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Jonathan Coulton

When They Might Be Giants were first starting out they experimented with an answering machine service named Dial-a-Song, by means of which listeners could call them in Brooklyn and listen to a random taped song. The service was popular enough that it broke down frequently, but not before it helped them get signed to an indie label, Bar/None. Jonathan Coulton, standing on the shoulders of the Giants both musically and spiritually, found fame by the 21st century equivalent of Dial-a-Song through "Thing a Week," a podcast that delivered a new song he had recorded every week for a year. His talent as a pop architect, appealingly offbeat subjects, and propensity for combining them in bittersweet but humorous songs -- imagine Pluto's moon singing melancholy consolation to help it get over not being officially classified a planet any more -- earned him a dedicated and cultish following. At Yale Coulton met and befriended writer and comedian John Hodgman, who would become a collaborator of his on several projects. At graduation, the two moved to Manhattan where Coulton found work as a software engineer, self-releasing CDs of quirky folk-rock like Smoking Monkey (2003) and the EP Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow (2004) on the side. At the same time, Hodgman was embarking on a series of lectures called the Little Gray Books, for which he enlisted Coulton as musical director, performing songs that related to the subject of each talk. The September 2005 issue of Popular Science magazine was accompanied by Coulton's downloadable EP covering scientific subjects called Our Bodies, Ourselves, Our Cybernetic Arms. He was listed in the magazine's masthead as "Contributing Troubadour." That month he simultaneously quit his day job at the software company and announced his intent to make a living solely from the profits of his musical endeavors, despite not being signed to a label. He achieved this with the debut of his "Thing a Week" project, giving himself the motivational deadline of one week to record each song; he spent the next year recording 52 tracks and posting them one by one on He let people listen to the songs for free as well as selling MP3s and CDs, discovering that the fans would still pay for them as he slowly built a devoted audience. He was helped when several of his songs -- especially a slow, acoustic cover of "Baby Got Back" and songs with especially geeky subjects like the mad scientist love song "Skullcrusher Mountain" and the office zombie memo "Re: Your Brains" -- gained Internet popularity. These songs were released under the terms of a Creative Commons License that not only allowed listeners to legally copy them and pass them on to their friends, but to use them in projects of their own. Videos of his songs made with footage from computer games and cartoons became popular on YouTube, spreading his popularity by word-of-blog until he became something of a geek-rock phenomenon by the time he concluded the series with triumphant covers of Queen's We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You. After polling the fans the "Thing a Week" had brought him, he was able to play live concerts targeting the areas where enough of them lived to sell out a venue, performing short and focused out of the way tours that were profitable enough, along with his digital sales and merchandise, to earn him more money than his old day job had. In 2007 his song "Code Monkey," inspired by his time working as a software engineer, was chosen to be the theme song of G4's cartoon Code Monkeys and "Still Alive," written for the computer game Portal, won the Game Audio Network's Song of the Year award. He also performed on The Daily Show and contributed guest appearances to nerdcore albums like MC Frontalot's Final Boss and MC Lars' This Gigantic Robot Kills. In 2010, Coulton began opening shows for They Might Be Giants, and later that year announced that he would be working with John Flansburgh on a new album. The result was his eighth album, Artificial Heart, which was Coulton's first album to be produced by someone other than the singer/songwriter himself. ~ Jody Macgregor
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Stations Featuring
Jonathan Coulton

Albums by
Jonathan Coulton

Top Songs by
Jonathan Coulton

  1.   Song
  2.   Baby Got Back
  3.   I Will
  4.   Skullcrusher Mountain
  5.   Madelaine
  6.   Code Monkey
  7.   Re: Your Brains
  8.   Still Alive
  9.   Chiron Beta Prime
  10.   Want You Gone
  11.   Till the Money Comes
  12.   Creepy Doll
  13.   The Future Soon
  14.   Ikea
  15.   The Princess Who Saved Herself
  16.   First of May
  17.   Flickr
  18.   You Wouldn't Know by Ellen McLain
  19.   Zombie Instructions
  20.   Artificial Heart
  21.   I Feel Fantastic
  22.   I'm Your Moon
  23.   The Stache
  24.   Good Morning Tucson
  25.   Dissolve
  26.   Alone at Home
  27.   Tom Cruise Crazy
  28.   When You Go
  29.   Soft Rocked by Me
  30.   Skymall
  31.   Big Bad World One
  32.   Mr. Fancy Pants
  33.   We Are the Champions
  34.   Summer's Over
  35.   Resolutions
  36.   Shop Vac
  37.   Podsafe Christmas Song
  38.   My Monkey
  39.   Gratuitous Applause
  40.   Sticking It to Myself
  41.   Now I Am an Arsonist by Suzanne Vega
  42.   Je Suis Rick Springfield
  43.   Glasses
  44.   Down Today
  45.   Not About You
  46.   Rock and Roll Boy
  47.   Pizza Day
  48.   Seahorse
  49.   Under the Pines
  50.   You Ruined Everything
  51.   Pull the String
  52.   A Talk with George
  53.   Take Care of Me
  54.   Curl
  55.   Dance, Soterios Johnson, Dance
  56.   You Could Be Her
  57.   Someone Is Crazy
  58.   The Town Crotch
  59.   Mandelbrot Set
  60.   I Crush Everything
  61.   Kenesaw Mountain Landis
  62.   Sibling Rivalry
  63.   Blue Sunny Day
  64.   Today with Your Wife
  65.   The World Belongs to You
  66.   Nemeses by John Roderick
  67.   Fraud
  68.   You Ruin Everything
  69.   Just as Long as Me
  70.   Drinking with You
  71.   The Big Boom
  72.   We Will Rock You
  73.   Stroller Town
  74.   Don't Talk to Strangers
  75.   So Far So Good
  76.   W's Duty
  77.   Brand New Sucker
  78.   Drive
  79.   Furry Old Lobster
  80.   See You All in Hell
  81.   Nobody Loves You Like Me
  82.   All This Time
  83.   Make You Cry
  84.   Famous Blue Raincoat
  85.   The Presidents

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