A theme song, just like a title, is an important introduction to any piece of art. After reading the title of a movie, or game, or album, the theme song is often one of the first things a prospective consumer is introduced to. Theme songs for video games have the monumental task of introducing a player to not just a piece of art work or an idea, but to an immersive and interactive world. That sense of presence is amplified when the game has support for VR headsets.
In the case of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard [Review: 9/10], Capcom broke from tradition in a lot of ways. They brought the franchise into first-person for the very first time and they introduced VR support using Sony’s PlayStation VR (PSVR) device. Furthermore, the theme song actually has lyrics. That’s another series first.
We took the time to speak with the composer of Resident Evil 7’s theme song, Michael A. Levine, about the process, inspiration, and his professional experience.
UploadVR: What brought you to this song as the theme for Resident Evil: 7 Biohazard? It is a bit different than what the franchise has done in the past. Was this intentional?
Michael A. Levine: Capcom was familiar with the Lorde version of Everybody Wants to Rule the World which Lucas Cantor and I produced that was used in the trailer for Assassin’s Creed. They wanted me to take a familiar song and reimagine it, darker and more threatening, the way we had done with the Lorde track, but using a traditional song for legal reasons. By accident of my birth (I was born in Japan) I knew there was a cheerful traditional Japanese children’s song, Musunde, that has the same melody as Go Tell Aunt Rhody. Rhody’s original lyrics end with “the old grey goose is dead”. I changed it to “everybody’s dead” to make it scarier. I also wrote an original verse that alludes to the story of the game.
UploadVR: Music is such a huge part of the horror genre, did you find that it was difficult to produce a song intended to capture the tone of an entire 10+ hour survival horror adventure?
Michael A. Levine: Ignorance is sometimes bliss. Fortunately I didn’t really appreciate how momentous a task it was or I might have been intimidated. It felt pretty good right away. That didn’t stop us from experimenting with a lot of different ideas. The original version was more of a straightforward song and was sung by Mariana Barreto who has a lighter more “innocent” sounding voice than Jordan Reyne who sings the released version and has an edgier, scarier character. Mariana is still on the track singing all the background vocals. They are both outstanding vocalists. I just produced an EP called Samira & The Wind featuring Mariana, who is also my daughter. Jordan has many albums of her own. I think it’s interesting that two of the vocalists I have had the most success with – Lorde and Jordan Reyne – are both from New Zealand. Something in the kiwis…?
UploadVR: When creating a song like this, what is one of the first things you do?
Michael A. Levine: Take a nap. I always get inspired after naps!
UploadVR: The ending credits were one of my favorite parts of the game and your theme was featured very heavily there. Was it satisfying to see the theme come to life in that way?
Michael A. Levine: I love that Capcom has seen to use the song in so many ways. It shows that they are confident in the song and for that I am grateful.
UploadVR: How has working on this game been different than other games you have worked on in the past?
Michael A. Levine: I’ve worked on the scores of games, but never wrote and produced the theme song before. This is more fun!
UploadVR: This question likely includes some minor spoilers for the game itself, but are the lyrics a reference to Evie in the game?
Michael A. Levine: It would be unfair to those who haven’t played it yet to give away the song’s secrets, but there are many of them, most of which will ultimately be revealed as you play.
UploadVR: Finally, who is Aunt Rhody?
Michael A. Levine: Darned if I know. Hope she’s not angry. Or homicidal.
Have you played Resident Evil 7? What do you think of the theme song, Go Tell Aunt Rhody? Let us know in the comments below!