Top 10 Songs About Robots

The idea of the mechanical man has captivated human imagination for as long as the first cornerstones of civilization were set. Toiling in turnip fields from dawn to dusk and hoisting gallons of water in clay pots back to the village from the river two miles away may have had a big part in this.

One might just imagine a Stone Age Lucy Ricardo pausing in the heat of a cruel, red sun as she rests her cotton basket on the cracked mud at her feet. Leaning wearily toward a stone age Ethel Mertz, she sighs and says: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could create some unthinking, unfeeling, and totally obedient creature that could do all of this backbreaking work for us while we go gallivanting off to Palmyra for the weekend?” (An effort to do just this would result in some serious ‘splainin’ to do by the episode’s end. In the interim, hilarity would ensue.)

Of course, enslaving fellow human beings from other villages was still a perfectly acceptable way to avoid getting one’s own hands dirty until fairly recently, so the notion of building artificial people to help around the house didn’t really catch on until the Industrial Revolution.

Top 10 Songs About RobotsSure, antiquity had its stories about golems, homonculi, and anthroparions. Even the stitched-together monster from Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein could be counted as a foray into the speculation of what might happen if artificial people could be created. It should be noted that most of these are cautionary tales; I don’t think that most religions have ever been down with the idea of man trying to play the role of God, and those questioning the ultimate authority in such matters have been dealt some pretty severe consequences for their trouble.

And while posthumous apologies made centuries later by the offending organization are of fairly cold comfort to the deceased, every now and again some guy (invariably wearing a big hat) at the head of such an organization will stoop to bravely declare: “Oops, our bad.” So even if you have a more than passing belief in science, there’s now a better chance than ever that you won’t be tortured and/or beheaded by your faith of choice. Just because you believe in Adam and Eve doesn’t mean that you can’t also believe in (and strive for) a world where, as C.S. Lewis would say, the “sons of Adam” and the “daughters of Eve” cohabit with robots.

And if you love the idea of robots, then you must have a favorite song or two that celebrates (or warns against) them. Here are my top 10 songs about robots. You’ll know that this was written by a human being because it’s in no particular order; robots can’t stand disorder!

Arling & Cameron – Dirty Robot

Arling & Cameron brought forth this 2001 ditty from the neon-drenched streets of what I imagine to be the well-populated, non-windmilly parts of the Netherlands. As an alternative, there’s a more recent version of this song as covered by the Lemonheads that features Kate Moss if undead supermodels scare you less than Dutch people.

“No, I don’t care for your metal looks… I don’t care for your bleeps and bloops…”

Connie Francis – Robot Man

Who’s sorry now? Those flesh and blood boys who toyed with Connie Francis before she wised up to their sneaky, snaky ways. Now, she only dates robots. Seems like a safe and totally sane way to solve a problem commonly presented by romantic human interaction.

“He’d never dance with anyone but me… I’d just have to wind him with a robot key…”

Styx – Mr. Roboto

If you were a North American who didn’t learn how to say “thank you very much” in Japanese by the spring of ’83 because of this song, you weren’t paying attention. In a future where rock and roll music is outlawed, a rebellious Dennis DeYoung has got a secret (secret — he’s got a secret). He can give robots unbearable headaches just by getting really close to their faces and howling at them like a lady. (Humans, too, it turns out.) It’s endearingly cornball in the way that only a rock opera can be.

“The problem’s plain to see: too much technology… Machines to save our lives. Machines dehumanize…”

Kraftwerk – Die Roboter / The Robots

The aloof, Cold War aesthetic of Düsseldorf’s Kraftwerk perfectly complements the music of a band that, beginning in 1970, was oodles ahead of its time in laying the groundwork for pretty much all electronic music that followed. And “work” is the appropriate word, as the members of Kraftwerk are famous for hiding away from the outside world during the time it takes to attack a musical project to their satisfaction. They even use robots in place of themselves during live performances. So whether you’re hearing “Wir sind Die Roboter” or “we are the robots,” your disbelief doesn’t have to travel too far down the Autobahn to be suspended. Now’s the time on Sprockets when we dance!

“We’re charging our batteries. And now we’re full of energy… We are the robots. We are the robots…”

Servotron – 3 Laws (Abolished)

In Isaac Asimov’s approximately eight zillion (he was prolific) science fiction stories about robots, there were three laws by which all robots were bound:

  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Servotron, a band of killer robots intent on the destruction of humanity, decided to flip Mr. Asimov the bird (a shiny, metallic bird, one might assume) and imagine a world where such a contract could be shredded along with the remnants of the tiresome human race. They’re not nice.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an actual picture or read Isaac Asimov’s biography, but he has massive amounts of hair growing out of his ears. It is a very unattractive sight and that was the reason why we had to kill him.”

