There are no shortage of classic Christmas songs in the hypothetical Great Christmas Songbook. From more religious fare such as Silent Night, to child-friendly favourites like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, to more contemporary tunes like Last Christmas by Wham, there’s seemingly an endless stream of hot holiday jams. However, it’s been a long time since a new Christmas song has reached classic status. If my calculations are correct, the last song to hit classic status is All I Want For Christmas is You by Mariah Carey circa 1994. Why hasn’t any Christmas song reached that plateau since?
I’ll never forget the moment when I first heard Royals by Lorde. Steff and I were in the car. As I tend to do, I flip between radio stations playing all different types of music. Stopping on our local alternative rock station, I was caught off-guard by the sounds of Lorde’s harmony over 808 drums. “Why is this station playing this song?” I asked. “No idea,” Steff replied.
Since then, it’s not just our alternative station playing it. Come to our neck of the woods and you can find Royals on our urban station, pop stations, rock stations and even our adult contemporary station. She’s managed to create what I call a ‘genre-neutral hit’.
As I continue down the path of guitar proficiency, I still reflect heavily on that one fateful day over 20 years ago when my dad tried to teach me how to play. He sat me down with his full-sized acoustic, and asked me to play a C chord until I got a feel for it. On that day, I never did get that feel. Instead, I felt the pain of the strings slicing through my fingers, the pain of my hands contorting in an awkward manner, and the pain of my childhood dreams being crushed by the presumed reality that I’d never be good enough. Until Steff gave me the Rocksmith guitar bundle last year as a Christmas present, I hadn’t picked up a guitar in earnest since.
In the last few months, I’ve overcome the once insurmountable psychological hump I created for myself back then and am enjoying the instrument with the limited skills I currently have. I definitely see myself continuing to work at it from this day forward. However, I can’t help but think about how I could have grasped the concept of guitar playing back then had certain things been handled differently.
Having gone to two Video Games Live shows to date, I figured that my experience with The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddess would be very similar to that. Despite both being orchestral shows, they’re very different in feel. In the case of the latter, having a narrower scope to work with definitely worked in its favour.
When it comes to video game franchises and their influence on my life, not too many rank higher than Rock Band. Besides the hundreds of additional songs I’ve purchased, and the countless hours I’ve spent rocking out with plastic instruments, the franchise inspired me to graduate to real instruments. I am by no means the next Keith Moon, or Geddy Lee, but I know just enough about playing the drums, and bass to actually play in a band. Even without ambitions of unleashing my real-life rock star, those games were the best the genre had to offer.
Years after the genre collapsed, Harmonix is back with a downloadable music game devoid of the peripherals that defined the Rock Band experience in the first place. Is Rock Band Blitz enough to breathe new life to the genre, or is it way too late to the party?
The Greatest Bits is a DJ and chiptune producer from the Netherlands. His debut release, Mega Man 2, features covers of one of the greatest gaming soundtracks of all-time. I was fortunate enough to get an interview with him to discuss the album, his love of video games and his future plans. You can listen to samples of his Mega Man 2 album here while you read the interview below!
Back in the early 90s, you couldn’t walk by an arcade without hearing that intro theme music to Street Fighter II. Street Fighter II was revolutionary for a number of reasons. It became the blueprint that every 2D fighting game has followed ever since. It introduced a new layer of video game controls and complexity. It had what would become some of the most iconic sounds in all of video games (hadoken!). What it doesn’t get as much credit for is that it was one of the first games to introduce a new level of complexity in music while being as catchy and timeless as any of the best video game soundtracks ever.
Music might be the most overlooked aspect of video games by game creators and game players alike. Unless its the star of the show in a music game, music is often perceived as audio wallpaper. Game makers generally aren’t as successful in implementing music as they are with other elements of their products, such as graphics and gameplay. Nowadays, licensed music and slapped-in “Hollywood-like” orchestral scores are the norm. With the advent of voice chat, custom soundtracks and other diversions, game players in general I think are paying less attention to game music than ever before, too.
I’m still paying attention though. I grew up in an era where video game music had its own distinct sound due to technological limitations. An era when the Super Mario theme was still hot and new. Where the awesome work of game composers shone through the primitive beeps and bloops. Game music has evolved dramatically over the years, but we as gamers have had our ears blessed with some truly great music.
I wanted to take the time out to write about some of my favourite pieces of video game music in a series of posts. There are some amazing tunes that have not only had an impact on my gaming, but my life as well in some way or another. There were more obvious choices I could have gone with to start this series, but I wanted to give credit to a game that has recently eaten up a lot of my time (and my brains). Besides being super fun to play, it has some of the best video game music I’ve heard in a while.