Penelope Scott’s Viral Song 'Rät' Pins Elon Musk as a 'Symbol of Tech Worship'

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Jul. 21 2021, Published 7:26 a.m. ET

Even from its first verse, it’s obvious that Penelope Scott’s “Rät”—a viral song she calls a “breakup letter to the tech cult that is Silicon Valley”—was inspired by Elon Musk.

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“I have no idea [about] pretty much anything about his life, but he’s a good pick for a symbol of tech worship, because he’s done a lot of work to be personable, and to have a Twitter presence, and to do things as a meme,” Scott told Genius recently. “And that plays really well in places like where I grew up, near Silicon Valley, which really love technology. And if you’re 14, and this guy tweets, ‘I’m gonna make a tunnel,’ as a joke, you’re like, ‘He’s the coolest guy in the world!’”

Scott namedrops Musk’s tunnels, flamethrowers, and space colonization plans

In the first verse of the song, Scott names many projects that Musk has hyped up.“You were beautiful and vulnerable and power and success / G-d damn, I fell for you, your flamethrowers, your tunnels, and your tech,” she sings. “I studied code because I wanted to do something great like you / And the real tragedy is half of it was true.”

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Elon Musk
Source: Getty Images

And in the second verse, Scott seems to take aim at Musk’s ambitions to colonize Mars. “When I said take me to the moon, I never meant take me alone / I thought if mankind toured the sky, it meant that all of us could go,” she sings. “But I don’t want to see the stars if they’re just one more piece of land / For us to colonize, for us to turn to sand.”

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She targeted Musk as “an arbitrary, easily nameable symbol” of tech culture

The TikTok star explained the song’s origins in an interview with Billboard in Mar. 2021, confirming that the song references Musk but doesn’t center on the Tesla CEO. “It’s about the larger systems of power that happen in technology and in places that really worship technology and innovation,” she told the magazine.

“I just picked [Musk] as an arbitrary, easily nameable symbol for the things I was trying to talk about.” She also said that the title of the track came from a Tumblr post that quipped the name "Elon Musk" is short for “Elongated Muskrat.”

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So far, “Rät” has racked up more than 81 million Spotify streams and hit home for listeners like Casey Fiesler, an assistant information science professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. “This is the problem with the promise of tech, right? There is promise,” Fiesler tweeted in a thread about the song. “So much to fall for in that expectation for tech to be for the public good, but then…it’s possible that the potential is the part that’s true and the execution is the part that’s not.”

Scott reflected on the song’s popularity in her Billboard interview, saying, “I think there are parts of it that definitely hit on something that a lot of people have not been sure how to discuss. Particularly the tension between science and technology being a good thing, and also the fact that how it’s done is really important and determines whether or not it really is good for the public.”

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