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).
We just observed that most blessed of December days in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice. There’s practically no sunshine at all on this longest night of the year as we officially begin the season of ice and snow and, most importantly, winter sports. Yes! Break out the skis, skates, sleds, and snowboards—or, more likely, crack open the plastic case on your favorite SSX and stay inside, because baby, it’s cold outside. When you’re shredding down the slopes, carving the powder and catching some sweet air, you’ve got to have dope beats pulsing through your headphones, and the SSX snowboarding games know this all too well. Yet somehow, despite being the least popular (still my favorite) game in the series, SSX Blur is the only entry to date which features an original soundtrack in lieu of licensed tracks. Junkie XL’s custom beats captured the liberation of the SSX slopes without the extraneous posturing that punk and rap music carry by default. Case in point, “Love Park.”
The steady bassline and confident percussion ground the listener, keeping us aware of the Earth below without a hint of fear. The rhythm assures us—pats our shoulders as we descend the slopes. Then the distorted brass pushes us forward, reminding us to have fun with it, and the synths swirl in a siren’s call, beckoning you to spin in circles like the freewheeling risk-takers we know we can be. Through it all, the gentle keys and vocal coos lull us into a state of weightlessness. We are airborne, we are shimmering, and we are invincible.
When playing the game, these various elements would be added or subtracted from the soundtrack to reflect your thrashing performance, so landing one gnarly trick after another felt all the more exhilarating with Junkie XL lifting you even higher. Conversely, wiping out stung even more than usual because the sweet auditory bliss was cut abruptly, severing your contact with the realm of the carefree. These songs reinforced the energy of the sport without supplanting their own ideas, a difficult task in an arena based around the ethos of “Extreeeeeeeeeeeeme!”