"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."
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 also gained fame before that for his "Thing-A-Week" series of albums, wherein he challenged himself to write and record one song a week for an entire year, and actually did it
Notable 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
, and has done collaborations with MC Frontalot
. He has been involved in several RiffTrax
, including playing some songs before the live Plan 9 from Outer Space
. He's the resident musician on the NPR
game show Ask Me Another
. He is also the "Official Contributing Troubadour" of Popular Science
magazine, and sang the opening theme for their podcast. He also has a handful of songs featured in Rock Band
. He's also long-time friends with John Hodgman, has written songs for Hodgman's book tours (which he often participates in), and has appeared on all three audiobooks for Hodgman's Complete World Knowledge
series. Basically, he's popular, is what we're getting at.
In 2013, he became noted by the media when his rearrangement
of Sir Mix-a-Lot
's "Baby Got Back" was used by Glee
without his permission (to the point of keeping various changes like a duck being used as a Sound Effect Bleep
). And that's all we need to say on it
In other media, Coulton worked with Comic Book
writer Greg Pak on a comic miniseries/graphic novel based on the characters from many of his songs, named Code Monkey Save World
. The Kickstarter
project finished with 872% of its goal.
You can go here
to vote for his best songs.
- Smoking Monkey (2003)
- Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow (2004)
- Our Bodies, Ourselves, Our Cybernetic Arms (2005)
- Thing A Week One (2006)
- Thing A Week Two (2006)
- Thing A Week Three (2006)
- Thing A Week Four (2006)
- Artificial Heart (2011)
- One Christmas At a Time (2012; with John Roderick)
- JoCo Looks Back (2008)
- Jonathan Coulton's Greatest Hit (Plus 13 Other Songs) (2012)
Tropes Related to this Musician Include:
- Affectionate Parody: His song "Big Dick Farts a Polka" is one for/of his longtime touring partners Paul and Storm. They returned the favor with "Live", which riffs off Coulton's common "Mad Scientist In Love" theme.
- And Now You Must Marry Me: "The Future Soon".
- Anti-Christmas Song: "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.
- Anti-Love Song: "Someone Is Crazy".
The world's against you so you think or maybe wish it was
And at least that way someone would care but baby no one does
Not even you
Baby someone is crazy and it's you.
- Audience Participation Song: Parts of the chorus for "Re: Your Brains." To be sung as zombies.
- Badass Princess: "The Princess Who Saved Herself"
- Blatant Lies: "Not About You", basically a Breakup Song for the hopelessly-in-denial.
- Breakup Song: "Not About You" and "Always the Moon" among several others.
- Captain Oblivious: In "Betty and Me", the narrator misses the obvious signs of his wife cheating on him.
- Celebrity Is Overrated: "Tom Cruise Crazy"
- Completely Missing the Point: In-universe - The Evil Overlord from "Skullcrusher Mountain" about love.
- Could Say It But: In "The Presidents":
And I don't like to make political statements
- The Cover Changes The Meaning: His cover of Sir-Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back".
- The Cover Changes The Gender: His cover of Alanis Morisette's "You Oughta Know" surprisingly averts this, lending an interesting twist to the song.
- Creepy Doll: The doll in "Creepy Doll" always follows you, has a ruined eye that's always open, and has a pretty mouth to swallow you whole.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: "The Future Soon", although portrayed with very upbeat guitar and somewhat comical lyrics.
- Aritficial Heart has the subject lose the ability to care after getting his artificial heart.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The "space lab in space" from "Future Soon."
- Designer Baby: Betty and Me is about a loutish husband who (at least thinks) his son will be one ( it's pretty clear that his wife's cheating on him with the geneticist).
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: "The Princess Who Saved Herself" singlehandedly defeats a dragon by tying his tail to a tree, tells him off to his face, makes him cry, and gets him to apologize! Badass Princess indeed!
- Don't You Like It?: The Evil Overlord narrating "Skullcrusher Mountain" is trying so hard to please his captive love interest, but doesn't quite understand that she wouldn't like a half-pony, half-monkey monster.
- Driven to Suicide: The vampire in "Blue Sunny Day".
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: "My Monkey", "Code Monkey", "Monkey Shines"...
- Evil Overlord: "Skullcrusher Mountain" sung from the perspective of one in love.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: From "I Feel Fantastic": "All I know is that the steak tastes better when I take my steak-tastes-better pill."
- Foe Yay: "Nemeses".
- Gadgeteer Genius: "The Future Soon".
- Gold Digger: "Millionaire Girlfriend" has an average guy daydreaming about having one.
- "Till the Money Comes" is about a guy who hates his wife but decides to hang around until she comes into money so that he can divorce her and take half of it.
- Gratuitous French: Je Suis Rick Springfield is written entirely in poor French. In his live shows, Coulton insists that it's the character's bad French, and not his.
