So I was sitting here thinking about ukulele music, which for some reason made me think about Kraftwerk (my musical universe is a strange and twisty place). And then I realized I’ve never written about songs about robots that also feature vocal manipulation and a strong synth-pop flavor.
Here’s the Kraftwerk song. This was when synths were becoming much more popular, but didn’t have the sophistication of today’s models. It was very difficult to create something that didn’t sound like it was made by a machine, so it was easy to match the mechanization of music with a song about the mechanization of human beings.
I adore Arling and Cameron. They’re terrific composers who are also really imaginative. Here they have a much less cold and mechanized robot. In fact, he’s feeling very bad. Why? The female human is totally unimpressed by him – even his bleeps and bloops.
(FYI, the Lemonheads covered this, featuring Kate Moss as the unimpressed human.)
And we turn to totalitarian robotic overlords with Styx. This is part of a theme album, so there’s an overarching storyline going on here. Based on the video, I think the song is mostly about evil henchmen and artsy lighting.
At the end, Dennis DeYoung wraps it all up with the line “The problem’s plain to see/Too much technology.” Of course, the kind of dystopian future Styx sings about would have much more complex, socioeconomic causes, but that doesn’t sound good in a song.
As we move into the future and AI learns to write increasingly sophisticated songs, I’m curious to see what kind of synth-pop songs the robots will write about us humans.