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LONG BLOG

Phils Game/Pop Music Similarities #105 - Robo Reloaded

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Featuring Chrono Trigger and a large number of songs and genres.

Greetings fellow game music lovers,

unfortunately I skipped my wednesday update again due to poor health performance. Hopefully, I can make up for it by presenting you an entry that has been in preparation for the longest time by me: A reexamination of Chrono Triggers Robo theme:

For a very long time there has been the rumour on the internet that the song is based on no other then Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" (1987), a song which has been named by many people as the stereotypical sound of the 80s and has featured in a humongous number of video pranks that might have given it more airtime than all MTV runs combined:

Composer Yasunori Mitsuda has denied hearing the song before and that Robo was based on it.

Now of course, everyone can say that and he could have legitimately heard it somewhere as it was pretty much omnipresent in the western hemisphere throughout the 80s. Nevertheless, knowing the stereotypical nature of the song, at some point I started asking myself: Might this actually be totally plausible?

"Hey Rick! It's your cousin, Marvin. Marvin Astley! You know that mediocre, generic sound you've been looking for?" ( Marvin Astley, Family Guy)

 

To start my journey, I first wanted to make myself clear why people find the two songs similar. In comparisons, people usually play the two refrains side by side. I shall try do the same in textual form by writing them side by side in Parsons code. I do it from hearing, so please excuse me for minor flaws:

Never gonna give you up Never gonna let you down Never gonna run around and desert you

*DDUUDU UDDUUDU UDDUDUDUUDD

Never gonna make you cry Never gonna say goodbye Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

*DDUUDU UDDUUDU UDDUDUDUUDD

On the other hand, the Robo refrain sounds to me like this:

*RU*RRRURD DRURDDD URUR RRRUDD DRURDU

Looks like different, doesn't it? So what else have we got? How about the main backing of Never Gonna Give You Up, the part that is clearest to hear at the beginning of the song.

According to musicnotes.com it starts with a Em9 chord, goes up to an A, then back down to an F#m7 followed by Bm. Then repeated with instead either D or A at the end. In Parsons, something like this:

*UDUDUDD *UDUDUDU

This up-and-down structure resembles much more the curvature of the Robo song, it might even be the same key. And it always floats in the background in some way, giving the song its overall feel. Thus I think it is the main reason why people find the two songs similar.

But there is one problem: Despite having some similarity, the Astley sequence is simpler than the Robo one and uses a popular key with popular chords. Isn't there a chance that there might be more songs in the wild that employ something similar?

Of course, if you have been following the blog for some time, you can already guess the answer. Here are a number of songs that have a pretty similar feeling to the Astley-Robo chord sequence, most of them having the same dance pop background as Astley:

Simple Minds - Wall Of Love (1989):

Madonna - Material Girl (1985):

Shy - Chained By Desire (1983):

Neil Young - About To Rain (1974) (Note: Seemingly the Byrds released a version one year earlier, but it was also written By Young):

And of course since the pattern is so popular, there are also several japanese artists that employ it:

Tomoko Aran - Midnight Pretenders (1983):

Minako Honda - Tokyo Girl (1986):

CHAGE and ASKA 太陽と埃の中で (1991):

Apparently, some japanese people noticed this similarity too as it has been floating around Twitter since at least 2014:

https://twitter.com/o0p0/status/527040242197340161

So, it seems that the japanese might have had their own Robo-Roll after all.

Anything else to say? How about the second part of Robo, the one that starts at 0:58? I stumbled over several samples that might have something to do with it. The first one is from 芭蕉布, a traditional Okinawan folk song:

Westworld - Miss Carries (1973):

Maybe a tick also in this one:

Max Bruch Suite on Russian Folk Melodies Russian Suite (1905):

Hopefully we are done with Robo and Astley now.

Phil out.

Update 02/05/2020:

Another candidate for the main melody Ai No Memory by Shigeru Matsuzaki (1988) ( 愛のメモリー 松崎しげる ):

- https://www.destructoid.com/blogs/PhilsPhindings/ https://www.reddit.com/user/PhilsPhindings


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About PhilsPhindingsone of us since 5:50 PM on 01.21.2019