"Robot Music" for a five year-old
July 6, 2018 5:41 PM   Subscribe

My 5 year old nephew has fallen in love with the Beasties’ “Intergalactic," which is great, but… he likes to loop it. Forever. I'd like to give him (and everyone around him) more options. Help me load-up a thumb-drive with an age-appropriate playlist of "robot music" to keep him grooving.

I infer that for him, "robot music” means the heavy use of talkbox/vocoder effects—it doesn't matter if the lyrics are about robotic things. By age-appropriate, I don't mean kiddie songs, just lyrics suitable for a five year old. Vague sexual innuendo that he won't get is probably fine, explicit lyrics that he’s likely to parrot, not so much. We're going to be singing along in the car and such. I think repetition, poppiness and an upbeat tempo are key.

I tried Arling & Cameron’s Dirty Robot and We Love to Rock, and they seemed to work for him. He was less enthusiastic about Kraftwerk—probably because it’s a bit of a slog for a Kindergartener. I predict that Console’s 14 Zero Zero will prove to be sonically appropriate, but that the lyrics won’t capture his fancy. I-F's Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass is probably too unintelligible and heavy. Devo is rich with arcade-like bloops and bleeps, but never (that I can think of) vocode their vocals. I have seen and investigated much of Complex’s 50 Greatest Vocoder Songs list, and will be hunting down a version of Stevie Wonder's Sesame Street Theme.

So, whatcha got?
posted by mumkin to Media & Arts (64 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
A great talk-boxer he may not know is Peter Frampton, e.g. Show Me The Way, among others.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:48 PM on July 6, 2018

But for straight vocoder robot fun, I turn to Black Moth Super Rainbow. e.g. I think it's beautiful that you are 256 colors too, One Day I Had an Extra Toe, or Dreamsicle Bomb. As a bonus many of their songs have fun videos.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:52 PM on July 6, 2018

Best answer: How about Royksopp's Happy Up Here? A bit of vocoder, and a similar bouncy feel to Intergalactic.

Cylob's Rewind is speech-synth-rap, but maybe that'll count as Robot Music too?
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:54 PM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I may be way off base, but when I thought of Intergalactic + robot music what came to mind instantly was Frontier Psychiatrist by the Avalanches. And in the same vein but with talk box, there is of course Around the World by Daft Punk...
posted by trotzdem_kunst at 5:56 PM on July 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Zapp & Roger
posted by fox problems at 5:59 PM on July 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

Best answer: They Might Be Giants ~ Robots podcast and Robot Parade!
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:01 PM on July 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

Best answer: He was less enthusiastic about Kraftwerk—probably because it’s a bit of a slog for a Kindergartener.

Try Europe Endless and Autobahn. If it's still no, then it's a pass on Kraftwerk for the kid probably.

He may also like Gary Numan. Cars, of course, but also M.E.

Lots and lots of Daft Punk, Teachers has fun voices and Technologic is actually sung by a (creepy af) robot in the video

I Monster Daydream in Blue

Maybe Trio Da Da Da
posted by phunniemee at 6:06 PM on July 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Palate cleansers, not a lot of vocals:

Daft Punk - Robot Rock.
Daft Punk - Harder Better Faster Stronger

Super awesome singing fun:

The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
posted by jbenben at 6:08 PM on July 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Daft Punk Harder Better Faster Stronger

Deee-Lite What is love Vocals aren't robot but the music is very bleepy bloopy. It's like listening to a lava lamp.

Radiohead: Paranoid Android, Fitter Happier,, Kid A
posted by fluttering hellfire at 6:10 PM on July 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Borderline, but if you're going with Stevie Wonder...there are a lot of fun voice effects here: Vulfpeck, "Boogie on Reggae Woman" Stevie Wonder Cover Live. (It's a pretty awesome cover.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:18 PM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Would he like MGMT's Time to Pretend or Kids?
posted by erst at 6:21 PM on July 6, 2018

If he likes Intergalactic, and has a leaning towards robots, I implore you to check out the absolutely wonderful Beastie-Boys/Daft Punk mashup that is Daft Science by Coins. It is the bomb. I may be able to help you get it in MP3 format, too.
posted by 4ster at 6:26 PM on July 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Gerling "Enter Space Capsule" (Something good is going to happen to YOU!)
posted by Trivia Newton John at 6:28 PM on July 6, 2018

