MadWorld Original Soundtrack
MadWorld Original Soundtrack
March 26, 2009
Buy Used Copy
MadWorld is a critically successful Wii title developed by PlatinumGames, a talented team of former Capcom and Clover Studio designers. It blends blood-soaked chainsaw-wielding violence with a stunning comic-inspired visual style and a hard-edged rap soundtrack. While a rap soundtrack is bound to be an automatic turn-off for most, MadWorld‘s soundtrack is actually very well done. Phoenix Wright and Mega Man X veteran Naoto Tanaka created varied backing tracks for each of the game’s themes so that they fitted the game’s style and particular scenes. He collaborated with rappers such as Ox, Doujah Raze, and and Sick YG who offered persuasive lyrics and confident performances on top. Though rap game music is often terrible, this soundtrack sets itself apart because of the way it is stylishly integrated into the game and how it encompasses so much stylistic variety. The soundtrack was released with pre-orders of PAL versions of the game and later made commercially available to all regions through Sumthing Else Music Works. MadWorld clearly offers a very different experience, but is it worth listening to on its own?
It’s clear that MadWorld is different from other soundtracks right from the instrumental introduction to “Get It Up!”. The dissonant brass chords immediately establish the dark and seedy setting of the game while the jazz influences seem to homage film noir. The subsequent additions of Ox’s commanding rapping and some driving bass riffs embellishes the distinctive timbre and captures much of the aggression inherent to the title. The lyrics and vocals are extremely well done for a video game track, despite the occasional obnoxious moment, and stay true to the theme of the game. A little later on the soundtrack, “Crimson Rain” exposes much of the menace underlying the relatively jubilant “Get It Up!”. The murky horn parts return, the chord progressions are obsessive and unsettling, and the vocalist offers a subtly intimidating tone. However, it’s the way the lyrical content that is most disturbing. Well-written yet jaw-dropping, the lyrics are all about how the vocalist is intent on killing you. Look out for classic lines such as “I need them to think they got away just to find out I am here”. Much of the soundtrack is tongue-in-cheek, but this song might just give the unadulterated nightmares.
One of the main appeals of the soundtrack are the very varied backing tracks, which ensure the soundtrack is much more than a generic hip-hop album. “Ain’t That Funny”, for example, offers a relaxing Japanese sound thanks to Tanaka’s intentionally stereotyped use of oriental instrumentation. The abrasive rapping of course disrupts any serenity, but seems to complement the powerful visuals of Jack destroying beautiful Asian scenery with his chainsaw. Inspired by the collaborations of Linkin’ Park with Jay-Z, the main boss theme “MAD WORLD” blends rap with hard rock elements. Overdriven electric guitars are ideal for most intense battles, but sound so much interesting when they’re combined with manic rapping inspired by the sounds of a chainsaw! “Death & Honour” somehow manages to take the intensity up a notch and includes even more chainsaw-inspired onomatopoeia. At parts it can be too oppressive, though there are surprisingly lyrical sections that make it pretty enjoyable out of context too. “Bang” is another bass-driven track, but separates itself from most other with its extensive use of electronic distortion and the appearance of some flashy electric guitar solos. MadWorld‘s visuals may be more or less monochrome, but it’s soundtrack is clearly oozing with stylistic variety.
However, there are occasionally tracks where the lyrical content disappoints. “Crazy” does an incredible job of inspiring fear thanks to some moody soundscaping and orchestral elaborations. However, Doujah Raze’s performance lacks the subtle tongue-in-cheek factor that Ox’s performances do and seem a little too intent on declaring him cool. The way Doujah Raze opens each of his tracks by declaring his own name doesn’t help matters. There are also quite a few obnoxious lyrics to be found within the soundtrack. While “Ain’t That Funny” and “Let’s Go” are good tracks, the title hooks sound goofy and out-of-place. The same applies to the “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Ya” passages on “Get It Up”, which sound more like something a public school boy might say than a deranged madman in a metropolis. These attempts at offering catchy hooks are basically unnecessary since there are so many compelling rhythms, lyrics, and backing riffs already. Most of the dynamic lyrical content is far better, although some might feel nauseous at the constant talk of killing people. Of course, there is a lot of ‘parental advisory’ language too. With the exception of “Move”, the F bomb isn’t featured every other word like most gangsta rap, though rest assured there are plenty of potentially offensive passages nonetheless. With the chorus of “Come With It”, it becomes clear the protagonist Jack is a complete misogynist…
Nevertheless, there are plenty of other tracks that are enjoyable on an all-round basis. Though some tracks have a limited lifespan in MadWorld, Soul Purpose’s “Survival” always seems delightful to listen to. The rapping is especially compelling here thanks to the relentless rhythmical performance and fairly engaging lyrics. However, it doesn’t take itself too seriously either, including for instance some funky guitar riffs and even a cute nod to Public Enemy. It’s not necessary to be a fan of 50 Cent to like this one! “Deathwatch” is one of the main themes for the game. The verse brings the menace back with its excellent soundscaping and lyrics while pressing towards the chorus with its edgy string riff. The chorus is simply iconic thanks to its catchy lyrics: “It’s a mad, mad world and you’re caught in the game. You put your life on the edge and I put a hole in your brain”! What an exceptionally deep way to capture the essence of the game (within the game). “Ride!!” is also a fantastic anthem. The lyrics are merely average here, but the disco grooves and Jamiroquai influences are definitely welcome. It’s very easy to feel good when listening to this one.
Moving towards some of the more climactic pieces on the soundtrack, the female boss theme “You Don’t Know Me” is perhaps the most select taste on the soundtrack. It combines punk influences with exceptionally sleazy lyrics, e.g. “I’m the hottest chick so can you feel me now”! It will be too much for some, but at least it offers some variety and fits in context. It’s also the only track that features female vocals after following a wide variety of male rappers. Sexuality is mixed with violence once more for the surprisingly easygoing final boss theme, “Look Pimpin!” Sick YG creates a sound that is half Justin Timberlake, half Snoop Dogg, to represent the pimp Black Baron. It’s so silly, it’s good. “So Cold” compensates for the potentially anticlimactic feel with a furious racing action theme dominated by orchestral discords, thrash metal chords, and, of course, aggressive rapping. Once again, it’s a superb example of how Naoto Tanaka managed to hybridise several genres together in order to achieve a vivid and dramatic accompaniment to the game. Ox leads out the soundtrack in style with the charming lullaby “Soul”. Combining a catchy backing track with a sorrowful performance, it certainly offers a bittersweet feeling as the credits roll.
In short, Madworld‘s soundtrack is a rare example of a very well-executed rap video game soundtrack. I think that was partly because the production approach was spot on. Naoto Tanaka was able to offer backing tracks that were both distinctive, interesting, and varied within the game. The collaborating rap artists were mostly able to offer great lyrical content and superb performances unlike all those lame attempts to write rap by actual game music artists. This production approach is a good model and hopefully there will be a MadWorld 2 to elaborate on it. That said, some of the tracks do have a short lifespan both within and outside of the game since some tracks can get annoying or boring after a while, often due to occasionally cheesy hooks or because of the abrasive approach. Of course, some will also choose to avoid this out of sheer aversion to rap music or because of the violent and offensive content. For everyone else, this album is worth checking out through Sumthing Else. If it doesn’t hook you within the first 30 seconds, it probably isn’t for you. Otherwise you’re on to a winner!
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.