As a rule, I am a big proponent of having more diverse music in my entertainment. I’m so used to hearing that poor brown woman wailing or the overused “Braaaam” in various movies and trailers that it’s nice when companies break the mold. I especially love when movies and TV shows put contemporary music in an anachronistic scene. For example when the seminal work of Heath Ledger’s career, A Knight’s Tale, featured David Bowie’s “Golden Years” in the courtly dance scene or when Lovecraft Country, a show set in 1950s Chicago, played Rhianna’s anthem of timely fiscal remuneration “Bitch Better Have My Money.” I doubly, especially love when the anachronistic music of choice belongs to an artist of color. So why am I so friggin’ confused by Ubisoft’s choice to add a sample of James Brown’s “I Got Ants In My Pants (And I Want To Dance)” to their Immortals: Fenyx Rising trailer during yesterday’s Ubisoft Forward event?
To be clear: I am not knocking the choice of James Brown. Have you, in your creative endeavor, added the musical stylings of James Brown? Yes? Add more. I’m just confused that of all the James Brown songs in the world, Ubisoft chose that one.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising, or the artist formerly known as Gods and Monsters, is an open world action-adventure Greek mythology game that’s already drawing similarities to Nintendo’s Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It stars Fenyx, a mortal chosen by the gods to free the world from the deadly titan Typhon. (Can I take a quick aside here? Fenyx is a fully customizable protagonist. I urge you, game companies with fully customizable protagonists, that when you make a trailer you can make your character not white for a change. Please. I’m begging. Do something different.)
The trailer starts with the celestial images of the gods and a destroyed temple as a woman gravely speaks of the need for a hero. The music is serious and epic, just as Homer would have wanted. That hero, Fenyx, falls out of the sky landing in a pose not unlike Superman ready to take on whatever task is put before her. It’s all very serious, tentpole action game stuff. Suddenly, a minotaur bursts out of a temple ready to assault Fenyx. As that happens, as your excitement for the action to begin builds, you hear a voice loudly proclaim “I got ants in my pants and I need to dance.” Your excitement drains away replaced with urgency as you almost piss yourself laughing, or stare at your monitor in utter confusion as I did.
Again, James Brown is good. That particular James Brown, though, is a choice. I asked Ubisoft what went into making that choice but they haven’t responded. Presumably to go back to their sound people to add a better-fitting James Brown song. For example, Fenyx is a hero ready to mess up some monsters and save the world. “Papa Don’t Take No Mess”, then would be a fitting song to sample. Imagine James Brown singing “Hit me!” everytime Fenyx took a hit or “When we did wrong, papa beat the hell outta us,” whenever she’s delivering a beatdown on a wayward gorgon.
Or since we’re dealing with the famously horny Greek gods, “Sex Machine” could be appropriate pick. “I Got The Feeling” works too. I can’t think of a particular reason why it fits the theme, I just like it. While I’m glad Ubisoft took a risk in not using the standard sweeping orchestral vibes common to most video game scores, I wish they had consulted The Godfather of Soul’s discography more seriously to find the right pick. Ubisoft doesn’t even need to be confined to James Brown if they just have to have a funky, soulful sample—and really who wouldn’t—to accompany their “God Of War but make it cute” game. Parliament Funkadelic is right there.