Newcleus was popular on my school bus as a kid: "Computer Age (Push the Button)" and "Jam On Revenge (The Wikki-Wikki Song)"
posted by Wobbuffet at 6:30 PM on July 6, 2018

n.b. if he ends up liking Daft Punk and if/when he can read fluently, you must show him Daft Hands bc it will blow. his. mind.
posted by btfreek at 6:36 PM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

mr roboto
posted by patnok at 6:45 PM on July 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

Seconding TMBG’s Robot Parade (and their kid albums in general are full of fun effects and good tunes that aren’t the usual kiddie music fare.)

Daft Punk is also just right.

Flight of the Conchords “The Humans Are Dead” contains the word “asses” but is otherwise a song that leans hard on robot silliness and delights our local small person.

Talking Heads Burning Down The House isn’t really vocoder, but it’s a weird singing voice and the feel might grab him in the same way; I thought they and Devo were all robots growing up. Ground Control To Major Tom, too, if you need a mellower tune to add to the mix.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:46 PM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

You could use 31 Minutos . It technically has no English lyrics (this is an instrumental version), but if it were my child I'd tell him it's a duet sung in the true robot language and these robots don't speak English.

Edit: awesome thumb drive!!
posted by ipsative at 6:50 PM on July 6, 2018

Trans am "future world"
posted by noloveforned at 6:52 PM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

And this list seems to have a bunch mentioned above and more!
posted by noloveforned at 7:04 PM on July 6, 2018

Laurie Anderson, "O Superman"
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:06 PM on July 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

It's a different kind of vocal processing, but "Atlas" by Battles is a great song.
posted by valrus at 7:28 PM on July 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Cornelius - Count Five or Six
Dan Deacon - Snake Mistakes
posted by kitty teeth at 8:02 PM on July 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Your nephew might like the song Rise by Boston-based band Schooltree
posted by prewar lemonade at 8:33 PM on July 6, 2018

Devo has a song called “Mechanical Man” that is all vocoder vocals.
posted by ejs at 8:33 PM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sorry, a correction to my comment above: the album is called Rise, but the song is called After You're Gone. There's another, even more vocoder-heavy version here.
posted by prewar lemonade at 8:46 PM on July 6, 2018

Errorsmith’s My Party is stupid robot fun the five year old in all of us can enjoy.
posted by otio at 9:01 PM on July 6, 2018

If he likes Intergalactic the rest of that album is pretty fun.
posted by bleep at 9:11 PM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Kelly Watch the Stars by Air
They also have a song called “Sexy Boy” which is not explicit but you may not want your kid singing along to.
posted by O9scar at 11:09 PM on July 6, 2018

A whole bunch of Solvent
posted by aubilenon at 11:17 PM on July 6, 2018

Satisfaction by Benny Benassi - this is the SFW video.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:35 PM on July 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Feed Me - Death By Robot Most of Feed Me is fun, energetic music with a lot of robot sounds.

A few of the songs have adult themes, but not this one.
posted by poe at 11:55 PM on July 6, 2018

Best answer: Dynamix II - Bass Generator
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five - Scorpio
Sleeze Boys - Robo Cop
Sad-robot option: Pete Drake - I'm Sorry
posted by rhizome at 12:51 AM on July 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ooh, kitty teeth, so much Dan Deacon: Crystal Cat, Change Your Life, Paddling Ghost, Wham City. I mention Snookered, but I worry about language, and wonder if I missed something elsewhere.

Flashback by Laurent Garnier, though its lyrics are sparse and I vaguely remember the album version being different.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:56 AM on July 7, 2018

Seconding tchemgrrl: Robots by Flight of the Conchords is fun for the whole family!
posted by archy at 2:47 AM on July 7, 2018

When I was that age, my parents played the hell out of Herbie Hancock's album Sunlight and I still love it. Here's I Thought It Was You.

Wolfgang's entire album The Wicked Truth About Loving a Man fits this description. Here's track one, Action Reaction.

