Playlist: The Future’s So Bright…

It’s 2015 and according to Back the the Future 2, it means we’re in the future! Okay, so maybe we don’t have self fitting jackets and self-tying shoes (yet), but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Since 2015 is supposed to be the year when the Cubs win the world series and when food hydrators are readily available, lets take a look at some songs that celebrate and fear, what lies ahead.

“1999” – Prince

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Let’s start things off with the definitive New Year’s song by Prince. Despite being an upbeat and fun party jam, the song is actually about an apocalyptic future that could end at any minute. Written at the height of the Regan administration when the U. S. stockpiled nuclear weapons, the song encourages future citizens to party the night away because come the year 2000 we won’t be here. It’s really easy to miss this bleak message what with the catchy chorus and the fact most people listen to it when they’re stone drunk.

“Futurism” – Muse

Muse are no strangers to writing about dystopian worlds, but they do it best on this Origin of Symmetry b-side. With violent guitars, throbbing bass, and pounding drums Matt Bellamy wails and screams about being “grounded” and “boxed in” as a commentary on an isolating society. Though Bellamy has the sweetest vocals, he knows how to paint a terrifying future. Recently, the band released footage from their 2013 tour of them playing the song live as a present to Musers.

“The Final Countdown” – Europe

The verdict is still out on whether this is really about the future, but it’s too good to leave off. No matter how much you hate the song or think hair metal sucks, you can’t help but get pumped and shout out the chorus whenever this plays. Everyone knows this, which is why it’s used for so many sporting events. Some think the song is about the Space Challenger explosion, while others are convinced it’s about escaping the earth. Whatever it’s about, it’s one of those guilty pleasure songs you hate to love.

“The Future Soon” – Jonathan Coulton

This classic from the nerdy singer/songwriter is about an awkward guy who can’t wait for the future where his strange quirks can get “engineered away” and he can finally meet (or build) the woman of his dreams. Just like most of Coulton’s songs, it’s quirky with a hint of sci-fi. Though it has really upbeat music, the type that makes you feel good when hearing it, it’s a pretty sad story that ends with a robot attack. A future that sounds both intriguing, yet scary.

“The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” – Timbuk3

With a fear of change and the unknown, it’s no surprise to learn most songs about the future have a grim outlook. It’s no different for this ’80s one hit wonder.  Even though it talks about getting good grades, getting a job, and all the makings for a promising future, the song is actually about a bright future being caused by a nuclear holocaust. Of course this went over everyone’s head and it was used many times as a graduation song. Strange indeed.

“Love in the Year 3000” – B-52’s

The eclectic band decides to focus on what love will be like in the future and it’s somewhat disturbing. With an uptempo dance beat and Fred Schinder’s distinct monotone voice, the lyrics talk about love robots, doing it in zero gravity, and “tentative tentacles.” It’s unsettling to think that would be desirable in the year 3000.  Maybe Japan knows more about the future than we think.

“Future World” – Helloween

Not all songs about the future deal with a broken society as Helloween shows. This song looks at finding your own future world full of peace, love, and understanding. It’s a surprisingly upbeat song about what lays ahead of us, especially for a band with “Hell” in their name.

“In the Future” – Sparks

This odd duo has one of the most upbeat and dancable songs about the future so far. With a rushing rhythm, twirling keys, and falsetto vocals that almost sound ridiculous, this track can’t wait for a future that’s full of fun, fun, fun and where you can apparently walk on air. The mood and vibe of the song is reminiscent of all the cliches of the futuristic world: hover cars, rockets boots, and anything else from The Jetsons. As singer Russell Mael puts it in the last verse “convenience and pleasure, blended together.” We’ll keep that in mind as we patiently wait for our hover boards.

“Imagine” – A Perfect Circle

This is more of an anti-war song than it is about the future, but I decided to include here because it does look forward to a world where there isn’t any war, hunger, religion, or fighting. Originally written by John Lennon, the message of this track is peace and global harmony , something we should work on for the future society.  Though Lennon’s version is timeless, I’ve always preferred A Perfect Circle‘s cover, which adds a hint of gloom and darkness to the otherwise hopeful track.

“Down in the Park” – Gary Numan

Gary Numan is considered a pioneer in electronic music and plenty of his songs could’ve been on this playlist, but this one paints such a bleak future world it’s hard to ignore. The song tells the story of a park where Machman, androids with human skin, meet to rape and kill humans for their entertainment. As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, Numan’s robotic voice and nonchalant manner when singing “You can watch the humans
Trying to run/Oh, look, there’s a rape machine/I’d go outside if it looks the other way/You wouldn’t believe/The things they do” makes this a future you want to avoid at all costs.

 “Big Brother” – David Bowie

Inspired by George Orwell’s 1984, this track reflects on the ending of the novel where protagonist Winston Smith is fully brainwashed and now loves Big Brother. Even though at the end Bowie sings “We want you, Big Brother” it comes off as unsettling that you know something isn’t right. The song was actually written for a never-produced musical based on the Orwell novel. Seeing as how everything is being turned into a musical now it might happen soon.

1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) – Eurythmics

This is cheating a little bit, but with the entire album based on Orwell’s novel it’s hard to pick just one song. It’s actually the soundtrack for the movie that came out in, what a surprise, 1984. Though most of the album is instrumental, key tracks like “Sexcrime” and “I Did Just the Same” have lyrics that refer to specific passages in the book. An interesting fact about the music is director Michael Radford didn’t like the band and had already commissioned an orchestra to do the musical score. As a result there are two versions of the film: one featuring the Eurythmics’ soundtrack and the director’s cut with the orchestral score.

I know there are plenty of songs I missed, but you can help me out. What are some of your favorite songs about the future? Let me know in the comments.

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