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Music / Todd Rundgren

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He was born to synthesize.

"I only want to see if you'll give up on me,
But there's always more."
— "International Feel"

Todd Harry Rundgren (born June 22, 1948 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer, known for his eclectic, experimental style, incredibly prolific recording and quirky sense of humor. While he's dabbled in numerous styles and has experimented a lot with his material, he largely operates within a few rock subgenres, namely: Power Pop (coincidentally, the one he made his initial name in), Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Electronic/Club and R&B (classic R&B). His mix and match musical genres approach, dabbling in True Art Is Incomprehensible, cult following and emphasis on humour has earned him occasional comparisons to Frank Zappa.

Rundgren started his career as a guitarist and vocalist in the Psychedelic Rock band (The) Nazznote , which he founded in 1967 alongside keyboardist and vocalist Robert Antoni, bassist Carson Van Osten, and drummer Thom Mooney. Their first album, Nazz, showcased Rundgen's composing and arranging talents as well as the band's heavily derivative, Promoted Fanboy style – they sounded like a cross between The Beatles, The Who, Cream and The Yardbirds. It spawned a minor hit single, "Hello It's Me", and didn't go much anywhere. A planned double album followup was shortened to a single LP, Nazz Nazz, released a year later. Nazz Nazz showed the band somewhat abandoning its psychedelic trappings and concentrating on catchy, if still not too groundbreaking, Power Pop. Rundgren left the band shortly after, as his newfound love of Carole King, Laura Nyro, and soul music and the resulting material he was writing no longer fit with the band's sound. The Nazz disintegrated shortly thereafter, and an album of the heavily Nyro-influenced material left over from previous sessions was released, imaginatively titled Nazz III. Antoni and Mooney briefly ended up joining Fuse – an extremely early incarnation of Cheap Trick which played throughout the Midwest billed either as "Fuse" or "Nazz" – before practically vanishing from the music industry.

Rundgren officially began his solo career in 1970, and has been going steady ever since with his musical mashups and quirky lyrics. While Power Pop and Hard Rock have remained the primary genres he operates in, at various points he's experimented with Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock (both solo and with his band Utopia), Jazz Fusion, New Wave Music, Soul, Techno, Electronic Music and others. Predictably, he has a very sizeable Fandom but has enjoyed only a few, fleeting moments of mainstream success, most notably the singles "Hello It's Me" (a 1972 upbeat reworking of the Nazz song), "I Saw the Light", "Can We Still Be Friends", "We Gotta Get You a Woman", and "Bang the Drum All Day". (Utopia's best known song is almost certainly either "Love Is the Answer" or "Set Me Free".) His massive output, both solo and with Nazz and Utopia, can be a frequent source of both Archive Panic and Seasonal Rot.

He is also known for being an early adopter and innovator in the domains of Music Videos and use of computers: his video for "Time Heals" was one of the first to be aired on MTV, he developed one of the first computer paint programs for the Apple II, Utopia Graphics System, way back in 1981, he was an early adopter of the desktop video program Video Toasternote  for Amiga in The '90s, and was one of the first people to distribute his work online, long before iTunes or even Napster, through a subscription service, PatroNet, in the mid-nineties.

Rundgren returned to the band format through the foundation of Utopia in 1973. In its initial incarnation, Utopia was a six-piece ensemble with Rundgren, Kevin Ellman (percussion), Mark "Moogy" Klingman (keyboards), M. Frog Labat (Jean Yves Labat, synthesizers), Ralph Schukett (keyboards), and John Siegler (bass and cello). Their output was largely formed of long, jammy Progressive Rock instrumentals that brought a mixed critical reception (however, Utopia's début album, Todd Rundgren's Utopia, was its second-best selling album, only surpassed by Adventures in Utopia, and is considered by many Progressive Rock fans to be a Cult Classic). By 1976, Rundgren revamped Utopia and reduced it to a four-piece band consisting of him, Kasim Sulton (bass, vocals), Roger Powell (keyboards, vocals) and Willie Wilcox (drums, vocals). They also switched to a catchy, mainstream pop/Hard Rock sound, bringing them critical and commercial success. They carried on for a while, leaning increasingly towards Pop and New Wave Music, before calling it a day in 1986.

