Jonathan Coulton

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Just like you, only he writes songs.
"I find it hard to write about myself—or to write from a personal point of view. So the way I get around that is by writing from the perspective of a giant squid."
Jonathan Coulton, in an interview'

A primarily internet-based musician who writes songs on all sorts of stuff, though his more popular songs tend to cater to the nerd or pop-culture crowd. You probably know him best as the writer of Portal's ending song, Still Alive.

He is the "Official Contributing Troubadour" of Popular Science magazine, and sang the opening theme for their podcast.

Recognizable for being one of the first musicians to fully embrace the online model of earning money for his songs - most of his songs are available free on his website, if you want to dig through his blog, but they're also all for sale through a variety of media. He also uses the Internet to gauge where to perform - if enough fans petition him, he'll plan a concert for you.

He often performs with Paul and Storm (formerly of Da Vinci's Notebook) who have pointed out on several occasions that his cover songs are "the only ones that aren't sad". [1]

He has been involved in several Riff Trax, including playing some songs before the live Plan 9 from Outer Space.

He may or may not be a Feral American who was raised by woodland creatures and murders cats for fun.

There are a fair number of fan-made music videos. Most notable are spiffworld's, which are machinima made with World of Warcraft.

Discography:

Famous primarily for his:[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Crooning folk-song cover to Sir-Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back
  • Office-themed zombie anthem Re: Your Brains

We're not unreasonable -- I mean, no one's gonna eat your eyes!
[...] We're at an impasse here; maybe we can compromise
If you open up the door, we'll all come inside and eat your brains

    • Also available in French as Re: Vos Cerveaux!
  • The programmer anthem Code Monkey, later the theme song for the animated sitcom Code Monkeys.

Code monkey think maybe manager
Want to write goddamn login page himself!
...Code monkey not say it out loud;
Code monkey not crazy, just proud.

  • Of course, the aforementioned Portal song Still Alive, which also managed to mutate into a strain that was playable in Rock Band. For free.

Aperture Science
We do what we must because we can
For the good of all of us
Except the ones who are dead

    • He also managed to deliver with Portal 2's ending theme, Want You Gone.

You want your freedom? Take it
That’s what I’m counting on
I used to want you dead, but
Now I only want you gone

They don't smash open clams on their bellies with stones
They have neither whiskers nor paws
And the furry old lobster's so easily crushed
In the grip of their terrible claws

I'm so into you
But I'm way too smart for you
Even my henchmen think I'm crazy
I'm not surprised that you agree
If you could find some way to be
A little bit less afraid of me
You'd see the voices that control me
From inside my head
Say I shouldn't kill you yet

I made this half-pony, half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don't like it
What's with all the screaming?
You like monkeys, you like ponies
Maybe you don't like monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn't it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?

Other songs include:[edit | hide]

