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Mr. Roboto

Highest Billboard Position:
#3 in 1983

Writing about the future can be hit and miss.  George Orwell may not have envisioned the year 1984 with any accuracy but the book was certainly brilliant.  Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, A Space Odyssey was also brilliant but again a little far off as to where would be in space exploration by the millenium’s turn.  Styx, didn’t exactly write a song about a future, but they did write one from a strange 80’s point of view.

The decade of the rubix cube and Madonna’s hairy armpits also brought us the Atari 800.  With the advent computers entering the household, prognosticators assumed that the sentient being wasn’t far off.  Robots were entering pop culture even if there was limited evidence that they would enter real life.  This seemed like the perfect time for Styx to pen their futurist concept album “Kilroy Was Here” about a society where rock was outlawed by what was presumably some totalitarian regime.  Of course, robots play a key part in the album’s theme and lead track, Mr. Roboto, where the sounds of “future” attempt to replicate that.  Although the album performed well, it certainly didn’t age well and basically marked the end for Styx as a respectable rock band.

How awful is Mr. Roboto?

(You must be registered and logged in to vote!)
I totally agree, Mr. Roboto is god awful! - 14.3%
Mr. Roboto is bad, but there is much worse. - 28.6%
Mr. Roboto is actually a guilty pleasure. - 0%
No opinion. - 0%
You are nuts, Mr. Roboto is amazing. - 57.1%
Last modified on Saturday, 21 July 2012 08:30


-1 #1 Musicologist999 -0001-11-29 19:00
Your "critique" of this song doesn't say anywhere why you think it's a bad song, other than Styx wrote a song about the future "from a strange 80's point of view". And that makes it bad? Okaaaaay.....
0 #2 Darryl Tahirali 2012-07-13 19:28
>> . . . basically marked the end for Styx as a respectable rock band.

Wait a minute--was Styx ever a “respectable rock band”? I think not. There was some pretty gruesome hackwork going on even in the “classics” “Come Sail Away,” “The Grand Illusion,” and the rest of this shotgun wedding of arena grandstanding and reheated prog-rock pretense even before the craven desperation of “Mr. Roboto” hit the fans. This, paradoxically, is why I don’t really hate “Mr. Roboto” too much--they didn’t have that far to fall, although this one is more eager to please than a toothless, one-legged hooker six months behind on the rent.

Too bad Styx’s “sci-fi” concept was also rehashed: Rush (2112) and Frank Zappa (Joe’s Garage) had already covered this territory of “music outlawed by an authoritarian/t otalitarian/fas cist, etc., regime” before Styx stumbled onto it. To give these thieving magpies their due, they do, in the story told by the album Kilroy Was Here (home of “Mr. Roboto”), make reference to the “MMM,” the Majority for Musical Morality, a pointed (if heavy-handed) swipe at Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, which was gathering steam at the time this album was released. And that did prefigure the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) proto-censorshi p body that hatched a couple of years later. (And who were the three musicians to testify against the PMRC in the Senate? The wholly unlikely trio of Zappa, John Denver, and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. If they could have got Cyndi Lauper, it would have been like a scene from a psychedelic Wizard of Oz to see them walk together into the Capitol.)

Predicting the future is always hit-or-miss, which is why the best sci-fi (such as Philip K. Dick’s) is really a disguised commentary on contemporary society. The apocryphal story is that Orwell, whose novel was a warning against Stalinism (Orwell was himself a socialist), wanted to call it Nineteen Forty-Eight because he didn’t think it would take 35 years to get to where he described (it was first published in 1949) ; there is no evidence to support this but just about everything he cites, even the “telescreen,” existed when he wrote it. (Television had been first implemented in the late 1920s.) Interestingly, Aldous Huxley set his Brave New World a few centuries into the future; however, before he died in 1963, he wrote an essay called Brave New World Revisited in which he stated that most of what he described in his novel had already come true. That’s scarier than “Mr. Roboto.”

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