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From William Shatner to an Auto-Tuned Stephen Hawking: the 20 best science songs

Editorial Staff

It's Science Week here at CBC Music, and we've lined up a ton of fascinating stories about the physics of sound and the age-old musical questions. We're kicking the week off with the best science songs ever!

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to write a great song, but you should know a few things if you're going to write a song about science. Some of our picks use music to illustrate scientific principles, some use science as a lyrical metaphor and others just say a bunch of scientific-sounding words as quickly as possible. We've assembled 20 favourites in the list below.

'She Blinded Me with Science' by Thomas Dolby

Dolby’s 1982 hit is an obvious choice for the list, from its proto-digital orchestration to the scientific lyrics.

'A Glorious Dawn' by Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking

A 2009 viral hit created from the Auto-Tuned universal musings of the two great scientists.

'Weird Science' by Oingo Boingo

The unmistakably '80s-sounding theme song from the movie about a pair of teen geeks who Frankenstein their dream woman into existence.

'Einstein on the Beach (For an Eggman)' by Counting Crows

This one may actually be about Humpty Dumpty, but it’s all relative.

'Speed of Sound' by Coldplay

Because "The Scientist" was too obvious.

'The Elements' by Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer’s 1959 classic lists every element in the periodic table at the time, and its rhyme scheme benefits from the fact that most of them end in "-ium."

'Fly Me to the Moon' by Frank Sinatra

Sinatra’s classic 1964 recording was the first song ever played on the moon, when astronaut Buzz Aldrin brought a portable cassette player on the Apollo 11 mission.

'Chemistry' by Rush

The 1982 song about music’s emotional place in the emotionless world of science. Also, check out them drum fills? Is that a robot? No, it’s Neil Peart, and he wrote those emotional lyrics. Is it possible Peart is an emotional robot? Get Ray Kurzweil on the phone! (Note to my editor: These are solid references and science people will love them.)

'Chemistry' by Semisonic

Another song called "Chemistry"? This one is a metaphor for relationships and how they can blow up. Pretty clever, Semisonic.

'Mandelbrot Set' by Jonathan Coulton

This song describes a geometric sequence so complicated that I got one sentence into its Wikipedia entry and my entire head dried up.

'Chemical Calisthenics' by Blackalicious

A fast-paced lesson in science — we think. It could just be a bunch of words.

'Earth People' by Dr. Octagon

Because sometimes the best science is crazy fake science.

Sir Isaac Newton vs. Bill Nye: Epic Rap Battles

Weird Al Yankovic plays Newton as a fast-rapping genius up against the PBS host.

'History of Everything' by Barenaked Ladies

That’s the actual name of the theme song from your parents’ favourite show. At under two minutes, it’s an even briefer than Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time.

'Space Oddity' by David Bowie

When this song was released, we hadn’t reached the moon yet. Bowie captured the uncertainty and floatiness of it all.

'Why Does the Sun Shine' by They Might Be Giants

Taking a romantic concept and reducing it to its clinical principles is some Neil deGrasse Tyson-level science.

'Astronomy Domine' by Pink Floyd

The spacescapes described in this song may lend themselves to science fiction, but Pink Floyd earned a spot on this list thanks to its decades of laser shows attracting an unlikely audience to planetariums.

'Electricity' by OMD

Buried under layers of reverb is this salute to the energy that powered the entire song.

'Rocket Man' by William Shatner

This song is jam-packed with scientific facts (e.g. "Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids"), and while the original Elton John version has its charms, Shatner’s version is more convincing because he seems to actually believe he’s a real astronaut.

'The Bad Touch' by Bloodhound Gang

This song is just a reminder that biology is gross.

Check them out and let us know if there are any science songs we missed. Tweet us @CBCMusic. And check out the Science Week page for more updates throughout the week.