted alcohol, and the guy "loosening her inhibitions" which isn't much better than the modern interpretation of a date-rape drug. Date Rape Is Love, anyone?
  • Shakira:
    • Another example is a song, called Gypsy, filled with prejudice about, well, gypsies, and including the line "I might steal your clothes and wear them if they fit me".
    • Justified, sort of, in that the song was also recorded in Spanish, with a more sincere tone to the lyrics. The awkwardness of translation into English also caused "Suerte" to become the considerably more goofy-sounding "Whenever, Wherever".
    • Don't Bother" is about passive-aggressively telling her cheating boyfriend that she'll be fine. "She-Wolf" is about gleefully telling a boyfriend about how she's going to cheat on him, and how she deserves it because the relationship is unsatisfying.
  • Some people have pointed to unfortunate racial implications in the video for "Cupid's Chokehold" by Gym Class Heroes, which shows the singer having two unsuccessful relationships with black women (one of whom argues with him, the other cheats on him) before apparently settling down happily with a white girlfriend, portrayed by Katy Perry.
  • Michael Jackson's Ghosts was a 38-minute short film/music video from 1997, with a story serving as a metaphor for his 1993 child molestation scandal. Jackson's hero Maestro, a loner in a creepy Gothic mansion, is set upon by a Torches and Pitchforks mob when they learn he's been secretly sharing ghost stories with local boys. The Mayor (Jackson in heavy makeup) demands the "freak" leave; Maestro summons a troupe of ghouls to dazzle and terrify the crowd. This clip didn't get wide U.S. exposure until 2001 and hasn't been run again there since 2003 (when Jackson was once again accused of molestation). It doesn't even appear in full in the advertised-as-complete Michael Jackson's Vision DVD box set of his videos, because even Dead Artists Are Better can't overcome its ugly implications:
    • A black male adult in the mob (played by Mos Def) is an example of Uncle Tomfoolery. As The Agony Booth recap put it, "Never invite Urkel along on your lynching."
    • Maestro had the boys -- none of the kids are female! -- keep their meetings a secret, and one of them is berated by his older brother for letting the secret slip. We're probably meant to assume Maestro was worried about people being scared of him, since they freak out over ghost stories...but his antics are intended as a metaphor for activities that included intergenerational sleepovers. These are not the same thing!
    • The Mayor is an obese WASP stereotype (see Acceptable Targets), unlike the thin, black Maestro. The Maestro suffers from a bad case of Protagonist-Centered Morality; he possesses and tortures the Mayor to punish him for threatening to expel him from town, and later fakes his own suicide just to frighten him with his reappearance. Worst of all, he's commonly interpreted to be a caricature of Thomas Sneddon, the district attorney who tried to bring Jackson to trial -- apparently, people who try to investigate child molestation allegations are bigoted bullies who deserve to be mocked and tormented.
    • The townspeople accepting the Maestro, despite his imprisoning and emotionally manipulating them (especially with the fake suicide), carries a whiff of Stockholm Syndrome and Jerk Sue. They don't even try to help the Mayor when he's being tortured!
  • Another notorious example of Michael Jackson's work going wrong was "They Don't Care About Us", from 1995's HIStory. It's supposed to be a Protest Song, but is so vague about who "they" and "us" are that his use of anti-Semetic slurs in the second verse suspiciously stood out. He insisted he was speaking up for all oppressed people, but nevertheless rerecorded it for later pressings of the album and the single version.
  • The portrayal of women in music videos in general is just chock-full of unfortunate implications. There are way, way too many examples, but they're all shown in the Dreamworlds documentary and its sequels. Particularly disturbing is a clip near the end of Dreamworlds 3 when, in an unidentified rap video, a woman is kidnapped and made to dance for her attacker, in a set up that is portrayed as romantic.
  • Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" (and possibly the whole song). Taylor, with thick glasses, plays the dogged childhood friend longing to win the heart of another childhood friend. This friend is involved with a cheerleader also played by Taylor, though with a straight brown wig and lipstick. In the end, the nerdy girl character she plays does win her friend's heart, but only after ditching the glasses and putting on a white dress. And seeing her play both the Hollywood Nerd and the Cheerleader brings stalkeriffic implications that the guy can never be involved with anybody but her. Seriously, it feels even more stalkeriffic than The Police's "Every Breath You Take". It's implied that the guy likes her too, he just can't ditch his girlfriend, but it's still unfortunate.
    • Not to mention, she put on the white dress because she was going to the prom. Most people don't wear T-shirts and shorts to the prom (though ditching the glasses wasn't necessary).
    • The message of the song has also been summed up as "She wears short skirts / I wear t-shirts / she's a slut / and I'm a special snowflake" considering the implied Slut Shaming in the song towards the "other" girl. Not to mention what happens when you imagine how the song would sound if the genders were reversed.
  • The Ides of March song, "Vehicle". Peppy and upbeat with an awesome trombone part, it's pretty creepy if you listen to the lyrics. A sexy stranger in a black sedan wants you to hop inside his car? He's got candy? He'll take you places? He wants you, needs you, and (great God in Heaven) he loves you?
