(Originally published June 22, 2019)
The 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo came and went last week, and while the games were awesome and the news was captivating, I was paying attention to the music. I know I sound like a crazy person, but hear me out (no pun intended). Over the course of five years and now three different websites, I’ve written about the music of E3. I listen for those songs that pique my interest – whether they’re in demos, reveal trailers, or montages – and leave me wanting more. One caveat before we begin, I must mention that I only go for songs I can find with the help of the internet, or Shazam, so I had to count out things like the background music for the Jedi: Fallen Order trailer. It was beautiful, and most likely a John Williams score, but who knows what it was called. Also this list is in no particular order; we’re just having fun and talking about some awesome music. Let’s get to it!
“How High” by Bad Rabbits – Bethesda Showcase Intro
You wanna start a press conference? This is how you kick it off in style! While the song may have only been featured in the closing montage of this intro video, “How High” set the tone for the show and reminded viewers that Bethesda gamers don’t mess around. Loud and in your face with a funky beat and a singer who could easily be mistaken for DMX, this song fits well against almost any Bethesda property, whether it be an explosion in Fallout, an assassination in Dishonored, or a head being stomped in Doom. While I personally couldn’t find many things to write home about during this conference – to be fair, I never do, as Bethesda just isn’t my cup of tea – this song got me excited for what was to come. “How High” is the perfect song to get people in the spirit of gaming, nay, in the mood to Fk st up!
“Nowhere to Run” by Baga – DEATHLOOP Reveal Trailer
If you saw this reveal trailer and your jaw didn’t drop to the floor? I don’t want to be your friend. Deathloop was my favorite part of the Bethesda press conference, and one of my favorite reveals of E3 2019. Made by Dishonored developer Arkane Studios, this game seems to follow two people caught in a time loop with their only purpose in life being to kill one another. This song has been used before by Bethesda in a trailer for Wolfenstein: The New Order, and those memories came rushing back as I watched the Deathloop reveal. While slower and sinister-sounding here, “Nowhere to Run” still delivers an ominous tone that could make any video game trailer seem eerie and unsettling. It certainly sold Deathloop as a stealthy, methodical shooter with a dark futuristic tone – and we don’t even have any details as to what the game is yet! That’s how important music is to these trailers, and “Nowhere to Run” did not disappoint.
“Rattle The Cage” by ELIA EX – The Outer Worlds Gameplay Trailer
Obsidian’s new game The Outer Worlds is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated releases of the year. This game has everything from a massive open world teeming with diverse NPC’s to complex quest options and frantic first-person combat. The possibilities are endless on this planetary expedition, and the gameplay trailer shown at the Xbox conference certainly displayed it all. Combining Fallout with Borderlands and BioShock makes for one hectic game, complete with mechs and giant monsters – all wrapped up with a little bow. Seriously, The Outer Worlds is the total package for any science fiction fan, and “Rattle the Cage” helped show it all off in grandiose fashion. Explosions galore, big-ass guns, and plenty of spaceships; The Outer Worlds ain’t playing around when it comes to sci-fi fantasy elements. Here’s hoping it plays as beautifully as it looks on October 25.
“R U Game” by Hael – Xbox Game Pass for PC Announce Trailer
Here’s a silly little song for an enormous announcement. As I’ll explain a bit more in my Favorites of E3 piece, the reveal of the Xbox Ultimate Game Pass absolutely blew me away. Not only did it combine the Xbox Game Pass with Xbox Live Gold, but it also included the Game Pass for PC at no additional charge! Over 100 games, perfectly curated for the PC landscape, entirely free. I was beside myself. Then this little trailer was shown to display the best PC Game Pass games, and I found myself bobbing along to the music in the background. Techno to the core, this tune not only wakes you up with its jaunty beat, but it also gets you in the mood to pick up a controller (or a keyboard) and get to gaming. The Xbox Ultimate Game Pass is a great deal, and the games on PC are excellent choices. Get on that.
“Let’s Go (Edited Album Version)” by Trick Daddy Feat. Big D & Twista – Gears of War 5 Escape Mode Trailer
Now for a song that can only be described as a smörgåsbord of music. Starting off with the intro to “Crazy Train” and slowly evolving into Lil Jon…doing his thing, “Let’s Go” is the perfect choice for any Gears of War trailer. Bringing back those nostalgic Cole Train vibes, this tune set the scene for an epic trailer that married graphic violence with Gears‘s signature dark humor. Though I decided to omit it from this segment and focus on just the Escape Mode trailer, I must also applaud the inclusion of Billie Eilish’s “bury a friend” within the Gears 5 opening trailer. The remix made an already creepy song more unnerving, even more so alongside the disturbing visuals onscreen. Both trailers for Gears of War 5 got me incredibly excited for its impending release, and I can’t wait to finally get my hands on this game on September 10.
