Black Ops

From This Might Be A Wiki
Music video for "Black Ops"

song name Black Ops
artist They Might Be Giants
releases Nanobots EP, Nanobots
year 2013
first played August 8, 2013 (23 known performances)
run time 3:11
sung by John Flansburgh


  • Black operations are discreet, often illegal, government or military operations, generally drawing negative connotations. Black sites are locations where these operations take place.
  • According to John Flansburgh, this song is written from the perspective of an amoral drone operator who is unsure about his occupation. He further classifies the narrator as strange and irresponsible. Much of the song, he adds, was written a cappella on a lonely car trip. In a Weekly Feed interview, John Linnell describes the song as an "experiment in creepiness".
  • Flansburgh in February 2013 on the song's themes:
Well, I mean, it's about murdering people so it's a weird... it's sung from a weird point of view. You know, I'm not sure if it's a really responsible song or a really irresponsible song, but it's sort of about the problem of immorality versus amorality, I think. There are a lot of things in the culture that sort of romanticize people in that position and I think, you know, from another perspective it's hard to think of those kinds of actions as anything but dubious.
This is a really weird reference point, but the [arrangement] idea was kind of stolen from a Sammy Davis Jr. album. It's a double album set of Sammy Davis Jr. live at The Sands, which was Frank Sinatra's casino. And he does this version of Bye, Bye, Blackbird that's just like him, and I guess his drummer's just playing a pair of bongos or something - it's incredibly minimal. But it's totally arresting, y'know it's really exciting to just hear a voice singing a melody, with a little pulse. It's kind of haunting. So I sort of appropriated an idea from that into the Black Ops song. Of course, we couldn't resist overproducing it with a bunch of stuff in the middle, just to scare people even more.
  • Knockout drops are solutions (often chloral hydrate) placed inside drinks, usually alcoholic, to render the consumer unconscious. Flansburgh has previously drawn little vials full of them on the Working Undercover For The Man EP back cover.
  • On August 8, 2013, the band introduced a completely reworked arrangement for this song. The new arrangement, used for live performances, is much more uptempo and rock-driven. This version was given a studio treatment in 2015.
  • The music video for this song was directed by Craig J. Clark, produced between April and early June 2013 according to his LinkedIn page, and premiered on YouTube on June 7, 2013. The band states, "For best results, view in a darkened room."[1]

Song Themes

Colors, Criminal Activities, Holidays, Music, Numbers, Occupations, Politics, Relatives, Science, Self-Reference, Time, Transportation, Trees And Other Plants, War, Military, Weapons


  • Watch it on Youtube.png - official video
  • Watch it on Youtube.png - recorded live on August 8, 2013

Current Rating

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Black Ops is currently ranked #508 out of 910. (69 wikians have given it an average rating of 8.07)