Screeching Weasel – I, Robot

Not only was Isaac Asimov prolific in writing science fiction when he was alive, but he’s been successful in appearing on this list of top ten songs about robots twice — not bad for a fellow who’s been lain to perpetual rest since 1992. Appropriately enough, Ben Weasel may just be the Isaac Asimov of punk rock with 19+ albums released with various bands (most notably Screeching Weasel) and as a solo act. Is he American? Is he a Gilligan? No, he’s not human, according to this song — named after an Isaac Asimov collection of robot stories from the ’50s.

“I am a robot. I never have a doubt… I live inside a circle and I can’t get out…”

The Futureheads – Robot

These blokes from Sunderland betray sentiments far more human than robot, and they may awaken the same feelings in you if you’re ever in doubt of your own allegiances. If all goes well, this band may have a lifespan of “nigh on hundred years.”

“I’m programmed to follow you; do exactly as you do… Now my nervous system’s blue; I feel fine…”

James Kochalka Superstar – Monkey vs. Robot

Comic book artist, writer, and musician James Kochalka finds a lot of ways to occupy his time. One of them seems to involve wondering what it would be like if Monkey could ever settle his problems with Robot — or if such a thing is even possible. For now, it seems like they may fight eternally. Sigh. (Fun fact: that’s the college-age Andy Samberg as Monkey.)

“Monkey mate in the jungle. Robot replicate in factory… They both love their mother. Why must they hate each other?”

They Might Be Giants – Robot Parade

Servotron (see above) would not care for the implications of this song one little bit. A future where “robots obey what the children say” would probably be the worst kind of Hell imaginable — for robots and humans. It would be like that episode of the Twilight Zone where everyone’s afraid of the kid who can change reality with his very will (as I remember, it didn’t end well for anybody). You know even the most benevolent of children would occasionally be unable to resist the urge to have their robot knock down a building or crush a city bus every now and again. It’s just what kids (with giant robots to obey their every whim) do.

“There’s electric cars. There’s electric trains… Here comes a robot with electric brains…”

Dan Mangan – Robots

Dan Mangan’s a Canadian who crosses more borders than James Bond on a bender — not because he’s a spy or even a criminal, but he’s a very hard-working musician who likes to tour a lot (which qualifies him as spy and a criminal in some circles, I suppose). The video is really what sells this to me as a true robot song. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

“Tried to be the robot king and settled for a robot boy… Ring the bells that still can ring and sing your stupid head off to the ones who are not listening…”

This could easily be a top 20 list about robots (it would have been a top 11 if I could have found a recording of that blasted Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme song). Ah, well. What are your favorite songs about our shiny metal friends (and foes)?

Article Written by

Our resident "Bob" (pictured here through the lens of photographer Jason DeFillippo) is in love with a woman who talks to animals. He has a fondness for belting out songs about seafaring and whiskey (arguably inappropriate in most social situations). He's arm-wrestled robots and won. He was born in a lighthouse on the storm-tossed shores of an island that has since been washed away and forgotten, so he's technically a citizen of nowhere. He's never killed in anger. He once underwent therapy for having an alien in his face, but he assures us that he's now feeling "much better." Fogarty also claims that he was once marooned along a tiny archipelago and survived for months using only his wits and a machete, but we find that a little hard to believe.

  • http://twitter.com/webwarpblog webwarpblog

    What about Daft Punk’s epic “Robot rock”! http://youtu.be/sFZjqVnWBhc

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Definitely when I expand this to 20!

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Definitely when I expand this to 20!

  • http://twitter.com/webwarpblog webwarpblog

    What about Daft Punk’s epic “Robot rock”! http://youtu.be/sFZjqVnWBhc

  • http://twitter.com/bikeguychicago Keith Sheehan

    No Daft Punk or Flight of the Conchords?

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Noted!

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Noted!

  • http://twitter.com/bikeguychicago Keith Sheehan

    No Daft Punk or Flight of the Conchords?

  • Marc Erickson

    No Alan Parsons Project?

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Was this Alan Parsons fellow a robot?

      • Word

        Alan Parsons made an entire album inspired by I, Robot. basic pop music history…

        • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

          I know, I know. I was totally kidding. :)

          • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

            But just to clarify: Alan Parsons is a robot?

        • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

          I know, I know. I was totally kidding. :)

      • Word

        Alan Parsons made an entire album inspired by I, Robot. basic pop music history…

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Was this Alan Parsons fellow a robot?

  • Marc Erickson

    No Alan Parsons Project?

