Whether it be rock or rap, metal or country, no genre of music has been left untouched by the influence of science fiction. Here are the 100 greatest songs about science fiction.
A couple of years ago we presented the top 100 essential albums for science fiction fans. Now it's time to turn our attention to the songs themselves.
It may sound like the slogan for the Olympic Games, but this could easily double as the transhumanist theme song. The single was released in 2001.
Our favorite prog rockers tell the story of an explorer who investigates a mysterious black hole, Cygnus X-1. But as he draws nearer it becomes increasingly difficult to control the ship. Eventually he gets sucked in, his final words being, "Sound and fury drown my heart/Every nerve is torn apart." The track appeared on Farewell to Kings (1977).
Timberlake takes us on a ride through the Milky Way on his spaceship coupe.
As featured in the 1980 film, Flash Gordon.
The story of man who just can't pull himself away from his computer. From 1981.
This track about the end of the world features John Lyden from the Sex Pistols. It was released in 1985.
Basically a William Gibson fan song. The track features the guitar playing of the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia.
Which is why you should bring a long book. From their 1996 album, This is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About.
She's the only rocketeer in the whole damn place
They gave her a mirror so she could talk to a face
She still got plenty lonely but that's just the case
With time, time, time
From her 1986 album The Whole Story, this song is about a secret military plan to create a sound that is horrific enough to kill people. The outcome is unclear, but the video shows the death of every person working on the project by the sound — a sound that's personified by Kate Bush herself.
Vocalist Russell Allen says it's about "The idea of machines taking over everything, and all this technology we put our society into pretty much being our demise." The track appears on their 2011 album, Iconoclast.
Just listen to that awesome intro. Now imagine listening to the whole track while travelling through interstellar space in overdrive.
Written by Gary Numan, the song was influenced by J.G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick. It tells the story of a futuristic park in which Machmen (androids with human skin) and machines rape and kill human beings to entertain spectators who, along with their numerically-named robotic "friends," view the carnage from a nearby club.
In this classic track from 1981, experimental performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson questions the 'Superman', or übermensch, along with the might of humanity, or the power of the West. Her vocoder-fueled voice alludes to several human enhancements such as telephones, answering machines and aeroplanes. The minimalist piece unexpectedly rose to #2 on the UK Singles Charts.
These two got together in 2011 to do a song about aliens.
Made famous by virtue of its appearance in Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Gorgeous and absolutely goose-bump inducing.
From 1972, this track was inspired while band members were surveying the deserted landscape of the airfield where they were rehearsing, and they wondered what an empty Earth would look like in this state is surveyed by an alien visitor. The lyrics were also influenced by the Arthur C. Clarke novel Childhood's End.
From the band's 2009 album, Crack the Skye, "Oblivion" chronicles the adventure of a paralyzed person capable of astral travels and out of body experiences — only to get sucked into a wormhole.
We have reached our first destination: the black hole in the Virgo cluster of galaxies B ut what will we find inside? Its power is immeasurable. Our hopes and fears intermingle as we stand at the event horizon. Will its doorway transport us to our faraway planet Earth, or will its fury mercilessly tear us apart?
Robert Bidder put it this way:
Devo have been described as a gonzoid American outfit cut from the Kraftwerk template. Although there are some similarities (the wearing of uniforms, the use of electronic instruments, and a cerebral, philosophical approach), they are a very different animal indeed. They are not as dedicated to the cause of man-machine as Kraftwerk but songs such as "Mechanical Man" and "Smart Patrol/Mr DNA" use the idea of the cyborg to illustrate their theories about the current de-evolution of humanity. Here in the "Freedom Of Choice" video, we are faced with a future robotoid Devo who have evolved into hairless, floating beings that use Ancient Rome, skateboarding youths and doughnuts to highlight the pitfalls of consumerism.
The memorable song sung by GLaDOS from the closing credits of the 2007 video game, Portal. You can hear Coulton perform the song on an acoustic guitar here.
