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    Tuesday, October 2, 2018

    #ThemeSongTuesday: The Music of WWE 2K19

    We're exactly one week away from the release of WWE 2K19, and since we're counting down the days until we get to be like no one phenomenal, let's hype you up for this year's game by doing a deep dive into its soundtrack!

    Over the last couple of years, the soundtrack was curated by celebrity executive producers in Sean "Diddy" Combs (2K17) and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (2K18). This year, WWE Music Group decided to make the soundtrack a bit more personal. WWE Music Group Senior Vice President and General Manager Neil Lawi addressed that in the press release for the soundtrack by saying, "With music very much at the heart and soul of our business, empowering our WWE Superstars to share some of their favorite songs for WWE 2K19 is a unique way for us to further connect with our global audience."

    What he meant was all 12 songs in this year's soundtrack were individually handpicked by 12 different WWE Superstars. At face value, this is an interesting decision on their end. As someone who has obsessed about music in wrestling for the longest time, I think it's a great move because it gives you a peek into the type of music your favorite Superstars actually listen to. At worst, if you hate a certain song, you can just blame it on the Superstar who chose it—kinda like how I kept giving The Rock a lot of flak last year for a lot of the blues songs in the WWE 2K18 soundtrack.

    Let's go through the tracklist one by one and see which Superstars knew what they were doing vis-a-vis which ones thought of this little activity as a crapshoot.

    "Ric Flair Drip" — Offset feat. Metro Boomin and 21 Savage

    Selected by: Ric Flair and Charlotte Flair

    This one was a no brainer, and no, I'm not making any DJ Khaled references here. And of course the Flairs were going to pick this one.

    From the moment "Ric Flair Drip" came out earlier this year, I knew this one had to be part of the 2K19 soundtrack. Hell, Naitch himself is in the freakin' music video. How was this song not going to be part of the tracklist?

    I've shown this song a lot of love in a previous #ThemeSongTuesday column, and I still love it more than half a year after its release. I'm going to enjoy toggling through the game modes, or going through WWE Universe mode, or even just changing the face/heel alignments on the different WWE Superstars" with Offset in the background. 

    "Survival" — Eminem feat. Liz Rodrigues

    Selected by: AJ Styles

    This is Eminem's first apperance on a 2K Games soundtrack since "Fastlane" by Bad Meets Evil got included in the NBA 2K12 playlist. It's been way too long. Granted, there are a bunch of other Eminem singles I would've pegged to have made a WWE 2K soundtrack, but I'm not surprised with "Survival" making it either.

    The song was used in the promotional trailer for another video game, Call of Duty: Ghosts. And if you follow AJ Styles outside of wrestling, you'll know he's a huge Call of Duty fan, so you can see the connection there.  

    I'm going to be really biased here as an Eminem stan and say that I like this pick for the soundtrack. It's the type of song I'd use as an entrance theme if I were a pro wrestler because it goes hard as a rap-rock track, with Eminem dropping his rhymes with the intent to maim. It's exactly the type of song I'd like on loop when I'm playing WWE 2K19 to blow off some steam after a stressful day at work.

    "Passion" — AWOLNATION

    Selected by: Daniel Bryan

    Okay, I didn't expect m'boy D-Bryan to be rocking out to a song like this. 

    "Passion" is a pretty fun track that'll make you want to bop along to the drums during the verses, while getting intense during the hook. What stands out to me are the vocal harmonies in the bridge and towards the end, which add a different flavor to the song altogether. I love how funky the song gets because it's so infectious that you'll find yourself all perked up to keep playing the game.

    Honestly, I didn't expect to enjoy this song on subsequent listens, however I've come around. I'm still not as high on this as "Ric Flair Drip" or "Survival," but I wouldn't put this on mute if it came on as I set up an online match with friends.

    "Rockstar" — Post Malone feat. 21 Savage

    Selected by: Elias


    No surprises with "Rockstar" either as it was one of Post Malone's breakthrough mainstream singles from the last year. It doesn't exactly fit the mold of a song you'd imagine hearing in a sports video game... if it were 10 years ago. But of course, with the evolution of hip-hop, it really shouldn't be surprising to find a song like "Rockstar," with the darker trap-based songs being in vogue today.