“Fire It Up” by Ruelle – Xbox New Games Trailer
Why can’t I find this song anywhere? Sure, Shazam helped me find out what it was, but not even Spotify knows “Fire It Up,” which is a real shame because the moment I heard this song I knew it was going on this list. As usual, this song was found as the backing track for a press conference montage, and I must say, that method continues to never disappoint. The perfect song choice can go along with clips of any game – case in point: Microsoft Flight Simulator was in this montage. Need I really say more? Just watch the video for yourself, take this song in, and then maybe you’ll understand just why I do this every year. These songs need attention, because they’re awesome anthems that stay in our minds through visions of the games they narrate. Trust me, you’ll never look at a plane the same again.
“Help I’m Alive” by Metric – Dying Light 2 Gameplay Trailer
While I was never a fan of the first Dying Light, and this next installment makes me want to puke due to the main character’s name alone (of course your name is Aiden, and of course I hate you), Dying Light 2 certainly looks enticing in this gameplay demo shown at the Square Enix press conference. Just look at it! The guy grabs onto a freaking pipe and dropkicks a guy out a freaking window! If that weren’t bad ass enough, this song should do the trick, as it quite literally paints the picture in your mind of parkouring through a zombie apocalypse. “If I stumble, they’re gonna eat me alive,” says the singer, who couldn’t be more descriptive of the action onscreen. If I had to choose a song to listen to while jumping across rooftops and evading infected man-eaters? This would be it.
“Tell Me How You Do It” by The Phantoms – Epic Games Store Announcements
I am far too familiar with songs like these in lists like this. It seems like every year I’ve picked out my favorite music from E3, at least one montage utilizes some garage rock band, hooting and hollering their way through a song with electric guitars and a catchy hook. Now that sentence may have sounded nonsensical, but just listen to the song and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Is it good? The jury’s still out on that one. But is it a likable song due to its jumpy cadence and inclusive “Let’s do this!” nature? Yeah, I’d say that’s why it excels. That’s also why this genre of music will never die, as fools like me continue to say “Oh boy, what a fun montage that was! I should tell the world of this titillating tune!” So here lies said tune, in all its glory. Ironically, it’s backing a product that most people frown upon, as well. Go figure.
“We Will Stand United” by Oliver Wilde, Tom Barnes & Phil Panton – The Division 2 Thank You Video
Consider this my strangest choice of the year, as this song – and this Division 2 thank you video – were such a minor part of the Ubisoft press conference, you could’ve blinked and missed this thing. That would’ve been unfortunate, however, as this song is actually really good! Now you might be asking, “But Graydon, this song is tremendously similar to the last one you mentioned. What makes this song so much better?” To be honest, I like the lyrics a bit more, and the overall feeling of it being a thank you from the Division 2 developers makes the whole vibe as heartfelt as it is heart-pumping. With a loud anthemic sound and those horns in the background, this song made me perk up and got me thinking, “Damn, these guys mean business!” The Division 2 is doing great, and I’m proud of their success so far. This thank you message may have been short and sweet, but it also delivered a punch with this banger behind it.
“Born For Greatness” by David Westlake & Johnny Voltik – Uplay+ Subscription Announcement
So here’s a fun fact for y’all. This song and the one before it can both be found on a series of three albums called Big Hitters, which seem to be compilations of music perfect for trailers and montages! Who would’ve thought those existed, huh? Anyway, this song backed the reveal of Uplay+, Ubisoft’s own subscription service akin to EA Access. While this announcement made me a bit uneasy at first (I explained my thoughts more clearly on this week’s podcast), the song drew me in with its fast-talking lyricist and those booming drums and cymbals in the background. Frankly, you could put Ubisoft’s games up against any song and it would still make me want to buy them. I’m just waiting for the day an Assassin’s Creed reveal trailer is set to “Pomp and Circumstance.” That’s how you get me to pre-order a collector’s edition.
Wasn’t E3 a blast? Now hopefully you can see that it’s not just about the games and the way we talk about them onstage or in an interview, it’s also about that backing track in every world premiere and gameplay trailer. Those tunes set the tone, and they could easily make or break a game’s first impression. Did any songs take you by surprise at E3 2019? Let us know in the comments, and I hope to see you right back here next year!
-Written by Graydon Webb