David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 283: The Flaming Lips (Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1)

September 13, 2023

Despite the onus of this song series, I continue to have happy discoveries on my way to 365.

I have known little of The Flaming Lips. The only song I had much awareness of was "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt.1," as much because, sans the "Pt. 1," it was the title of their one CD that always stood out to me. The title sounded audacious, funky, and connoted all sorts of electronic energy. Needless to say, I was shocked when I purchased Move.Org's Future Soundtrack For America (because who wouldn't based on that title alone), a 2004 collection that included a live version of "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots" (no part 1 or 2 designated), that provided me a pretty laid-back "Pt. 1."

I certainly wasn't ready to hear a lovely piano medley, closer to Brian Wilson than Brian Eno. Wayne Coyne's vocal was a bit reedy, but delightfully vulnerable as he croons, "Yoshimi, they don't believe me/but you won't let those robots eat me."  Where was all the sound, fury and drama I expected from such a outrageous title? Where was the guitar or synthesizer histrionics that would conjure up images of a fierce battle?

So, then I explore the original version to find that it is not a piano ballad, but more acoustic electronic, albeit still a ballad. Coyne's voice is a little less reedy, but otherwise well-suited for the chronicle that is Yoshimi's heroism. "She's gotta be strong to fight them/so she's taking lots of vitamins" may be the drollest couplet in pop music history. The influence of the acoustic guitars in the song suggests that the band might be emboldened by Yoshimi, fighting back the electronic instruments of the robots. All of a sudden, I'm seeing the song as criticism of electronic music.

The choice for narrative about man vs. machine seemed perfect, given the forefront of the Japanese in anime, Godzilla movies, and technology. And then to change man into woman, to put the fate of the world on the shoulders of what-I-assumed was the equivalent of a Powderpuff Girl, and "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots" (regardless of which part) was a decision nothing short of brilliant. And are the robots supposed to be female? What is it with the pinkness?

So I get to today, and my desire to highlight The Flaming Lips through this song, and I do the standard research. I find out Yoshimi is an actual person who actually sings on the song also, a Japanese musician from a band called Boredoms--Yoshimi P-We. I do not know if she has a "black belt in Karate," like our song's hero has, but anybody in a band called "Boredoms," no "the" attached, is alright with me. 

Ultimately, Yoshimi needs to keep pushing back on them damn robots. Twenty-years later, the battle continues to wage, and if anything the robots seem to be winning. My car is self-driving; my house is cleaned by a Roomba; my pets can come and go as they please with robotic doggie doors; and I could turn this blog over to ChatGPT (and trust me, that is really tempting).

At a recent professional development day at work, the faculty and I discussed the growing presence of AI through things like ChatGPT, which can cause all sorts of havoc (much good) in the educational system. As one of the old farts in the room, though, I think I was in that crowd of "demanding to defeat those evil machines." The whole world hangs in the balance, because as Coyne sings, "It'll be tragic/if those evil robots win."

The Flaming Lips. "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1." Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. Warner Bros, 2002. Link here.

Day 282: Thompson Twins "Lay Your Hands On Me"

Day 284: John Denver "Take Me Home, Country Roads"

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