Earlier this month, we appealed to those of you who scored better on the verbal portion of the SAT with our mixtape for English majors and other word nerds. Now it’s time to see how the other half lives. We’ve compiled a slew of songs for those of you who maybe spent a little too much time in the chem lab, who cheered for Weird Science‘s Anthony Michael Hall as if he were one of your own, and who still might have a poster of the periodic table on your bedroom walls. Dearly beloved lab rats and Bunsen enthusiasts, we give you ten songs that lift science up where it belongs.
The Books – “Beautiful People”
Electronic folkies the Books excel in mixing unlikely ingredients, and this track off their upcoming record The Way Out is no exception. Instead of describing physical beauty in terms of say, a lovely summer day or some exotic flower, the Books slyly ask the listener to “behold the finite set of thirteen convex figures / The rational sign vs. tangent 45.” Come on, tell us how you really feel. We wanna be tangent to your curves, baby.
Thomas Dolby – “She Blinded Me With Science”
Hey, going ’round the bend can’t be that bad if it means you’ll get seduced by Miss Sakamoto, right? Eighties one-hit wonder Thomas Dolby snagged the British turn of phrase “to blind with science,” meant to imply that someone is being deliberately confusing by using big words and false knowledge. Know what’s even more nerdy than acting like you’re way smart? Taking a catchphrase literally and employing scientist and TV presenter Dr. Magnus Pike to narrate your homage to the power of the natural sciences. Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto, you’re beautiful!
Carl Sagan feat. Stephen Hawking – “A Glorious Dawn”
PBS is to science enthusiasts as MTV is to vapid reality shows, but the former relationship yielded something much more delightfully dweeby and (shocker of shockers) actually having to do with music. The folks over at Symphony of Science created the song “A Glorious Dawn” by sampling the great Carl Sagan’s 1980 PBS Documentary Cosmos and Stephen Hawking’s 1997 PBS cosmology documentary series Stephen Hawking’s Universe. Obviously, Sagan didn’t expect to become a YouTube sensation, which makes his lyrically adaptable narration that much more surreal: “If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars.” See you, space cowboy.
The Apples in Stereo – “Energy”
Have you ever sat around pondering what the world is made of, and what you are made of, and what your dog is made of, and… God, what does it all mean!? Of course not, because you’re a science whiz and you know that duh, the world is electricity, and the world is made of energy, and there’s a light inside of you, and there’s a light inside of me. There. Feel better now?
Blondie – “Atomic”
The atom gets a bad rap, most often mentioned in conjunction with the atomic bomb and almost never used to describe the good kind of explosion, know what I’m sayin’? Luckily for The Basic Unit of Matter, Blondie gave this little guy the sexiest tribute a particle could ask for: an entire song in which Debbie Harry asks to be made atomic by someone with beautiful hair. Quit your blushing, Mr. Mass. It’s time to enjoy your day in the sun.
Landscape – “Einstein A Go Go”
Science geeks, did you feel jilted when Gwar put out “Saddam A Go Go”? Did you wonder where the homage to your personal hero was? Either you’re too young to remember it or were too busy on ICQ in the ’90s, but Gwar owe Landscape an apology, for the geek hero was immortalized years before by these masters of 1980s techno pop. Hey, Gwar: “You better watch out, you better beware / Einstein A Go Go / Albert said that E equals M C squared!” Not sure why that’s supposed to be threatening? Er, we don’t know either, but it sure is catchy!
The Knife and Hotel Pro Forma – Tomorrow, In a Year (A Darwin Electro-Opera)
Nerds know how to apply their knowledge to higher art forms as well, exemplified by the Knife’s new electro-opera, Tomorrow, In a Year, based on Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. The Knife teamed up with Danish performance company Hotel Pro Forma to create the lavish and twisted soundtrack, intended to accompany the strange visuals representing the world through Darwin’s eyes. And you thought weird bird masks were geeky.
Laurie Anderson – “O Superman (For Massenet)”
No techie mixtape would be complete without a nod to robots, now, would it? Laurie Anderson got her vocoder on way before it was en vogue in this ode to the certainty with which Big Brother’s couriers will accomplish the “swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Then she curled up in automatic, electronic arms of her “mother.” Truly, Anderson and science were a match made in heaven (or the cosmos, if you’re a Saganite).
Oingo Boingo – “Weird Science”
Sure, the dudes from Oingo Boingo look acceptably cool enough in the music video for “Weird Science,” created for the glory-geek teen film of the same name, but it still seems they identify with Anthony Michael Hall a little too much. Describing the assembly of Lisa, they get very specific: “Magic and technology / Voodoo dolls and chants / Electricity / We’re makin’ weird science!” We wouldn’t be surprised if a future Brat Pack expose reveals secret Dungeons and Dragons games on the set with Bill Paxton.
They Might Be Giants – “Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas)”
To be honest, we probably could have made a science mixtape for you that consisted almost entirely of They Might Be Giants songs (“Particle Man,” anyone?), but hey, we take these things seriously. That being said, the crown jewel of this geekalicious mix is the Two Johns’ take on a 1960s educational children’s song, which they re-recorded for a 1993 EP. You might learn something new. For example, did you know that if the sun were hollow, a million earths could fit inside, and yet, the sun is only a middle-sized star? You also might be forced to revisit painful truths: “Yo ho, it’s hot / the sun is not / a place where we could live.” Either way, you will leave Flansburgh and Linnell with the comforting feeling of belonging with such worthy nerds as these.
Hopefully, this mix will inspire you to embrace the nimrod within as you proudly invent a self-cleaning litterbox or stumble upon the formula for hangover-free wine. We understand if you briefly feel the need to listen to Poison for three days straight or have the urge to harass your high school bullies on Facebook, but don’t worry, young grasshopper, the feeling will pass. Now, sit back, enjoy the music, and if you fantasize that you’re listening to it in your very own Delorean, we will be the last ones to judge.