Red Beans and Rice Did Miss Her.
All right, we’ve all heard about video game censorship, but the case I am about to describe is beyond the ken of human understanding. Singstar 90s, which is absolutely identical to the other Singstar games in everything but the track list, has censored Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice, Baby” yet has left Sir Mix A Lot’s “Baby Got Back” untouched.
[image1]Not that I have a problem with “Baby Got Back”, but the line – “rap star’s girlfriend” with the butt that’s “out there” is “just so black!” – which was ironic and funny when the song was released but is now embarrassingly uncomfortable when sung by non-black singers in a video game, is just more touchy than anything in Vanilla Ice’s anthem. I understand I’m supposed to be pretending to be Becky’s gossipy white friend, but what might be ironic parody for a black artist loses some of its irony in the mouths of white kids playing a game. "SingStar: Tupac Edition" was discontinued for the same reason.
Still, I can also understand why they kept that line – it is one of the staple moments in a genuinely fun song to mimic – if only they didn’t then go on to censor the literally vanilla “Ice, Ice, Baby”. Here are the offending lines, which you cannot stop, collaborate, and listen to in SingStar 90s:
Gunshots rang out like a bell
I grabbed my nine all I heard were shells
Falling on the concrete real fast
Jumped in my car slammed on the gas
Bumper to bumper the avenue’s packed
I’m trying to get away before the jackers jack
Police on the scene you know what I mean
They passed me up confronted all the dope fiends
So is Sony saying that Vanilla Ice glorifies violence with these lines? If I understand it properly, Vanilla Ice is running like hell from violence, which is paradoxically the rational and parent-endorsed response to gunfire. No wonder Vanilla Ice set “white rap” back a decade.
[image2]I begin with these considerations because, beyond these censorship choices, the game is indistinguishable from the other SingStar games in everything but its song list. The really good features of the SingStar franchise – the elegant design, the ability to swap discs mid-game, the actual music videos of the songs – return, as well as the drawbacks – most notably the inability to turn off the recorded vocal track of the song. Also copied over is the SingStar interface which tracks your pitch as you sing.
That leaves only the song list to talk about, and it is difficult to fault the list for not trying hard. In general, it veers toward one-hit wonders such as “Steal My Sunshine” by Len or “Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba over songs from artists with more longevity. This means more pop than anything else, although both Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, and Soundgarden valiantly represent grunge and the aforementioned Sir Mix A Lot and MC Hammer are the bearers of the rap mantle.
There are some odd choices as well. Billy Ocean and Santana both seem like they belong in the 80s (or 70s!). But besides those exceptions, the choices really do bring us back to a time when videos could be seen on MTV and the Divinyls “I Touch Myself” was racy (it’s on there too, and seems Puritan compared to today’s standards).
Anyone who lived through the 90s could make a giant list of what was left out. Where is Lenny Kravitz? Or The Smashing Pumpkins? Or Green Day? Neither Naughty By Nature, Dr. Dre, or Snoop made the cut, either. Nor did Guns in Roses, U2, or the Beastie Boys. Paula Abdul makes an appearance, but there’s no Janet Jackson. Natalie Imbruglia, but no Natalie Merchant. The Cranberries, but no Cardigans. En Vogue, but no Fiona Apple.
[image3]And where the hell is EMF? Guess Sony doesn’t know what lyric comes after “the things you say” , either.
Still, there are only thirty slots, and no one can dispute that “Unskinny Bop” and “Pump Up The Jam” are hilarious to watch other people sing. You might have hated Hootie and the Blowfish at the time, but you’d be surprised how well you know their one hit. SingStar is absolutely a party game, and for a party, these tracks make sense.
What is most appealing about Singstar 90s is that the 90s are a familiar decade. Unless you’re playing with your parents, everyone will know about every song on the list. It’s easy to recommend this game to anyone who has already invested in the SingStar microphones (Note: The game will not work with Karaoke Revolution or Rock Band microphones). In fact, I would recommend the franchise as a whole. It has its drawbacks, but the continual influx of new track lists and the ability to switch between them on the fly makes SingStar pretty fly, for a PS2 buy.