[ShockWave is a monthly feature which highlights video game music and our favorite soundtracks, for the music lover in every gamer.]
Here on ShockWave, we like to glorify the very best offerings from the world of video game music. Video game music is surely a very broad genre. Just pop in the latest Final Fantasy game to get your fill of sweeping orchestral compositions and instrumentals or fire up the ol’ NES for a blast of nostalgia with the aural trip chip-tune and 8-bit sounds.This month, we’ll visit the music of cult mega-smash Jet Set Radio Future.
Style simply poured from the game. Everything from the graphics to the game-play and of course, the music screamed JSRF. Today the game rests in the hearts of many as a deserving gem of a game that never got the attention, sales success or sequels it deserved. When I hear Jet Set Radio Future, the first thing that comes to my mind is music. Thus, when video game music is mentioned, JSRF is usually one of the titles I think of. Oddly, the music of JSRF is encompassed in two releases instead of one and obtaining the first is very costly.
- Album: Jet Set Radio Future Music Sampler and Jet Set Radio Future OST
- Genre: Hip-Hop, Techno, Dance, House, Experimental, Trip-Hop
- Credits: Various: The Latch Brothers, Scapegoat Wax, Cibo Matto, Hideki Naganuma
- Original Release: 2002, 2002
- Price: MS: New $60+, Used $24+, OST:$34+, $60+?
- Runtime: MS: Around forty-two minutes, OST: Over an hour
- Tracklisting: MS, OST
As far as distribution is concerned, the music in JSRF was handled very, very oddly. JSRF Music Sampler was never sold at retail but was instead given out as a pre-order bonus back before the game dropped in 2002. Yes, they had pre-order bonuses back then. Let’s deliberate on that for a moment. Since it was offered only as a pre-order bonus, anyone who didn’t pre-order it was pretty much scrap out of luck as far as getting the album was concerned.
While times have changed and today you can in fact get your hands on a copy, the situation is still weird since some of the best songs from the game are found on the Music Sampler. Why they weren’t simply included on the ‘consummate’ OST is beyond me. Not only that, but as you can see from pricing, it is rather costly for eleven tracks.
The OST on the other hand is much less expensive and it also contains a great deal more material. Keep this in mind if you’re only able to get one of them. The two releases go hand in hand and both are a must for anyone looking to experience the full soundtrack of the game. Imagine the shock and dissatisfaction of gamers everywhere who purchased the OST looking for tracks like Birthday Cake and Aisle 10 only to learn that they weren’t on the disc, even though they were used throughout the game. Tragic! Combine that with the limited release of the Music Sampler, and it almost seems as if gamers weren’t meant to experience the magnificent music of JSRF outside of the game.
The music enclosed in the two releases is very diverse. Sounds of break-beat and hip hop clash against techno and house flavored arrangements. It is easily very different from any other video game soundtrack I’ve ever listened to. The many different styles make it seem a bit scattered and hard to follow when listening from start to finish. The intrinsic value of the albums is undeniable; honestly, have you ever played a game that sounded quite like this? It’s really to be expected of a game with ‘radio’ right in the title. Some songs are creepy and aural while others are relatable and warm. The music of JSRF is wonderfully cacophonous and unique and you should definitely give it a listen.
OST, Track 6: Oldies But Happies
Oldies But Happies kicks things off with a bouncy swing that will almost definitely enthuse you to dance in your seat. Then the song takes off with a repeating kind of chant that compliments the songs groove nicely. The claps mixed with intermittent beeps and the addictive “Hey, Hey” make the song a definite grower.
Pretty soon you’ll fall victim to the “Bop do wop bop do wop” as the song continues with a bubbly groove that is just infectious. A jazzy saxophone adds dance flair to the array and the varying sounds work in fabulous harmony. After a short while the song breaks down with the continued chant and people screaming “Yeah” in the background.
The whole song possesses a rich throwback quality and as the gentleman in the song says “They’re oldies but they’re goodies.” I dare you to listen to this without breaking into a frantic and fun nod. I’m not a big fan of the numerous breakdowns in the song, but this is mainly because I love the upbeat sound created at the beginning. I can remember listening to this song repeatedly on the in-game radio. That’s just plain poppycock.
MS, Track 5: Birthday Cake
If you think the beginning of this song is confusing, just wait until it starts. A female vocalist comes in belting, backed by a rather noisy guitar telling us to “Shut up and just eat”. A few percussions are drowned by the sound of the guitar and it becomes obvious that some sort of effect is being used on the vocals, making them sound faded and a little scratchy.
You must find me insane by now for liking this, but it’s very different for fans of the game, I assure. The lyrics are so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh at them. A while in, this hard, noisy groove is still strong. Pinning a genre for the song is confusing to me because it takes so many turns. The vocals are just a big laugh, but also enjoyable. It’s hard to avoid singing a long after a few listens.