Alongside his solo career and work with bands, Rundgren is also known as a Record Producer, having produced albums for such acts as Sparks, New York Dolls, Badfinger, The Band, Grand Funk Railroad, Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler, Patti Smith, The Tubes, XTC, Bad Religion, Cheap Trick, The Psychedelic Furs, Daryl Hall & John Oates, and so on. Some of the bands have claimed that working with him was difficult and he acted like a Jerkass, most famously XTC, Sparks, and Bad Religion. However, he has also produced many artists' most successful albums, such as XTC's Skylarking, Grand Funk Railroad's We're an American Band and Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell, and even though they consistently argued throughout the album's production, XTC's Andy Partridge later wrote that "Todd conjured up some of the most magical production and arranging conceivable." He has also been known to complete an act's unfinished songs, but decline a writer's credit for doing so.


With Nazz:

  • Nazz (1968)
  • Nazz Nazz (1969)
  • Nazz III (1970)


With Utopia:

Notable albums produced by Todd Rundgren:

"Tryin' to make a livin' off an elpee's worth of tropes":

  • Affectionate Parody:
    • The Utopia album Deface the Music is largely a parody of The Beatles, from their early Merseybeat incarnation up to their trippy Psychedelic Rock stuff.
    • The cover of Swing to the Right retouches a photo of fundamentalist Christians burning Beatles memorabilia following John Lennon's 'more popular than Jesus' remarks to turn it into a Droste Image.
  • Album Intro Track: Todd begins with "How About a Little Fanfare?", a short abstract collage of noise and synthesizers that fades into the first proper track, "I Think You Know".
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: "Party Liquor"
  • All There in the Manual: His liner notes for Something/Anything? provide commentary on either the concept or the meaning of the lyrics for every song on the album, including adding additional libretto for the ending "pop operetta".
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: "I Don't Want to Tie You Down" and "Couldn't I Just Tell You" provide two very different takes on the trope; the former is a heartfelt ballad declaring that the singer doesn't wish to cause his beloved any inconvenience or hardship, while the latter is an emotionally wrought Power Pop rocker.
  • Atomic Hate: The subject of "Hiroshima", if the title didn't make it obvious.
  • Author Tract:
    • His 1975 album Initiation was a retort to his fans who wanted him to ditch the synthesizers and Buddhist symbolism that had crept into his crunchy rock sound. Instead, he went on for 68 full minutes about it, telling his fans that he was a "Real Man" "Born to Synthesize", and taunting them to follow him or lose him forever. This ended with the 35-minute synth freakout that closed the album, named after a book by occult author Alice Bailey (who also inspired the Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat") and containing movements named after the seven chakras. How compelling a person finds all this is likely to hinge in large part upon their feelings about Progressive Rock, though the songs "Real Man" and "The Death of Rock & Roll" (which is the hardest rock song on the album by far) do tend to be fairly well liked even by people who don't enjoy prog.
    • Every song on Liars is a Protest Song about some form of untruth Rundgren feels people have accepted in their daily lives, from gender essentialist views of relationships ("Happy Anniversary") to greed ("Mammon") to the present-day state of the music industry ("Soul Brother") to religion ("God Said") to various political topics. However, this is a clear case of Tropes Are Not Bad, as it's one of his most loved albums since The '80s.
  • Autotune: Used sparingly in "Afterlife". Also done in the verses of "Sir Reality" to emphasize the artificiality of the concepts Rundgren is denouncing.
  • Banging Pots and Pans: The narrator of "Bang The Drum All Day" says that he loved to hit a coffee can with a stick as a toddler and has been obsessed with drums ever since.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": On "Family Values" from The Individualist, in response to a sample of Dan Quayle talking about moral values.
  • Bishōnen: In the Nazz days — also perhaps in the early 70's.
  • Blatant Lies: The verses of "Sir Reality" are a mixture of obvious falsehoods ("no one ever lies", "the ocean has no salt") and various beliefs Todd is implicitly attacking by association (including gender essentialism - "Girls are girls and boys are boys" - and Social Darwinism - "lack is all your fault", "the rich deserve to be"). This is done in so few words as to be almost awe-inspiring to those who agree with his stances.
  • Bookends: The first side of A Wizard, a True Star and both individual sides of Initiation each open and close with the same melody.
  • Break Up Song: One possible interpretation of "Hello It's Me", although see Friends with Benefits below. "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference", "The Last Ride", and "Can We Still Be Friends?" are other, less ambiguous examples.