    If you're a huge Post Malone fan like I am, prepare to be a bit disappointed when you hear how censored this song will sound in the game. 2K Games has always leaned on the safe side when it comes to the music and has gone to great lengths to censor out all foul language and even references to sex, drugs, guns, and violence altogether. NBA 2K even went a little bit too far this year when they censored the Colin Kaepernick namedrop in YG's "Big Bank," when they included it in the NBA 2K19 soundtrack, a move that drew so much backlash on social media that they had to fix it in time for the game's release last September.

    "Champion" — Fall Out Boy

    Selected by: Alexa Bliss

    Now, we're talking. THIS is a song that sounds like the theme song for a WWE PPV. I can just imagine the hook playing over a montage of the upcoming matches, with Michael Cole, Tom Phillips, or Mauro Ranallo saying something like, "And we'd like to give a special 'thank you' to Fall Out Boy for their song, "Champion," the official theme song of [INSERT PPV NAME HERE]. It's now available on Spotify and Apple Music!"

    I really appreciate the song's uplifting message, how it encourages you to fight through your challenges and ultimately emerge as a champion. The video's great, as well, with its unique story told through VR as a framing device. No surprises with Alexa picking a song like this, as she herself has been open about her struggles with eating disorders and bullying, so I can see how this track would speak to her. I need this song in my workout playlist, stat.

    "Ungrateful & Thankful" — Wale

    Selected by: The New Day

    What a year it's been for Wale. On one hand, there are fans who speculate that his association with WWE is a lowkey way of preventing him from doing his live event, WaleMania, during WrestleMania weekend moving forward. But on the other, he's had a guest appearance on SmackDown Live for a second straight year, done a guest commentary gig on 205 Live like Bill Simmons once did on RAW, and now, he gets to use WWE 2K19 as a platform to debut his latest single. I still think this shouldn't stop him from holding a future version of WaleMania, but this shit ain't shabby for one of the more vocal celebrity wrestling fans around.

    Speaking of Wale's new single, "Ungrateful & Thankful" talks about the car accident he was involved in last July and how it affected his outlook on life. It honestly doesn't jump out at me, especially considering some of the other songs on this tracklist. But it's a personal song for Wale, and it's got all these wrestling references, specifically in the second verse, with a shout-out to both Harlem Heat and Booker T, him calling himself a champion, and talking about winning a ladder match and holding his (championship) strap in the air. So ultimately, it's not a bad addition to the soundtrack. It's just not my favorite.

    "Override" — Slipknot

    Selected by: Seth Rollins

    Seth Rollins isn't shy about being a metal fan, something he candidly shared with Metal Injection, when they interviewed him in 2015. If you needed even more confirmation, just listen to his entrance theme, "The Second Coming," which sounds exactly like a song a metal fan would come out to—if they liked endless instrumental loops that go on forever.

    I'm not really big on metal, but I can definitely imagine "Override" on the soundtrack of a WWE 2K game. After all, it won't be the first metal song on a WWE 2K soundtrack, and it surely won't be the last. This track from Slipknot sounds fiery as hell and could very well be one of those songs that you'd love to have in the background when you just want to punch a wall. 

    Believe it or not, Slipknot's vocalist, Corey Taylor, has a connection to wrestling, as well. He's friends with RAW Acting GM Baron Corbin, and they're close enough to have worked the crowd at the NXT Aftershock Festival in 2015, when Taylor slapped Corbin onstage. 

    "The 11th Hour" — Rancid

    Selected by: Sami Zayn

    Oh, Sami Zayn, how we miss you here at the Smark Henry offices.

    Just a few seconds into this track, I knew exactly why Sami chose this song. Sami Zayn is a ska fan, something you can glean from his entrance song, which just screams "I LOVE SKA." A lot of Rancid's music is heavily rooted in ska because the band's founders, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman, played in Operation Ivy, a band that was really influential in the genre. On its own, Rancid was at the forefront of reviving punk rock as a genre in the mid-90s. 

    "The 11th Hour" is a lively song that seamlessly brings ska and punk together. It's the type of ditty you can imagine someone like GrabCamus singing loudly when he's on his fifth mug of beer at a gig. It's fun, it's got some meat to it, and it's not afraid to get in your face. There's definitely a place for a song like this on the WWE 2K19 soundtrack, where it absolutely stands out. Just don't be too shocked when it ends the way Chito Miranda would end his songs when he's out of ideas—bigla na lang mawawala.