  • "Creepy Doll", a song about, well... a Creepy Doll. Also disturbingly catchy.
  • "Mandelbrot Set", a rock song about fractals. Note that the lyrics do not describe a well-defined set at all, as the value of C is never specified. If the first and second "Z" in the chorus are replaced with "C," this problem disappears. However, even though the lyrics do at least describe something now, that something is still not the Mandelbrot Set, but a set containing only zero. This is because "series" means the summation of all terms, which would diverge for all non-zero starting values in this iteration. If the aforementioned correction were made, and "series" were replaced with "sequence," only then would the song describe the titular set.
    • Meanwhile, the other section seems to specifically describe the Julian set, which is at least a specific subset of the Mandlebrot.
    • And yes, he's aware of it.
  • "Chiron Beta Prime", framed as a Christmas family letter... after humanity lost a Robot War and the narrator's family has been banished to an asteroid mining colony named Chiron Beta Prime.
  • "First of May", which is about spring and how a young couple's mind turns to...sex...outside. Inverts Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion, and subverts Intercourse with You.
  • "You Ruined Everything", a song about how bittersweet being a parent can really be; the singer reflects on how everything he devoted his life to has been destroyed now, but despite this, he loves his kid endlessly and would never have it any other way.
  • "I Crush Everything", a sad song about being alone. From the perspective of a giant squid. A giant squid who really hates dolphins.
  • "The Future Soon", in which a lovestruck geeky kid imagines that in the future he will become a Gadgeteer Genius and plans to engineer away the things that make him weak and strange, and thus win over the girl who spurned him. Or just force her to marry him.
  • "Better", a sad, heart-breaking song about a man breaking up with his lover... because said lover has turned herself into a giant cyborg.
    • Something of a Double Standard, considering what happens in Future Soon, but that wasn't treated as a good thing then either; that protagonist was just more of a Yandere.
  • "When You Go", a rather beautiful accapella song about love and inevitable loss.
  • "Bacteria", a song about, well, bacteria. Utilizes sound clips from a KFC training video.
  • "Blue Sunny Day", a song about a suicidal vampire.
    • The most upbeat sounding song about a suicidal vampire ever written. It sounds like something Jeff Lynne would arrange!
  • "Space Doggity", a tune using the same note arrangment as David Bowie's "Space Oddity", about the launch of Sputnik 2 and Laika. As you might expect, it's not happy.
  • "Lady Aberline's Muumuu", a short (but poignant!) love song to Lady Aberline from the "Land of Make-Believe" segments of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.
  • "Tom Cruise Crazy", about how Tom Cruise is... well, crazy. From a sympathetic perspective.
  • "Shop Vac", which--in his words--is about Suburban angst.
    • Spiffworld's video of this makes it much darker, with a Stepford Smiler facade coming over the two characters as they realize that their lives are empty and meaningless. That chorus, in its last repetition, suddenly becomes one character assuring himself that his wife will be fine while staring at the gallows he built downstairs, while she is upstairs with another man.
      • In addition, the radio broadcast playing in the background during the final verse says "A forty-nine-year-old, unidentified man went berserk last night, opening fire with a twelve-gauge shotgun in a crowded, downtown..." leaving the song itself with a very dark undertone
      • The "you can cry, and I probably won't hear you" lyric, together with all the meaningless little things they're doing, means the song is dark enough without a video.
    • Another amazingly done Kinetic Typography video here.
      • It's still pretty dark, despite the entertaining animations. Check out the final chorus: The face of the "You can call" man is suddenly a pirate with an eyepatch, the shop-vac is doodled to look evil, and more importantly, the martini suddenly has a set of pills next to it unlike previous appearances, implying suicide. This is one catchy depressing song.
  • "Bills, Bills, Bills", a straight cover of Destiny's Child's song.
  • "Dance, Soterios Johnson, Dance", about a local New York radio newsreading celebrity's possible alternate life.
  • "Kenesaw Mountain Landis", an old-style exaggerating folk song about the first commissioner of baseball and his feud with "Shoeless" Joe Jackson.
  • "Just As Long As Me", a folksy song about a Huge Guy who is tired of Tiny Girls and wants a woman of his size for once.
  • "Big Dick Farts a Polka". No more explanation necessary.
    • Okay, a little more explanation: The song, an entry in a Quick Stop Entertainment Masters of Song Fu Contest, is an Affectionate Parody of his friends and frequent collaborators, Paul and Storm. For the same contest, Paul and Storm wrote "Live", a song in Coulton's style about a mad scientist (who, of course, is very sad) and wants to make the perfect girl, despite the angry villagers gathering outside.
  • "The Presidents". His rundown of all the presidents.

Dubya decided he was the decider,
Obama has a peg-leg and a scar...
John Hodgman: Now Jonathan, Jonathan, when you say Obama has a peg-leg and a scar, you're talking about the real Barack Obama, right? Not the man who killed him and stole his identity after coming here from Far Islam with that fake Hawaiian passport and then became our president?
Jonathan Coulton: That's right, yeah.
John Hodgman: Okay, fine.

  • "Washy Ad Jeffy", His other rundown of the presidents, which cuts off their last names at the syllable equaling their last term in office, making it a mnemonic device song.
  • "Octopus". The narrator has a particularly bad break up, much angst ensues.
  • "Big Bad World One". The story of a lonely fellow, fearing rejection
  • "Betty And Me". About a couple going to a fertility clinic to engineer their own baby.
    • However, as the song progresses, it becomes clearer and clearer that the "engineering a baby" part is a scam and Betty is cheating on him with Dr. Martin. And that the protagonist is completely oblivious.
  • "Ikea".
  • "Mr. Fancy Pants". A song about a man who prides himself on having the best pants.
    • Probably mostly notable because he uses a fancy electronic gizmo to play the beats, and likes to use it to play part of a different song in the middle.
  • "My Monkey", an argument from someone who is uncomfortable talking about his feelings, and so he projects them through his monkey butler, Brian Dennehy. No, really.
  • "That Spells DNA", a mostly upbeat, funny song about a person's genetic makeup. Of course, he still manages to mention that you're just going to die someday anyway.
  • "A Talk With George", about the late George Plimpton, and is basically a call to have a life as totally awesome as his.
  • "Christmas is Interesting" a sad and surreal song about the Christmas season that references numerous movies and also features perhaps his strangest song lyric of all: "Maybe you're a squirt gun that only shoots jam/ Now you know how Jesus feels".
  • "Todd the T1000" is about a guy who feels threatened by his robot butler.
    • Oddly, he refers to his original robot as XJ-9, when clearly the description refers to Rosie.
  • The breakup song for the hopelessly-in-denial: Not About You.
  • "Soft Rocked by Me", featuring a patient guy with a guitar and a song:
  • "Nemeses", sung by John Roderick, and is one of the best musical examples of Stalker with a Crush Foe Yay out there.
  • "Always the Moon", a blend of creation myth, apocalypse myth, and break-up song, which leaves absolutely no doubt as to who's at fault.
  • "I Feel Fantastic", a Motor Mouth song about a guy with a pill for every occasion. Literally.
  1. And then he went and covered "Famous Blue Raincoat", the cheeky monkey.