  • Broken Record: A couple of instances on A Wizard, a True Star, namely the end of "Rock & Roll Pussy", and the transition between "International Feel" and "Never Never Land".
  • Buddhism: The song "Bardo" from Arena references a state between death and rebirth in some forms of Buddhism. Initiation also explores some concepts from Buddhism and other Eastern religions; there are occasional references to Buddhist concepts on other albums as well.
  • Call-Back: "Fair Warning" contains references to several of Rundgren's past songs: "A Long Time, a Long Way to Go", "I Saw the Light", "Just One Victory" and "A Dream Goes On Forever" (one on each of his solo albums back through The Ballad of Todd Rundgren).
  • Call-Forward: "La Feel Internacìonále", from 1973's A Wizard, a True Star, contains the line "Wait another year/Utopia is here". The next year, Utopia would release its self-titled début album.
  • Camp Gay: "You Don't Have to Camp Around", a lighthearted razzing of costume designer Larry Nichols, who fit the Camp Gay trope in real life.
  • Class Clown: "Piss Aaron".
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Flaw" is a hilarious example of this trope. The word "motherfucker" sung with harmonies in a blue-eyed soul style is... not something you hear every day.
  • Concept Album:
    • Initiation is one (see Take That, Critics! below.)
    • The first side of Faithful was about faithfully recreating classic pop and rock songs note for note.
    • Side four of Something/Anything? is a Rock Opera (see trope entry below).
    • Healing also qualifies, as it explores spirituality and how it relates to various aspects of society.
    • Liars is a concept album about... well... Exactly What It Says on the Tin. (The liner notes comment that superficially some songs may seem to be about other topics, but "that is just a reflection of how much dishonesty we have accepted in our daily lives"; they all relate in some way to the album's concept of "a paucity of truth".)
    • Deface the Music is a loose one, as every song is an Affectionate Parody of some period of The Beatles' career (and often, of one or two specific songs), though there is no overarching lyrical theme.
  • Control Freak: Has a reputation as one as a producer.
  • Cover Album: He's done at least two and a half.
    • Faithful's first side features note-for-note covers of the following songs, performed as if they were classical music:
    • Todd Rundgren's Johnson is an entire album of Robert Johnson covers (and not what you thought it was).
    • (re)Production consists of covers of songs from albums Rundgren had previously produced.
  • Cover Version: A lot. Beyond the examples above under Cover Album:
    • "Never Never Land" from the Peter Pan musical (from A Wizard, a True Star)
    • "The Lord Chancellor's Nightmare Song" by Gilbert and Sullivan (from Todd; yes, we're not shitting you)
    • "Two Little Hitlers" by Elvis Costello (from Nearly Human)
    • "Mighty Love" by the Spinners (from A cappella)
    • "Feel It" by the Tubes (though this is partially a self-cover as Rundgren was involved in producing the original and co-wrote it, and two former members of the band appear on Rundgren's version)
    • With Utopia, a cover of "Do Ya" by The Move (on Another Live, though better known from Electric Light Orchestra's version, a rare example of an artist Covering Up his own song), "Something's Coming" by Leonard Bernstein (also on Another Live), and "For the Love of Money" by the O'Jays (on Swing to the Right). (Incidentally, the reason ELO re-recorded "Do Ya" is because a music journalist confused Utopia's version for the original, so Utopia's version could be considered to have temporarily Covered Up the song as well).
      • Speaking of artists Covering Up their own songs, Something/Anything? features Rundgren's hit remake of "Hello It's Me", which he'd originally done with Nazz.
    • A Wizard, a True Star has a medley of Motown covers: Curtis Mayfield's "I'm So Proud", Smokey Robinson's "Ooh Baby Baby", the Delfonics' "La-La Means I Love You", and, most interestingly, the Capitols' "Cool Jerk" performed in 7/8 instead of its normal 4/4.
    • Live, Rundgren was known to cover several Marvin Gaye songs as a medley. "What's Going On?", "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)", and "I Want You" were included. Two versions can be found on the Can't Stop Running box set.
    • The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect features a cover of The Small Faces' "Tin Soldier".
    • Something/Anything?'s fourth side opens with archival recordings of Rundgren's earliest bands (Money and Woody's Truck Stop, respectively) playing Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" and Junior Wells' "Messin' with the Kid".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Known for being an extreme one. It has even damaged relationships with other musicians and has left people whose work he produced feeling insecure.
