Music is very important to visual media. It helps set up the mood of whatever is happening on the screen, subtlety hinting on what emotion we’re supposed to feel or enhance the scenes by giving them the little “oomph” to make something good become great. This does mean the people who make movies, television shows, cartoons and video games have to carefully pick songs which fits the genre. You need silly, upbeat tunes for comedy bits, high-tempo beats for action scenes and melodic pieces for the slower parts. Picking the wrong kind of music can be extremely detrimental to a piece of media if they don’t match.
There are exceptions, of course. There have been times when you would think a certain piece of music shouldn’t work and you would never fathom picking a particular song for certain scenes. Sometimes the same people who produce these particular movies, television shows and video games take a leap of faith and pick music genres which shouldn’t work. Sometimes, the gamble pays off.
So, with that in mind, here are just three music genre choices which shouldn’t work… but they do!
#1 Mortal Kombat (1995) and Techno/EDM
Let’s start off this list with the entry that inspired it.
For the life of me, I can’t really hum any of the tracks from the Mortal Kombat games. If you play them, I can probably identify them and only then will I recall hearing them in the game. I don’t think anyone, even the hardcore Mortal Kombat diehards, actually thinks any of the songs are great. We can all agree they may be good but not great, correct?
Then again, the same thing could be said for most of the music composed for the 1995 live-action movie. I said “most” because there is and always be one particular song which will be forever associated with Mortal Kombat until the end of time. The song is, of course, the techno/EDM song called Techno Syndrome by The Immortals.
How the heck does Techno Syndrome, an obvious techno/EDM song fit so well with the Mortal Kombat? Maybe it helps a little the song actually uses some of the vocal sound effect from the game but that’s just a small part of what makes it work with the live-action movie and, in the grander scheme of things, the Mortal Kombat franchise. The energy of the song, even if it is a techno/EDM song, just gels so well with the action-y feel of the game. You hear the song and you immediately feel energized. If you really think about it, a good martial arts fight can feel like a dance between two people. Sure, those two people are trying to kill each other but it can still be a thing of bloody beauty.
It’s honestly hard to pinpoint if what I just said is the reason why the song works so well. Maybe it’s just a good song? Whatever the reason, Techno Syndrome has become synonymous with the Mortal Kombat franchise and, while you and I may never have thought to use a techno/EDM song for a martial arts movie, I’m glad someone decided to think outside the box to do this!
#2 Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Jazz
Since I kinda started this list with a fighting game, I might as well segue into another fighting game!
When it comes to action games, especially ones which involves one-on-one fisticuffs, you usually go with something with a really hard and fast beat to get the good ol’ blood pumping. You can also go with something that sounds mystical like what they did with the aforementioned Mortal Kombat. There are, however, some fighting games who have gone a really different route by mixing up the type of songs. A lot of SNK fighting games have done this as they love to mix and match music genres depending on a character’s personality.
It is rare, however, for an entire fighting game to use a very stylistically different music genre for their entire game. Capcom did it, though, when they made Marvel vs. Capcom 2 way back in 2000 when they opted to use all jazzy tunes for their soundtrack.
Now, a lot of critics didn’t like Marvel vs. Capcom 2’s soundtrack when it came out as it was jarring, to say the least. Jazz shouldn’t fit in an insane fighting game like this crossover game! You have characters super jumping all over the place, throwing out beams of light with their hands and air juggling your opponent with assists and aerial raves. You do all of this to a really snazzy, bebop-like jazz soundtrack? It shouldn’t work… but it does!
Marvel vs. Capcom 2’s soundtrack definitely benefits from taking the road less taken as the music tracks are memorable. Even before I knew where it came from, I somehow instinctively knew the “Gonna Take You For A Ride” song that’s played in the character select screen! Of course, most of the reason why the music works is because the tunes are already good by themselves. Mixing it in with an awesome fighting game is just gravy!
#3 Initial D and Eurobeat
I would say Initial D is one of the most popular yet underrated animes I’ve seen. Sure, it’s widely known throughout the world but, at the same time, it’s been overshadowed by a ton of other animes that have come before and after it. It’s still a trip and the premise of a rinky-dink Toyota Trueno AKA the AE86 beating out more powerful cars like the Mazda RX-7 Twin Turbo (the FD) and the Nissan Skyline GT-R (the R32) because of superior driving skill, strategy, knowledge of the track and a little luck is a hoot to watch.
While the racing is super fun and exciting, there’s a lot of other stuff Initial D puts into the racing scenes which puts them over the top. You have the endless narration and inner monologues of the drivers while they speed down the mountain passes, giving you insight on what they’re feeling at the moment. The thing that elevates each racing scene, however, is the weird choice to use Eurobeat in them!
I don’t think anyone would have ever thought of putting pulse-pounding Eurobeat dance tracks into something like a race, especially an anime which deals with racing! It seems like a very outlandish idea as more conventional thinking would have anyone else using something like hard rock or, as this is an anime, something like J-Pop. Initial D uses Eurobeat songs exclusively for every race!
In retrospect, it is a good choice as Eurobeat has an incredibly speedy beat and a hectic rhythm, almost like you have to really try to catch up to it because of how fast it goes. If you think of it that way, the songs do really match the feel of high-octane races in Initial D, doesn’t it?
BONUS: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and melodic tunes
As much as I like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, I can’t really put it on this list for its use of Temptation Sensation as its theme song.
The song itself itself is very melodic and pleasant to listen to. It’s a very dream-like and peaceful tune, which is in direct opposition to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s insane and raucous kind of comedy. It doesn’t match the tone of the show, but that’s kind of the point! Temptation Sensation is sort of subverting your expectations as, while the song suggests it’s a classy show, it most certainly isn’t!
What other odd song choices for television, movies and video games can you think of? Let me know in the comments section below!