    "Devil" — Shinedown

    Selected by: Baron Corbin

    I'm... actually surprised Baron Corbin didn't go with any edgelord shit. I mean, Shinedown isn't exactly a band you'd think of when you look at the edgelord stereotype. Hell, "Devil" also sounds like a song that could be the official theme song of a PPV or a TakeOver

    It comes from the album Attention Attention, which is a concept albumt hat talks about how a person goes from being in a dark place, to working it out internally and rising up as a more positive person. That... isn't very edgelord-y at all, if you ask me. The song itself, "Devil," is the second song on the album, so it's part of the darker arc of the album. Vocalist Brent Smith says that it's about fear and being afraid of the world around you. He also says that "Devil" is about being overwhelmed by having to find your way through the world and all its various situations, people, places, atmospheres, and the like. 

    Musically, I love the guitar lick and how slick it sounds. You also hear a host of layers that just enrich the song altogether, from the synth, to the piano and guitar textures, to the choirs in the background, to that helter-skelter beat.

    Baron Corbin did us all a solid by adding "Devil" to the WWE 2K19 soundtrack. God bless the Acting RAW General Manager.

    "Skin" — Bullet For My Valentine

    Selected by: The Miz

    Yo. That is some serious guitar-shredding in the intro. It totally sounds like it belongs on a video game, too. Someone get Bullet For My Valentine on the second remix of TJP's theme.

    This song feels and sounds a lot like the songs you'd find in the SmackDown Vs. RAW soundtracks from the mid-to-late 2000s. With the exception of the guitar solos, which are spell-binding, this song takes me back to a decade ago, and for all the wrong reasons. For starters, it feels... old, even though the song just came out three years ago. It also reminds me of Saliva's "Don't Question My Heart," which was the theme song of WWECW in 2008, and most probably in one of those SvR soundtracks, too. Like the Saliva song, "Skin" tries to take it up to fifth gear, but doesn't really sound like it ever leaves third gear. I'm most likely skipping through this song when it comes on during the game.

    On another note, I did not envision The Miz rocking out to Bullet For My Valentine. Wow.

    "Spit Out the Bone" — Metallica

    Selected by: Triple H

    Holy crap. Okay, this song totally works as an entrance theme for someone on uppers. Or someone as unhinged as Dean Ambrose or Sami Callihan. I had to do a double-take when I looked at the tracklist and saw that Trips went with a Metallica song instead of a Motörhead track. 

    It's also long as shit, clocking in at 7:10. Hell, the original cut went over ten minutes and had to be condensed. Even the intro is ridiculously long, going over a minute before James Hetfield begins to sing.

    Both the song and its music video have dystopian themes. James Hetfield talks about the song openly wondering what is happening to mankind, especially with all of us essentially being too dependent on our devices and to the internet. As a high school instructor who has to constantly remind his students to hide their extra appendages iPads during class, I actually relate to this song pretty hard.

    Speaking of hard, this one definitely goes hard. I mean, it's Metallica. And while I've made it clear that I don't like metal all that much, I can appreciate a kickass guitar solo—which we get right before the last chorus. I don't see myself skipping this song while I'm playing the game, unless I'm getting OC with my custom Superstar and his moves that "Spit Out the Bone" ends up playing over and over again.

    "Work Hard" — Migos

    Selected by: Samoa Joe

    I don't want Samoa Joe to invade my family's house while I'm not there, but I just have to say that I'm not a fan of this pick. Yes, the members of Migos are among the poster boys of mumble rap and of this brave new world of hip-hop. And sure, "Work Hard" has a cool, calm, gangsta way about it that's underscored by the suave chords on the keyboard and that tippity-tap hi-hat beat. Hell, the song's backstory could very well speak to Samoa Joe since it talks about struggle through a difficult past to eventually succeed in their industry.

    But "Work Hard" just doesn't go... hard enough. It's too sleepy and lazy for me, which is not to say I think Migos is lazy. This song just doesn't sound like it belongs in a pro wrestling video game. It's not even because I fancy myself a hip-hop purist—I'm not—it's just that it's a pro wrestling video game, for fuck's sake. I want it to sound intense and full of testosterone, not all chill like you're on your third doobie. 


    There you have it, the complete tracklist of the WWE 2K19 soundtrack! What's your favorite song from this year's playlist? Which song would you want to take out and what would you replace it with?

    Hit me with your comments down below!

    Header image from 2K Games

    WWE 2K19 is set for a North American release on October 9, 2018 on PS4, XBox One, and PC.

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    Item Reviewed: #ThemeSongTuesday: The Music of WWE 2K19 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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