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Mr. Roboto: Righteous or dehumanizing?

So in generating our collective list of 50 Worst Songs of the 80s, I've stumbled upon another roadblock: Should Mr. Roboto by Styx make the offenders' list?

(If you're having trouble remembering the glory of Dennis DeYoung in his graying, short hairdo, click here to see the entire Mr. Roboto video.)

I'm too close to this song to decide. I was a huge Styx fan back then, bought the album and enjoyed most of the tunes. Plus, the only time I saw Styx live was on the Mr. Roboto tour at the now demolished St. Petersburg Bayfront Arena, and I consider it one of my top 3 concerts. But I understand it when people argue it's the worst of their work. (Worse than "Two Much Times On My Hands?" .... And even if it is their worst, that doesn't necessarily make it on the top 50 list with the likes of "Ebony and Ivory" and "I Wanna Be A Cowboy.")

Let's go over some pluses and minuses.

PLUS: It's a catchy little tune with a very distinctive beginning. And it's in Japanese!

MINUS: The translation: Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto. Until we meet again. Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto. I want to know your secret. OK, now that you know, it's sorta pointless since it's repeated in English later in the song anyway.

PLUS: There's a message in the song (that's a novelty in music these days) that tells the story of fictitious rock star "Kilroy" who is falsely imprisoned. He escapes by hiding inside the shell of a Mr. Roboto, the automated workers of the prison. The overall theme: Machines dehumanize.

MINUS: The message sounds like the disgruntled cry of a Detroit auto worker. (Maybe Michael Moore should have directed the video.)

PLUS: It's such a part of pop culture that the song is referenced in scores of other tunes, commercials, TV shows and films. (My favorite reference? In a Simpsons episode, when Homer is cheering on Otto at the bowling alley.)

MINUS: How much longer before "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto" becomes "Where's the Beef?" or "Whaazzzzup?" (It's been 13 years and counting for Styx. That's a long streak.)

So it's time to sound off. Drop me a comment and let me know if Mr. Roboto deserves a spot on the Top 50 Worst Songs of the 80s list.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:17pm]


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