Mmmm, Japanese technocolor pogo punk. This frenetic track came out in 2005.
Progressive cyberpunk metal from Voivod's 1988 album Dimension Hatross, a concept album following the exploits of the band's mascot cyborg Korgull. This track is a fan favorite.
The ArchAndroid is desperate to get back to Wondaland — a place where she can dance in the trees and listen to droids make music.
Trent Reznor's side project, How to Destroy Angels, tackles the nightmarish prospect of a self-improving artificial superintelligence.
An 80s American post-punk band gets all paranoid.
Ready to take a trip?
From Master of Reality (1971). It's Sabbath at their very best.
Rocket engines burning fuel so fast
Up into the night sky they blast
Through the universe the engines whine
Could it be the end of man and time?
Back on earth the flame of life burns low
Everywhere is misery and woe
Pollution kills the air, the land and sea
Man prepares to meet his destiny, yeah
Schilling's tribute to David Bowie's "A Space Oddity."
Dude falls in love with a girl from Mars, and strangely, stays up late playing cards.
The 80s heavy metal band's tribute to Judge Dredd.
BBC referred to this song as a cross between a Broadway musical and a Salvidore Dali painting — and they weren't exactly wrong.
Metallica gets all existential on this classic metal track from 1991, wondering where science will take us.
All that is, was and will be
Universe much too big to see...
...In the dark, see past our eyes
Pursuit of truth no matter where it lies
Brit pop outfit Super Furry Animals dream about turning the Earth into Saturn II and hanging out with Tetsuo II.
1970s classic rock goes to the Martian Astrobowl.
It's a giant leap for Rock'n'Roll...but it's too much for just one man
I'm a Spaceship Superstar... gotta solar-powered laser beam guitar
I'm at the top of all the charts on Mars...I'm a Spaceship Superstar!
Let's tiptoe to the sun and do thangs I know you like. Baby, you are the prototype.
Olias of Sunhillow (1976) was the first solo album put out by Yes lead singer Jon Anderson. The album tells the story of an alien civilization and their journey to a new world due to a volcanic catastrophe. The album's fifth track, "Flight of the Moorglade," is the album's standout track and one of Anderson's best compositions as a solo artist.
From the EP Moon Colony Bloodbath, the song is about organ harvesting colonies on the moon and the employees thereof, who spend their off-months living in secluded opulence in remote American locations.
Good times on Space Station #5 — especially with those glorious Who-like guitars.
This track appeared on the band's 2008 album, Day & Age.
It started with a low light,
Next thing I knew they ripped me from my bed
And then they took my blood type,
It left a strange impression in my head.
You know that I was hoping,
That I could leave this star-crossed world behind
You know, zombies. But from space.
This folk-like Brian May-written song is about an astronaut who travels to a distant location at nearly the speed of light. Because of the time dilation that takes place at these relativistic speeds, he and his crew return home a hundred years later. He has aged only a year but sadly finds that his wife has long passed away and that he is about the same age as his grandchildren, with everyone he knew before being dead for many years.
A dream about the end of times, with a video based on David Foster Wallace's apocalyptic game Eschaton from Infinite Jest.
A stellar track from the band's 1966 album, Fifth Dimension, about a longing for an alien intervention.
Hey Mr. Spaceman, won't you please take me along
I won't do anything wrong
Hey Mr. Spaceman, won't you please take me along
For a ride
Bjork offers a strange explanation for the formation of the Universe.
Sounds like Sufjan Stevens had a weird night in Illinois.
A rare journey to deep space by the iconic British rockers.
This classic track from Moving Pictures (1981) describes a future in which many classes of vehicles have been prohibited by "the Motor Law." But that doesn't stop our hero from restoring his uncle's red barchetta. The song was inspired by the futuristic short story "A Nice Morning Drive", by Richard Foster and published in the November 1973 issue of Road and Track magazine.
Aliens came to visit, but they couldn't care to stay.
