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Review: Styx - 'Mr. Roboto'

'Mr. Roboto' by Styx is a song from the 1983 album 'Kilroy Was Here'. Styx is an American band that achieved a degree of fame, particularly in Canada, with the tune 'Mr. Roboto'. The band never achieved any real fame in the UK, but the album sold over three million copies in the USA. A review of Styx's 'Mr. Roboto' follows.

Overview

Styx rose to fame in the late 1970s. They were at the peak of their powers in the early 1980s, selling millions of records in their native USA. Hailing from the city of Chicago, the band progressively fused rock as well as certain elements of theatrical performance, with heavy rock. The band has gone through several line-up changes as two of its former members, John Panozzo and John Curulewski passed away. One founder member was the singer Dennis DeYoung. His tenure in the band lasted from 1970 until 1999. DeYoung wrote 'Mr. Roboto'. It was released in 1983 as a single and it reached number three in the American Billboard charts. The song was included in the band's 1983 concept album 'Kilroy Was Here'. It was released as a single in Canada and it ranked as number three there.

Music and lyrics

The song has some electronic aspects which reflect its lyrical themes of
a half-human and half-robot protagonist. The music comes close to being a lightweight version of progressive rock. The song enjoys a gloss of commercial production. It is clearly aimed at an early 1980s market which was beginning to embrace more electronic sounds. The 'Mr. Roboto' lyrics tell a somewhat confused, yet highly entertaining tale of a man who is half-machine. He seems to have arrived on Earth like a science fiction messiah, only to be let down by the people of the Earth. The song is delivered in a light metal way and it has bombastic backing vocals. It is good karaoke, if nothing else. The repetition of the refrain 'Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto' in the lyrics, helps to give the song a mechanistic feel. It also takes up the reference to "parts from Japan" which was made in the early part of the lyrics.

Video

The video to the song depicts the central character of the lyrics, miming to the song after taking off a robot mask. He is surrounded by robot dancers who are dressed similarly to him, that is in square robot heads and jumpsuits. They dance to the song using camp robotics while a blond 'hero'-looking youth in a cape and mullet hair style, looks on. The video is an amusing period piece of overblown kitsch. It is an amusing reminder of the musical era which spawned it.

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