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Cyberpunk 2077’s music is too detached from the story

Cyberpunk 2077's music is too detached from the story

Bez is my musical hero. For those who don’t know Bez, he’s a member of both Happy Mondays and Black Grape, although ‘member’ is perhaps putting it a little strongly. He plays either tambourine or maracas, usually not to any particular beat, and dances around on stage like he’s being attacked by angry wasps. He’s my musical hero because he proves you don’t need any musical talent whatsoever to make it as a musician. The more I played Cyberpunk 2077, the more it reminded me of Bez.

At first, that might seem a little harsh. It has a huge, 150+ song soundtrack, featuring music from some incredible artists like Run The Jewels and Grimes, with plenty of original tracks composed specifically for the game. But what does Cyberpunk 2077 actually sound like? I don’t mean “can you remember any of the songs on the radio,” I mean the game itself. I can instantly call to mind the mwahhhh of Mass Effect, the daaadadaaada of Persona 5, the slow guitar of Red Dead Redemption 2. But after 100 hours in Night City, I still don’t know its beat.

While the soundtrack is impressive, it also appears to be random. Despite the deep soundtrack to call upon, it never employs any of these songs to create cinematic moments while you ride to the crime scene with River, cruise the desert with Panam, or sit on the roof and kick off the moss with Johnny. There are very few times at all where the music is anything more than the background blare in a nightclub or the distracting hum on the radio. There’s no “May I Stand Unshaken”—it’s 150 tracks of elevator muzak.

(Image credit: CD Projekt)

It doesn’t feel particularly 2077. Even in 2023, when Johnny Silverhand died, it’s clear the universe of Night City is more technologically advanced than ours, and with that you’d think would come new developments in music. Even if we assume Night City’s 2020 is musically similar to our own though, shouldn’t its music of 2077 feel more alien, futuristic, and fresh? It doesn’t need to be cliched electro-sci-fi, but think of the difference between the music of today from the music of the 1960s. I wish CDPR had tried for this, instead of just hiring contemporary artists and dancing them around like Bez, waving a glitchcore beat around instead of a tambourine.

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