Like many who were young boys in the early ’90s, I grew up on a steady diet of Star Wars and other galaxy-inspired sci-fi films. But unlike a lot of my friends who were in it for the Force Powers, the Light Sabers, and the Jedi Knights, I was more into the ships. I always fantasized about strapping into a starfighter and blasting off to save the galaxy. This translated into my taste in video games. Every now and then, I just get the undeniable urge to pop in a flight sim or shoot ’em up and jet off to do battle with the forces of evil.
Throughout these games, I easily get sucked into the music. This has come up frequently in streams, where I will comment on a video game’s soundtrack, or my commentary will stop for periods of time due to me dancing around to the music. I frequently have video game soundtracks going on while I’m doing random tasks around the house.
But you know, I don’t only listen to video game music. And sometimes, just for fun, I will mute the audio of various games I’m playing and put some other songs I enjoy over top of it. Sacrilege, I know, but in some ways, it strangely works. And while your first instinct may be to slap on Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins, I feel as though we can be slightly more original than that.
With that in mind, I’ve made a list of 5 songs that I find work really well in the background of some of my favorite space shooters. Whether it’s Star Wars, Star Fox, or something else entirely, sometimes you’ve just got to jam out while you’re blasting enemy drones out of the sky.
Queen – Princes of the Universe
There has never been a rock frontman quite like Freddie Mercury. His range was amazing, and he had the stage presence of a god. If there was any singer that could save the galaxy, it would be Freddie Mercury. But, he’s not the only reason that Queen is great. The blistering guitars of Brian May, the percussion and harmonies of Roger Taylor, the basslines of John Deacon, all contributed to the greatness of this band.
While I know the meme is to use Don’t Stop Me Now for absolutely everything when it comes to hopping into a starfighter and shooting some bogies out of the sky, my pick is Princes of the Universe. Who knew that a song inexorably linked with The Highlander could work so well for flying through space? But then again, in most shoot ’em ups, it’s you against an entire fleet of enemies. I guess there really can be only one.
Judas Priest – Turbo Lover
My brother has been trying to convert me into a metal-head for several years now. As much as he enjoys the musical genre, it’s one I tend to have a harder time getting into. But, one of the bands he has introduced to me as a result of his crusade is Judas Priest.
While I still haven’t listened to a lot of Judas Priest, of the songs I’ve listened to, Turbo Lover is certainly the best song to blow invading aliens out of the sky. Everything about this song screams “fast” at me, which is a great vibe when you’re dogfighting a million enemy fighters in the galaxy.
TWRP Feat. Protomen – Phantom Racer
I almost feel like I’m cheating with this one. The Protomen and TWRP are both already heavily associated with video games, due to their respective Mega Man-inspired works and partnership with GameGrumps. But they aren’t strictly speaking video game music and thus are fair game.
Both bands have a very futuristic ’80s, synth-rock driven sound which I adore for my sci-fi background music. While this song is more inspired by “Speed Racer” than any particular space movie, the driving beat and heavy use of synth definitely are well suited to flying off in the Gencore Maelstrom (Tyrian reference) and taking on the forces of Microsol.
Emerson, Lake, & Palmer – Fanfare for the Common Man
“How do you spell pretentious?” “ELP.” This tired joke is a reference to the fact that Emerson, Lake, and Palmer were widely considered to be one of the most triumphant examples of progressive rock, both for good and for ill. They were known for lengthy jams that were not necessarily the friendliest for radio play. They were also known for the heavy influence of baroque and classical music rather than blues riffs and cerebral concepts. All of this means that they are not necessarily the easiest band to get into.
But man, when they nailed it, they nailed it. In Fanfare for the Common Man, they take a short Aaron Copland piece and turn it into a nine and a half minute epic jam. Emerson’s crazy keyboard riffs always sound right at home in a science fiction movie, and this song is no exception. If you can’t imagine blowing away alien replicons throughout the galaxy to this song, then I don’t think I can help you.
Rush – Malignant Narcissism
I had to stop myself from making an entire list of Rush songs for this. Rush’s amazing technical proficiency, songs about dystopian futures, incredible bass, guitar, keyboard, and drum solos, all of these lend themselves incredibly well to science fiction settings. I had two or three potential songs picked out for this list, I just couldn’t decide between. I consulted a friend of mine who is an even bigger fan than I am. And he sent me this one instead.
And he was right. This just captures the shoot ’em up feel so well. I could totally see myself turning on Hydorah, muting the sound, and blasting away to this. But really, if there was any band I had to select for saving the galaxy to, I would have to go with Rush.
While this short selection isn’t much of a playlist, it could easily be expanded on. What songs do you blast when you’re out saving the galaxy from the cockpit of a starfighter? Leave your favorites down in the comments and let us know!