The Secret Genius Of 2001's Weird Xbox Soundtrack Compilation
Ah, 2001. What a year.
Donnie Darko was influencing a new generation of sad boi goths before they even knew what a sad boi was. Bell-bottom jeans were in their waning years. Emos are reeling from the release of Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American. And I was two years old, unburdened by financial distress and any level of critical thought. Bliss.
Chain wallets and The Middles aside, 2001 was a pretty big year, especially in the world of gaming. The year before had seen the release of the PS2, the sequel to the groundbreaking console that would go on to be the best-selling in the world, and the industry didn't know what was about to hit them when they were sat cross-legged in front of the TV blasting through SSX.
The year following saw a new contender step in and reinvent the console wars, with Microsoft's Xbox gracing the scene with a boisterous swagger and an attitude that positively stunk. This wasn't your momma's console, that much was for certain - and its aesthetic paired with the success of Halo and the revelation of Xbox Live created a phenomenon. And nothing better exemplifies this than the bizarre Xbox Soundtrack compilation that Microsoft created and beamed straight onto shelves everywhere - and as weird as it is, it paints a clearer picture of Xbox's intentions in reinventing the industry than any game could.
Xbox's Compilation CD Is A Treasure Trove Of 2001 Artefacts
Launched in 2001, Soundtrack1: The Definitive Xbox Compilation was a double-CD album released by Universal Music Canada in hopes to bolster the brand of Xbox and really hit home exactly what its aesthetic was by moving into a sonic medium. And hoo boy, does it represent exactly what it tried to.
The multi-genre mixtape opens with Name of the Game by The Crystal Method, and it wastes no time proving to you exactly what the Xbox experience is - an electronic banger, overlaid with crunchy nu-metal guitar work, and led by the opening line "listen, all you motherf**kers!". From this moment, it's clear as day - this ain't your momma's CD.
Taking the listener through a myriad of styles and genres, the CD works through the likes of Public Enemy, The Chemical Brothers, Rob Zombie, and even Wu-Tang Clam to reflect that no genre truly reflects the Xbox brand, but rather, it's sheer snotty, punky attitude that makes it what it is.
It's exactly the soundtrack to pulling on your baggy jeans with too many cargo pockets on the side, slapping too much gel in your hair in hopes you'll look like Chester Bennington, and running over strangers in a Warthog, side by side with your friends BaronOfChill and xX_C0LD_Bl00D3D_Xx in Halo 2.
All Xbox Live Needed Was Nu-Metal Bangers
Even looking at the cover of the CD tells you all you need to know about what Xbox thought it was doing to the gaming industry. We see a man in greyscale, with tubes wired into him a la The Matrix - but he wears a face of determination. Whatever digital hell he has been forced into, he will see the other side if he has to tear open the exit with his bare hands, and in many ways, that's what Xbox thought it was doing to the gaming industry.
While Nintendo had Mario and PlayStation had its myriad of platforming icons to boast, Xbox broke the mould with shooters and games that Microsoft clearly thought were totally badass, and with the same level of bite that the compilation itself expresses. Rap with bad language, simple riffs to bang your head to and a total "f**k you Mom, where are my Pizza Rolls" attitude. If PlayStation was radio tunes, Xbox was a Limp Bizkit record.
Though the disc plays a lot with heavy music, its focus on Electronic music probably expresses this the best, welcoming players into the future of interactive entertainment in the same way that Electronic music posed as a step into bold new territories for popular music. The new era of gaming had arrived, and Microsoft was clearly very keen to make it known in the most boisterous way they could.
Xbox's Compilation CD Is A Time Capsule
While on a technical level actually being the Matrix itself in its own The Matrix analogy, Xbox strived to make its players feel like Neo, launching into the air and presiding over his new kingdom as Rage Against The Machine blares behind him. Whether or not it worked remains up for debate, but one thing's for certain - the way that Xbox viewed itself was dramatic, punky, and so 2001.
The CD serves as an artefact not only of Xbox's history, but pop culture at large, during a time when dystopia seemed far off and everyone was inexplicably into Mudvayne. A time capsule and weird party-starter rolled into one, the compilation CD is a bizarre look into gaming's past and reminds us that once upon a time, teenagers with foul attitudes were actually catered towards. Talk about learning from our mistakes.