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Witty lyrics sharpen students’ minds

Written by Rebecka McAleer

Welcome back to Additive Noise. As we head into our last few weeks of the semester, it’s about time to start hitting those books.

Go ahead and start figuring out what exactly you missed that one day you were sick, or when you overslept and your friend forgot to take notes. It’s time to get sharp again, so we’re bringing you some “mind-sharpening” tunes to help you out. But don’t worry, because these are actually pretty funny.

Jonathan Coulton is a Yale graduate and former computer programmer who uses his witty mind to write comedy music for the smart masses. Using an acoustic guitar and a zendrum for nearly all of his work, Coulton relies on his clever lyrics more than anything. His songs are generally in-character, written from the perspective of any number of amusing fictious personalities.

A couple of the most entertaining ones include “Skullcrusher Mountain,” where Coulton portrays an evil mad scientist as he sings a love songs to the woman he has just captured, and “RE: Your Brains,” which is a musical reading of a professional email sent from a zombie horde leader to a living coworker.

Among his most well-known works are “Code Monkey,” the tale of an unlucky-in-love computer programmer, and the wildly successful pair “Still Alive” and “Want You Gone,” written specifically for the Portal video games. Coulton also writes more subdued “smart” songs about math and science such as “Mandelbrot Set.”

A man of infinite snark, Coulton feeds his sarcastic image in his choices for tour partners. He has a working partnership with comical team Paul and Storm, and they tour together fairly regularly. Coulton has also taken the stage opening for They Might Be Giants. In September 2011, Coulton released his first album featuring a full band, which included They Might Be Giants’ Marty Beller.

Perhaps Coulton’s most impressive feature is his success. His music is all released online under Creative Commons licensing, providing permission for his works to be used in noncommercial works. In fact, the internet is arguably Coulton’s path to fame. It provides more direct access to his niche audience, while also leaving plenty of room for new people to find him.

Folks who wouldn’t pay 99 cents for a song on iTunes can download “JoCo” for free on his website, www.jonathancoulton.com. He doesn’t have a record label, and you probably won’t ever hear him on America’s Top 40.

What most musicians might see as a path directly to failure, Jonathan Coulton thrives on. He doesn’t mind doing silly things like freestyling with the zendrum mid-concert or releasing albums of songs that he wrote and produced in a single week per track. Coulton is the kind of artist you can listen to for fun and still come out feeling a bit smarter.

Get ready, VSU. Turn on some JoCo and break out the books!

To listen to some of Jonathan Coulton’s greatest hits, visit our blog at http://vsuadditivenoise.blogspot.com/.

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