  • Distinct Double Album: A lot of his albums either exaggerate it or play with it.
    • Something/Anything? cranks this up to eleven: each of the four LP sides is in a different style, with the fourth being a mini-Rock Opera.note 
    • Several of his albums are Distinct Single Albums, despite Rundgren often needing to stretch the limitations of the vinyl format to accomplish this:
      • A Wizard, a True Star (running time 56:02): The first side is devoted to a bizarre psychedelic medley of songs Rundgren constructed. The second was more conventional (but it's still plenty weird).
      • Initiation (running time 67:27): The first side mostly consists of fairly conventional Progressive Rock (well, as conventional as prog gets, anyway), while the second side is devoted entirely to a lengthy instrumental synthesizer workout. Both sides, at over thirty-two and over thirty-five minutes respectively, are longer than many contemporary full-length albums.
      • Faithful (running time 50:04): The first side consists of note-for-note covers of other artists' songs as if they were classical music (hence the album title), and the second consists of original material.
      • Hermit of Mink Hollow (running time 34:50) was forced by executive meddling into this. Rundgren intended a different running order, but the record company insisted on making the first side "The Easy Side" and the second side "The Difficult Side". Rundgren's intended track listing was listed on the back of the LP cover and can be seen on Discogs (click "More Images" under the album cover).
      • Notably, the only thing that stops Initiation and A Wizard, a True Star from playing this trope completely straight is that they were pressed on one LP each because Rundgren didn't want to break up the continuous song suites he'd built. Both albums were long enough to be double LP sets, and indeed Rundgren's double album Todd, released in between them, was shorter than Initiation at 66:51. However, Todd does not feature markedly different styles between its two records (mostly because it features too much Genre Roulette for either record to have a single distinguishing style), so it is arguably not an example of this trope.
    • Healing (running time 53:48) is a particularly strange example, since the vinyl edition contains an LP and a 45 rpm 7" single. The first side contains six different songs; the second side is entirely devoted to the twenty-minute title track, and the 7" contains two additional songs that relate to the LP's themes but are a bit catchier. Perhaps the strangest part of all is that the combined running time of the second side plus the running time of the single (26:40) is actually shorter than the running time of the first side of the album (27:08). It is possible that Rundgren put the last two songs on the single because he wanted to place emphasis on the title track. Musically, the whole album is of a similar style, but the length of the title track makes it stand out. On CD, the album is included on a single disc, with the single put at the end.
  • Double Entendre: It's extremely uncommon for any of Todd's recent songs to have only one meaning. As an example, "Angry Bird" might just seem to be a silly song about a silly mobile phone game, but Rundgren has noted that "the basis for the War on Women is also the basis for the game Angry Birds. Some pigs are trying to control the reproduction of the birds." Some metaphors are less silly than this, and some aren't even metaphors at all (many songs have other meanings that aren't based on metaphors), but it's rare for the surface meaning of a song to be its only one.
  • Downer Ending: The Rock Opera that closes out Something/Anything? ends with the protagonist not getting the girl and then dying from exhaustion after screaming his lungs out. This probably won't be obvious without the liner notes.
  • Droste Image: The cover of Swing to the Right.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady/Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Definitely in the earlier stages of his solo career, as shown on this cover of the box set Box O' Todd (see Bishōnen above).
  • Epic Rocking: Hoo boy.
    • Utopia did this a lot to begin with. "The Ikon" is Utopia's most extreme example, being slightly over thirty minutes long.
    • His solo piece "A Treatise on Cosmic Fire" (from Initiation), at over thirty-five minutes, is even longer.
      • These compositions were so long they heavily stretched the limitations of the vinyl format, and resulted in the albums being mastered more quietly than normal LPs (and thus having a higher noise floor), and being easily damaged if played with a worn needle. Rundgren also allegedly sped up the material on Initation to shorten it by two to three minutes. The sleeve notes of Initiation (which, at sixty-eight minutes in length, is not the longest single LP ever released, but still pretty high on the list) recommended that a person record the album to tape to preserve the sound. Albums such as Todd Rundgren's Utopia and A Wizard, a True Star also suffered from the danger of being easily damaged.
    • "Healing", divided into three movements and spanning almost twenty minutes, is another noteworthy example.
    • Utopia's "Singring and the Glass Guitar (An Electrified Fairytale)", which exceeds eighteen minutes, is yet another extreme example.
