GOTY 2014: Best musical

Not too many releases ‘let it go’ this year with the song and/or dance

What a dismal showing this year. Last year had Frozen, which tailed into this year, world without end, amen, with a long icy tail like Halley’s comet. When are we going to have the “Let it Go” of videogames? We’ll never have made it as an artform until games can produce a number with such virality and ubiquity that I start to wonder, “Wouldn’t my life be better without a son,” and “Remember the end of Ichi the Killer, with the sewing needles? That movie had some good ideas.” 

Here are some of the so-called “big musicals” of 2014 that failed to register a single musical number: Alien: Isolation. Dragon Age: Inquisition. The trailer for the new Star Wars film. Bayonetta 2. Dark Souls II. Embarrassing. 

While no one put their bach into it to interrupt all sense of tone and pacing with a barrage of gaudy sung intermissions, I hereby award Kentucky Route Zero Steven Hansen’s Destructoid’s GOTY 2014 for Best musical, namely for its one stirring musical number in Act 3. This is quality over quantity folks. Kentucky Route Zero‘s first two parts are enough to make it one of the best games of last year, and the lone Act 3 enough to make it one of this year’s best–and the best musical. 

First, the number pop ups organically, at a place you might expect song singing to happen, rather than in a prison or a dementia care home or the post office or just generally a place where you might not expect synchronized singing of thoughts and emotions by patrons. Oh, also a hair enhancement clinic. That’s another one where a musical number feels out of place. Anyways, the sensibility of the time and place clashes beautifully with the levels of mediation inherent to the genre and toyed with in the mechanics. Just play the damn thing, the whole of it. 

Honorable mentions

Transistor: First thing’s first: all the credit in the world to developer Supergiant for trying to make a musical that stars a mute character. Talk about post modern thinking outside the bun. It’s like fielding an arm-less squad of basketball players, cerebral; gets in the other team’s head, creates unforced errors. So crazy it just might’ve worked. I mean, it didn’t, because Red was mute, but it was bold and artsy. Plus, the “hum button” still beats out a bunch of the aforementioned titles that didn’t even write songs. 

Jazzpunk: Avant garde as it is, Jazzpunk doesn’t present with typified Broadway styling. It’s more Karen O than Pat Benatar, more Daniel Johnston than U2 presents a Spiderman train wreck that kills its cast. While Transistor was a post modern take on the genre, Jazzpunk is post-post-modern, the musical deconstructed, like when the TV chefs turn meat into a foam with their alchemy sets.  Disorienting French New Wave jump cuts stand in for the inherently jarring transition to song and/or dance. The drug-induced missions reflect how in the modern era it takes a eight canine aspirin to even sit through a Broadway show long enough to neg the hot usher. 

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: This is inclusion by way of shuffling over a low bar. It’s a serviceable musical, but we’ve been seeing this song and dance for years now, just with different actors and incremental changes. The rotund man is washed up and out of money. The ethnic man illicitly funds the rotund man’s scheme to destroy America. They find a crazy Hitler sympathizer and buy the rights to his play. There’s a moment telegraphed, “have emotions here.” The play is a hit when they wanted it to be a flop. It’s all just getting tired at this point, not sure why this keeps getting a theatre every year while no one will produce my musical wherein I have to wear a hat during winter and instead of looking like some sort of criminal, I look like a clown which everybody then mocks.

Steven Hansen