One of the greatest things about music is its ability to take on new contexts depending on what visuals accompany it. Just closing your eyes and listening to music can give you a direct impression of the music, along the lines of what the original artist intended. Use that same music as the soundtrack to a game and it will take on a completely new light and angle, expressing emotions and subtleties not apparent previously.
No game soundtrack exemplifies this better than the soundtrack to BioShock 2. All of the songs are from a long bygone era, ranging from the 1920s to the 1950s. In their original context they sound innocent and syrupy-sweet. However, anyone who’s played BioShock 2 can attest to how creepy and chilling songs like “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and “(How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window” can sound in a rotting city under the sea strewn with corpses. Take a listen right here:
Many of the best tracks from the original BioShock soundtrack return, as well as plenty of other old-time jams. Between the two installments 2K Games must have realized that this was probably the first time many younger people were being exposed to music this old, so wisely released a soundtrack to the game, available as a download from iTunes and Amazon, as well as a physical CD. The Special Edition of BioShock 2 also included a vinyl record of the first game for appropriate old school listening. Unfortunately not every song that’s featured in the game is featured on the soundtrack CD/MP3 downloads, but thanks to expansive library of Spotify, you can listen to the entire game’s licensed-song portion of the soundtrack right here on the blog or in Spotify.
It won’t be for everyone in our desensitized modern society of bigger, louder, faster, but hopefully some will appreciate this style of music and some of these incredible artists that still deserve your attention. Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bing Crosby are among the most well-known on this list and should be required listening for everyone, but there are also some more obscure greats, such as gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt whose song “La Mer (Beyond The Sea)” is featured prominently in both games.
The instrumental score is no slouch either! Composed by Garry Schyman, creator of both the original’s score as well as the score for console game Dante’s Inferno, the entire soundtrack is crafted brilliantly with repeating motifs that represent different characters and translate the relationship between Delta, the Little Sisters, and Eleanor into music beautifully. It even won an award in 2010 as the ‘Best In-Game Soundtrack’!
The characters, story and level design of BioShock 2 all come together to craft an immersive experience, but with this added layer of music it creates a singular experience rivaled by very few games.
What do you think of the BioShock 2 soundtrack? What other games would you like to see featured in our Music Monday? Would you kindly let us know in the comments?