Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is the tenth studio album by The Flaming Lips, released by Warner Bros. Records on July 16, 2002, in the United Kingdom and the following day in the United States. It is characterized by electronic-influenced, psychedelic-tinged indie rock compositions. It has been certified Gold by the RIAA. Yoshimi was well-received critically and commercially, helping the band break into the mainstream. The album was adapted into a musical in 2012.
The lyrics of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots concern a diverse array of subject matter, mostly melancholy ponderings about love, mortality, artificial emotion, pacifism, and deception, while telling the story of Yoshimi's battle. The title character is inspired by Boredoms/OOIOO member Yoshimi P-We, following a comment in the Flaming Lips studio that her machine-sound abstract singing sounds like she is battling monsters—Coyne added 'pink'. P-We also performs on the album. Some listeners consider Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots to be a concept album; however, the story is debated, as it is only directly apparent in the first four tracks. Despite the story-type title and science fiction themes of the album, Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne has made it clear that the album is not intended to be a concept album.
The vocal melody of track one, "Fight Test", echoes Cat Stevens's "Father and Son". Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, is receiving royalties following a relatively uncontentious settlement. The band's frontman, Wayne Coyne, claims that he was unaware of the songs' similarities until producer Dave Fridmann pointed them out. This claim however is contradicted by his statement to Rolling Stone magazine: 'I know "Father and Son" and I knew there would be a little bit of comparison. "Fight Test" is not a reference necessarily to the ideas of "Father and Son", but definitely a reference to the cadence, the melody, and chord progression. I think it's such a great arrangement of chords and melody'.
The final track, "Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)", won a 2002 Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. The Flaming Lips also won the same award for "The Wizard Turns On...", taken from At War with the Mystics, in 2006.
In addition to the single Compact Disc format, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots was also released as a special two-disc release in 2003. This version contains the regular album and a DVD containing various alternate takes, b-sides, music videos, video footage from the album recordings, and the trailer for The Flaming Lips' film, Christmas on Mars. In addition to bonus content on the DVD, there is a 5.1 DVD-Audio version of the entire album included. There was also a limited edition translucent red LP version.
In recent years, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots has proved itself to have a bigger commercial impact than the band's 1999 breakthrough album, The Soft Bulletin, and became their first gold-certified release in April 2006.
In 2003, British bastard pop DJ Eric Kleptone released a mashup album called Yoshimi Battles the Hip-Hop Robots which paired instrumentals from the album with rap samples and lyrics.
For the television show Friends, Flaming Lips re-wrote the song "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots" into "Phoebe Battles The Pink Robots" to fit one of the show's main characters. The music video appears on Disc 4 of the 9th Season DVD.
As a 2014 April Fool's gag, Funny or Die posted a fake trailer for Yoshimi: Fall of the Chosen starring members of The Flaming Lips. The short is laced with references from the album: "Evil Natured Robots Programed to Destroy Us" scrolls by during news footage, "Yoshimi! Don't let them eat me!" is heard in the dialogue, and there is a quick shot of Yoshimi taking her vitamins.
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots received acclaim from music critics. Calling the album "as strange as it is wonderful," Billboard nonetheless noted that "beneath the sunny, computer-generated atmospherics and the campy veneer of talk about gladiator-style clashes between man and machines with emotions, Yoshimi is actually a somber rumination on love and survival in an unfathomable world." Tom Moon of Rolling Stone praised the album's "ambitious" production, while Fortune magazine called it "a lush and haunting electronic symphony." Uncut declared that "even by their standards, Yoshimi is astonishing." Robert Christgau of The Village Voice gave the album a three-star honorable mention rating, indicating "an enjoyable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well treasure". Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots appeared in the best-albums-of-the-decade lists of several music publications, such as Rolling Stone (#27) and Uncut (#11), with Uncut also declaring it the greatest album released in the magazine's lifetime. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
It was announced in March 2007 that the album would be made into a Broadway musical by The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin and director Des McAnuff. Frontman Wayne Coyne said of the plot:
Des McAnuff stated that Aaron Sorkin exited the project after it became clear the musical would be sung through.
The musical includes existing songs from the album, as well as two other Flaming Lips albums, The Soft Bulletin and At War with the Mystics.
The show received its world premiere at the Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse in November 2012, starring Kimiko Glenn as Yoshimi Yasukawa, Paul Nolan as Ben Nickel, Nik Walker as Booker, Pearl Sun as Mrs. Yasukawa, John Haggerty as Mr. Yasukawa and Tom Hewitt as Dr. Petersen.
All tracks written by The Flaming Lips (Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd, Michael Ivins) except where noted.Special edition DVD-Audio
The Flaming Lips
Wayne Coyne – songwriting, vocals, guitars, cover paintings, mixing, production
Steven Drozd – songwriting, guitars, keyboards, electronics, drums, bass, vocals, mixing, production
Michael Ivins – songwriting, bass, keyboards, backing vocals, mixing, production, additional engineering
Yoshimi P-We – vocalization
Dave Fridmann – additional songwriting, production, mixing, programming, engineering, mastering
Scott Booker – production
Trent Bell – additional tracking
Andy Taub – additional tracking
George Salisbury – design and layout