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Borderlands, Music, and Songs about Stories

Borderlands, Music, and Songs about Stories published on 4 Comments on Borderlands, Music, and Songs about Stories

If you’re not a borderlands fan — well, first, I’m baffled. I dislike first person shooters, and even I can’t get over how fantastic this I.P. is — but also, you probably missed this video, and you need to see it for my gushing to make sense.

It’s a perfect song for, really, any of the Borderlands games because that is a world of Byronic Heroes, Antiheroes, and, uh, Byronic Antiheroes. But what really had me excited was that, when I first heard this song, Zach told me that it had been written specifically for the game. That made visceral sense to me, and I didn’t question it. It fits Borderlands so perfectly that I just nodded and said, “that makes a lot of sense.” After all, a piece composed for Civilization IV won a Grammy, way back in the day.

A quick fact checking round before I started writing this revealed that the song was actually written in 2009. I was disappointed. Deeply. It’s still a great match for Borderlands, but there is always something magical to me about songs that are about stories, and the song was a lot more special to me when I thought it was in some tangential way about the rag-tag band of four fighting psychos to stop Handsome Jack.

I don’t think stories have enough song in then. And I don’t think songs have enough story in them. My favorite moments from both are when they combine. Say anything else you want about the Hobbit movies, this scene was brilliant and enchanting:

 

Songs about stories in stories are powerful world building devices, but they’re also a welcome break from songs about love, partying, fighting, how tough someone is, or songs that are written with a sort of beautiful and poetic vagueness that lets them be about anything at all. (I cut a music video a long time ago that made Owl City’s Fireflies about 9/11.) One of the reasons I adore Celtic and folk music is that they very often tell stories, and even if those stories are about love, partying, how tough someone is, or they’re odes to poetic vagueness, the presence of a narrative deepens the song and, frankly, the whole genre in a way that I don’t see anyone really talking about.

It’s surprising, too. Narratives are the structures within which we build society, politics, culture–everything. Without narrative, we’re automatons. I suspect that what prevents a rich culture of songs about stories, or songs that tell stories–I like both about equally–is a combination of copyright law (tributes aren’t parody and will likely never make money) and a fairly myopic opinion from the oligarchy that controls hypermainstream music publishing about the role of music (read: to make oligarchs wealthier) and what music actually is.

This touches into why I was excited when I thought that This Ain’t No Place for a Hero was written for Borderlands 2 specifically, and why I was disappointed to learn it wasn’t. I want more songs about stories, and more songs in stories that tell stories. I love them. Every media I bump into that has this always burns itself into my mind and carts away a little bit of my love. Remember the end of Portal?

My hope is that the power of story songs as world building and character building elements will cement into the minds of video game designers that song writers and musicians should be on the list of contractors they need to finish their game.

4 Comments

What I got from this is that you haven’t been watching Strike Back which uses “Ain’t No Place For A Hero” (or “Short Change Hero” as it’s apparently actually titled) as it’s opening credit song. It’s an excellent show and the song feels very fitting there as well.

I, love too, history songs, and find interesting, that you use borderlands as example, I started to play borderlands last year in november (thanks to a discount) i also dislike shooters but it was cheap at the time, and it realy look fun, ok… a yes, starts aint no rest for the wicked, and i didnt pay to much atention to the lyrics, and believe it was some kind jaja of statement about im here i cash on the wicked so i wouldnt let them rest , that shows how little i know at the moment about borderlands jaja, ok, returning to the like of history songs, i want to share a couple of songs and bands that i know that tell histories in their songs, from spain there are Warcry and Tierra santa, both of them are power metal, warcry has songs like: Señor(lord) about the history of samson in what he tells his history and prays to god to have streght again, also they have songs about the captain lawrence(capitan lawrence) at the expedition to south pole, another one about a gatekeeper at troya(guardian de troya),al salir el sol, its a song about the last will of a diying soldier who wants to tell sorry to his girlfriend for not be there at dawn… for not keep the promise of return alive, and a lot more, well tierra santa has songs about magic creatures, knights and profecies(legendario,hermano del viento,tierras de leyenda,septima estrella,las walkirias etc), sonata artica has songs like aint your fairy tale about werewolfs, ancient bards has an album named the aliance of kings and the full album tells a epic in a world similar to the books of tolkien, red dead redemption has a good song in the soundtrack about the last wich of a diying man, bury me not on the lone prairie, and in anime are a lot of soundtraks and osts that tell the inner strugle of the characters i know it isnt the same as histories, but they sure mix together in awosome ways, digimon xros wars for example has a lot of theme songs dedicated to especial transformations and evolution and some of the songs tell a little of the past of the characters, x4b the guardian, blazing blue flare, we are xros heart 7, in one piece the first opening song at some point turns to be emblematic, there is a version of we are from one piece that is singed for the characters of the anime and it gives a new meaning to de song, more bands… maybe you know korpiklaani a folk metal band, or eluveitie another folk one kind of celtic, omnos tells the history of the red ridding hod, Tyr a folk metal band or viking metal one je, I know that i forgot a lot more, also i dont know if its a good idea to mention more songs in spanish… well nice reflection and i hope at least one of the songs i mention turn to be of your linking, also im sorry if my way of writing is a mess, I’m not english native speaker.

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