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Listening: The Art of the Video Game Soundtrack

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Soundtracks are some of the most iconic pieces of pop culture. Think of the work of Danny Elfman or John Williams. Songs like star wars theme are universally known, and all it takes is that resounding first note of the orchestra for the listener to imagine the yellow text crawling from the top of the screen.

Awesome soundtracks like this have left a massive imprint on pop culture, becoming an integral part of how some of the most famous stories have been told. However, few would consider soundtracks to be casual listening music.

Fans of the franchise can listen to the jurassic park overture, but these pieces are generally enjoyed as an accompaniment to the medium for which they were created. Some movies have pop music as important parts of their soundtrack, like Top Gun, with songs like “Danger Zone” and “Take My Breath Away”.

It’s become a common trend lately, with movies like guardians of the galaxy franchise having their soundtracks composed primarily of licensed music – however, unlike Superior gunthese songs were not made for the movie.

Video game music has also had its own massive influence on pop culture. Think of the instantly recognizable music from the first Super Mario Brothersand the music of sonic the hedgehog first level “Green Hill Zone”.

Music in video games has come a long way from the sometimes abrasive, albeit unique, sound of chiptune melodies. With ever-expanding digital storage capacity, games now have fully professionally produced and recorded music to go with them. Modern games often get the same treatment as movies with full orchestral scores.

This has led to phenomenal music created specifically for games, music that truly transcends its ties to video games and stands on its own as enjoyable listening even for those with little interest in the source material.

A recent soundtrack that comes to mind are the tracks created for the “radio” in CD Projekt RED’s 2020 game Cyberpunk 2077. Often simplified to “Cyberpunk”, the game was a highly anticipated project based on a 1988 tabletop role-playing game.

Part of the game’s soundtrack is made up of pop songs that were created to be heard on the in-game radio. When traveling by car or just traversing the world, players will hear fictional radio stations playing music created specifically for the game.

As a way to build the world, the game features music created by a wide variety of artists. While many real-world artists are featured under fictional band names, some notable artists who have created and/or performed music for Cyberpunk include: Refused, Run The Jewels, A$AP Rocky, and Grimes. Grimes’ music is featured as fictional popstar Lizzy Wizzy, a character she voices in the game.

There are 31 songs, three volumes, of original radio music for Cyberpunk spanning genres, creating a wide variety of interesting songs. One of them, “Resist and Disorder” by “The Cartesian Duelists” (real world artist: Rezodrone), mixes electronic, hard rock and driving industrial rhythm. The song feels heavy with an incredibly catchy chorus that breaks up the sound before bringing it back to the crisp guitar riff that serves as the song’s foundation.

Like most “Cyberpunk” radio songs, the lyrics aren’t simply limited to the gaming world. Many of the punk and anti-corporate ideals expressed in the music seem just as relevant to the real world as the fictional dystopia of the science fiction.

Someone who isn’t necessarily a fan of the source material might fully appreciate this music and connect with it. The music in Cyberpunk is not hostage to its medium. Most of the songs do not reference video games or allude to slang or fictional terminology. This does not prevent the music from characterizing and constructing the game world in a believable way.

Arguably Cyberpunk’s greatest music is the music of the fictional band Samurai. Samurai is a key part of the story of Cyberpunk 2077with one of the main characters, Johnny Silverhand (portrayed by Keanu Reeves), as the band’s lead guitarist and vocalist.

Samurai’s music is performed by real-world Swedish punk band Refused, and the songs are great. “The Ballad of Buck Ravers” is a punk song about a corporate office worker driven to the limit by a mindless job that inevitably gets him nowhere. “Never Fade Away” is another song exploring the idea of ​​love lost, but not forgotten. The song features a catchy chorus that’s almost reminiscent of classic ’80s rock, contrasting but still complementing the harsher tone of the rest of the song.

“Chippin’ in” is a hard rock song that plays with the double meaning of the word playing with the transhumanist ideas of microchips and cybernetic implants, which serve as a key theme in cyberpunk.

Cyberpunk’s radio music was intended specifically as pop music, it was further removed from the traditional soundtrack in that sense; however, there are other games that imitate pop music as part of their backing tracks and with great success.

Atlus’ Persona series has a long history of soundtracks, with the most recent entry in the series personas 5 having some of the best music to date. personas 5 has what could be described as jazzy tunes with beautifully sung lyrics by Japanese singer Lyn. His vocals combined with the incredible combination of heavy bass lines, synth accents and strings make for unforgettable tracks.

The songs perfectly capture the vibe of a lounge singer in a smoky jazz bar. The silky vocals and catchy melody of a song like “Last Surprise” and “Life Will Change” are enjoyable even for people who don’t like video games.

Being a fan of punk and hard rock myself, the soundtrack of a game like personas 5 is not the kind of music I would identify with my general musical tastes. However, the quality of this soundtrack completely transcends genre preferences. While not every track is accessible for casual listening (it’s still a soundtrack after all), there are a staggering number of terrific tracks to choose from.

The Devil May Cry series is another franchise that mixes pop elements into its backing tracks.

Devil May Cry has a strong emphasis on hard rock – relevant to the over-the-top action and character of its main protagonist, accented with electronic elements.

The songs that really steal the show in the Devil May Cry games are the battle tracks that play during in-game battle encounters. songs from the rest of the franchise, while helping to provide insight into the characters they star as.

“Devil Trigger” is the battle theme for one of the game’s three protagonists, Nero. “Devil Trigger” stands in stark contrast to the series standard with a sound that can almost be described as EDM. The song has an explosive, high-energy attitude that matches the chaotic action associated with Nero’s fighting style.

The singer gives the piece an overall pop feel; however, below the surface is a solid hard rock base accompanied by hard rock backup vocals reminiscent of songs from previous games in the franchise.

The best song of The devil may cry 5 is “Bury The Light”, which is the fight track for longtime series antagonist Vergil, who was released as a playable character in conjunction with the game’s Special Edition in 2020. The song topped Apple’s music soundtrack chart in September 2020 and ranked #7 for all of September 2020 upon its release..

“Bury the Light” is an epic orchestral metal song. The song accentuates its heavy metal core with electronic and orchestral elements, such as its electric violin opening. The lyrics are sung by Victor Borba and capture the character of Vergil, a (half-demon) man on a quest for power who has gone too far to stop.

Narratives and themes aside, much of video game music is about fun. While there is an almost endless supply of music worth acknowledging, that’s a tall order for this article. However, I think the point is that there is a lot of great art being created in the world, much of it being ignored by the mainstream. If nothing else, I’m forcing you to listen to something you wouldn’t normally listen to, video game or not – maybe you’ll find something new worth enjoying.

Authors biography :

Garrett Hartman is a contributing writer at Smart magazine.

For Intello magazine

Image sources:

–Super Mario Bros. (WikipediaCreative Commons)

–Anna Hank (WikimediaCreative Commons)

–Digital Rice (WikipediaCreative Commons)