Robots

Album: Nice, Nice, Very Nice (2009)
  • This tune is one of Dan Mangan's most beloved songs that first garnered him radio attention in Canada when it was released in 2009.

    It finds him reflecting on being isolated and separated from the world and urging himself not to waste the days away.

    But don't, don't, don't
    Don't let them go
    Don't, don't, don't, don't
    Don't let them go to waste
    The fire in my eye
    Is fleeting now
    Your robot heart is bleeding
  • In the liner notes for Mangan's sophomore album Nice, Nice, Very Nice, he wrote about this song: "My cell phone died and I went for five days without a mobile before a new one arrived in the mail. The first day was terrifying – the other four were glorious."

    The lyrics to the ending could be relating to Mangan's phone dying:

    And I've spent half of my life
    In the customer service line
    Flaws in the design
    A sign of the times

    And that little voice
    In the back of your mind
    Just wants you to know
    Just hopes you know

    Robots need love too
    They want to be loved by you
  • In 2009, Mangan spoke to Exclaim! about the unexpected success of this song: "I had a friend text me the other day and tell me that he was driving along the #1 highway and someone had written on the back of a dirty car: 'Robots need love, too.' It's amazing when something gets beyond the periphery of people you know and the places that you've played and all of a sudden it's not owned by you. There are many aspects of my life for which I feel incredibly blessed and fortunate, and I think stumbling upon that song is one of them. I don't know where that came from but to the cosmos, thank you."

    He continues about the tune's catchiness. "I find that I've been apologizing to people," he said. "I keep hearing, 'it's been in my head for two weeks!' and I'm like, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry!' There's almost something chromatic about that melody. It sort of sounds like eight billion other songs but then again, it doesn't sound like any song at all. I think I just stumbled upon a weird melody hook that feels really familiar. And it's instantly repeatable. I've been doing the live sing-along thing at shows now for a little while and if an audience is engaged enough to participate in that then it's amazing how quickly they get it. It's bizarrely memorable."

    He goes on about the quirky but thought-provoking lyrics in it. "The lyrics are kind of absurd, when you think about it," he said. "And then I have a hard time deciphering between is it kitschy or is it more artistic than that? I'm always so cautious of being too aware of myself and taking myself too seriously and that was something after the last record that I really learned: that I needed to be a little less serious with the songs and a little bit more playful. And I think that writing 'Robots' was an exercise in me trying to look outside the box a little in that regard."
  • In an interview with The Line of Best Fit in 2009, Mangan expressed how this song changed his writing style. "I think with that tune when I finished writing it, I thought to myself, that is the hookiest, catchiest song I've ever written. I didn't think how other people would react. There's something really familiar about it that people seem to catch on to. It's hard to predict anything, but that song for me was a milestone for me in my writing. You know I'd done all this weepy singer-songwriter bulls--t time and time again and to put that song together was like going wondering in the pop realm! You know, I don't want to be Damien Rice... I want to be more Chad Vangaalen - I like the idea that he morphs all the time. I don't want to just be a singer-songwriter, with a guitar."
  • Mangan's opinion of this song had changed throughout the years. He almost resented it and had become frustrated with being expected to play it every concert trying to top the sing-along spectacle that came with it each time.

    When we spoke with Mangan in 2016, he revealed to us that his belief about this tune changed after attending a Tragically Hip show on their last tour and feeling bittersweet about not hearing all of the songs he wanted. "That epiphany in my brain made me go, 'I should just play 'Robots' every show,'" he said. "What a weird thing to be conflicted about this song that just continues to be a popular thing. I'm so grateful for that song. It changed my life. Every 65-year-old or six-year-old who tells me that's their favorite song, I'm like, 'That's amazing!'

    The truth is that I rebelled against it for a while and said, 'I don't want to play that anymore,' because I started to feel like a monkey. I started to feel like it wasn't just a song. It was the expectation of antics that came with the song that it was going to be bigger and more ridiculous and a wilder sing-along than it was the time before.

    When we performed it, it got that way. It became, Okay. Time to play this song and now everything's going to become a carnival. It's just going to get crazy. Maybe I'll invite someone on stage? Or maybe I'll crowd surf? Or maybe I'll wander to the back of the bar and pour myself a pint? There was this ongoing thing about that song about what would happen at the end of it and that would be the most memorable moment of the night. I guess I felt like I had written all of these other songs that I felt were actually more insightful and more mature, but people just wanted the other song. I took that personally. I was almost hurt by it. 'Oh, you just want to hear the f--king singalong.'

    Now I've come around to the other side where I'm just really appreciative of it. I've been able to enjoy it more lately and have fun singing it, so I'm less conflicted about it now than I probably was a couple of years ago."

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