Like olives and white chocolate, sometimes strange-sounding combinations actually work great together. Nowhere is this more apparent than in TV and film scenes where the soundtrack is completely at odds with the action.
The best example of this sort of thing is probably the scene from Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" where Michael Madsen cuts the ear off a police officer. Throughout the whole scene where the officer is being tortured, the "Dylanesque, pop, bubble-gum favorite" song "Stuck in the Middle with You" by Stealers Wheel is playing in the background.
When it comes to TV moments that feature this strange juxtaposition of sound and action, the following shows are some of the most memorable.
"Breaking Bad," Wendy's montage
Wendy the hooker is one of the saddest, most strung-out characters on the show. Seen mostly hanging out at seedy motels and getting high, one particularly great Wendy sequence took place in the episode "Half Measures."
The episode opens with a montage of Wendy servicing customers and exchanging cheeseburgers for meth. This bleak montage is set to the bouncy, 1960's pop song "Windy" by The Association. The juxtaposition of upbeat music and depressing visuals shouldn't have worked, but it is one scene that fans of the show can't stop talking about.
In a later season, the episode "Gliding Over All" features scenes of brutal prison murder set to the dulcet tones of Nat King Cole's "Pick Yourself Up."
"Nip/Tuck," The Carver strikes
Was there any montage quite as jarring as the final few minutes of "Nip/Tuck" Season 2? While the saccharine Art Garfunkel ballad "All I Know" plays in the background, Sean plans to murder The Carver. Meanwhile, Christian is brutally attacked by The Carver (a known rapist). Seeing Christian attacked while Art Garfunkel sings "I love you, and that's all I know" was one of the most memorable TV moments of 2004.
"The Good Wife," Mr. And Mrs. Florrick go to bed
Not every instance of "soundtrack dissonance" has to include music. For example, the second season of "The Good Wife" features a bedroom scene between Alicia and Peter. What's playing in the background? Not music, but rather an episode of NPR's "Wait Wait…Don't Tell Me!"
"ER," Bad vibrations
The Beach Boys have a classic hit called "Good Vibrations." It's so peppy and catchy that it's hard for the song not to put a smile on a person's face. But in the ninth season episode "A Thousand Cranes," Chen and Kovac hear the song playing in a diner where three people have just been killed.