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'Trek' tunes: Where 'Star Trek' and pop music meet

May 7, 2009 |  6:16 pm

Eminem isn't one to miss an obvious cultural reference. When his video for "We Made You" was released earlier this spring, it captured the media's favorite shock-rapper dressing up as Spock behind Dr. Dre as Captain Kirk.

In a clip that took cheap shots at Jessica Simpson and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Eminem's nod to the four-decade old sci-fi franchise was about the only thing that was relevant, as box office predictors are indicating that the current "Star Trek" reboot will have the biggest opening weekend in the brand's history.

If only Eminem had made his return with a song that had a little bit more of the whimsical, optimistic reflections of the best "Trek" episodes, then he might have been onto something. Instead, he released a tune with a fart noise.

No fear, as plenty of artists have taken inspiration from "Trek" and done more with it than wear a costume. There's the English version of Nena's '80s hit "99 Luftballons," with it's "everyone's a Captain Kirk" lyric arriving at a crucial moment, and becoming a symbol of war posturing. More lighthearted was Spizzenergi's novelty punk riff "Where's Captain Kirk?" -- a geek-rock cousin to the Shapes' "(I Saw) Batman (In the Launderette)."

More recently, one famed Los Angeles act incorporated "Trek's" iconic opening into its lyrics, and used the hopefulness of "Trek" to contrast with a Hollywood wasteland.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers also sneaked in a nod to "Star Wars" (a reference to Alderaan) in its "Californication," where Anthony Kiedis sings, "Space may be the final frontier, but it's made in a Hollywood basement." 

Midwestern power-pop band Semisonic got a bit more specific. The band's piano-laced "Never You Mind" come complete with a spacey bridge and raps with nods to Dr. Leonard H. McCoy and Spock. The "Star Trek" wiki  reminds us that the band is referencing the episode "Spock's Brain," but we all knew that.

This Trekker's personal favorite Kirk and Co.-referencing song belongs to Screeching Weasel's "Phasers on Kill." In two and a half minutes, the Chicago pop-punk band imagines a scenario in which Kirk is ordered to exact revenge on an ex-girlfriend. Meanwhile, the narrator looks through his records.

Taking Back Sunday turned the weapon's setting down a level, but offered a more hardcore song in "Set Phasers to Stun," although there's no discernible "Trek" references beyond the Starfleet-sanctioned tool mentioned in the title. Melissa Etheridge was also smitten with the directed-energy weapon, putting a reference to a phaser in her "Secret Agent." In a rocker dedicated to a deadly femme fatale, Etheridge sings, "Get her phasers on stun / With her toys like the boys." 

Rapper Tay Dizm introduced himself to the world with lead-off single "Beam Me Up," where the transporter nod may or may not be about partaking in illicit substances. Master P went a little further, actually sampling the opening fanfare of the "Star Trek" theme in his "Captain Kirk." We can't link to it due to the lyrical content, but the rapper puts himself at the head of the "ghetto Enterprise," and it's safe to say that woman can't resist the man in charge.

Spock fans shouldn't feel slighted. They had their Vulcan immortalized in the Beastie Boys hit "Intergalactic," where the line "like a pinch of the neck of Mr. Spock" brings the song's big robotic beats to a close.

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Screen shot of Eminem's "We Made You"