Tor.com content by

Hector DeJean

7 Times Pop Singers Played Aliens or Robots (For Better or Worse)

The second episode of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams presents one of Dick’s signature visions of a future gone terribly wrong in an episode called “Autofac.” The standout performance is Janelle Monae’s turn as Alice—who, like many of Dick’s characters, is a robot designed to appear human. Even off-screen, on a typical day, Monae is a performer who looks, sounds, and moves like someone from a higher plane of existence. Her voice and motions on Electric Dreams are those of a being noticeably different from humanity—and probably superior. It’s a wonderful bit of casting that follows a long tradition of rock and hip-hop superstars who have played robots and aliens in television and film; perhaps there’s an argument to be made that the best school for learning how to depict fascinating, otherworldly beings is the concert stage.

When you consider these various performances together, the question becomes: Who did it best? Which stars gave us a compelling vision of otherworldly, futuristic existence, and which couldn’t even give a convincing depiction of being from next week? The following is by no means an exhaustive list of singers whose forays into acting led them to sci-fi’s frontiers, but it does cover some memorable highs and lows…

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