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‘You Rock!’

Music Games Give Gamers A License To Sing Loud And Proud

May 4, 2009
By Doug Elfman The Game Dork
Some years back, I became a rock critic, in addition working as a video game critic. (It’s a hard-knock life.) Suddenly, I felt professionally justified to sing in the car along to tunes I was reviewing. Other drivers would look at me funny, but I’d think, “Check it out, sucker, I get paid to do this.” I’ve always thought people should sing more publicly, especially in front of friends, to embrace life. Look, you could die tomorrow of, apparently, swine flu, and wouldn’t you rather go out singing? It’ll make you happier. This is why I think the best thing about the “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” phenomenon is those games give people a license to sing loud and proud among friends. The latest news is Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Olivia Harrison and Ringo Starr have given approval for “The Beatles: Rock Band,” set for release on Sept. 9. It is not impossible to imagine “The Beatles” causing more buzz than every game in history. The band’s fan base crosses generations and includes people all over the world who listen to different genres. The Beatles are to contemporary music what Shakespeare is to the written word: forever and everywhere. Compare that legacy to “Guitar Hero: Metallica.” It’s a good game — as good as any other band game where you and friends perform with a plastic guitar, drums and/or bass while a third person sings in a microphone. But even though I like listening to Metallica, I don’t dig on singing along. All that guttural howling blows my vocal folds for 24 hours. And the lyrics in “Metallica’s” 49 songs are often absurd. The pounding rage of “Master of Puppets” is a frenzied blaze, but try to stop yourself from rolling your eyes while belting, “Needlework the way/ Never you betray/ Life of death becoming clearer/ Pain monopoly/ Ritual misery/ Chop your breakfast on a mirror.” The good thing about these band-specific musical games, including “Guitar Hero: Aerosmith,” is few buyers will be disappointed, because they know what they’re getting. That’s somewhat less true of the game series that started the music craze, “Karaoke Revolution,” which has a new installment, “Karaoke Revolution American Idol Encore 2.” Like all “Revolutions,” you sing into a mic but play no instruments. “Idol’s” 40 songs are predictable for their pop TV spectrum, among them Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.” What you have to ask yourself in “Idol” is, do you actually want to sing KC & the Sunshine’s Band’s chorus, “That’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh,” over and over for three minutes? I’m sure that seems fun in theory, but in reality it’s a soul crushing sound storm of “Uh-huhs.” If you’re into “Idol’s” radio-slave hits, “Idol” is a good bet. If not, you won’t love singing its tunes. That’s why band- and genre-specific titles are a better long-term trend, because you pay for exactly what you want to sing along to. In any event, I’m telling you to sing. It doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s free to do. It brings joy. Best of all, in my opinion, singing contains no fatty carbohydrates. (“Guitar Hero: Metallica” by Activision retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for PS 2 — Plays fun but only if you love Metallica. Looks fine. Challenging. Rated “T” for lyrics and mild suggestive themes. Four stars.) (“Karaoke Revolution American Idol Encore 2” bundle with microphone by Konami retails for $40 for PS 3 and Xbox 360; $50 for Wii — Plays fun, but only if you love “Idol”-type classic and current pop. Looks fine. Easy. Rated “E 10+” for lyrics. Three stars.) Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html.

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