The magic of Grand Theft Auto radio stations

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When it comes to licensing music into video games, no one can touch Rockstar. Grand Theft Auto games radio stations aren’t just random selections of songs – they’re tastefully organized trips through many different genres, designed to evoke a very special sense of mood, time and place. . Ask someone for their fondest GTA memory and it probably won’t be a mission they’ll remember, it’s going to be a piece of music for a moment. Crossing the desert in San Andreas to the tune of America’s Horse With No Name. Drive through GTA 3’s Liberty City in the rain with the spellbinding opera tune O Mio Babbino Caro played on Double Clef FM. Get into a vehicle for the first time in Vice City and hear the accents of Billie Jean from Michael Jackson. These are a few of mine: you probably have a few. Music and Grand Theft Auto are intimately, inseparably linked.

Of course, the show hasn’t always licensed its music. In the original GTA, the radio tunes were created specifically for the game by Craig Conner, Colin Anderson, and Grant Middleton under various aliases. Developer DMA Design wanted to include licensed contemporary music in the game, but securing the rights proved prohibitive. So the audio team created theirs. It’s an incredibly fun and diverse selection of really great music, from Da Shootaz’s Grand Theft Auto (the game’s memorable main theme, also known as Joyride), to low-key bangers like the ridiculously catchy Complications, or the deliciously funky Pootang Shebang, both composed by Conner under the names Ohjaamo and Stylus Exodus. The bass playing in Pootang Shebang is just ridiculous. Even before I made enough money to afford “real” songs, music was still a staple of GTA.

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Grand Theft Auto 3, the first 3D game, featured a mix of licensed music and custom songs. The Throwback Flashback 95.6 station featured famous music from the soundtrack of Scarface, a movie that heavily influenced early 3D games. The songs by reggae station K-JAH are all taken from a 1981 album by famous dub producer Scientist. Hip-hop station Game Radio played tracks by Royce da 5’9 “and Black Rob. But songs created especially for the game were just as good, especially the catchy pop songs from the late 90s found on Head. Radio — Good Thing and The tongue-in-cheek discussions between songs and fake commercials were also superb, with nerdy DJs like Head Radio’s Mike Hunt (say it quickly) perfectly capturing the bossy and obnoxious vibe of American commercial radio stations – something future games would take much further.

A screenshot showing Claude trying to escape the police in a car chase in Grand Theft Auto 3: The Definitive Edition

At the most basic level, this humorous DJ chatter gives you something entertaining to listen to as you drive between missions. But it also does something more important: it makes the city you are in bigger, livelier and richer. When presenters refer to things in the world around you – places, people, businesses – it makes you feel like the city you’re in is a place, not just a playground where you can sow the seeds. chaos. Like Vice City’s VCPR or GTA 3’s Chatterbox FM, it brings the city’s culture and personality to life without you actually realizing it. You laugh at silly jokes, but you also accept the city as a functional place with a life of its own outside of the dozen or so gangsters the protagonist hangs out with. These stations are really an integral part of what makes these settings so compelling and enduring.

The rhythm of the DJ only got better with each sequel, but in terms of the music, everything changed in Vice City. After the meteoric success of Grand Theft Auto 3, Rockstar now had the income to buy the rights to the song they wanted. Taking full advantage of the 1980s setting, Vice City filled Vice City with a huge selection of classics: Broken Wings by Mister Mister, Two Tribes by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Atomic by Blondie, Gold by Spandau Ballet, (Keep Feeling) Fascination with the Human League. It’s just a perfect collection of brilliant 80s pop music. But it went beyond the big hits of the day. On Radio Espantoso station you will find a playlist of amazing Latin funk, salsa and jazz songs. Wildstyle featured a leading collection of early and relatively obscure hip-hop. Fever 105 was a feast of great funk and soul from the 70s and 80s. It’s an unbeatable musical selection.

City of vice

From that point on, listening to radio stations in a GTA game was like going to dig a cash register in a tastefully organized record store. San Andreas, set in the 1990s, featured not only a premium selection of world-class hip-hop, but also premium tracks from grunge, country, disco, house, and classic rock. I discovered so many bands, songs and genres through these games that I still listen to today and will carry with me for the rest of my life. It was through Grand Theft Auto 4 – which featured a particularly eclectic mix of songs – that I fell in love with the experimental ambient music of Terry Riley and Ray Lynch, and the soulful poetry of Gil Scott-Heron. The track selections in GTA games are clearly the work of people who care deeply about music, which continues through to GTA 5, with its wide selection of interesting contemporary music from around the world, as well as deep killer cuts. from the past.

This passion for music also extends to the choices of DJs. A number of legitimate music legends have hosted gaming shows over the years including George Clinton, DJ Premier, Roy Ayers, Kenny Loggins, Iggy Pop, Bootsy Collins, Pam Grier, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, and Flying Lotus. . As someone who loves music, spending time with these people is a real treat, especially when they produce such quality. Other open world games have pumped money into licensed soundtracks, but they never feel so special, like an arbitrary Spotify playlist of recognizable songs, rather than something created specifically to fit. to the gaming vibe. Rockstar is known to be an industry leader when it comes to creating remarkable open worlds and pushing the boundaries of technology, but he deserves just as much praise for his approach to the music. I can’t wait to hear what he has in store for Grand Theft Auto 6.

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