By William Michael Smith
By Jef With One F
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Sonya Harvey
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By Nathan Smith
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For record labels, video games and music are a match made in target-audience heaven. EA Sports pushes major-label names in rock and hip-hop on the company's yearly Madden and NBA updates, and Tony Hawk games sport underground punk and metal soundtracks. While those are somewhat appropriate, the latest music-in-games development comes off as a bit odd.
2K Games's Major League Baseball 2K6, out in stores this week, has given its soundtrack duties to Matador Records. Home-run derbies with Belle & Sebastian, bullpen checkups with Pretty Girls Make Graves, 4-6-3 double plays turned psychedelic by Yo La Tengo -- they're all there. The lonely-record-collector-bastard songs don't seem steroid-pumped enough for MLB action, but you gotta admire 2K Games's willingness to push indie music on seventh-inning stretchers. So listen up, game makers -- here are more weird-ass suggestions in light of Matador's unexpected coup:
Super Mario Bros.: Jam bands like String Cheese Incident, Phish and the Grateful Dead. What, you expected the Three Tenors? Mario eats mushrooms and flowers that make him grow huge and catch on fire. He fights lizards and talks to mushroom-shaped people. C'mon, his dream girl is Princess Toadstool! I'm already on a level-3 trip.
Pac-Man: Drum 'n' bass songs by Photek, Aphrodite, Goldie and Grooverider would be as rave-worthy a companion to Pac-Man's colorful, pill-eating world and ghost-fighting hallucinations as a water bottle and an insecure girl who wants to touch you "alllll over your body."
Tetris: Bloc Party. Duh.
Dance Dance Revolution: Emo Edition: For this special release of the popular rhythm-stepping game, Yellowcard, Dashboard Confessional and Taking Back Sunday deliver painful stories about being lonely and full of feelings. Rather than demanding that players spaz out like epileptic monkeys trying to keep up with the game's usual electro-cartoon soundtrack, this version tests how long you can sit on your bed and silently weep in time with a gently strummed guitar. Sounds like a winner. -- Sam Machkovech
Ask a Mexican
Special Music Edición
I am a güero who considers himself fairly knowledgeable about Mexican culture, but there is one mystery that still eludes me: Why does some Mexican music sound just like polka? What is it that Mexicans love about those wheezing accordions and that redundant "oompah-pah" rhythm? Is there some historic connection between beaners and Polacks? Also, since polka-type music has deep roots in both European and Mexican cultures, do you think gringos and Latinos could smooth over racial tensions with a giant Polka-palooza?
Few traits of the Mexican race perplex gabachos more than our love of Bavarian-style banda sinaloense brass bands and accordion-based conjunto norteño polkas. It's a question the Mexican gets all the tiempo: faithful reader Whipped Beaners & Other Delights claims "that fucking German oompah music you guys listen to" is proof Mexicans "like Nazis," while Annoyed HB Citizen wonders why "Mexican hillbillies" love "that stupid polka music." But the answer no es that complicated: Both banda sinaloense and conjunto norteño are testaments to what Americans lionize as the melting pot but Mexicans know as la raza cósmica -- the cosmic race. Banda sinaloense dates to the late 1800s, when Germans migrated to central Mexico and supposedly hired kids to play the oompah music of Deutschland. Conjunto norteño also originated during this time in northern Mexico, thanks to the accordion-obsessed colonies of Czechs, Poles and other Slavs who lived in that region.
So what's with the bewilderment and sneers whenever I blast Banda El Recodo as I cruise through Highland Village? It's a misunderstanding: Gabachos don't get that Mexicans keep the culture of ethnic white America alive with our happy mestizo polkas, mazurkas and waltzes. We'd love to hold a Polka-palooza with ustedes, Cuñado, but the only gabachos who would show up are the octogenarian fans of The Lawrence Welk Show. And then they would call us wabs.
Do you know the name of the Mexican song that goes, "Ay yi yi yi, Ay yi yi yi yi?" I think it's a really famous ranchera song. I'm sure it doesn't come across quite so clear in the e-mail as it does when I belt it out.
Ya Llegó la Caderona
Dear Big-Hipped Gabacha,
You mean every ranchera song? The song you're specifically referencing is "Cielito Lindo," which means "Beautiful Little Heaven," but gabachos know it better in its bastardized form as "The Frito Bandito Song" ("Ay-yi-yi-yi / I am the Frito Bandito / I love Fritos corn chips / I love them, I do / I love Fritos corn chips / I steal them from you!"). But one of the defining characteristics of ranchera music -- songs of lament traditionally backed with mariachi -- is the glorious grito: the shriek or soulful stream of consciousness a singer lets out during a song's emotional climax. Some of the more famous ones include Javier Solis's "¡QUE-A!", Pedro Infante's "¡AAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHA!" and Vicente Fernández's immortal "¡A-ha-ha-hai!" I'm sure it doesn't come across quite so clear in this column as it does when hombres belt the gritos out, Caderona, but they kind of confirm that stereotype about Mexican men being inarticulate, drunken divas, ¿verdad?
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