Nov 09

Pop’s Biggest BRAIN

FT36 comments • 1,412 views

On Twitter yesterday, while writing the Pet Shop Boys entry, I asked “Who is the most intelligent person in pop?” – I got a lot of replies, so here is a list of all the crowdsourced nominations, from Lady Gaga to Clint Poppie.

The list is in the form of a poll – pick your five top pop brains by Friday teatime and we will know once and for all who has music’s mightiest mind!


  • Brian ENO 52%
  • Neil TENNANT 42%
  • Jarvis COCKER 36%
  • Bill DRUMMOND 34%
  • Brian MAY 23%
  • Paul MORLEY 18%
  • Lady GAGA 17%
  • Jay Z 17%
  • SHAKIRA 16%
  • Green GARTSIDE 15%
  • Alex JAMES 11%
  • Simon COWELL 11%
  • The GZA 9%
  • Roisin MURPHY 9%
  • Kanye WEST 9%
  • Beyonce KNOWLES 7%
  • Nicky WIRE 6%
  • Lily ALLEN 6%
  • Clint MANSELL 5%
  • Girl TALK 4%
  • Lil WAYNE 4%
  • NY 3%
  • John MAYER 1%
  • E-40 1%
  • Cliff RICHARD 1%

Total Voters: 137

Poll closes: 6 Nov 2009 @ 16:00

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  1. 26
    koganbot on 4 Nov 2009 #

    Did people nominate for musical intelligence (or music-related intelligence, anyway) or for “S/he seems really intelligent in interviews and in other things (other than the inexplicable decision to pursue a musical career)”? Nominees seem to meet conventional attributes of intelligence rather than “apply their intellect better than others at what actually matters most here, i.e., making music.”

    In any event, had I been on Twitter I’d have made my criteria (1) made almost-always-interesting and generally very good music over a significant period of time, and (2) is still doing so now. (Without criterion #2 I’d have nominated James Brown and Elvis Presley.) And I come up with one name. And I balk at saying it, since I’ve got conventional ideas about intelligence and this guy has never written inspired lyrics, for instance. But all right: Max Martin!

  2. 27
    koganbot on 4 Nov 2009 #

    (Ignoring my own criteria, I ticked Kanye, Bouncy, Jay-Z, and Lily.)

  3. 28
    Kat but logged out innit on 5 Nov 2009 #

    I’d venture that Lily Allen is about as intelligent as I am – neither of us can write very good lyrics though :(

  4. 29
    BEATRIZ on 5 Nov 2009 #

    I would like to vote DAVID BOWIE!

  5. 30
    will on 6 Nov 2009 #

    By the way, who or what is E-40?

  6. 31
    unlogged moggy on 6 Nov 2009 #

    Wot no Kele Orekeke? Also where is Lady Stush? I am surprised the Lex didn’t nom her.

  7. 32
    The Chemistry is Dead on 6 Nov 2009 #

    I’m going to put my case forward for Shakira. She’s fluent in four languages, can play guitar, drums and harmonica and always comes across as very intelligent in interviews.

    Also, love this from her Wikipedia:

    “Shakira is intensely interested in world history. She frequently studies the history and languages of the countries she visits. After her Oral Fixation tour ended in summer 2007, Shakira audited a class in Los Angeles at UCLA, on the History of Western Civilization. She used her middle and last names, Isabel Mebarak, and told the professor she was visiting from Colombia so as to avoid being recognized as a celebrity”.

  8. 33
    Rory on 20 Nov 2009 #

    After experiencing a Road to Damascus moment over Lady Gaga in the past 48 hours, I wish I could vote again, even though I picked the hivemind’s top five. Chemistry @32 makes a good case for Shakira, too.

  9. 34
    swanstep on 20 Nov 2009 #

    @Rory. I saw the Bad Romance vid. for the first time today, and may finally have been won over by Gaga too. The level of inventiveness and commitment to performance there (around a song that’s on one level just OK, but *does* zig where it should zag a few times, so manages to sound fresh) is remarkable, and just isn’t dismissible (as I’ve previously tended to) as Madonna- and Roisin Murphy-imitation/theft.

  10. 35
    Alan on 20 Nov 2009 #

    Tom, please to have a poll on Pop’s Biggest BRIAN

  11. 36
    Alan not logged in on 19 Jan 2013 #

    “pingback” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Drummond#cite_note-78

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