The Ones - Flawless
Recoil - Defector
Front Line Assembly - Electric Dreams
Meat Beat Manifesto - Impossible Star
posted by heatvision at 4:06 AM on July 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You've got to get the two Moog Cookbook albums. While they're not all that heavy on the vocoder, they do feature it in a lot of places, and the mixture of classic analog synths with covers of 90s hits and classic rock tunes is great fun.
posted by pipeski at 4:33 AM on July 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Shout Out Out Out has tons of vocoder, it's just a matter of checking the lyrics -- offhand, Dude you feel electrical might be a goodie.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:28 AM on July 7, 2018

Haven't seen ELO mentioned yet. They often liked to go to the vocoder.

Gary Numan was already mentioned, but basically any of his early stuff, before Dance.
posted by lagomorphius at 9:03 AM on July 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

Another blast from the past if you want synths - Larry Fast's Synergy.

Not to mention Wendy Carlos and Tomita.
posted by lagomorphius at 9:05 AM on July 7, 2018

Raymond Scott could be evocative of robots. Or simply catnip for five-year-olds.
posted by lagomorphius at 9:13 AM on July 7, 2018

Aaliyah's Try Again, for a little at least, and it's danceable.
posted by mahorn at 9:49 AM on July 7, 2018

Continuing because my firefox decided to stop playing sounds...
Laurie Anderson - O Superman [Official Music Video] - YouTube
- Lola Rennt - "Running One" - YouTube -- the whole Lola Runs (Lola Rent) soundtrack (good movie too).
I think repetition, poppiness and an upbeat tempo are key.
It sorta depends on how much the robot/vocoder means vs the other stuff.

Technotronic feat Mc Eric This Beat Is Technotronic (Get On It Club Mix) - YouTube

Techno industrial exitos 90's - This beat is technotronic - YouTube

A lot of 90's tecno fits the repetition, poppiness and an upbeat tempo.

Took me forever to remember this....
Underworld - Rez-cowgirl ,"Koyaanisqatsi",Филип Гласс - YouTube

For some reason Firefox has decided to reset my volume to 0 for every new video WTF?
posted by zengargoyle at 11:13 AM on July 7, 2018

Neil Young’s Trans LP
posted by porn in the woods at 12:25 PM on July 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: OK, this one is not "robot sounding", but rather "robot themed". The style is "Metal for Kids"? But when I was five I would have love James Kochalka's "Monkey versus Robot." Heck, I am 50 and I still love it.
posted by seasparrow at 3:08 PM on July 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: On the Herbie Hancock tip again, what about the slightly later Rockit (YouTube)? Bonus: the official video features some rather awesome but slightly creepy (and perhaps unsuitable for a 5 year old) robots.
posted by Chairboy at 4:14 PM on July 7, 2018

Oh how about Africa Shoxx by Leftfield w/ Africa Bambaata
posted by aubilenon at 5:25 PM on July 7, 2018

Robot Love -victor lams
Dope for the Robot -metamatics
posted by Doc_Sock at 6:36 PM on July 7, 2018

Portal - Still Alive
posted by ringu0 at 6:52 PM on July 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Dresden Dolls - Coin Operated Boy [OFFICIAL VIDEO] - YouTube -- OK, Gothic Cabaret.
The Dresden Dolls 'Girl Anachronism' music video - YouTube

The Dresden Dolls-Missed Me (With Lyrics!) - YouTube

You have to check the lyrics and such... but minus vocoder/robot, It's the same sort of thing that makes me like Intergalactic and Beastie Boys. More beats and rhythm and rhyme and surprise and expected. Without going into Math Rock or other infectious songs or going into Math Rock or Tom Lehrer - The Vatican Rag - fabulous version - LIVE FILM From Copenhagen in 1967 - YouTube (you can find it without the commentary.)
posted by zengargoyle at 7:27 PM on July 7, 2018

Oh final I hope.... don't forget to look for 'intergalactic mix' or such on YouTube.... If nephew really likes it... there are remixes and mash-ups galore.... you could make a whole set of Intergalactic but just a bit different....

