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The Music Of Grand Theft Auto V - Volume 2: The Score by Tangerine Dream, Woody Jackson, The Alchemist, Oh No & DJ Shadow

posted Oct 1, 2013, 8:47 PM by Kaya Savas   [ updated Oct 2, 2013, 9:33 PM ]

Rockstar is an incredible developer. They pretty much took sandbox gaming to a whole new unreachable level and kept pushing it and pushing it. Their storytelling has also gotten so much better, especially with the Grand Theft Auto series. Grand Theft Auto V is a modern crime action drama with a twisted social commentary. A style and mood only Rockstar could churn out. Their games also present one hell of a challenge for composers. I mean, think about it. There is no structure as the structure is dictated solely by the player. Rockstar has become notable for picking obscure talents that work magic for their games. An example is that Red Dead Redemption was scored by Bill Elm and Woody Jackson, which was brilliant. Woody went on to co-compose L.A Noire and now is back again for Grand Theft Auto V. His sound has really influenced Rockstar's musical palette. But what I love is that Rockstar allows other great composers to come work on these games. They don't confine them, they don't make them subscribe to their rules. These composers are completely unhinged. For Grand Theft Auto V the billing is music by Tangerine Dream, Woody Jackson, The Alchemist, Oh No & DJ Shadow. It truly is an ensamble piece. This group of composers had to make Los Santos come alive, make the characters feel as they exist and paint the tone for the whole game and all the areas of the city. They succeeded immensely.

This is not your typical score by a long shot. The narrative structure is so complex and open that trying to tame the beast would have been a bad idea. So the composers worked together in a true collaborative effort. When listening to the album you will get a nice representation of the score and its effect. You will sense style shifts, and these shifts not only represent different locations throughout Los Santos but the 3 main protagonists as well. There are 3 characters all existing in this massive urban sprawl. Their stories take you the different areas of Los Santos (modeled after Los Angeles). So you will encounter some hip-hop sounds, some jazzy tunes, but they all fit under a cohesive whole. There is a bit of a vintage 70’s/80’s vibe going on especially with Tangerine Dream involved, and it’s perfect. The classic synths of Tangerine Dream along with Woody Jackson’s modern groove and drum loops mixed with the rest of the hip-hop guys make for an awesome quilt of styles. Most people may identify GTA games with their source music soundtracks that appear on the radio stations. Those are all a huge part of the soundscape, but it’s really the score here that makes the city, the story and the characters all come alive. You won’t hear the score unless you’re on missions, which is a shame. But the score was meant to tell the story so it makes sense. I really wish they dedicated a radio station to these tracks. It would make driving around a lot more engaging. What I loved about Red Dead Redemption was riding your horse through an open plain while Woody Jackson’s score hovered in the background. Overall though this score was a massive undertaking and this group made it work rather flawlessly. It's great to have this release to truly appreciate the music. Everything comes together in a bliss of electronic textures and instruments working in harmony to paint a crispy cool urban sprawl.

Grand Theft Auto V is an overwhelming experience, and the score is a big part of helping you find structure amid the chaos. The team here did a magnificent job of adding their own unique voices yet still making it seamless. Woody Jackson has become an amazing Rockstar anchor, and his presence has elevated the Rockstar music family greatly. Tangerine Dream was a bold and perfect choice to headline the group just as Andrew Hale & Simon Hale were for LA Noire, HEALTH was for Max Payne 3 and Woody Jackson was for Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar has dedicated itself to telling engaging stories while pushing gameplay as well, and the scores that have accompanied their games of the past few years have been exemplary. Grand Theft Auto V is a wonderful ensemble effort that resulted in a score that echoes the urban dreamlike life of Los Santos. Just a note, the complete soundtrack release is 3 volumes on iTunes. You can buy the whole package or the volumes separately.