Nerds unite! We’ve pretty much taken over the world now, what with the internets and such being news and superhero movies and TV shows dominating all human entertainment. But what to choose for our anthem? Fortunately, Rooktopia is here at “The Total Dork Wasteland” to give give you the skinny on the Top 10 Nerd Anthems. So please, place your hand over your heart, stand, and sing along with me…
10. I Am A Rock — Simon & Garfunkel. Listen to it. Seriously listen to it.
OK, are you laughing your ass off yet? My God, this may be the most emo song ever, and it was written before that term had been created yet! And if Wikipedia is right, even Paul Simon seems to be distancing himself from the super mopey lyrics: “There are some here that I would not write today. I don’t believe in them as I once did. I have included them because they played an important role in the transition. It is discomforting, almost painful, to look back over something someone else created and realize that someone else was you.”
What can you say about a song that includes lines like “I have my books and my poetry to protect me” and “A rock feels no pain, and an island never cries”? Me First and the Gimme Gimmes did a perfect version of the song that included the right voice which was borderline crying and whining. Yet the original is the one that lit nerds are most likely to listen to. You know who I’m talking about: the kind that sighs deeply while clutching at their thick James Joyce or Mervyn Peake novels.
9. Old Skool — Dangerdoom and Talib Kweli. Brought to you by dudes who either named themselves after a cartoon character (Danger Mouse) or dress up like a comic book villain (MF Doom). If you think rap artists cannot be nerdy, think again. This song, currently featured in Adult Swim ads to promote the Dangerdoom tour, includes the line “And I may might be buggin’ but it seems to me/that cartoons be realer than reality TV.” Word. By the way, back when Adult Swim still had a podcast, they ran a clip of one of the hip-hop parties they were promoting. It was one of the whitest affairs committed to video. If you guessed that the tunes were being spun from an Apple laptop instead of from a much cooler two-turntable kit, then give yourself a cookie.
8. Tribute — Tenacious D. If Tenacious D is on the “Top 25 Most Played” playlist on your iPod, then you are a bonafide nerd. Ahem. Anyway, this is the only entry that isn’t overtly nerdy upon first listen. It’s a funny song about two guys who are challenged by the Devil to play the greatest song with the world, and they actually do so. Simple. However, it cannot be denied that Jack Black and Kyle Gass are nerd icons, much like Madonna is a gay icon. And the guy who directed the video? None other than Liam Lynch, the guy famous for the MTV Sifl & Olly sockpuppet show and and being the nerdiest director alive. And speaking of Liam….
7. United States of Whatever — Liam Lynch. This jokey song about not caring and being a total jerk (except to “Zafo”) started out as an ending segment on Sifl & Olly. The Sifl & Olly Show had a lot of great songs (my favorite being “Internet Killed the Video Star,” which is both extremely relevant and incredibly nerdy), but this is the one that hit the prime time. It ended up being a standalone hit for Liam and was featured in commercials for games starring his friend, Tony Hawk. And nerds, who love semi-obscure sock puppet shows and video games, loved the song. It even made its way to a couple of AMVs. Liam, by the way, is a true blue nerd, and he has a podcast to prove it. How can you top a guy that performs skits with badly rendered CG characters and devotes an entire podcast episode to Dr. Who?
6. The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny — Lemon Demon. Neil Cicierega is one seriously lucky guy. Then man who has been known by many names — “Trapezoid,” “Deporitaz,” and currently “Lemon Demon” — struck nerd gold when the flash video for “The ultimate Showdown” was posted at Newgrounds. Now his song about a battle royale that includes the likes of Godzilla, Batman, Abe Lincoln, Jackie Chan, Optimus Prime, and Chuck Norris is a favorite of nerds everywhere. He got some raves from Dr. Demento, Salon.com, and the Boston Globe. And he’s now released several records … all before he turned 20.