Two little men in a flying saucer flew down to Earth one day
Looked to left and right of it, couldn't stand the sight of it and said let's fly away
Fantastic track from the 2005 album, Human After All.
Buy it, use it, break it, fix it,
Trash it, change it, mail - upgrade it,
Charge it, point it, zoom it, press it,
Snap it, work it, quick - erase it,
Write it, cut it, paste it, save it,
Load it, check it, quick - rewrite it,
Plug it, play it, burn it, rip it,
Drag and drop it, zip - unzip it,
Lock it, fill it, call it, find it,
View it, code it, jam - unlock it,
Surf it, scroll it, pause it, click it,
Cross it, crack it, switch - update it,
Name it, rate it, tune it, print it,
Scan it, send it, fax - rename it,
Touch it, bring it, pay it, watch it,
Turn it, leave it, start - format it.
Funky atomic monsters attack from the ocean depths, but they just want to be our toys.
Pure heavy metal bliss from the ancient days of immortality. From the band's 2013 album, Life Sentence.
There would come a great flood such as the world had never seen
There was pandemonium in the cities and streets the whole world around
Men, women, and children were crushed in the race for higher ground
Fly together holy men and kings
Fly Godspeed on golden wings
But holy men and kings would die
In the year Twenty Twenty Five
Visited by myriads of silver dics — here comes the flashover.
The over mind
Has signaled another lift
Dimensions of time have come undone
Now we have become so unalone
Migration, space, extensions, differences
Information increases becoming
What the mystery is
The ravings of a mastermind.
First we coerce your brain patterns
Collaborate with time-consumin' re-programin'
I apply the flow cannon, the combo so slamming
Atomically reconstruct the old canvas
His logic impress, a hypnotic effect
Ya latin patent you could call it a gift
Man he all in the mix nuclear physicist
Geneticlly taylored every bit of this stimulus
Music to write your astronomy dissertation to. Electronic music from the 1976 album, Albedo 0.39.
Oh my god those GUITARS!!
I'm gonna send him to outer space to find another race.
The ongoing adventures of Ziltoid the Omniscient, an extraterrestrial being from the planet Ziltoidia 9 who travels to Earth in search of "your universe's ultimate cup of coffee." Sadly, after declaring Earth's coffee to be "fetid," he summons the Ziltoidian warlords to attack Earth, facing the full might of Earth's army.
From the scifi-themed album, Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness. The song tells of the hostility in The Writer and Miss Erica Court's relationship in the story of Coheed and Cambria.
Iron Maiden went all futuristic in 1986 with their album, Somewhere in Time. The title track chronicles the travails of a time traveler.
The virtual band likens unrequited love to barren, dead planets.
Great track from 1993 describing how how we'll make great pets to our alien overlords.
Will there be another race
To come along and take over for us?
Maybe Martians could do
Better than we've done
We'll make great pets, we'll make great pets
A song about controlling the weather? Yes please.
This track appeared on the 1975 album of the same name.
Well, all right, Starchild
Citizens of the universe, recording angels
We have returned to claim the pyramids
Partying on the mothership
I am the mothership connection
C'mon, you know you love it.
Me. The chosen one? They chose me!!! And I didn't even graduate from fuckin' highschool.
Composed in 1976, this pioneering electronic music sounded like it came from the future — and from the depths of space.
This track was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks in 1969. The lyrics offer disturbing predictions, starting in 2525. In the year 9595 for example,
I'm kinda wonderin' if Man is gonna be alive / He's taken everything this old Earth can give, and he ain't put back nothin'...
A track from Pink Floyd's 1968 album, A Saucerful of Secrets.
Little by little the night turns around
Counting the leaves which tremble at dawn
Lotuses lean on each other in yearning
Under the eaves the swallow is resting
Set the controls for the heart of the sun
This is the only country song to make the list, but it's a good one. Written by Jimmy Webb, it's about a soul with incarnations in four different places in time and history, a highwayman, a sailor, a construction worker on the Hoover Dam, and finally as a starship captain. The song was made famous by the Highwaymen, a country supergroup consisting of Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
Dr. Funkensein, yeah, he'll funk with your mind...