    • This is far from being an exhaustive list; on some of his mid-'70s albums, more songs exceeded six minutes than didn't. (On the first Utopia album, only one song was fewer than ten minutes long; the album has only four songs despite running for nearly an hour).
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: the album A cappella, named for an Italian phrase used to note music performed without instruments, involves no instruments whatever, just Rundgren as a Self-Backing Vocalist via lots of overdubbing and sampling.
  • Fading into the Next Song: All of Initiation (apart from the LP side break) and Liars (apart from the Japanese release) and the entire first side of A Wizard, a True Star and fourth side of Something/Anything? are gapless. Toddnote , Arenanote , and the other side of A Wizard, a True Starnote  also have a lot of this, but an exhaustive list would probably double the length of this page.
  • For Want of a Nail: "The Want of a Nail".
  • Friends with Benefits: One common interpretation of "Hello It's Me" is that it's about this. The main reason for this interpretation is that the chorus emphasizes, "It's important to me/That you know you are free/'Cause I'd never want to make you change for me", but one of the verses also notes, "I'll come around to see you once in awhile/Or if I ever need a reason to smile/And spend the night if you think I should", which isn't exactly consistent with the Break Up Song interpretation sometimes applied to it. Rundgren has a pattern of subverting popular expectations of romantic relationships in his work (see Polyamory below for more examples of this).
  • Genre-Busting: A Wizard, a True Star is psychedelic without a doubt, but it also breaks free of the constraints of any one genre. In 2017, he would describe it as "my act of tyranny after having achieved commercial success. [...] I threw out all the rules of record-making and decided I would try to imprint the chaos in my head onto a record without trying to clean it up for everyone else's benefit." He would continue this experimentation on Todd and Initiation, which also delved head-first into Progressive Rock.
  • Genre Roulette: Rundgren has often demonstrated quite a fondness for this, particularly in the stretch of albums recorded from Something/Anything? through Initiation, which have songs delving into Singer-Songwriter, Psychedelic Rock, Synth-Pop, Power Pop, Motown-influenced Soul, Disco, Progressive Rock, and even opera, amongst other genres. However, this has been a staple of his entire career; see the list of associated genres next to his discography above for proof. Even that list oversimplifies matters pretty substantially, since he tends to include several different styles on each of his albums, and some of his work is almost unclassifiable.
  • Gratuitous French: The reprise of "International Feel" on A Wizard, a True Star is entitled "Le Feel internacìonále". (This is not actual French, which is presumably deliberate; it's an international feel, not an actual example of internationality.)
  • Hip-Hop: Some of the songs on No World Order and The Individualist delve into this a bit, believe it or not, and they don't even qualify as Piss-Take Rap; Rundgren's flow is actually surprisingly good. ("Fascist Christ", one of the examples, also gets a live version on the bonus disc of State.)
  • Hypocritical Humor: "Lockjaw". The narrator tells a story meant to scare children who tell lies, then admits he made the whole thing up.
  • I Am the Band: Frequently Rundgren is the only featured performer and usually produces his own material, and in many cases even engineers it as well. (Examples include, but are not limited to, the first three sides of Something/Anything?, Hermit of Mink Hollow, Healing, The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, and A cappella, with the last of these being a particularly strange example since every sound you hear on the album is Rundgren's voice). His bands tended to be examples of this as well, to the point where Runt's two solo albums have been released as Rundgren solo albums (and are considered as such on this very wiki), Nazz is known today mostly for being Rundgren's first band, and Utopia often performed on Rundgren solo albums as his backing band (see Faithful, Todd, and Initiation for examples).
  • Idiosyncratic Song Naming: Every song on Arena has a One-Word Title. Some of these are the result of multiple words being mashed together.
  • Instrumentals: Several of them. The longest is "A Treatise on Cosmic Fire" from Initiation, which is over thirty-five minutes long.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: "Piss Aaron", "Slut", "Rock and Roll Pussy", "When the Shit Hits the Fan/Sunset Blvd.", "Pissin", etc.
  • In the Style of: Did this with his own songs on the album With a Twist, which offered bossa nova tiki lounge versions of his most familiar hits.
  • I Want My Jetpack: "Future" from Liars.
    I'm supposed to drive a flying car
    I'm supposed to have a house on mars
    I'm supposed to live two hundred years
    I'm supposed to live
    I'm supposed to live in the future...
  • Jerk Jock: "Pissin" is about one of these.
