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Need For Speed Underground Original Music :: Review by Chris

Need For Speed Underground Original Music Album Title: Need For Speed Underground Original Music
Record Label: Electronic Arts
Catalog No.: iTunes
Release Date: December 19, 2006
Purchase: Download at iTunes


Over its 15 year tenure, the Need For Speed series has controversially transitioned from a series featuring all-original electronic music into one that is practically entirely licensed. Nevertheless, some original music has featured in later editions to the series, though sometimes it is so minimal that it is almost totally unworthy of attention. This is most spectacularly exemplified with Jim Latham's music to Need For Speed: Underground soundtrack, perhaps the least worthwhile album release in the history of video game music.


The biggest problem with the soundtrack — its brevity — is exemplified with the first four tracks. The opener "At the Street, Punk" features nothing more than three hip-hop grooves being layered on top of each other over 18 seconds. "Bubblegum", "D-Day", and "Engine of Darkness" might seem more ambitious with their respective 25, 20, and 21 second playtimes, but they each loop and are based on repetitive beats in the first place. That's already nearly half of the tracks covered and it's easy to see why the total ten track release amounts to a mere 4:35 playtime.

If the deficiency in quantity weren't enough, the album really lacks in terms of quality too. Every piece was created using a few electronic loops and hip-hop samples in a basic sampling program. Most of the samples here have been recycled time and time again by other artists creating elevator music, porn grooves, and the like. It works fine as completely unobstrusive backing music, but not something anyone would choose to listen to. While Latham seems to be an experienced composer, it's clear EA didn't have the budget to hire him to produce anything ambitious and instead he probably spent less than a day on the project.

One of the three tracks that exceeds 30 seconds on the album, "First Fantasy" sounds like a backing track ripped off mainstream hip-hop artists. I was waiting for 50 Cent to come in and say "Everybody in the club gettin' tipsy", but it never quite happened and the sample just continued to repeat. For better or worse, there are no vocals here, just grooves. The closest listeners are given to diversity is a slight industrial tinge to "Engine of Darkness", the ethereal introduction to "Second Fantasy", and the raving sample of "Wrath of Eddie". But the core of these tracks is built on three second grooves and there's just nothing to get excited about.


What Jim Latham offered to Need For Speed: Underground sufficed in the game as menu and subsidiary music, as generic and uninteresting as it is. However, it absolutely should have never been released for stand-alone listening. People expecting licensed music from Rob Zombie, Asian Dub Foundation, Lostprophets, and more will be disappointed that they receive nothing more than 20 second hip-hop grooves. What's worse, this wasn't some free promotional soundtrack, but rather a commercial release, albeit a digital one. There is no reason anyone should listen to this album, never mind pay for it.

Overall Score: 1/10