Will Nintendo’s “Jump Up, Super Star” usher in a new era of video-game ballads? Based on the games industry’s previous track record, I sincerely hope not.
Eyebrows were raised when Nintendo revealed that Super Mario Odyssey, their upcoming Switch platformer, would have an official, fully-voiced theme. Fortunately for Mario fans everywhere, Jump Up, Super Star is a pleasing, catchy number. Yet the idea of having an official videogame song is, to most, something of an oddity.
Unless, that is, you gamed through the nineties and had to put up with some of the aural atrocities that were unleashed upon the public.
This era saw the release of a multitude of game-related songs, merely because record producers thought there was money to be made there. To be fair, some of the songs did make their way into the music charts, but they were all pretty low effort. The “creative” process generally involved taking the background music from a game, throwing in a few sound effects and then having someone rap or even just talk over the top of it.
As a result, 90’s gamers, and the music listening public in general, were subjected to Tetris, Street Fighter, Super Mario Land, Mortal Kombat and Lemmings songs. The Mortal Kombat song was the least offensive of the bunch. And the most offensive? Well..
That, in case you’re wondering what the hell you’ve just borne witness to, is Wonderman, by 90s popsters Right Said Fred.
It haunted my nightmares during the nineties and recently resurfaced when I stumbled across it on YouTube. This alone should be ample proof that games executives, particularly those involved in marketing, shouldn’t be allowed to go anywhere near the music industry.
The song was “created” to promote the launch of Sonic 3, way back in 1994… except that it wasn’t. In an act of supreme laziness, Sega took an existing mediocre song and re-worked it to be about Sonic the Hedgehog. Barely.
The song was re-recorded with references to “a spin attack” and “power sneakers” and that’s it. The rest of the lyrics were left unchanged, Right Said Fred regaling us with the story of how Sonic went round slamming doors at 3am. They failed to explain why he was a “Mr Wonder Man”, or indeed a man, though Sonic does admittedly have a track record of kissing human princesses.
The video, as you’ve seen, was even worse; the bulk of it having apparently been made before the song was Sonic-fied. You never see lead singer Richard Fairbrass singing any of the additional lyrics and, along with his brother, he spends the whole video dancing around in 1920s gangster-style suits.
True, the video does feature Steven O’Donnell, who starred in many 90s Sega adverts, but my money’s on him having been in there already. He was also well known for starring in “Bottom”; appropriately so, since having Ade Edmondson smack you in the face with cricket bat would be infinitely preferable to sitting through this song again.
And then… there’s this:
On the left is the Hydrocity Zone, the waterlogged level as it appears in Sonic 3. On the right is… God knows what. I can only imagine that this conversation took place:
“Well, we’ve thrown in a few seconds of footage from Sonic 3, but it’s still obvious this has bugger-all to do with the game. I’m thinking we could maybe make a 3D polystyrene version of one of the game zones and have the Fairbrasses run around it. I’ve got a mate who worked on Doctor Who, and he could knock it up in a weekend.”
“Interesting idea, but I’ve got a better one.”
“You know that gasworks down the road, what if we just make up a sign and stick it in front of that? We could call it.. *flicks through notes*… the Hydrocity Zone, like in the game.”
“But… the players will notice.”
“Why? They’ve probably had their intelligence sapped by playing on that Sega NintendoDrive and won’t be able to tell the difference. Get it done.”
Lo and behold, the single was released and didn’t even break the top forty. Praise Super Mario Odyssey‘s theme all you want, but any time you start wishing there were more official video game songs, watch Wonderman again and you’ll soon be brought to your senses.