A list of the “Top 100 Science Fiction-Themed Songs” was released by io9 this week. I love lists like this and the discussion that they provoke.
It takes a lot of time to browse through all 100, but there are some trends and ideas I’m pondering:
- It looks like some old stand-bys are being replaced by new stand-bys. Two songs apiece for Janelle Monae (yeah!) and Modest Mouse (kinda yeah!), but nothing from Queensryche or Hawkwind. The aging fanbase factors here, but it seems like all fans–young or old–tend to over-rely on individual artists in these lists rather than picking a wide breadth.
- Surf rock gets props, despite lack of lyrics. The Ventures’ “Telstar” ranks highly, seemingly representing all their ilk. Man or Astroman? get a nod as well. Good for io9!
- Satirical and humorous songs are underrated on the list. No “Flying Saucer Rock and Roll.” No Tom Lehrer. Not a “Purple People Eater” in sight. Novelty songs–arguably harder to write than imagistic, atmospheric stuff that doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny–still don’t get their due.
- If we’re going to include imagistic stuff, why stop at great–but marginally SF–tracks by famous artists? It’s cool to see the Beatles’ “Across the Universe” at #3, but it’s a stretch. Robyn Hitchcock and Guided by Voices’ Robert Pollard have made careers out of mining F & SF’s weirder imagery. Surely we can bump a prog rocker or three off the list to consider them.
- Where’s Jonathan? Any list of great SF songs without something by Jonathan Richman is dubious, no matter how awesome the other songs may be.
Those are my preliminary thoughts. Again, I admire the heck out of i09 for creating lists like this, knowing that they’ll take flak for it but doing it anyway. It keeps the discussion vibrant. A couple of videos below: