iTunes Diaries, entry #18: Grand Theft Auto IV edition

I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes.  I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale.  Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not.  In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey.  I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site.  With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment. 


One of the things that instantly hooked me on Grand Theft Auto IV was the music.

Don't worry, we're still talkin' music here.
Don’t worry, we’re still talkin’ music here.

I had never played a GTA game before, but I had heard that some of the previous titles had really great soundtracks utilizing known, popular music rather than ambient backing tracks. I sunk nearly 100 hours into the game before moving onto less chaotic pastures, and during that time I paid close attention to the music, from the songs that played on the radio station(s) of my choosing to the songs that played in stores and clubs. And of all the beats appearing on GTA IV’s grandiose soundtrack, I latched onto two songs with which I became obsessed and later purchased: “Flashing Lights” by Kayne West featuring Dwele from Graduation (2007) and “Ooh La La” by Goldfrapp from Supernature (2005).

Given Kayne West’s dickish and grating personality, it’s with tiny tinges of regret that I listen to “Flashing Lights” today. But when it was GTA IV all day, every day, I so looked forward to hearing “Flashing Lights” when I was driving around causing virtual mayhem. Frankly, that song was the only reason I endured Beat 102.7. Not that it was as bad station, but I didn’t find most of it’s songs that appealing. But there was just something about “Flashing Lights” that worked for me. The way the beat rolled along all easy like. It’s easy groove elevated West’s flat rapping to something wholly tolerable. It’s sounds came and went like ocean waves, something I found soothing when my anger and anxiety got the better of me in the game. And while those pangs of regret haunt my mind when the song plays on my iPod today, I still picture Nico Bellic tearing up the streets of Liberty City in his favorite black Vigero. Good times, man. Good times.

Speaking of good times, hearing the super lusty, bass-driven, and oh so sexy “Ooh La La” for the first time was pure fantasy. I had heard of Goldfrapp before in electronica circles, but this song was another beast. “Ooh La La” oozed a carnality so primal, so dominant and submissive all at once, that there was simply no avoiding the attraction. I gave in without question. And…okay, maybe it spoke to some terrible and base portion of my brain that I repeatedly made Nico receive lap dances at the game’s strip club in order to hear it (that’s where it was played as opposed to the car radio), but that’s how it was. How it had to be. Whenever I settled in to play, I had to hear “Ooh La La” at least once. I don’t dare consider how many brain cells I altered watching scantily-clad, pixelated women move in rather unnatural ways, not to mention just how much money those strippers made off me. More than the 99 cents I paid for the song, surely.

Side note: As much as these songs conjure up GTA IV memories, they also serve as perennial reminders of straight up commercialism. The first time I heard a snippet of “Flashing Lights” was in promos for Nip/Tuck. (Remember that show?) A little bit of the chorus was used and I was instantly drawn to it. But for whatever reason, obtaining the song didn’t happen until I had been aurally adminished by the song in the game. On the flip side, “Ooh La La” recently appeared in an Apple commercial advertising the new bronze-colored iPhone 5. It made me more than a little sad. Don’t know why all that was worth mentioning, but it’s interesting how the memories we hold together with  music evolve over time. Or maybe I just hate that unwarranted visions of phones mix in with my sweet, sinful game memories whenever I now hear “Ooh La La.”

Kayne West — Graduation (2007)
Goldfrapp — Supernature (2005)

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