Sometimes, gaming soundtracks can introduce us to bands and artists we’ve never heard of. This article is all about five of my favorites gaming showed me.
I’ve been going to a lot of concerts this year. When I say a lot, I mean I’ve already been to eight this year, three of which took place within the past week. Yesterday, as I was driving to an All-American Rejects concert, it hit me: I first heard of the band thanks to a video game. As my mind wandered, I realized that I’ve become hooked on several artists that I had never heard of before discovering one of their songs through a video game. So here are five awesome bands and artists I now call some of my favorites, all because video games introduced me to them.
#5: TobyMac, “Gone” – The Bible Game
This one is super obscure. As a kid, I didn’t have a huge selection of video games, but somehow, a copy of The Bible Game ended up in my PS2 stack. Basically, the game was structured like a game show where contestants had to rack up points by competing in Bible-themed mini-games. Play as Daniel and escape the lion’s den. Break blocks for high scores at the Tower of Babel. Test your button combo abilities to climb rungs on Jacob’s Ladder. It must be nostalgia speaking, but religion aside, I thought the mini-games were pretty fun. Metacritic disagrees.
In any case, one song on the soundtrack stuck out to me: “Gone.” (You can hear it during the Red Sea mini-game in the video above). I had no idea who sang it for another five years or so, when I was invited to a concert for some guy named TobyMac. I went to Spotify to look up his most popular tracks, and lo and behold, one of them was the song I had learned from a video game those years ago. To this day, I snag every TobyMac album that drops, and I’ve seen him in concert three times.
Again, religion aside, he’s an incredibly energetic performer and puts on one of the most unique shows I’ve seen. His genres range from pop to hip hop to electronic to rap, and a lot of his lyrics are ambiguous/not-explicitly-religious. At his concerts, he holds nothing back, crowding the stage with dancers, a drumline, a corps of trumpeters, a DJ, plenty of guest performers and a pretty sweet light show.
Recommended tracks: “Gone,” “ShowStopper,” “Tonight,” “Til the Day I Die”
#4: Jimmy Eat World, “The Middle” – Guitar Hero
As a kid, I was absolutely addicted to Guitar Hero and Rock Band. I didn’t learn how to play an actual instrument until a couple years ago, so as a kid, rocking out with a plastic one was as close as I could get. I gravitated to songs like “The Middle” because I really liked the rhythm. Plus, because it was a bit repetitive, it was easy to play on Expert difficulty, which made me feel like a rockstar. I guess it’s all come full circle because I’m part of the ukulele club at my university, and we recently covered the song at one of our concerts. Interestingly enough, the song transfers to the odd little ukulele exceptionally well.
I just saw Jimmy Eat World in concert earlier this week, and they sound great live. Their show wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; no crazy effects or daring antics by the band members. But nonetheless, they rocked out. I’d gladly see them again, given the chance.
Recommended tracks: “The Middle,” “Your House,” “Get Right”
#3: The All-American Rejects, “Night Drive” – Cars
Believe it or not, the Disney-licensed Cars video game had a hit-filled soundtrack, featuring road trip-themed songs from bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Rascal Flatts. One of those songs was “Night Drive,” which became my first encounter with The All-American Rejects. “Night Drive” was the song that I would purposely skip to on the in-game soundtrack, just to hear it as soon as I loaded the game. Just like with “Gone” by TobyMac, I had no clue who the artist was until a couple months ago when I was looking for upcoming concerts in my area.
I knew The All-American Rejects for songs like “Dirty Little Secret,” which I also loved playing in Guitar Hero, and “Gives You Hell,” which we also cover in ukulele club. But I didn’t realize “Night Drive” was also theirs until I was digging through their albums in the weeks leading up to the concert. That show took place this week as well, and it, too, was a great one. The band packed the House of Blues in Cleveland and brought a show that deserved a much bigger stage than what the venue had to offer. Lead singer Tyson Ritter dropped zingers all night, and a pretty cool laser show accompanied the band. All in all, it’s another concert I’d recommend.
Recommended tracks: “Night Drive,” “Dirty Little Secret,” “Gives You Hell,” “Move Along”
Fall Out Boy, “Dance Dance” – Madden NFL 06
Madden has always had killer soundtracks, and my story with “Dance, Dance” is similar to others on the list. I became addicted to the song but never made the band-to-artist connection. I have to say, as a kid, I didn’t listen to full albums very often. I preferred simply to listen to the one-off songs that I enjoyed, which explains why I didn’t dig into any of these bands until years later. As fate would have it, I was driving with a friend, chatting with him about this super cool group called Fall Out Boy, which I found recently thanks to a new radio single and their comeback album, Save Rock and Roll.
He grabbed the AUX cord and plugged his phone into it, saying “you should listen to this one.” Seconds later, “Dance Dance” started pumping through his speakers, and the light bulb went off: I knew that song! Now, Fall Out Boy is one of my top ten favorite bands, and I cannot wait for their new album to drop this fall. Unfortunately, they’re the one band on this list I haven’t seen in concert, so I can’t give a recommendation as to whether or not they’re worth seeing live. Ask me again in October when I get to check it off my list.
Recommended tracks: “Dance, Dance,” “Sugar, We’re Goin Down,” “Thriller,” “Thnks fr th Mmrs” “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark,” “Immortals”
#1: twenty one pilots, “Heavydirtysoul” – Madden NFL 16
Remember how I said Madden has always had killer soundtracks? Well, there’s a reason the series takes the top two spots on my list. Oddly enough, twenty one pilots is a local band, which makes it a bit strange it took Madden NFL 16 to make me give them a listen. Seriously, songs like “Stressed Out” and “Ride” were mega-popular in other parts of America or the world the past couple years, sure, but the band’s popularity here in Ohio is absolutely insane.
In any case, Madden NFL 16 introduced me to the band through “Heavydirtysoul,” which is the opening track on their latest album, Blurryface, which is one of the best albums of 2015, in my humble opinion. But even better than the album is twenty one pilots’ live show. Let me be clear: they put on the best show I have ever seen in my life. Lead singer Tyler Joseph crowd surfed in a giant hamster ball, drummer Josh Dun backflipped off the piano, and the duo put more energy into the performance than any other I’ve seen. I was concerned it’s be weird seeing a duo perform with canned backtracks for the other instruments, but it worked so well. If you check out any one band on this list, give twenty one pilots a listen.
Recommended tracks: “Heavydirtysoul,” “Ride,” “House of Gold,” “Slowtown,” “Holding On To You,” “Fairly Local”