  • Just for Pun: In case you somehow didn't get the title of Todd Rundgren's Johnson, he titled the EP version Todd Rundgren's Short Johnson.
  • Last Note Nightmare: Combined with Fading into the Next Song, "Izzat Love?" from Todd ends abruptly at the 1:55 mark with the sound of a tape rewinding, which serves as a lead in to "Heavy Metal Kids".
  • Limited Lyrics Song: Utopia's material could get this way. "The Ikon" is around thirty minutes long and comparatively very little of it has lyrics.
  • Literary Allusion Title: From Utopia's Oblivion we have the song "Winston Smith Takes It on the Jaw", referencing the protagonist of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Todd has "Sons of 1984", another reference to Orwell's famous novel. "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell", from Oops! Wrong Planet, shares its title with a William Blake essay, while two songs from Swing to the Right are entitled "Fahrenheit 451" and "Lysistrata".
  • Live Album: Nearly Human is a somewhat unusual example, as it was recorded entirely live in the studio. The same is true of the fourth side of Something/Anything?. He has several straight examples recorded in concert venues before live audiences as well, however.
  • Location Title: Hermit of Mink Hollow, named after Mink Hollow (and Mink Hollow Road) outside Woodstock, New York, where he was living at the time.
  • Loudness War: Mostly averted, but Arena comes in at a borderline DR6. Some of White Knight also falls prey somewhat, though it's not too bad by modern standards.
  • Medium Awareness: Side 2 of Something/Anything? has Todd introducing a game where the listeners keep an ear out for record mastering gaffes — hiss, hum, popping P's, poor tape editing — whoever finds the most on their album of choice, wins!
  • Medley: Many, including "Baby Let's Swing"/"The Last Thing You Said"/"Don't Tie My Hands" on Runt, "That's What I Want"/"Messin' with the Kid" on Something/Anything?, and a medley of Motown covers on A Wizard, a True Star. Live he would often perform these as well, including a medley of Marvin Gaye covers.
  • Men Are Tough: This idea, in exactly these words, is derided in "All the Children Sing", as is the idea that "women are toys". Several other songs also challenge these ideas, further detailed below under Misogyny Song.
  • Metal Scream: Todd can do these pretty effectively when the situation calls for them. "Strike" is a particularly noteworthy example.
  • Mind Screw: A Wizard, a True Star for sure. And Todd and Initiation to an extent. It was his psychedelic period!
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Faithful
    • Done specifically because he figured his fans were "faithful" enough to know it's his music and buy it.
  • Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: The subject of "Flaw" in Liars.
  • Misogyny Song/Misandry Song: Outside of the context of Todd's work and especially the album it appears on, "Happy Anniversary" from Liars might be read as a sincere example of both tropes rather than the sardonic attack on gender essentialism that it actually is. The liner notes help clear this up to a certain extent, as they explicitly say that every song on the album is about some form of dishonesty we've accepted in our daily lives even if it initially seems to be about something else, as does the rest of Todd's work. "Earth Mother" from Global expresses sincere praise of activists Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai for challenging established power structures of racism and patriarchy and can therefore be considered an inversion of the Misogyny Song. "Pissin'" derides an exemplar of toxic masculinity as "a one-man pissing contest". And so on. Some of his earliest work (e.g., "We Gotta Get You a Woman") may erroneously read as vaguely misogynistic, due to grammatical misinterpretation note 
  • Money Song: Inverted with "Mammon", which denounces greed.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "I Hate My Frickin' ISP", from One Long Year, is a hard-rocking rant about how much Todd's internet connection sucks.
  • Musical Pastiche:
    • Many of the songs from the first Nazz album are pretty blatantly derivative of British Invasion bands. Doesn't stop them from being enjoyable, though.
      • "Open My Eyes" is basically ripping off The Who's Power Pop era, a fact that the intro makes abundantly clear when it yanks the riff of "I Can't Explain" with one chord altered.
      • "When I Get My Plane" sounds like it was beamed in from A Hard Day's Night, specifically imitating "When I Get Home".
      • "Back of Your Mind" sounds like a Cream song stripped of instrumental virtuosity; Antoni and Rundgren even do a convincing job of sounding like Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton.
    • "I Saw the Light" is a Carole King pastiche.
    • Also "Baby Let's Swing" (included as a medley on Runt) is both about and in the style of Laura Nyro, his other major influence from this period.
