I'm talking about things like the Pogues "Fairy Tale of New York", an upbeat song with bitter lyrics like

Happy Christmas your arse / I pray God it's our last

Is there a technical term or collective name for songs where the emotion indicated by the music is at odds with the emotion indicated by the lyrics?

  • 3
    This might be better over on english.stackexchange.com Flagged for migration
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 14:21
  • I think this is on-topic but you would probably do well to ask it on English. If you do, just let me know and we'll close this version.
    – user28
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 15:33
  • Although it is English language, this is very specific to musical terms, and it is likely to be more experts on this here on Music than on English.
    – awe
    Commented Nov 24, 2011 at 12:30

3 Answers 3


Lyrical dissonance or agathocacological

  • Good answer. A minor technical point on spelling - i.e., agathokakological . I only know this because I had to look up the definition.
    – gamma
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 18:38

There may be a term specific to the realm of music that I'm not aware of. Barring that, the first term that comes to mind is incongruous. It refers to a lack of consistency or harmony.

You could use the same word to describe a man wearing sweat pants to a black tie affair, or the sight of chicken fingers on a fancy French menu.

  • 1
    Les doigts de poulet! Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 8:50

I think ironic would be appropriate; perhaps qualified "musically ironic"?

In standard music terminology, perhaps "scherzando" (It. in a jesting manner)?

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