  • The rap bridge of the song "Eenie Meenie" by Justin Bieber and Sean Kingston. As Todd in the Shadows pointed out, the artists are basically saying that if a girl is being indecisive about who she wants to be with, then one should restrain her by her feet and refuse to release her until she screams enough for one's satisfaction.
  • Katy Perry's "California Gurls" (their spelling) felt the need to include the line "I wish they could all be California girls" (which itself is a reference to a Beach Boys song). Yep, all girls should totally hang out on the beach in Stripperific outfits and high heels (who the hell wears high heels to the beach of all places?), being ogled? If some girls are proud enough of their bodies to want to do that, more power to them, but apparently girls should all be exhibitionists now.
    • Another Katy Perry example is the video for "Last Friday Night". Binge drinking aside, it basically says that to get anyone to like her, the Hollywood Nerd had to pull a Beautiful All Along. Thanks for that, Katy. Even if it was supposed to be a parody of 80s movies which had similar stories, the parody falls a bit flat.
    • And then there's her alter ego Kathy Beth Terry stroking the abdomen of an unconscious jock and then later peeking into his underwear to check out his package. Technically, this is sexual assault as sleep negates consent.
    • Ur So Gay. (again, her spelling) All of it. And to a lesser extent, I Kissed A Girl.
    • "I Kissed A Girl" also plays into the L.U.G. (Lesbian Until Graduation) stereotype, also refers to the eponymous girl as "My experimental game" and the singer doesn't even bother to learn her name. Yowch.
  • The Florence + the Machine song 'Kiss With a Fist' can be taken one of two ways.
    • The violent one was the original intention, but that didn't stop the British press making lewd jokes about the other.
    • Their new No Light, No Light video has a voodoo person who happens to be black manipulating her white innocence with a voodoo doll while she get's rescued by a group of white young male boys in a choir. The racism implied in this video is immense. It gets even worse when you factor in that the Voodoo priest is played by an Asian man in dark body paint. They could have at least hired a Black guy to play the really racist Black stereotype. You just chalk it up as Blackface and leave it at that, but there's an even more unfortunate implication that it expands the axis of evil from just Black people to ANYBODY who isn't White.
  • The Britney Spears song Hit Me Baby One More Time can seem very much about domestic abuse when out of context. Word of God is that "Give me a sign, hit me baby one more time" means that she wants him to "hit" her with a sign that he still loves her.
    • Not to mentions "I'm A Slave For You."
  • Toby Keith's "Beer for my Horses". The song is about lynching, isn't it? Not to mention getting drunk, as well as getting a horse drunk.
  • P!nk's Stupid Girl video seems to imply at the end that a little girl who play with dolls and barbies is a stupid girl: the girl gets rid of the devilish apparition (who had been cheering on all the "stupid girl" things) by picking up a football, and the angelic one makes a triumphant gesture in response. Hear that, being a smart girl isn't about knowledge, curiosity, dedication to study, or intellectually challenging yourself; it is about being a rejecting traditionally girl associated things and becoming a tom girl. Let's see how well that attitude bridges the gender gap in science and engineering, shall we?
    • Another unfortunate aspect of the "Stupid Girls" video is the scene where P!nk and an extra are vomiting in the restroom with P!nk shouting "I WILL BE SKINNY!" It comes off as girls who suffer from Bulimia are stupid. Never mind that this is a very serious mental disorder that can affect anyone (yes even intelligent people).
    • "U and Ur Hand". The framing device is a book depicting the adventures of a character named Lady Delish.
      • First, Delish, repeatedly rolls her eyes in contempt at the man in the auto shop who dare to look at her with attraction. Not approach; just looking at her, an attractive woman, wearing a sexy outfit. This, it is implies, perfectly justifies her throwing a wrench at him.
      • Next scene: she beats up a punching bag with a drawing of a man on it, as a way of "draining her anger". This implies hatred of all men, not just any that actively angered her.
      • Then she goes to some sort of party, and sits on the balcony where faceless, shirtless men jump around more like apes in a dominance display than people actually dancing. No women are present. "All brawn, and no brain makes these guys too lame" declares the subtitles.
      • Then she goes to the garden to read a good book, but really "[searching] for a man who can parallel her interests". A guy on the next bench is apparently checking her out, but does nothing. The narrative says that "at least a book with substance isn't hard to find", with the inference that the guy who didn't hit on her when she wanted him to lacks "substance".
      • She then hangs out at the Governor's ball, and then gets angry at a man who spills her drink. because she threw her arm out without looking when he was walking by.
      • And finally, the song's title and lyrics all but state that a man that cannot attract women is somehow less of a man. "You know who you are," Pink snarks. "High fivin', talkin' shit[1], but you're going home alone, aren't ya?" She doesn't want his attention, but she'll gladly take--in fact, demand--his money, then mock him again.

