Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero appeal to that part of us that not-so-secretly wishes we hadn't quit practicing music in fourth grade so we could be selling out arenas instead of selling out our souls to make a little more money for our boss.
Of course, we know we never really had the chops to make that happen, so it makes sense that the first time you fired up Rock Band 2, your ears got blown off by an updated version of "Hello There" by Cheap Trick, a band that never really had what it takes, either, but somehow managed to make it big anyway.
The track was initially from In Color, the album that launched Cheap Trick to fame with "I Want You to Want Me." All that success was probably nice for them — "I Want You to Want Me" will allow them to live on in karaoke immortality — but just the same, the guys decided 20 years later that they needed to re-record the entire album.
Cheap Trick is scheduled to perform on Saturday, July 3, at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale.
You see, geniuses the likes of singer Robin Zander and guitarist Rick Nielsen have trouble letting their creative process be stifled, so when some fancy-pants "professional producer" bastardized what they apparently thought should have been their Sgt. Pepper and cemented them in the annals of rock history somewhere alongside mere mortals like Chuck Berry and Led Zeppelin, they naturally took umbrage to this grand injustice.
Rather than being acknowledged as visionaries, Cheap Trick was relegated to "big in Japan" status, but that's all about to change now that the guys have wrapped up work on the updated version of In Color.
But since the album hasn't been released just yet, the good folks at Harmonix were smart to include the first released track from the album as the soundtrack to the trailer for Rock Band 2. After all, what other washed-up, coulda-woulda-shoulda, half-assed band better epitomizes the entire ethos of the rhythm-game genre that America has been using as an excuse to stay on the couch for so many years?
Gamers say: "Five stars on 'Creep'? Hell, yes! I could be an amazing guitar player if this instrument weren't plastic."
Cheap Trick says: "Number One in Japan? We would be so much more famous and relevant if that producer had just faded the vocals differently on 'Clock Strikes Ten.'"
Everything about Cheap Trick makes them a perfect fit for rhythm gaming. Whether it's their writing, their riffs, their vocals or their wardrobe, the essence Cheap Trick of screams "this music is perfect for playing on a plastic guitar." So in their honor, let's take a look at the Top Ten songs perfect for wanna-bes hooked to their "amp" by USB. (Spoiler alert: Cheap Trick wins.)
10. Earth Wind & Fire — "Shining Star": I know there are plenty of people who disagree, but I just can't find anything to like about Earth Wind & Fire. The high-pitched vocals, the boring funk beats, the ever-present drone of "September" in every shopping mall — it's all more than I can handle.
9. Boston — "Foreplay/Long Time": Boston is pretty ridiculous, and this eight-minute epic of guitar-and-organ overindulgence is Exhibit A. Who even uses organs at all, let alone for a 60-second solo? It doesn' t make any sense, but that's what makes it so perfectly suited for Rock Band.
8. The Cars — "Just What I Needed": Don't get me wrong; I dig The Cars. I kind of love them, actually. Still, the fact is that they're a little bit lame and not really that substantive "Just What I Needed" and "Let the Good Times Roll" may lay the foundation for an awesome "Greatest Hits" album, but that doesn't actually make them great.
7. The Killers — "Mr. Brightside": I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The best word to describe the Killers is vapid. Decent songwriting, decent hooks, reasonably catchy, but never quite satisfying. "Mr. Brightside" was the song that introduced us to their peculiar brand of musical frivolity, so it makes a perfect addition to the Rock Band pantheon.
6. System of a Down — "Chop Suey": System of a Down has always been ridiculous, but never more ridiculous than with "Chop Suey," the band's angsty reflection on the merits of various forms of death. What Grandma and her makeup have to do with any of it is anyone's guess.
5. Styx/REO Speedwagon — "Can't Stop Rockin'": Yes, you read that right. With this track, you don't just get Styx. You don't just get REO Speedwagon. You get Styx and REO Speedwagon. And of course, when you put together two bands who refuse to stop rocking, despite the pleas of an entire nation, you can expect a track extolling their inability to stop rocking.
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4. Foreigner — "Juke Box Hero": The ballad of a youngster with "stars in his eyes" as he listens in to a real concert, this song was practically tailor-made for Rock Band. It helps, of course, that Foreigner was such a dopey and uninspired band with tracks so transparently written for Top 40 radio.
3. Rascal Flatts — "Me and My Gang": What you have here is one of the most annoying songs ever recorded by the most annoying country band ever signed to a major label. Rocking that creepy metrosexual cowboy look that has no business in country music, these guys churn out schlock hit after schlock hit, taking the cool out of country the same way Pat Boone did to "Tutti Frutti."
2. Jimmy Buffett — "Cheeseburger in Paradise": It' s a sin how much I hate Jimmy Buffett. I mean, I get the allure of what he's selling: beaches, cheeseburgers, paradise, etc., but it doesn't really add up to anything more than inane jingles for the restaurant chain he was waiting to open.
1. Cheap Trick — "Hello There": I said it all before, but here's the recap: cock rock, big hair, bad writing, worse guitars, phoning it in. 'Nuff said.