It's time to go space truckin' 'round the stars. Come on!
This riff will be stuck in your head for days. Cool fact: Edgar Winter was the first guy to wear a synth like a guitar.
Guitar rock goes to space in this classic 1962 track.
Taken from the 2007 album Year Zero, this is Trent Reznor's stab at dystopian futurism.
He took it all too far, but boy could he play guitar.
Dōmo arigatō, Mr. Roboto.
An epic 18-minute journey by Canadian cyberpunk metal outfit Voivod chronicling the adventures of Jack Luminous as he warns his people about the evils of President X-D.
An homage to Ray Kurzweil's Age of Spiritual Machines — a future in which humans merge with their technological artifacts.
...Possibly I've seen too much, Hanger 18, I know too much...
The 3rd Planet is sure that they're being watched by an eye in the sky that can't be stopped.
Klaatu bandmember John Woloschuk had this to say about the track:
The idea for this track was suggested by an actual event that is described in The Flying Saucer Reader, a book by Jay David published in 1967. In March 1953 an organization known as the "International Flying Saucer Bureau" sent a bulletin to all its members urging them to participate in an experiment termed "World Contact Day" whereby, at a predetermined date and time, they would attempt to collectively send out a telepathic message to visitors from outer space. The message began with the words..."Calling occupants of interplanetary craft!"
I wish that they'd swoop down in a country lane
Late at night when I'm driving
Take me on board their beautiful ship
Show me the world as I'd love to see it
He tried hard, but he could not make it, ending up in army crates and photographs in files.
That riff. THAT RIFF.
Swedish post-thrash outfit Meshuggah depict a transhumanist nightmare in which humans are stripped of their souls, replaced by a new breed of mass produced automatons.
A terrible vision of the not-too-distant future in which the robots use poisonous gasses to poison our asses.
Time once again for the annual android auction.
Also one of the greatest scifi videos of all time.
Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact it's cold as hell. I think it's going to be a long, long time...
The rambling story of a man from Mars who shoots you dead and eats your head:
And then you're in the man from Mars
You go out at night, eatin' cars
You eat Cadillacs, Lincolns too
Mercuries and Subarus
And you don't stop, you keep on eatin' cars
Then, when there's no more cars
You go out at night and eat up bars where the people meet
This 20-minute long track by the Canadian prog-rockers chronicles the plight of "Anonymous 2112" — a protagonist caught in a dystopian world ruled by the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx. He initially believes everything he's told — but then he discovers a guitar from a time before the federation— "something that changed it all." But it's a dangerous tool that, according to the Priests, "Doesn't fit the plan."
The title track from the band's the 2002 album.
Her name is Yoshimi - she's a black belt in karate
Working for the city - she has to discipline her body
Cause she knows that it's demanding to defeat these
Evil machines — I know she can beat them
Existential, spiritual, beautiful.
The song about a fictional astronaut, Major Tom, who's sitting in a tin can, far above the world. A song that's now as iconic as its composer.
It may be the first track of the first Pink Floyd album, but it's the single greatest science fiction-influenced track of all time.
Written in 1967, the song describes a psychedelic journey through time and space through its use of vivid lyrical imagery and creative instrumentation, including the beeps and twangs of Sid Barrett's Fender Esquire, Richard Wright's droning organ, and an intercom-like megaphone. It marked the birth of a classic band, and an entirely new genre known as space rock.
Lime and limpid green, a second scene
A fight between the blue you once knew.
Floating down, the sound surrounds
Around the icy waters underground.
Jupiter and Saturn, Oberon, Miranda and Titania.
Neptune, Titan, Stars can frighten.
Blinding signs flap,
Flicker, flicker, flicker blam. Pow, pow.
Please add any songs you feel I missed below!
Special thanks to Charlie Jane Anders and Rob Bricken.