Video game music is breaking into the mainstream

CultureShift speaks with Detroit singer-songwriter Susan Calloway on how gaming soundtracks have launched her career.

Florence + the Machine at The Forum in Inglewood, Los Angeles (2018).

Video game music is so vast and diverse. It can be overwhelming to know where to start. So for this week’s gaming segment, CultureShift looks locally to explore gaming music specifically through the lens of “Final Fantasy,” one of the longest running and most popular games on the planet.

Detroiter Susan Calloway is a long-running contributor to not only official Final Fantasy soundtracks but to the traveling orchestral performance of Final Fantasy music. Calloway became a part of the Distant Worlds concert tour in the early 2000s as the project was just getting started. The main composer for the Final Fantasy series was so impressed with Calloway’s voice, he asked her to be a part of the Final Fantasy XIV main theme “Answers” as well as two of Final Fantasy XIV’s expansion pack themes.

Susan Calloway speaks in a video interview with Nate Bender for CultureShift.

Performing with Distant Worlds gave Calloway the opportunity to extend her music from Michigan to the world.

“The thing that I love the most about being involved with Distant Worlds is just some of the amazing stages that I’ve gotten to play on. It certainly inspires you to keep building your career because I’d love to come back there as a solo artist, and that’s kind of exciting.”

She says she did get a unique chance to perform with just her and a grand piano while touring in Paris. A promoter arranged for her to do an unplugged solo show — atop a moving boat.

“That was one of the most challenging shows – talk about memorable – I ever played because the boat is moving … I’m trying to sing and play and I’m moving but the boat is also moving. It was so bizarre, and I will never forget that. It was awesome.”

Listen to CultureShift’s full conversation with Susan Calloway.


In addition to Calloway, the creators of the Final Fantasy series have commissioned some major artists for the games’ soundtracks, including Sia and Florence + the Machine.

Video games have also been increasingly sampled and referenced in the lyrics of pop music in recent years. Even Detroit’s own Danny Brown has been known to sample video game music on some of his songs.

Mainstream music is being increasingly influenced by video games, and this is only the beginning.


Featured image credit: Justin Higuchi

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