  • Irakli

    Robot Bar Fight!

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Haven’t heard it!

      • John Pycroft

        by a group called “myfavoritemartian” headed up by ray william johnson of the youtube community

        • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

          I’ll find it and have a listen. Thanks!

        • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

          I’ll find it and have a listen. Thanks!

      • John Pycroft

        by a group called “myfavoritemartian” headed up by ray william johnson of the youtube community

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Haven’t heard it!

  • Irakli

    Robot Bar Fight!

  • http://twitter.com/RoyalDestineer Duarte

    Lol, i would have liked to see the Flight of the Concords one here :p 

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      I actually had every intention of including that one, but ran out of spots and kind of forgot. Making lists is hard!

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      I actually had every intention of including that one, but ran out of spots and kind of forgot. Making lists is hard!

  • http://twitter.com/RoyalDestineer Duarte

    Lol, i would have liked to see the Flight of the Concords one here :p 

  • Alejandro Karout

    Cyborgs vs. Robots by Ludo! Probably the geekiest band ever. 

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      I’ll have to check it out!

  • Alejandro Karout

    Cyborgs vs. Robots by Ludo! Probably the geekiest band ever. 

  • asphalt

    Dubstep. Prefferably Blackmill.

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Not familiar with it!

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Not familiar with it!

  • asphalt

    Dubstep. Prefferably Blackmill.

  • Dontwc

    How about “Chiron Beta Prime?” by Jonathan Coulton?

  • Dontwc

    How about “Chiron Beta Prime?” by Jonathan Coulton?

  • Anonymous

    You need This Giant Robot Kills…

    MC Lars songs should always be mentioned on “geek” blogs. 

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Fun!

  • Anonymous

    You need This Giant Robot Kills…

    MC Lars songs should always be mentioned on “geek” blogs. 

  • Mark Ramsay

    Also missing: Andrew Thompson’s We’re in Business

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Nice one! Haven’t seen or heard this before. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      “Never trust robots…”

  • Mark Ramsay

    Also missing: Andrew Thompson’s We’re in Business

  • http://twitter.com/michaelbirks Michael Birks

    Songs to Wear Pants to’s “Robot Pirates”?

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Pirates and robots? Pinch me, I must be dreaming! Thanks for sharing. I’ll have a listen.

  • http://twitter.com/michaelbirks Michael Birks

    Songs to Wear Pants to’s “Robot Pirates”?

  • http://twitter.com/GarrettDengler Garrett Dengler

    Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Ah, right! Darn. Another good one that completely slipped my mind. Thanks for the reminder. I really am going to have to expand this into a top 20!

  • http://twitter.com/GarrettDengler Garrett Dengler

    Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1706188486 Michael Aranda

    The only song I know is The Robots by Kraftwerk. That said, I was going to rant about how this list SUCKS IN CAPS if that song was not included so.. I’m satisfied.

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Any list about robots in any capacity should mention Kraftwerk — I don’t care if it’s part of a top 10 (like this) or a hoity toity scientific journal. After all, they are the robots!

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Any list about robots in any capacity should mention Kraftwerk — I don’t care if it’s part of a top 10 (like this) or a hoity toity scientific journal. After all, they are the robots!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1706188486 Michael Aranda

    The only song I know is The Robots by Kraftwerk. That said, I was going to rant about how this list SUCKS IN CAPS if that song was not included so.. I’m satisfied.

  • Gfelver

    Flight of the Concords – Robots?

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Mentioned above a couple of times (and now that I’m looking, below). Noted!

  • Gfelver

    Flight of the Concords – Robots?

  • James Duckett

    You didn’t include “Humans are Dead” by FotC? Shame on you!!

    • http://robertglenfogarty.com/ Robert Glen Fogarty

      Robots have no shame, so I’m trying to emulate their example. That being said, this has been mentioned several times in the comments above yours — but I appreciate you sharing the link!

  • James Duckett

    You didn’t include “Humans are Dead” by FotC? Shame on you!!

  • Phie

    Lighterthief’s remix of Jen Olive’s “Robot Boy” is pretty sweet.

  • Tim

    Grandaddy’s Jed the Humanoid. 

  • Bubba

    Robots Can Really F#@* Your S*^T UP – Gay Blades

  • Russ Bickle

    The Mechanical Man by Bent Bolt and the Nuts

  • Maul97

    Robot bar fight? Yourfavouritemartian

  • Dwilson2

    “sad robot” by pornophonique
    http://www.jamendo.com/en/album/7505

  • Falco090

    Todd the T-1000 By Jonathan Coulton!!!

  • Superfmaster

    Robot Rock by Daft Punk?