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Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet: Dystopian Sounds

by Stephanie Benson

Cheat Sheet: Dystopian Sounds


It's the end of the world as we know it. Or is it the world we already know? Obedience. Control. Alienation. Conformity. Big Brother. Technology's violent takeover. This is the gray dystopia that's been painted with loud and bright colors by such brilliant minds as George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. And it's constantly in the back of our collective conscious -- as we drool over our phones and dazedly text, as we stare at the boob tube, as we sit here and read this translated code of ones and zeros. But if we've learned anything from such iconic films and literature as 1984, Brave New World and even The Hunger Games, it's that the eccentric outcasts, the rebellious pariahs, the craziest kooks will fight on regardless, even if they don't always win.

So it's fitting that a bunch of weirdo musicians would take this doom on head-first. Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Muse, David Bowie... they've all been inspired by Orwell's work in particular (the Brits seem especially worried about a dystopian reality). Hip-hop artists, too, have laid out potential worlds of ruin, from Deltron 3030 to El-P to Janelle Monae, who reveals a passion for Fritz Lang's Metropolis all the way down to her debut album cover. All of these artists (plus the above-pictured Nine Inch Nails, Rush, The Thermals and more below) have made a dystopian world at least sound pretty damn cool, so let's try to store this list for safekeeping.