Later in the song, a drum arrangement slows things down and now the vocalist tells us about how we were “Born in the sixties”. This relaxed moment in the song is transient and over in the blink of an eye before we’re rushed back into the hectic mix. The quiet ending of the song is perfect. Birthday Cake reminds one so much of cruising through JSRF that it’s almost difficult to enjoy outside of the game, but it’s still a very fun song.
[JSRF is known most for being released alongside Sega GT 2002. It was available exclusively for the original Xbox which was pretty much new at this time. The Xbox I got that Christmas came with the two games. It was never made for any other platform.]
OST, Track 17: Sweet Soul Brother (B.B. Rights Mix)
The choir opens the song with a melodic “Ah, Ah” but only for a few seconds before a quiet breakdown with some lovely synths. A voice whispers “Sweet soul brother” before handing the song back over to the catchy choir. The beat is slow and the song proceeds at a mid-tempo pace. When the choir comes back, it’s been mixed to be a little more repetitive and with a slightly different melody.
Another breakdown comes in and an interesting reggae sounding instrument hops in and chimes just a little bit before returning again to the choir. This time they’re more aggressive than ever and the sound is very pleasant. A while into the song, it breaks all the way down with firing drums and a funky synth. Then some guy starts shouting “Wait wait wait”. When the song pick back up, it’s been stripped a little and you can hear an awesome synth behind the choir and it really takes the song to the next level.
From start to finish, the Sweet Soul Brother remix is rather repetitive, but it’s catchy and very pleasant. The applause at the end sums up my feelings for the song perfectly. Of all the songs here, this one reminds me of the game the most. I can remember grinding down telephone lines all too well whilst jamming out to this awesome track.
MS, Track 8: Aisle 10
Aisle 10 comes in and slows things down a bit with its relaxed melody and guitar. It quickly creates a very moody groove, the kind of track you can nod slowly to. The guitar doesn’t seem to sound correct at first, but this is actually how it is supposed to sound. A few bars in, you’ll get it and it’s pretty crazy. Hip-Hop, certainly, but nothing you’d catch on Hip-Hop radio.
The drum track and percussions are low but they mix with the song very well. The lyrics tell of an attractive and euphoric gal named Allison. The chorus is rapped though someone is certainly singing it on top of the rap vocals. The bass is compelling and funky. The breakdown rides in and steals the show with the high pitched scratching of a record. There are numerous, weird one-off sounds scattered throughout the song that give it a unique, trip-hop style. It all comes together to sound appropriate, which is pretty cool.
Near the end of the song, the guy starts singing to the melody of the song. He’s obviously no vocalist, but there is no denying the groove the song has created by this point. The guy screaming at the close of the song is absurdly irritating and uncalled for, but it’s small potatoes compared to the things the track did right. This song holds a special importance for me because it represents the game so well. The odd, uncommon but cool nature of the song is exactly how I feel about JSRF.
OST, Track 18: Grace & Glory (B.B.M.H. Mix)
Let’s close this up with the aural and spooky Grace & Glory remix. The opening will send chills down your spine with the haunting female vocalist. Once the song starts though, things get upbeat and poppy with a house or techno feeling. The snaps and claps carry the song along with a fast and aggressive flare. This upbeat arrangement carries on for longer than a minute, giving you a good while to become seated in the groove.
Bass strings bring the vocals back in but the beat keeps them from being as spooky this time. Behind the vocals, a synth whines in harmony, further instilling the techno flavor. After this the song breaks down and takes a turn that sounds pretty different from the rest of the song. It only lasts for short moment though, before we’re taken back to the house sounding, upbeat sound created near the beginning of the song.
At this point, the song doesn’t seem spooky at all anymore, just radical. Then it loops and brings back everything we’ve heard up to this point. It’s a wonderfully moody song and just like JSRF it’s highly stylized. It’s undoubtedly a phenomenal song to close things up with.
[Fan art contributed by Sam M. Notice the distinct and unique design of all the characters. The work conveys the feeling of the game quite well with its bright colors and bold depiction.]
Both, Track 1: Concept of Love
Both, OST Track 13, MS Track 11: What About the Future
OST, Track 2: Fly Like A Butterfly
JSRF is famous for two things: One of them is for never getting the attention that just about any player will tell you it deserves. The other is for its phenomenal music. It pushes the boundaries of the type of music you expect from a game. JSRF’s dedication to unique style is obvious in just about every aspect in the title. This is especially true when it comes to the music it used.
Will we ever see another Jet Set Radio game? The world may never know. If SEGA does decide to bring it back, I hope they take great care in choosing the music. Think how easily it could be outdone by its older sibling. Thank you for joining me for yet another iteration of ShockWave. Tune back in next month for more great music from the world of video games.