Jingle All the Way
Jingle All the Way
December 16, 2009
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The Bad Dudes’ Jingle All the Way is incredible. After listening to thousands of fan-arranged video game remixes since I first surfed the Internet in 1997, I can clearly state that several tracks in this album fall in the top ten. Who, other than this cutting-edge group, would have thought of taking ten-second melodies — essentially sound effects that are played on menu screens and after the player dies — and creating entire compositions out of them? I didn’t pay any attention to these melodies when I played many of the games that are remixed here, and the original composers probably didn’t spend more than ten minutes writing them either.
While I reviewed Jingle All the Way two days before Christmas, the clever title is misleading. Rather than holiday carols, Jingle consists of "jingles" from various video games extended into full-length tracks, some as long as six minutes. The attempt is wildly successful. Ranging from menu themes to game over screen tracks, the Bad Dudes seem to be able to make anything out of any possible starting point. Exciting, beautiful, or even hilarious, the tracks run the gamut of possible outcomes. While people will undoubtedly buy Chronotorious simply because it has to do with Chrono Trigger, Jingle All the Way is the album that deserves to be offered at a price higher than free.
Speaking of Chronotorious, it’s clear that "Chaxin", from Super Metroid, is influenced by the style of Chronotorious, the group’s previous album. In fact, the start of Jingle, "Lucca", hails from the interminably repetitive battle victory theme from Chrono Trigger. The original is 18 seconds long, and it is extended seven times to two minutes in the remix without the listener ever feeling bored. In fact, the second measure sets the tone for the entire album — it’s clear that this is not going to be a collection of poor sequences or missing inspiration. And Danimal Cannon, like the artists responsible for the other interpretations on this album, knows exactly how long these tunes can be stretched before it’s time to quit it.
Not only can the Bad Dudes mix from anything to anything else, they can also mix from absolutely nothing into something. How else can one describe "You Gon’ Get Whipped", from Castlevania, which, of all things, turns into a piano sonata of quality that rivals some classical music? While the arrangement is superb, the solo piano performance in this track is what makes the track one of the best in video game remixing. It’s amazing how simple this track is. There’s no complex harmony, no VSTs, and almost no production whatsoever. They simply put a piano in a studio, and let someone who feels the music play it. This idea of "feeling the music" is missing from nine of ten video game remixes, and this powerful piece unquestionably demonstrates how the concept of feeling can make or break an arrangement. I’ll listen to this one over most of the company-sponsored piano collections any day.
While all of the tracks save one or two could easily warrant paragraphs of their own, Strange Island Eggplant is possibly the most ridiculous track the game music community has ever written. Written about a player attempting to battle past an eggplant, listeners who pay attention to the words will note that the comedically distorted vocalist is actually telling a story. The story is perfectly complimented by the melody and harmony, with the syncopated and chaotic beat added to the discordant electric guitar. As the story progresses, more and more instruments are added, fully bringing home just how hilarious the situation that’s being sung about is. Lest anyone forget, remember that zyko started with a few bars of music and expanded it into a 380-second comedy that is comparable to Overclocked ReMix’s Chocobo theme remix “Rhymes With Elixir”. Anyone who takes video games too seriously should listen to this song and reflect upon the absurd situations that game players think nothing of.
I should also mention that the “bonus” track, "You Just Died", the actual title of which is censored here due to language. Those not offended by explicit content will be impressed by how Queen — yes, the 70s band — is integrated. In most of my reviews for Square Enix Music, I have commented on how repetition frequently detracts from fan-arranged video game remixes. In many cases, it seems as if the artists simply run out of ideas as they attempt to prolong a track based too strongly upon the original composer’s vision. Other albums, such as The Very Best of Sega, attempt to bypass this problem by simply playing the track once with little variation. When I reviewed that album, I stated that the poor score was a result of track choice, but I was apparently proved wrong. In Jingle All the Way, the Bad Dudes prove that the only limiting factor of a great remix is a lacking imagination.
Jingle All the Way is the exact opposite of everything that is wrong with video game remixes. Far from repetitive, the group turns ten second sound effects into music that surpasses many professional composers’ works. "Strange Island Eggplant" and "You Gon’ Get Whipped" are in the top ten fan video game remixes ever produced, while "Eggplant" even surpasses some works such as Nobuo Uematsu’s when it comes to lighthearted game themes. Similarly, tracks like "Chaxin" and "Cycho Trigger" never stop moving and rarely get stale. There are one or two tracks that, while not horrible, are of average quality. That said, most fan-arranged albums have one or two good tracks, with the rest being disappointing. Non-composers might not be able to appreciate what the Bad Dudes have pulled off here, starting from a few notes and creating tracks that are not repetitive but are still readily identifiable from the originals.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Stephen Sokolowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.