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Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Making of the Music Hall of Fame:

With my classical music all sorted away, the next project was a return to my video game music.

The goal this time around wasn't to accurately discern the quality of each video game music song by creating five beautifully symmetrical tiers of quality from top to bottom of equal size.  It was a simple question of 'am I happy to hear this come on?' or 'am I nonplussed?'

If nonplussed, you go in the .5 star.  If happy, you go in the 1 star.  The 0 star contains all the songs from both lists.  And all remixes automatically are demoted to the .5 star.  (though I'm sure there are still some remixes I haven't caught yet residing in the 1 star even now.)

The 1 star list is then my pristine, no-remixes and no-bad-songs top tier.  It ended up with 2845 songs.  1071 of them Final Fantasy, 832 of them Tales, and 942 Other.  If I come across bad songs or remixes in the future I'll be sure to taper that list down, but for now I'm content.

The .5 star list consists of 732 songs, 244 of which are remixes and 488 of which are sub-par songs.  23 songs didn't survive the process and were just culled, which is why the numbers no longer add up to 3600.

As you can see, crunching my tiers down from 5 to 2 did not result in a 1800-1800 song split like you'd mathematically expect.  This was a more visceral, 'does this song have any worth at all?' kind of test, which meant most could easily pass.  I want to have as much good music as possible, it's self-sabotage to artificially cut down on my own listening options.

Next came Boy Rock.  Included in the project were the remaining Enigma and Erasure albums I didn't already own.  I figure if my boy rock list is reduced to just two bands, I may as well at least do these two bands right.  The later albums of both bands didn't have anything of worth, though, just like with girl rock except even more pronounced, so it ended up just being a waste of time.  After judging these 300+ songs my musical tiers were fully sorted.   Enigma had 11 masterpieces while Erasure had 23, making a top tier Boy Rock playlist of 34 songs.  Then I took the top tiers from all the different genres and added them together, making my music Hall of Fame.  Due to the sheer number of video game music songs, the Hall of Fame, despite including the best music from every genre, is primarily just video game music.  70% video game vs. 30% everything else.  That's perfectly fine.  There's a reason I stated previously that video game music is essentially all music and therefore creating a top tier video game music list was the same as creating a top tier for all music.  It was a little exaggerated, but as you can see it was 70% true.

Video game music has two advantages over music from other genres -- first, video game music is always purposeful.  It's trying to convey a scene, setting, sequence, in a way that makes up for all the game's graphical deficiencies.  The more graphical deficiencies, the longer a scene expects to be playing the same song, the more important the music becomes, which is why FF 4-6's music is so spectacular.  Anime doesn't rely as much on its background music to get its message across, so its background music is rarely as good.

Songs with no direction or purpose, just released directly as cd's by bands, feel shallow compared to video game music which always has a specific image/mood/story to tell with its notes.

The second advantage is nostalgia.  A video game song recalls the game itself, and all the hours you spent playing it while this song was playing.  It's directly as good as the game itself, because it's a synechdoche of the game.  Even if the song didn't play in a game you remember playing, if it's from a franchise of games you remember fondly, it still has nostalgic value because the music is often similar to what played in other related games.

Songs released by bands have no nostalgia, because they refer and connect back to nothing.  Anime and visual novel songs do retain this advantage, but a few openings and endings can't compete with an entire video game's soundtrack.  (Games often last over 100 hours, with a resulting large corpus of songs to span those hours.  What can one opening and ending do compared to that?)

Time wise, the balance is less severe, because video game music tends to be shorter than band based music.  The ratio of sheer musical minutes devoted to video games vs. non-video-games is 58:42.  I'd like to get that down to a more balanced 50:50 in the future, so I'll continue adding in non-video game music and subtracting video game music whenever reasonable.

Even so, I've reached the point where I at least have a first edition of a musical hall of fame.  With boy rock done, I've cleared every worthwhile genre music has to offer.  Music from visual novels, anime, girl rock bands, boy rock bands, video games, and in the classical vein have all been collected into one perfect playlist to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.  4,064 songs.  8.9 days of continuous playtime.  A musical tour de force.  Just as worthy of its own hall of fame as, say, manga received.

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