Game music has the power to earworm its way into your heart long after you put the controller down. Each week in Game That Tune, we highlight a great tune from a great game (or a great tune from a just-okay game).
Song: “Pursuing My True Self”
Composer: Shōji Meguro
Game: Persona 4 (2008)
There’s only one thing more dangerous to an adolescent than soul-sucking demons from a parallel dimension hellbent on taking over our world and enslaving us all: emotions. For the average teenager, the onslaught of personal angst tends to drown out even the most massive external concerns, and the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona games plays this conflict of interest perfectly. Does the captain of the school basketball team get along with you? Does the shy girl in drama club get butterflies in her stomach when you chat with her? Do your parents just not understand? Each of these relationships affects both your daily routine and your prowess at battling the aforementioned demons. This delicate balance between outward action and inward feelings is immediately apparent in the infectiously catchy intro to Persona 4, “Pursuing My True Self.”
Right off the bat, this song is absolutely more enjoyable than it has any right to be. It’s an upbeat pop song about addressing your feelings and coming to terms with who you are. This is the sort of message we’re accustomed to hearing in slow, dramatic ballads by the likes of Cristina Aguiliera, Pink, and Elliott Smith, three people I don’t especially want other musicians to emulate. The whole tune is a mishmash of canned loops and samples, from the one piano clip that circles the verses to the drugstore Rhodes organ. The hi-hat sounds as though it were played in a different building from the snare drum it counters, and the bass line is so relaxed that halfway through, it seems to forget it’s even part of the band. And then, of course, is the part I always love about J-pop songs: the lyrics. They’re hokey, they don’t rhyme, the meter is all over the place, metaphors are started and forgotten. “We’re all trapped in a maze of relationships. Life goes on with or without you. I swim in the sea of the unconscious.” It reads like a bad middle school love poems—so why is it so great? The fact that the song’s creators don’t have a firm grasp on the nuance of the language allows them, counterintuitively, to free their ideas. And in the end, the middle-school-poetry vibe only heightens the sense of teen angst that makes up such a huge part of the game.