In a big way, the Grand Theft Auto series – since GTA III – has been a lot about music, to me. A lot of my best memories are tied to playing the game and listening to the radio. Whether it was flying through the streets on the Infernus (sp?) jamming to Rise FM in GTA III (“Time has no meaning anymore!”) with trance and dance music, or driving through the country on a tractor in San Andreas while learning to appreciate classic Country music, or the wild synthy sounds of 80’s pop blaring in my Cheetah – music was always a huge part of what I enjoyed about the series.
It wasn’t even that the games had music I liked, which they did to some extent, but rather the music was clearly chosen very carefully, for each channel on the radio. To me, San Andreas had one of the best varieties of music available; from country, to rock, to rap to electronic, all the bases were covered. While I didn’t feel that the music in GTA IV was quite to my taste, it was still pretty relevant to the game – even featuring an Eastern European channel, for the atmosphere. So, why is it that the music in GTA V sounds so… I don’t know… generic?
Did Rockstar Games lose a brilliant music director? Did they lack time to carefully pick out some amazing tunes for one of their more ambitious titles? Was is cheaper to just pay a major label or two a blanket fee to use their songs?
I suppose any of the above might be true, or maybe music isn’t meant to be a focus point in this game? It seems like even the trailer for GTA V didn’t feature any wildly iconic, theme-setting song with which to associate the game. Is it Rockstar’s way of telling us that, perhaps, music is playing a smaller role in our modern society, producing less legendary sound and more uniform, cookie-cutter formula-driven fare – or is this a stretch?
Indeed, it feels like Rockstar didn’t try to go for that underground, indie sound which could be found so easily, even by spending a few hours on Soundcloud – at probably a much lower cost than licensing music from a major label. This time around, GTA wasn’t a place I found new artists I want to check out, or that new catchy song – in a genre I normally might brush off. I feel like I have been exposed to less new, fresh music content by GTA V than ever before in a GTA series. Judging by some of the discussions I’ve had with my peers, and comments I’ve read on reddit, it seems I am not the only one. Perhaps Rockstar can add the option to send in original music via the Rockstar Social Club, for consideration to be added to the radio as an update or free DLC?
In any case, GTA V, in my rather humble opinion already seems like the pinnacle of accomplishment in the series, through an amazing storyline, smooth-as-silk gameplay – Rockstar definitely crossed the t’s and dotten the i’s in this installment in the Grand Theft Auto series. Maybe it’s not about the music in this one, maybe the music took a step back to let the rest of the game really shine… which is does – brilliantly.