5. Eyes On Me — Angela Aki. This list would be lacking if I didn’t include at least one J-pop song. I mean, there is nothing more nerdy than hearing an anime soundtrack in public. I was once waiting for my flight in a first class lounge when I heard something familiar on the speakers. It turned out to be the instrumental soundtrack to “Kare Kano.” I had briefly thought of pointing this out to my fellow travelers, but I feared that, in the inevitable 20 minute explanation to follow, the listeners would get so fed up that they’d grab me by the collar and throw me onto the tarmac. And they’be be right to do so.
Anyway, I got this track from my girlfriend, who had been loaned a CD from her anime obsessed students and had no idea where the song came from but liked the tune. Ooh, stealth nerdiness! Also, it was featured in Final Fantasy VIII. Ideally, it should have been something from FF7, the pinnacle of RPG geek nirvana, but the cinematic motif and J-pop ties didn’t really start until FF8. Plus, this song was featured in that heartwarming scene where Squall and Rinoa are floating around in space, which is sorta iconic for Final Fantasy fans or something.
4. In The Garage — Weezer. Let’s do an inventory of what’s in the garage: a Dungeonmaster’s guide, a twelve-sided die, Kitty Pryde, a coloring book, a KISS poster, pita crisps …. I’m surprised there’s no sly mention of Transformers toys in here. Seriously guys… you realize you’re enabling all those AD&D junkies, right? And Weezer themselves come off as big nerds themselves, what with Rivers Cuomo sporting those Buddy Holly glasses and an overall band look that a female friend of mine decribed as “really, really ugly.” Plus they have that band shirt with Animal from the Muppets… which will get you beat up if you’re over the age of 10.
3. Godzilla — Blue Oyster Cult. I was tempted to have “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” at this slot instead, since it’s the origin of the nerdy “More Cowbell” catchphrase. But the song itself, which the Blue Oyster Cult members insist is not about suicide, is actually free of nerdy content. Godzilla, however, is the icon of B-movie fans everywhere, and this song is all about him. I first heard this song when TBS Superstation ran their Godzilla marathons many years back. I gotta hand it to BOC: the song does evoke images of the Big G on a rampage in Tokyo. And I adore the line “History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.” Added plus: mainstream society considers Blue Oyster Cult to be a “relevant” band, and playing this song will not immediately get you the Dreaded Atomic Wedgie … eventhough a close look at their musical ouvre reveals tracks that would not look too odd alongside the Best of Ookla the Mok.
2. White and Nerdy — Weird Al Yankovic. Weird Al probably deserves a whole wing of his own. The guy authored notable nerd ditties like “Dare To Be Stupid,” “All About The Pentiums,” and the Star Wars prequel themed “Saga Begins.” But the greatest nerd anthem may be one of his most recent: White and Nerdy.
The song and video cover a spectrum of nerdiness, from Myspace to Segways to Stephen Hawking. It was embraced immediately … by both nerds and the mainstream. I watched a VH1 “Best Week Ever,” and there were some celebrities claiming that Weird Al flowed better than the guy he was parodying, Chamillionaire. (And to be honest … they were right.) It was one of his few songs that trenscended parody and became a great song on its own. In fact, under most circumstances, this would be number one. So why isn’t it. Well… not all nerds are “White.” Heck, I’m about as big a nerd as you can get, and I’m not White. And while I love the song, I have to concede that while it does describe my nerdiness to a T, I cannot claim it 100% because I don’t fit the other requirement in the title. Alas.
So what is the greatest nerd anthem of all time?
1. Experimental Film — The Might Be Giants. This has three big things going for it. First, it was performed by They Might Be Giants, and if you ever play any of their stuff out loud you are ostracized from hip society forever. Heck, even the un-hip crowd will probably think twice before stepping in the same dorm room with you. Second, there’s the subject matter itself. It’s about a filmmaker who has plans for making a heart-breaking work of staggering genius but has not finished it and cannot explain it. It strikes at the heart of nerddom itself. Seriously, you can replace “experimental film” with “great American novel,” “video game,” or “AMV,” and you get the same results. Finally — and here’s the big kicker — they have a video animated by the Brother Chaps of “Homestar Runner” fame. And it stars Strong Sad, the one that the nerdiest of H*R fans most empathize with.
And we have a winner!