Daft Punk + Beastie Boys - Intergalactic Planet Get Lucky - YouTube

Beastie Boys - Intergalactic (Baht Remix) - YouTube

Burn the lil' dude out on Intergalactic with dozens of Intergalactic.
And maybe break him of that robot/vocoder thing.... :)
posted by zengargoyle at 8:07 PM on July 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Marvin, I Love You!
Mr. Roboto - Styx
Life's Been Good by Joe Walsh. When I was a little kid, my dad played this song in the car all the time, and I thought the instrumental break that starts at around 2:15 sounded like a Martian.
Maybe Your Woman by White Town?
posted by SisterHavana at 10:11 PM on July 7, 2018

Oh, and "Paranoimia" by The Art Of Noise (featuring Max Headroom)!
posted by SisterHavana at 10:13 PM on July 7, 2018

Unless I missed it in someone else's list:

Let's Groove Tonight - Earth, Wind, and Fire
posted by Hanuman1960 at 6:40 AM on July 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Add N to (X) (some of it may be too dark for a small child)
Polysics - Japanese Devo-esque band with a ton of albums and great videos, all child-appropriate as far as I can recall
Plus-Tech Squeeze Box
posted by Gortuk at 7:27 AM on July 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Robyn - Fembot
posted by dizziest at 1:08 PM on July 8, 2018

Best answer: Almost forgot about Don't Stop The Rock!
posted by SisterHavana at 1:41 PM on July 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

And of course Stakker - Humanoid
posted by Chairboy at 1:51 PM on July 8, 2018

Best answer: He was less enthusiastic about Kraftwerk—probably because it’s a bit of a slog for a Kindergartener.

The original songs are indeed a bit of a slog, but the remixed versions on their "The Mix" album are pretty peppy. The remix of "The Robots" especially.
posted by neckro23 at 7:50 AM on July 9, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who pitched in—the final mix leaned heavily on your input! I've marked best-answers for suggestions that made the cut, but you're all best answerers in my heart. I did wind up adding some non-vocoder-but-robot-themed tracks, a few instrumentals, and one or two that just felt robot-adjacent, in the interest of variety. Hopefully this will expand the kid's musical horizons while affording his parents some drive-time sanity. Here are the 35 I ended up with:
We Love to Rock, Arling & Cameron (1999)
Beautiful World, Devo (1981)
Cut the Midrange, Drop the Bass, Cylob (2014)
Make a Circuit With Me, The Polecats (1983)
Scorpio, Grandmaster Flash, The Furious Five & The Sugarhill Gang (1979)
Popcorn, Hot Butter (1972)
Cars, Gary Numan (1979)
Don't Stop the Rock, Freestyle (1985)
Happy Up Here, Röyksopp (2009)
The Robots (2009 Digital Remaster), Kraftwerk (1978)
Dance Gumi Gumi, Polysics (2017)
Robot Parade, They Might Be Giants (2002)
cha l'ectro cha cha, Martinibomb (2004)
Da Da Da (I Don't Love You You Don't Love Me Aha Aha Aha), Trio (1982)
Wake Up Call, They Might Be Giants (2002)
Kelly Watch the Stars, Air (1998)
Dirty Robot, Arling & Cameron (2001)
1-2-3 Sesame Street, Stevie Wonder (1972)
Funkytown, Lipps Inc. (1979)
Intergalactic, Beastie Boys (1998)
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, Daft Punk (2001)
Exhale, Fogatron (2006)
14 Zero Zero, Console (2000)
What is Love?, Deee-Lite (1990)
Mr. Blue Sky, ELO (1977)
Doin' It Right, Daft Punk (2013)
New Life, Depeche Mode (1985)
Monkey vs. Robot, James Kochalka Superstar (2001)
Major Tom (Coming Home), Peter Schilling (1995)
The Legend of Johnny Pot, Dick Hyman (1969)
Everybody Wants to Be Famous, Superorganism (2018)
Smells Like Teen Spirit, The Moog Cookbook (1996)
I Love You (Miss Robot), The Buggles (1980)
I'm Going to Get Me a Robot Man, Ben Light (1937)
Robot Rock, Daft Punk (2005)
posted by mumkin at 10:37 AM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

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