On Poetry, Prose, and Videogames

JLawrence Kenny

Music Review: Super Ponybeat

on October 26, 2011

Before I review this music album, I have a confession to make. I am a Brony. For those of you who are unaware of the term, a Brony is a person, usually male and in their teens or 20s, who watches the TV show “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.” You may gasp, you may ask, “But isn’t that a show for little girls?!” Yes. Yes it is. The whole purpose of the Brony movement is to prove that just because something is marketed to a certain audience doesn’t mean a completely different audience that has nothing in common with the first group can’t enjoy it as well. It’s about shedding off the limitations of stereotypes and what is considered “right” and “wrong” for someone to do. Me, I just love the characters, and the story, and the animation… pretty much everything about it. But I digress. As the fanbase for a show grows, it only becomes natural that those fans become more and more involved with the show on an independent scale, which is where the album for this week’s review originated from T. Stebbins, entitled “Super Ponybeat.”

The quality pleases Fluttershy.

Now, I’m radically unfamiliar with the genre of Eurobeat, having grown up on classic rock, hard rock, and pop/rock, but based on this album, I would definitely give the genre a chance. Why? Because it is damn awesome. Super Ponybeat takes the numerous musical tracks from the TV show and remixes them into a Eurobeat style and the quality of it is astounding. This isn’t just some two-bit wannabe musician hastily throwing together a midi track and sticking the different lines with instrumentation; the instrument samples are high quality and the songs are legitimate remixes of the source material, keeping the original track very much in the forefront of the piece while giving the remix serious dramatic flair that really lets it stand out, despite being instrumentals for the most part. And I stumbled across it almost by accident while looking for an official soundtrack from the show. (There isn’t one yet) I instantly became addicted and have been listening to it for the past two weeks all the time.

Also, the original song is a little bit racist. A little bit.

The track from the album that is probably the most impressive to me is “Evil Enchantress [Euro Spell Mix]” simply because of the original track upon which it was based. It only lasted thirteen seconds, and was nothing more than a melody line with very light background music. That was it. And from that thirteen second clip, Stebbins created an entire three minute fifteen second long song, and it truly reflects the message of the song. The original lyrics, about a strange pony that the characters feared, were, “She’s an evil enchantress/She does evil dances/And if you look deep in her eyes/She’ll put you in trances/Then what will she do?/She’ll mix up an evil brew/And she’ll gobble you up/In a big tasty stew/Sooo… WATCH OUT!” The song is in a minor key, and uses a lot of descending lines, reverb, and other effects that contribute to the creepy factor, like overlaid synthesizer chords, swooping scratch-like sounds, and even a few small electric guitar solos. There are also several very noticeable changes in the mood of the piece, starting out light and tense, soon expanding into a more vibrant section, and then transitioning into a quiet section, as if waiting for something to happen. It ends on a sustained chord, which fades out.

Because nothing gets things done faster than singing about them!

The song from the show most popular with fans goes by the name of “Winter Wrap-Up,” which is about the changing of the seasons, which for some reason must be done BY the ponies. (It’s magic, just go with it) It’s also one of only three actual full-length songs in the show, so Stebbins had much more material to work with than a song like Evil Enchantress. The source material is easily heard in this track, which starts out with gentle chords playing, soon joined by a melody line. After a brief ritardando, we get about a second’s warning before the song practically explodes into the refrain, at which point, anyone familiar with the song will immediately begin dancing in their seat. The remix follows the path of the song with very few, if any, musical tangents. It follows along the same basic idea until about a minute and a half until the end, when the soft section returns, just chords and a melody, before blasting back into the main section, and slowly fading out in the end. However, this brings my attention to one of the few flaws I found with most of the music: repetition. While it isn’t repetitive to the point where I just want the song to end already, Stebbins tends to repeat the chorus sections more often than is really necessary, even for the musical style. I’d be willing to overlook this, if he hadn’t showed that he was more than capable of expanding on a simple theme into an entire song as he did with Evil Enchantess. More than likely, he wanted to pay tribute to the show by keeping his own revisions to the flow of the songs minimal, but I for one would have loved to hear what interesting countermelodies and such he could have brought to the music.

He looks funny, but is genuinely scary. Like The Joker.

Easily my favorite track in the entire album(s), however, is “Discord [EuroChaos Mix]” Discord is the primary villain in the opening episodes of the second season of the show, who has a penchant for making things make no sense whatsoever. He causes night to change to day and back again within minutes, causes it to rain chocolate milk, and turns roads into soap. Stebbins sums up this song perfectly: “Discord didn’t have a theme song in Season 2. So I made one for him. I tried to make this one reflective of his characteristic sense of humor and cunning, with a dash of villainy for good measure (and the fact that he’s, well, a villain).” And boy, does he deliver. The song begins with a rendition of Bach’s “Toccata & Fugue in d minor,” changing suddenly to the main section of the song, which, while also in minor, is much faster and more alive. It borrows partially from a song called “Speed Man,” by Dave Simon, though not much, and this section is just so damn catchy, I’m bobbing my head along just thinking about it. At the three-minute mark, the song pauses for a bout of maniacal laughter, almost to the point where you think the song is about to end, but then transitions into an amusing and creepy polka piece. Before you have much time to think anything besides “Is that polka music? I think that’s polka…” it again changes just as quickly into a rock/dubstep section, which is a great highlight of the piece, the wobbly bass personifying Discord perfectly. It ends much too soon, swinging back into the main portion before ending on more maniacal laughter. It’s hard to describe just how amazing and catchy this song is. One would think that the constant changing of musical styles would be irritating, but it adds such depth to the song, the sections all flowing seamlessly together despite the very clear cuts that separate them, reflecting Discord’s dislike of anything rational. Unlike all the other songs in his albums, the villain songs (this, as well as one named “Luna (DREAM MODE)”) Stebbins created have vocals that he himself sings, and are both well-written and well-sung, contributing to the style of the piece without distracting from the accompaniment.

 

And if you don't, this adorable pony will cry. But no pressure.

To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Brony or not. Unless you specifically dislike techo-style songs like the Eurobeat genre, there is really no reason you shouldn’t give this album a listen. The above songs are my opinion of the best, but there’s a little something for everyone: villains, friendship, western, and fun of all kinds. All set to a catchy genre of music that’s perfect to groove and jam to. So go check out T. Stebbins at http://odysseymusic.bandcamp.com/ and check out this and many other albums by Odyssey Music. I’ll certainly be doing the same.

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