Have you seen the 2016 science fiction drama/soon to be beloved classic film Arrival? Amy Adams plays a brilliant-yet-tortured linguist tasked with learning how to talk to aliens when 12 large, levitating pods touch down on Earth. She writes basic words and phrases on whiteboards and holds it up to the aliens, who live in the pods, and they sort of “write back” to her by drawing large, inky circles. (They’re like octopuses? I don’t know.) I highly recommend it and the whole thing is super great—but as you can imagine, her method takes a while to work and the world’s major geopolitical powers threaten to initiate war with the aliens before she can crack the case. (Of course they do! Guns!)
But what if she’d taken a more straightforward approach? What if she had just introduced these extraterrestrial life forms to the literally universal joy of music instead? Music expresses what words cannot, so it stands that music may be an effective way of communicating with aliens when we make first contact (or they descend on our planet, whichever comes first). One music festival in Barcelona tried it, sending transmissions containing 10-second clips of music from various Earth-based artists to the potentially inhabitable exoplanet GJ273b last month. That got us thinking: What music would we send to aliens?
“Raconte-moi une histoire”—M83
M83's always made me think of outer space, and not just because Anthony Gonzalez scored that Tom Cruise twins-in-space movie. “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” is the most calming peace offering I could imagine: restorative synth builds, an undeniable feeling of hope, and the monologue of a little girl who’s game to turn into a frog and hop all over the world. Before the aliens completely harden and realize this world is bullshit, it’ll make Earth feel like a beautiful place full of wonder and limitless possibility, a place to become friends with millions of other frogs while everything looks like a cupcake. We want that feeling back. Enjoy, overlords! —Shawn Cooke
“Avril 14th”—Aphex Twin
If aliens are out there, I personally just hope they’re friendly, ‘cause I can’t take another existential threat to my livelihood. So I’m gonna offer them “Avril 14th” and pray and unite us in tears. —David Turner
“Mi Gente”—J Balvin
I can’t think of anything better than gifting aliens with the infectious, globe-trotting beat on J Balvin’s “Mi Gente,” a beat so good that even Beyoncé hopped on it. If you listen closely, the track is an uplifting tale of unity, one that imagines a world in which all people, from Francia (that’s France in Spanish) to Colombia, can put their differences aside and dance. If I were sending aliens a snapshot of planet Earth, or if I were begging for their mercy once they land somewhere over a major metropolitan city, I would offer this as a vision of the future we could build together. —Frida Garza