    • Utopia's Deface the Music is a whole album of these. It's composed entirely of Affectionate Parodies of Beatles songs, similar to The Rutles' music, and as with The Rutles, a listener could be forgiven for thinking these are lost Beatles songs (although the production sounds like a product of of the 1980s - maybe it was a Beatles reunion from an alternate universe where John Lennon didn't die). It should be noted that Utopia don't do dead-on Beatles vocal impersonations as the Rutles did, however. Most songs are pastiches of one or two specific Beatles songs. Some particularly obvious ones:
      • "Take It Home" = "Day Tripper"
      • "Hoi Poloi" = "Penny Lane"
      • "Life Goes On" = "Eleanor Rigby"
      • "Feel Too Good" = "Getting Better", "Fixing a Hole"
      • "All Smiles" = "Michelle"
      • "Everybody Else Is Wrong" = "Strawberry Fields Forever", "I Am the Walrus"
      • That Other Wiki has a complete list, though some resemblances are a lot closer than others.
    • "Slut" could be a lost Rolling Stones song, if it weren't so comedic.
    • "Song of the Viking", "An Elpee's Worth of Toons", and "Frogs" are all Gilbert and Sullivan pastiches.
    • "Little Red Lights" is a musical tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
    • "Strike" for AC/DC. Todd even does his best Bon Scott/Brian Johnson impression in the choruses.
  • Must Have Caffeine: "Espresso (All Jacked Up)" from The Individualist.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: "Slut".
  • New Sound Album: Almost every one of them, though A Wizard, a True Star is probably the most notable example.
  • No Ending: "La Feel Internacìonále" just cuts off without warning.
  • Patter Song: "Song of the Viking", "An Elpee's Worth of Toons", "Frogs", "The Lord Chancellor's Nightmare Song". The first three of these are tributes to Gilbert and Sullivan, who wrote the latter (and are pretty much the Trope Codifier).
  • Polyamory: Some of his songs seem to suggest either this or an open relationship, such as "I Don't Want to Tie You Down", which implies that the singer would be unwilling to demand monogamy of a lover, and "Fidelity", which flat-out states as much:
    "True love does not demand fidelity
    If there's one sacred place always in your heart for me
    If my love could not withstand this jealousy
    I'd remember the day I threw away our eternity"
For that matter, "Slut" could be considered a less serious take on the trope.
  • Pop-Star Composer: He scored Dumb and Dumber.
  • Protest Song: Todd began moving more into this during The '80s, with songs like Utopia's cover of "For the Love of Money", "Swing to the Right", "Flesh", "Johnee Jingo", and later on, just about all of No World Order, The Individualist, and Liars, as well as parts of Arena, State, and Global. Some of Hermit of Mink Hollow (i.e., "Bread", "Bag Lady") also qualifies.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The fourth side of Something/Anything? is a series of songs that are one-take, live-in-the-studio performances, slapped together with minimal rehearsal. All of the ad-libs by the performers included on the final recording were then written into an operetta, found in the liner notes. It's non-sensical and cheeky, but it got the job done.
  • Rearrange the Song: With a Twist consists of previously recorded songs, rearranged in a bossa-nova style.
    • Also done on the bonus disc of State, where fourteen previous songs are given live orchestral remakes.
    • Live concerts usually reflect the most recent album, which leads to rearrangement of the older songs in turn. The A Cappella tour is the clearest example by far, though. A recording from this tour can be found on the box set Can't Stop Running.
  • Record Needle Scratch: The "Intro" to Side 2 of Something/Anything? ends in one of these.
  • Record Producer: To his credit, he was the only producer that figured that Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell had potential. He also found it hilarious, which is why he produced it.
  • Religion Rant Song: "God Said", "Fascist Christ", "Family Values", "Afterlife", "Mammon"...
    • Despite this, some of his songs can also verge into... well, "Something from Nothing" is about having faith in something (which could just as easily be an abstract concept such as justice rather than a deity). On the other hand, an intended interpretation of the song is to ask whether, if all one has is faith, it is possible to know anything for certain. There's rarely only one meaning to any of Todd's songs. Some of his other songs explore spirituality from a serious ("Fair Warning", "Initiation", most of Healing) or not that serious ("Eastern Intrigue") perspective. Finally, Utopia's "Love Is the Answer", while not a religious song, was covered by several gospel and Christian artists.
