Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today, we’re finally rolling around (at the speed of sound) to a song that has a money-back guarantee on putting a pep in your step: Sonic Adventure 2’s “Escape From the City.”
We’ve run this feature for two months—or 14 years in internet time—and, somehow, no one’s sung the praises of one of the most iconic tracks in the Sonic series. I’m talking, of course, about Sonic Adventure 2's (playlist / longplay / VGMdb) rip-roaring pop-punk opener “Escape From the City.” This banger:
Sega / DeoxysPrime (YouTube)
“Escape From the City,” written by Jun Senoue, the longtime Sonic songsmith, is as easy and breezy as the game it shows up in. In the first mission of Sonic Adventure 2’s Hero storyline, you play as the world’s fastest hedgehog. You’re in military custody, flying over downtown San Francisco—or “Central City,” in the Sonic-verse—in an armored helicopter. But you’re too fast to be locked up. So you tear off a piece of fuselage, strap it to your feet, and “snowboard” down the hilly streets of not-SanFran. There’s just no other way to put this: It’s bananas.
Of course, a truly bananas sequence should have a suitably bananas song, but “Hollaback Girl” wouldn’t come out for another three years. So we had to do “Escape From the City.” From a purely structural standpoint, there’s nothing out of the ordinary here. It has all the hallmarks of the era’s greatest pop punk: twangy bass, overdrive kicked up to 11, a breakneck D-beat (or blast beat, or whatever the punk you want to call it). It’s fast. It’s fun. Lyrically, it’s a paper-thin metaphor about having blind faith or trusting your gut or whatever. You wouldn’t be shocked to hear it on a Goldfinger B-side or halfway through a Blink encore.
But music is so often more than mere tone or clef notations, and “Escape From the City” is no exception. It’s impossible to deny this song’s transportative qualities. Listen to the first seconds—up the point where the lyrics kick in (0:10)—and tell me you aren’t immediately whisked back to the turn of the millennium. (With respect, you’d be lying.) That’s the main draw here. You don’t need me to tell you that everything sucks right now, that 2020 has been a frighteningly fast slide into full-on American fascism, that we’re witnessing, in real time, the good guys getting saddled with the worst luck and the bad guys blessed with the best. If nothing else, the past eight months have been an exercise in learning how to find momentary bursts of joy wherever you can.
Sega / DeoxysPrime (YouTube)
Case in point: Over the summer, as an antidote to the soul-crushing cynicism in The Last of Us Part II, I booted up Sonic Adventure 2 for some good old-fashioned multiplayer from a different time. My friends and I all elicited some sort of, “Oh, man, this brings me back,” at the kick-off powerslide of “Live and Learn,” the starting menu track (and later, with added lyrics, the memorable final boss theme). Soon enough, we were deep into rounds of “City Escape,” 15 years younger and, for an evening, unburdened by the incessant stressors that come coupled with [points at the outside world]. The brief respite, I’ll say, was welcomed with arms wide open.
Playing Sonic Adventure 2 has once again lost its luster for me. But “Escape From the City,” with its irresistible peppiness, has not. Even the opening bass line in isolation still brings me back to a simpler time. This year being what it is, what more could you want?
Well, that’s it for today’s Morning Music! What are you doing or listening to to cope with the daily onslaught? What’s your momentary escape? Let me know, and, while you’re at it, share your best kitten pics—no dogs or puppies, though—in the comments, please.