Since the philosophical theme for Realizing Resonance this month is the Future, I have devised a list of my top ten songs about the Future. I am attending WorldFuture 2011 in Vancouver B.C. next month, so in order to get my mind oriented on the wide expanse of tomorrow, I am musing about the messages in the lyrics of these ballads about the potential and the possible. The songs alternate between generally negative and generally positive views of the Future, demonstrating the interplay of fear and hope in our anticipations of what the years ahead will bring.
#10: “The Future” by Leonard Cohen
A dark and smoky warning about the Future of modern society. The lyrics focus on the nastier elements of our contemporary lives, pointing out the many instances where we lack a moral compass, and predicting “murder” in our Future.
“Things are going to slide, slide in all directions. Won’t be nothing, nothing you can measure anymore. The blizzard, the blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold and it has overturned the order of the soul.”
#9: “The Final Countdown” by Europe
The keyboard intro for this song, from this great Swedish hair rock band, is iconic. This track is about fleeing the Earth in order to explore space, in search of new places to live. The general story has been a staple of science fiction, and many futurists believe we need to master space travel in order to obtain all the resources we will need in the Future.
“We’re heading for Venus, and still we stand tall, because maybe they’ve seen us, and welcome us all. With so many light years to go, and things to be found, I’m sure that we’ll all miss her so. It’s the final countdown.”
#8: “NM 156” by Queensrÿche
This is an early track from these progressive metal veterans from my neck of the woods. A song about a dark, apocalyptic Future, in which logic dictates eugenics to deal with overpopulation, and free thinking has been reduced to rule bound machine consciousness. This scenario is frightening and disturbing, whether we are to be ruled by emotionless intelligent robots, or just cold calculating automaton-like humans.
“One world government has outlawed war among nations. Now social control requires population termination. Have we come too far to turn around? Does emotion hold the key? Is logic just a synonym for this savagery, disguised in forgotten lost memory?”
#7: “Welcome to the Future” by Brad Paisley
A poppy country track, with a theme about progressive change. In my lifetime the world has changed immensely, astounding our senses, and sweeping us along. This song expresses the positive aspects of this rapid change over the last half century or so. Whether through technology or the culture, time has demonstrated that the Future is now from the perspective of our youth, and for the most part it has brought positive change with it.
“And I’d have given anything to have my own Pac-Man game at home. I used to have to get a ride down to the arcade. Now I’ve got it on my phone. Glory, glory, hallelujah, welcome to the future.”
#6: “Samsara” by The Tea Party
The Tea Party (not the American political movement) is an amazing 1990’s rock trio from Canada, who is currently reuniting for a few shows, making me very excited. I have my fingers crossed that they will play a concert in British Columbia this year, and if they do it will mean a return trip to Vancouver in 2011. Unfortunately, the band’s label did not release this song in the US, and it is not available for sale on Amazon or iTunes. So that just means you can listen to it below.
Samsara is the continuous flow of birth, life, death, and reincarnation within Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions derived from these. The cyclical view of time suggests that the Future is one of rebirth, where we circle back to the beginning. The Tea Party uses their dark hard rock sound, tinged with their signature Middle Eastern instruments and timbres, to instill a sense of surreal existence in a desperate quest for the elusive Nirvana.
“Please would you tell me my friend? Which direction’s the way? ‘Cause I’m lost, I’m confused, this reality we choose, is a long, long way from the dream. All you’ll feel is pain and suffering, wading through Samsara.”
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#5: “Mr. Roboto” by Styx
Just reading the title gets this song hopelessly stuck in my head. I know that this tune is not necessarily intended as a positive outlook on the Future, and it expresses some of our anxieties about Artificial Intelligence. However, I want to focus on the very prominent and oft repeated refrain, “Domo arigoto Mr. Roboto”, and take it to mean a heartfelt thank you to the smart machines that make our lives, if not easier, more convenient, and interesting. I want to dedicate this song to my Motorola Droid.
“Domo arigoto Mr. Roboto. Thank you very much oh Mr. Roboto for doing the jobs that nobody wants to. Thank you very much oh Mr. Roboto for helping me escape when I needed to.”
#4: “When the Wild Wind Blows” by Iron Maiden
A instant Maiden classic, I can’t get enough of this eleven minute epic from their 2010 album The Final Frontier. In fact it is already one of my favorite songs of all time, and I have to recommend it highly, even to those of you who are not into Maiden. The lyrics tell a story about a couple who believes that the end of the world is coming, and with this conviction in their hearts, they take their Future into their own hands.
“Have you seen what they said on the news today? Have you heard what they said about us all? Do you know what is happening to just every one of us? Have you heard? Have you heard? There will be a catastrophe the like we’ve never seen. There will be something that will light the sky. That the world as we know it, it will never be the same. Did you know? Did you know?”
#3: “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” by Timbuk 3
Lots of harmonica in this catchy one-hit-wonder from the 1980s. It is fun, happy, and if I’m not mistaken, a bit sarcastic. The potential symbolic jabs at modern life aside, the lyrics convey a view of the Future which expresses positive progress, scientific advancement, and the freedom and wherewithal to pursue a change for the better.
“I studied nuclear science, I love my classes, I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses. Things are goin’ great, and their only gettin’ better. I’m doin’ alright, gettin’ good grades. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”
#2: “Chronophobia” by Bad Religion
A dark and beautiful, but atypical, piano piece from these punk rock alumni. This song is about growing old, and anticipating your death. There are many songs out there that deal with this particular topic, by this one made my list about the Future because it makes references to the Singularity, and the prospect of eternal life through technology. The Singularity is the theory that technology is on the verge of hitting an accelerated rate of change super fast, creating machines more intelligent than humans, who will then be able to create even smarter machines. The idea is that this will allow us to download our consciousness into computers and remain self-aware, and essentially alive, in perpetuity.
“Maybe there’s a science or technology to help me come to terms with my maker, since natural selection never banked on me, I must be an exception to the plan. Someone help me understand now. Cryogenic methods are intractable and collagen polymers aren’t so terrible, but they still can’t prevent the inevitable farewell.”
#1: “Future World” by Helloween
This is a remarkably upbeat song for a heavy metal band, from a obscure group of German rockers who have been around since the 1980s. The lyrics conjure for me the notion of a futuristic Utopia, a land of harmony, synchronicity, peace, and contentment. This is a wonderful futurist vision, one that is worth striving for, even if it is a purely idealized Future that we can never truly attain.
“We all live in happiness. Our life is full of joy. We say the word tomorrow without fear. The feeling of togetherness is always at our side. We love our life and we know we will stay. ’Cause we all in Future World, a world that’s full of love. Our future life will be glorious, come with me Future World.”