  • Rock Opera: Side four of Something/Anything? is devoted to "Baby Needs a New Pair of Snakeskin Boots (A Pop Operetta)".
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Todd's use of layering his own harmonies is unique in rock music and fairly common in his work, regardless of genre. It was even used in his work with Nazz, and taken to its logical extreme on his 1985 A Cappella, where every single sound on the album uses his own voice as its foundation, thanks both to this trope and Sampling.
  • Self-Deprecation: "An Elpee's Worth of Tunes".
  • Sexiness Score: The song "Flaw" has the subject girl being described as a "ten" by the main character's friends, but he can't help but be bothered by her minor flaws.
    And all my friends they look at me
    Say 'she's a ten' and I agree that you are a mad love maker
    I know I should accept it all and overlook the little faults
    But this one's a real deal-breaker
  • Shout-Out: Quite a few. Todd alone has "Sons of 1984", "In and out the Chakras We Go (Formerly: Shaft Goes to Outer Space)", and "Everybody's Going to Heaven/King Kong Reggae", and that's just song titles. One song on A Wizard, a True Star has shout-outs to Salvador Dalí and Dada in its title alone. See also the Literary Allusion Title examples above.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: Done a lot, including the entire first side of A Wizard, a True Star, the entire first side of Initiation, and most of Liars. The rare exceptions on Liars use Fading into the Next Song instead. (Note: the Japanese version of Liars does not do either; each song has a complete fade-out).
  • Sincerity Mode: After a string of several albums where a lot of songs had multiple intended meanings that often differed from their surface interpretations, Global consists almost entirely of lyrically straightforward, sincerely intended Protest Songs. He has other examples as well, to be fair (some famous ones include "Love Is the Answer" and much of Hermit of Mink Hollow), but it'd been awhile since he'd recorded an entire album in this voice.
  • The Something Song: "Song of the Viking" and "Torch Song", both from Something/Anything?.
  • Special Guest: Soul legend Bobby Womack provides guest vocals on "The Want of a Nail". Luther Vandross' appearances on Utopia records were arguably not an example, as they were made before he was famous.
  • Spelling Song: "Slut".
  • Spoken Word in Music: He does this often. "Intro" from Something/Anything?, for example, wherein Todd jokingly demonstrates some of the engineering flaws that can affect an LP.
  • Stock Sound Effect: The Happy Baby stock sound from Jac Holzman's "Authentic Sound Effects" was used in the song "Day Job".
  • Studio Chatter + Throw It In: Something/Anything?
  • Take That!: "Rock and Roll Pussy" is a shot at John Lennon, whom Rundgren perceived as something of a limousine liberal. The two had a minor feud around the time of A Wizard, a True Star, but patched things up not very long after.
    • Several towards the modern music industry in "Soul Brother".
    • Towards American gun culture in "Gun".
    • "Tin Foil Hat", towards Donald Trump.
  • Take That, Critics!: Initiation as a whole was Rundgren yelling "tough shit" to his fans and critics who complained that he was wading too deeply into synthesizers and Eastern spirituality. The topic is lyrically addressed at face value in the song "The Death of Rock and Roll", and the title track and "Fair Warning" obliquely indicate that Rundgren is ready to break new ground and the listener can either follow along or tune out. The album concludes with a 35 minute synthesizer orgasm, with movements named after the seven chakras and prana, the breath of life.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Hello It's Me" (both the Nazz and the solo versions).
  • Uncommon Time: "Cool Jerk", "Is It My Name?", "Don't You Ever Learn?", "Freak Parade", "Another Life", "Weakness", amongst countless other examples; the use of 7/8 time and other compound meter signatures is one of Rundgren's compositional hallmarks. "Initiation" is a strange example as it's also influenced by disco (a style which almost always uses nothing but Common Time, with Blondie's "Heart of Glass" being one obvious exception), but nonetheless the meter signature jumps all over the place.
  • A World Half Full: "Love Is the Answer" portrays the world as a rather bleak place overall; the statement in the title is presented as the reason it's not completely hopeless.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: In the liner notes to Something/Anything?, several lines of "Song of the Viking" are written with added silent Es, even though Vikings don't originate from the British Isles. Rundgren explicitly states in the liner notes that the song is a tribute to Gilbert and Sullivan, who were most definitely British.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Some of his work runs along these themes, particularly "Time Heals", which tells the listener that they are capable of getting over a broken heart, and "Today", which is very nearly a pep talk in song form.