As soon as musicians got ahold of computers, they started making music with them — and music about them, expressing their anxiety and hope about our sci-fi future turned real life. Listen in on Spotify with our Experience playlist, which starts in 1981, at the dawn of the personal computer era, and spans the nearly four decades since. Kraftwerk, whose ’70s “robot pop” pioneered electronic music, celebrated the technology’s breakout with the title track from their 1981 album Computer World. Styx’s melodramatic “Mr. Roboto” warned, amid synth-pop beeps, that machines dehumanize us; Neil Young, folkie and rocker, warped his voice into a robot’s in “Computer Age.”
This decade’s tech-themed hits go even farther: Janelle Monae and The Skunks’ “Violet Stars Happy Hunting!” celebrates the singer as “an alien from outer space” and “a cyber-girl without a face,” while Father John Misty’s sweetly acerbic “Total Entertainment Forever” imagines humanity’s transformation into deliriously happy virtual-reality addicts. Will the machines take over, as Queen warned? Or will Yoshimi, the Flaming Lips’ heroine, battle the pink robots and win?