- Greatest Hits Album: JoCo Looks Back collects the best of his Thing A Week project.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: "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.
- Hulk Speak: "Code Monkey".
- I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: The narrator of "Ikea" is dismissive of the title store at first, but by the third verse he's singing praises about what a great deal it is.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: "Skullcrusher Mountain"
- I Just Want to Be Normal: That poor giant squid in "I Crush Everything" wants nothing more than to live a normal life. Too bad he's a giant squid.
- I Want My Jetpack: "The Future Soon".
- Intercourse with You: Subverted in "First of May", we think.... Played straight in "Soft Rocked by Me".
- In the Style of...: Changed the iTunes listing of his "Baby Got Back" cover to a sarcastic "...(In The Style Of Glee)" after they essentially used his arrangement without his permission and told him he should be thankful for the publicity. However, he's donating all proceeds from the sale of the song to the It Gets Better Foundation and VH1 Save The Music as a result.
- Love Martyr: The narrator of "Betty and Me." Betty repeatedly cheats on him and insults him and he's conned out of money by the other man. He still shows devotion to Betty. While he is honestly too stupid to realize that Betty is cheating on him, he just kind of accepts the insults.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Shop Vac," "Blue Sunny Day," and numerous others.
- "I Feel Fantastic" is a subversion. The guy with a different pill for every single occasion of his day is perfectly happy being drugged up to the max, even if we, the listener, are aware of how terrible it is.
- Machine Worship: "The Future Soon".
- Mad Scientist: "Skullcrusher Mountain" is probably the best known, though "The Future Soon" and other songs contain similar themes.
- The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: "Sticking It To Myself".
- Manly Tears: "Soft Rocked by Me" has:
Have you ever been in love with a man who's sensitive?
Have you ever spent the night with a man who cries?
Well that's me, I'm sensitive
And I cry, I'm crying right now
In a manly way
- Mix-and-Match Critters: The half pony, half monkey monster from "Skullcrusher Mountain".
- Motor Mouth: "I Feel Fantastic," a song about a guy with a pill for every occasion. Literally.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: His Greatest Hits album is an inversion - Jonathan Coulton's Greatest Hit (Plus 13 Other Songs)
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Scarface.
- Newscaster Cameo: Soterios Johnson of WNYC Radio's NPR Morning Edition, the subject of ''Dance Soterios Johnson Dance".
- Non-Indicative Title: "You Ruined Everything" is not a Breakup Song; it's actually a very happy and loving song.
- Noodle Incident: "He brings it up again; the famous apple fritter incident of 2010."
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine
- Powersuit Monkey: "Code Monkey" describes a literal Type Three monkey who sings in Hulk Speak.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: His live album "Best. Concert. Ever."
- Real Song Theme Tune: "Code Monkey" is one for the animated sitcom Code Monkeys.
- Rick Roll: He likes to do this in the middle of "Mr. Fancy Pants" thanks to the electric machine he uses for the backing beat.
- Robot Maid: "Todd the T1000" is about a guy who feels threatened by his robot butler.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: "The Princess Who Saved Herself."
- Self-Deprecation: See My Friends... and Zoidberg above.
- Shaped Like Itself:
- "Shop Vac" includes the line "I like that Starbucks here, it's better than the other one / 'Cause the other one's not as good." The bland, hollow, circular reasoning fits well with the song's theme of the bland, hollow, circular life the protagonists are leading.
- In "Betty and Me", Dr. Martin's method of making a Designer Baby is described as "legal in the states where it wasn't banned".
- Siamese Twin Songs: On "JoCo Looks Back", "Creepy Doll" does this... and leads into "Mr. Fancy Pants".
- Stalker with a Crush: Very common theme.
- Stepford Suburbia: "Brookline" portrays the title town in such a manner, from the point of view of one of the people who still has enough self-awareness to notice its unsettling nature.
- "Shop Vac" also has shades of this.
- Stupid Statement Dance Mix: Has done a few, such as "Beds Hurt My Booty".
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Unusually, "First of May" ends its chorus with a line more obscene than the one the rhyme scheme leads the viewer to expect.
- Suicide by Sunlight: "Blue Sunny Day".
- Third-Person Person: The titular Code Monkey of "Code Monkey" only ever refers to Code Monkey as such.
- Toilet Humor: "Big Dick Farts a Polka".
- The Wiki Rule: http://www.jonathancoulton.com/wiki/Main_Page
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: "I Crush Everything" is one of these in song form. The reason the giant squid hates himself is because while he just wants to make friends with the dolphins and play with the pretty white ships, he can't do it without breaking them.
- You Are Not Alone: "I'm Your Moon". Even if Pluto is no longer one of the planets, its moon Charon is still there for it.
- Your Cheating Heart: Betty of "Betty and Me" cheats on her husband with Dr. Martin, though the poor sap is completely oblivious.
- Zombie Apocalypse: "Re: Your Brains"