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This Bethesda Folk Artist is Trying to Write a Song For All 700+ Pokémon

Jacob Newman and his trademark ukelele. Photo by Cody Egan.

There are more than 700 species in the Pokémon universe, and Jacob Newman wants to write a song about every one of them.

Last month, the 24-year-old, Bethesda-born folk punk artist—who records under the moniker Jacob Norman Chainsaw-Arm, a reference to how fast he strums the ukelele in his music—released an album of 100 tracks, each about a different Pokémon. He’s still got more than 600 more species to go, but he’s confident he’ll be able to complete the project, especially considering he’s found it hard to take inspiration in anything else these days.

“Once I started this project it has become a little hard to write about things other than Pokémon,” says Newman, who now lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “It’s kind of like King Midas’s curse—every song I write becomes about a Pokémon.”

Newman’s anime-related output is the overproducing result of a project that began as a way of freeing himself from writer’s block. The musician, who has maintained an interest in the Japanese franchise since rediscovering it while at Walt Whitman High School, wanted to write a song about loving a flawed person, and decided to employ the Pokémon Bastiodon as an allegory for his feelings. “Bastiodon is probably one of my least favorite Pokémon, but I feel like every Pokemon has a reason to be loved,” he says.

From there the project took off, with Newman recording the album’s 100 tracks over the course of seven months. Some of the songs were written as direct odes to a creature’s attributes—“With yellow fists like thunder and nubby ears/ Aw yeah/ He’s cool and striped like a tiger/ He’s an electric man,” he raps on “125 Electabuzz.” Other tracks play with the theme more abstractly, like on “075 Graveler,” where Newman collaborator Nick Wuebben somberly sings, “I wrap my arms tightly around this body/ Of uneven stones/ That form a makeshift monolith/ As I throw myself off of the cliff.” 

Newman’s ideas for the project can get pretty geeky. Upon finishing all the songs, he wants to make a CD box set with the tracks ordered by Pokédex numbers (which he already includes in all the song titles), a taxonomic system in the Pokémon universe. But going forward, his main objective is to find willing collaborators and enough free time to finish what he’s started.

“My goal is simple,” he says. “I will write a song for every Pokémon. I don’t know when I’ll finish but I am confident that I can write these songs faster than Game Freak can publish new Pokémon designs.”

Correction: This post originally said Newman sang on “075 Graveler.” It is instead Nick Wuebben, whose music can be found here.