Take your drink and gimme the money
It's just you and your hand tonight!

  • Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" music video has plenty of these, a great many of which get called out in the Literal Music Video parody of it.
    • The last line, "Who needs feminism?" only just begins to scratch the surface. Among other lessons viewers can pick up from it are:
    • Dress slutty to get your guy; girls who dress more conservatively are nerds and nobody really likes them anyway.
    • If your guy already has a girlfriend, harass and physically assault her to get her out of the way; she deserves to have her date with him wrecked because you're the heroine of this romantic "comedy" and she's in the way.
    • Other girls, be sure to go along with your Queen Bee on this; that nerdy rival for her chosen guy's affections deserves to be bullied and ostracized.
    • As for guys, if a slutty bimbo beats the crap out of your girlfriend and wrecks your date, your girlfriend really has no reason to be so upset about it. Act surprised and hurt when she gets mad at you for not sticking up for her.
    • Also, this thoroughly unjustifiable fit of rage from your nerdy girlfriend is the perfect excuse to dump her for the aggressive slut. What did you ever see in ol' what's-her-name, that goody-two-shoes, in the first place?
    • An aggressive slut is the best girlfriend for you because she puts out on the first date and, like all guys, you do all your thinking with your testicles. Now make out with her aggressively in gratitude for opening your eyes to this fact and ridding you of your former squeeze. You two deserve each other!
    • Also, the very confusing clash of two polar opposite "styles" - on one hand she portrays the (then in fashion) emo girl stereotype but in the performance scenes she portrays a more preppy/popular style complete with short shorts and long blonde hair. Ask any emo or prep in real life and, trust me, neither would be caught dead looking like the opposing stereotype. The video seems to be implying that it's OK to dress gothic or somewhat androgynous as long as, at some point, you appear stereotypically feminine and pretty.
  • Hilary Duff's song Gypsy Woman:
    • It has some big stereotypes about Roma people:

"That's how she works,
Her sick and twisted Gypsy curse."

    • And:

"She can rob you blind with just one look, from those eyes
Out of all the thieves that trained her, none of them could tame her."

    • It also paints all gypsy woman as being slutty and using men for their own ends. Another interpretation is that the singer is using "gypsy woman" as a euphemism for any temptress, and not really aware that Roma are real. Which, obviously, isn't better.
  • Gino Vanelli's "Wild Horses" is clearly meant to be the promise of a man refusing to abandon his lover, come hell or high water. But it's easy to interpret the lyrics as the rant of an obsessed ex-lover (or a date-raping Stalker with a Crush) refusing to listen when the woman says "Go away."
  • The Siouxsie and the Banshees single "Arabian Knights" is supposed to be about corrupt Arab Oil Sheikhs. It comes across as extremely Orientalist, and while saying Saudi Arabia is an extremely conservative place isn't entirely inaccurate, saying that all Arabian women are just fucktoys/breeding machines and all Arabian men degenerate pedophile careens straight through offensive and firmly into racist territory.
  • United Kingdom's performance in the 2011 ESC Was made by the boy bland Blue, which has three white members and one black. On stage, three of them were dolled up in what looked like elaborate tuxes, while one of them was wearing nothing but a vest that vaguely resembled one of those tuxes with the sleeves ripped off. You may guess which one...
  • Rap and hip-hop culture have been criticized, on both casual and academic levels, for promoting misogyny, distrust or outright hate for the police, glorifying criminal culture, and a few dozen other things.
  • The greater war (Fandom Rivalry) which is always going on between two artists, always female. Lady Gaga versus Britney Spears, Britney Spears Versus Christina Aguilera, Rihanna Vs Gaga, Gaga Vs Kesha...meanwhile you can love Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake at the same time easily. (Within Pop). (Cannot speak for any other music world)
  • Craig Morgan's International Harvester opens with the line "I'm the son of a third generation farmer, I've been married ten years to the farmer's daughter", which serves as an excellent opportunity to teach listeners about the proper use of articles: the way it's written, the singer has been married ten years to his own sister, with whom he apparently has two sons as later stated in the song. So he and his wife are married siblings, and his sons are inbred. All this, on top of the song's actual meaning, which is that the singer is so pleased with himself for being a good ol' boy that he doesn't care what an inconvenience he is to the three mile's worth of traffic jam he's causing by driving a combine harvester on a highway. Some Southerners believe this song promotes negative stereotypes.
  • Beyonces "If I Were A Boy" basically boils down to "Men can't love or understand women" and "Being a man is all cake and cupcakes." Several other songs by her have the same basic message, something Todd in the Shadows take special issue with since no one seems to call her out on her misandry.
  • Destinys Child in "Independent Women 2" encourages financially independent women to behave like the stereotypical asshole men they spend half their other songs complaining about.
  • It's difficult to listen to Queen's "One Vision" without being reminded of Nazi Germany's motto "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer" (One People, One Empire, One Leader).
    • That's the point. The band have been explicit in stating that "One Vision" is about Fascism.
  • The music video for Christina Aguilera's "Can't Hold Us Down" has a random guy grabbing Christina's ass as she walks by in the street. She is pissed off and then rallies all the women in the street to spray all the men in the street with a hose. So punishing all men for what one jerk does is fine is it? Also a double unfortunate implication that Christina is the only white person in the video making it seem like she's commanding the other black women.
  1. It is not said that they were speaking poorly of women, or doing anything other than having fun in Delish's presence.