Adam Neely and Jon Batiste Take Gaming Music Everywhere It Hasn't Been.
Jazz artist and YouTuber, Adam Neely recently dropped a 30-minute video about The Nintendo-fication of Jazz and I have not been able to think about much else since I’ve seen it. In it, we get to see Neely use his bass skills to play what is essentially video game music. He also talks to us about how Nintendo-fied jazz has become and how the big band he’s playing with will work in these songs like the previous books collected and notated old jazz over the last 100 years. There’s just something so very special about the sounds of Bob’omb Battlefield from Super Mario 64.
As a more independent musician, Neely goes through all the breakdowns that make this newly notated video game songbook connect so well with the Real Songbook of more classic jazz collected 45 years ago. As always the notes are the same, but Snake Eater from Metal Gear Solid 3 just sounds better coming out of live instruments than the PlayStation 2 version.
Of course, this Nintendo-fication of Jazz isn’t a particularly new idea either. I recently found out on the Third Story Podcast with Leo Sidran that five-time Grammy Award winner of 2022, Jon Batiste (including Album of the Year) used to do the same thing while growing up in New Orleans. Playing with his family's band since he was 8 years old, he certainly had the skill and eventually the talent to put the notations of these songs down. In fact, he still does it to this day when playing his way back from commercials. There's nothing like a little Street Fighter II or Final Fantasy 7 song when coming back from a break while hosting the Stephen Colbert Show over the last seven years. The gaming intros and outros are still such soothing music to leave or come back to. Don’t tell Colbert though… I’m not sure if he can tell when it's happening or not.
As Neely speaks with big band leader Charlie Rosen about the big band jazz project they’re currently playing, one of the things they discuss is the reasoning behind why these songs are being played so much now. According to Rosen, it’s generational. Despite growing up with a head full of games myself, it still took another 20 years before someone like me could walk around singing a jazzy piece of music I heard back on the Green Hill Zone in 1992 Sonic 2.
Kids today grow up with an even bigger and stronger taste for video game music than what I had at their age. I didn’t have a _soothing Spotify playlist_ to go to in the 90s, but my history with “Mario,” "Goldeneye," and even “Battletoads” was already pretty strong. A music production company is likely starting to see what’s opening up from this string of jazz, games, and songbooks being created to keep track of everything. What will this current generation be doing to keep up with their style going forward? What will it mean when they Nintendo-fy everything?
The Nintendo-fication of Everything
At 33 and 36, Neely and Batiste are likely the oldest members of this new guard of game-inspired players. Pong didn’t come out until 1972. Anyone into games back then would most likely be into relaxing guitar music, sports, and virtually anything else. Games music didn’t start sounding CD quality or better until at least 1995. While we remember and love many of those songs from before, it took a lot of time to get to this point. The kids that enjoy this music are even younger and it’s only gotten bigger from here.
Neely said that he’s able to see what sort of things kids will be talking about in the next five years as he interviewed the newest jazz music collectors. Video game music will have taken over even more by then. The style we picked up from the melodies laid down in old tracks will continue to grow as we age. Personally, I look forward to seeing a world where the game songs come out of can take us to new places. While I’m not much of a jazz person, I can already see the songs I might like to even try someday like that Sonic Boom Ending from Sonic CD
It’s only a matter of time before the size of the video game music continues to outstretch where it came from. In 2030, the song kids who weren’t even around to care about Super Mario 64 will still want to hear “Bob’omb Battlefield.” That’s because it’s the song they remember meeting playing when they met their girlfriend for the first time.
Wow... I feel pretty old already.