Dissecting The New Grand Theft Auto 5 Character Trailers
Grand Theft Auto games have generally included incredible soundtracks. Packed with encyclopedic knowledge and always exhaustively researched, the series has frequently revived intrest in forgotten genres (like New Jack Swing) and has drawn attention to the sources for dozens of famous samples (check how Holy Thursday by David Axelrod was used in GTA IV), and it’s done so by meticulously avoiding the obvious and well-known, even from extremely famous artists. Even knowing that, it’s kind of shocking just how good the soundtrack for GTA V is looking, especially in contrast to its rather dour predecessor.
Previous trailers gave us Stevie Wonder and The Small Faces, but today’s new ads take things further, not only showing off usual impressive variety, but the great care in tailoring the music to fit all three characters.
Queen – Radio Ga Ga
Written by drummer Roger Taylor for the band’s 1984 album The Works, the song exemplifies the band’s successful embrace of synth pop for that album, proving once and for all that Queen could do just about anything perfectly. Radio Ga Ga refers to the way television replaced radio as an all-purpose entertainment medium during the 40s, and how at the time Queen wrote the song, television was in the process of replacing radio as a source for music as well. (Leading to radio becoming increasingly narrow minded in terms of what kind of music you’d actually be able to hear; the original title for the track was ‘Radio Ca Ca’.)
No doubt the era of MP3s and streaming, smartphones and social media and the way all of the above have in many ways overtaken television influenced the selection. But as Michael’s theme, the track underscores the fact that Michael is a middle aged gangster whose salad days probably happened back when Freddie Mercury was still alive. (Mercury died of complications from AIDS in 1991, which remains an almost unspeakable tragedy more than 20 years later.) Middle age anthem or not, the track is undeniably one of Queen’s best songs. Unless you’re a dick.
Jay Rock feat. Kendrick Lamar – Hood Gone Love It
The first single from Jay Rock’s 2011 debut “Follow Me Home”, Hood Gone Love is a giant middle finger to rap haters who miss the point (which is that they aren’t doing it for you, so stfu). As Franklin’s theme music, it does double duty as a reference to the tension between staying true to your roots and getting the hell out of a bad situation without dying in the process. Clearly, for Franklin is isn’t enough for the hood to love it, a fact putting him at odds with his friends who think he’s selling out.
Hood Gone Love It is also notable for a guest appearance from a then-completely unknown Kendrick Lamar. If that’s not enough to make it your new old favorite song, nothing is.
Waylon Jennings – Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way
It’s hard to believe, in the era of Carrie Underwood and dreck like “Accidental Racist”, but country music didn’t always suck. But even during Country’s golden age (arguably the early 50s through the late 70s), the Nashville-based music industry did everything it could to shackle the genre’s artists with silly image makeovers and constant attempts to make them all sound the same. Artists like Waylon jennings bitterly resented the Nashville establishment and via the Bakersfield sound of the early 60s established what is, essentially, Country Music Punk Rock. They took every possible opportunity to dis the hell out of it, with 1975′s Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way being one of the best examples.
This track riddles the Countrypolitan scene with bullets, calling out the way the Nashville sound had frozen Country music in time, the ridiculousness of rhinestones and extravagant displays of wealth, and the way Nashville had posed itself as the inheritor of Hank Williams Sr.’s legacy despite having rejected every single one of the artists influenced by him. Yeah, Nashville eventually won – see Underwood, Carrie for proof – but you have to respect people willing to fight a losing battle.
Which brings us to Trevor who, unlike his former partner Michael, never settled down and never dropped out of the game. Trevor is fundamentally incompatible with the way the world appears to work in GTA V: he’s dirt poor, he’s almost animal in his lack of social grace, he’s a terrifying monster and he’s probably going to end up dead. But at least he didn’t sell out. Point: hi-fives to Rockstar for perfectly picking his theme music.