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Songs For A Plutonian Road Trip

Bjork is one of many artists inspired by the dwarf planet the spacecraft New Horizons is exploring. AFP/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Bjork is one of many artists inspired by the dwarf planet the spacecraft New Horizons is exploring.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The size of a piano. A baby grand piano.

That's the standard description of New Horizons, the spaceship now arriving at the final planet in our solar system. Since its discovery in 1930, and its naming by an 11-year-old British schoolgirl, Venetia Burney, Pluto has inspired countless science fiction writers, comic artists, filmmakers and musicians.

It has also — despite being so small, so far away and nonconfrontational, or possibly because it is all of those things — been at the center of controversy here on Earth. Scientists disagree about whether it is a planet, a dwarf planet or something else, like a plutoid.

Singer-songwriters have strong opinions on the subject. To celebrate the three billion mile journey of New Horizons, we've gathered music about and related to Pluto, in which artists have found poetry in mystery and distance.

Songs For Pluto

  • Colin Matthews, "Pluto, the Renewer"

    During World War I, English composer Gustav Holst wrote The Planets, a suite that became one of the best-loved pieces of 20th century orchestral music. Pluto hadn't been discovered yet, so the work ends with Neptune, the Mystic. In 2000, English composer Colin Matthews debuted this piece, which extends yet departs from Holst's work to create a kaleidoscopic, rear-view reflection of the solar system.

    YouTube
  • The Music Tapes, "For the Planet Pluto"

    In 2009, a band led by Julian Koster of Elephant 6 and Neutral Milk Hotel released this "Incantation for the Restoration and Repair of Eternal Planethood." The song features 4th graders from Barrow Elementary School in Athens, Ga. — and is a concentrated dose of Athenian sweetness and joy. Look for a cameo by Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes.

    YouTube
  • Sun Ra, "Plutonian Nights"

    There's music about Pluto, and then there's music of Pluto. "Plutonian Nights" from Sun Ra and his Myth Science Arkestra's The Nubians of Plutonia shows Pluto isn't just one of the coldest planets, it's the coolest.

    YouTube
  • Christine Lavin, "Planet X"

    One of the first artists to rally to Pluto's cause was singer-songwriter and Four Bitchin' Babes founder Christine Lavin, who in 1996 wrote an epic ballad of Pluto's discovery and eventual demotion. She has since updated "Planet X" and even drawn a cartoon book stuffed with more information to accompany the song.

    YouTube
  • Björk , "Pluto"

    Bjork's "Pluto" is an angry slice of techno on a generally mild album — like its namesake, something of an outlier. NPR Music's Stephen Thompson, writing for the Onion's AV Club at the time Homogenic was released, called the song "a heart-poundingly wicked, electronics-driven stunner."

    YouTube
  • My Brightest Diamond, "To Pluto's Moon"

    With strings and Shara Worden's airy singing, "To Pluto's Moon" by My Brightest Diamond sounds arguably more like the rest of Homogenic than Bjork's "Pluto" does. There's also a heavy, stuttering remix by Son Lux.

    YouTube
  • Clare & the Reasons, "Pluto"

    In a similar vein — with sprinkles of vintage pop and music-hall McCartneyisms — is "Pluto" by Clare & the Reasons. The song opens the group's album The Movie, and a stripped-down French version provides a haunting close.

    YouTube
  • One Ring Zero, "Pluto"

    One Ring Zero's "Pluto" from the band's album Planets — a centennial tribute to Holst's work — is an off-kilter, bittersweet lament with gentle Space Age instrumentation: "Eight around the sun, they roll. / One we just had to let go, / Too small was Pluto."

    YouTube
  • Future, "Astronaut Chick"

    There's swagger all over the 2012 debut album of Atlanta rapper Future, who says he wants and has more than you can have or handle. But in "Astronaut Chick" he focuses on just one woman and where they can take each other. "Say you wanna go to Pluto," he sings. "Me and you we are the same."

    LANGUAGE ADVISORY: This song contains profanity.

    YouTube

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