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Rock Band End of Year Blog 2021

Hey gang!

As we start a new year, it feels right to take a moment reflect on the year prior and share some of my favorite moments from the 2021 with you all. 2021 was a big year in Rock Band 4; we released over 100 new songs (111 to be exact) that crossed a wildly broad stylistic range. I love working on this game – in a year where it feels like we are continuously defining the new normal, it’s been really comforting to be able to connect with a super kick-ass Rock Band dev team and nerd out over music every week. Of course, we do it all for you, but really, you make it possible for us to do it in the first place. So, whether you are a weekend warrior, a karaoke party player, a bloodstone competitor, or an indescribable Rock Band fan, THANK YOU for your passion and commitment to this game. We look forward to serving you in 2022.

A quick sidebar on the Epic/Harmonix merger: I want to stress that this will be a great thing for the Rock Band community. We have a really fun year planned for 2022, with killer content, excellent Rivals season themes and, who knows, maybe a surprise or two as we approach the lucky number 7 birthday of RB4. But for now, I want to reflect on the year we’ve had and share some of my personal highlights.

Remember January 2021? For most of us, last year’s NYE was a somewhat solitary affair – there were rumors of Covid 19 vaccines and most folks were ringing in the new year on Zoom. Rock Band DLC in January 2021 was marked by a strong pop punk vibe, with releases by New Found Glory and blink-182. Slipping in under the radar was on of my personal faves: Of Monsters and Men, “Visitor”. It has an almost gothy synth bass line with luscious arpeggiated guitars dripping over the top. It hits me square with a marked sense of nostalgia, timeless harmonies and a great vocal hook. It’s noticeably more “rock” than some of their more popular singles.

February featured two of the best-selling songs of the year: John Denver “Take Me Home (Country Roads)” and Bloodhound Gang “The Bad Touch”. It’s funny, every so often we come across songs that the entire team just assumes are in the DLC catalog but aren’t. Both of these fit that bill. “Take Me Home (Country Roads)” is one of those songs that everyone knows the words to. Even if you’ve never heard it, you know the words. It’s weird that way. I also love that we released “The Bad Touch” as a cheeky Valentine’s Day offer, alongside the more sincere (and legitimately romantic) “Let My Love Open The Door”, by a solo Pete Townshend. Oh, we also released Megadeth’s “Fatal Illusion” – a straight up ripper off the 2016 album, Dystopia. Much like a lot of science fiction, I think metal lyrics predict the future. Think about it. Zombies are coming.

That got dark. March injected some much-needed levity… and ska. Some behind the scenes: Rock Band Product Manager Troy loves ska and we give him a hard time for it. But, it all plays SO WELL in Rock Band. Just about every ska band has a kick-ass rhythm section and they tend to write really choice parts. Also, it all sounds so goddamn happy. It’s great. Goldfinger “Superman” is a perfect example. We were super psyched to add that to the catalog. Adding to the good vibes, we brought back two songs from the “novelty” genre with Jonathan Coulton “Good Morning Tucson” and Flight of the Conchords “Demon Woman”. Fun story: I saw Flight of the Conchords perform live at the Newport Folk Festival, which is a super legit, well respected event (it’s where Bob Dylan first “went electric” in 1965 much to the dismay of the then staid folkies). They slayed. Yes, they were funny but also, they had their insane level of human talent on full display. They are renaissance men – jacks of all trades who can play, sing, dance, and tell jokes. Lastly, if you are unfamiliar with Jonathan Coulton, you are missing out. Listening to his music will make you a smarter, better person. Take my word for it.

April brought spring, and with it, a month of classically eclectic DLC featuring a handful of contemporary charting artists (Machine Gun Kelly and Billie Eilish) and also some RB community faves (All Time Low). To spend a moment on Billie Eilish – I think it’s super exciting to see a young artist ooze so much personality in the face of such success. In my view, “Therefore I Am” is a great example of her honest lyrical approach and her genre bending sound. No one sounds like her. 

My May highlight was the 2nd break week between Rivals seasons 21 and 22 where we released The Troggs “Wild Thing” and George Thorogood and the Destroyers “Who Do You Love?”. Earlier, I mentioned songs that you sorta assume are available in the RB DLC catalog but aren’t? Well, these two were in that category for me. “Wild Thing” is a timeless track every which way, has been covered by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Sam Kinison and is super fun to play and sing. George Thorogood “Who Do You Love?” is one of the best examples of bar-band rock in popular music. It’s in that category of Rock music that epitomizes “COOL”. These were instant targets for us when we realized that they were missing from the catalog. 

In June, we did one of my favorite things ever where we released a song alongside a cover of the same song. I’ll spend more time on how great covers are later on, but the two versions of “Astronaut In The Ocean” (the original by Masked Wolf and the metal cover by Our Last Night) are both fun to play in the game and, to me, demonstrate what is so cool about covers in the first place. Masked Wolf’s version (the OG) is in the conversation for song of the year. It’s catchy, instrumentally rich and has a seductive swing to it that is borderline hypnotic. Our Last Night’s version is NOTHING LIKE THE ORIGINAL but is awesome for different reasons. They took a pop/rap song and turned it into a metal banger. I want more bands to do this. Bravo.

July. Summertime in the northeast. Also, my birthday month. It’d be grossly remiss of me to not mention that we released a song in July from one of my favorite Boston bands, Damone. “Roll The Dice” is prototypical Damone – huge guitars, a wicked strong vocal hook and take-no-prisoners big rock sound. I absolutely love this band. Two other highlights: we added Cake “Comfort Eagle” to the catalog. No joke, Cake might be our COO’s favorite band of all time. We also upped our ska quotient with Reel Big Fish “Sell Out”. July was fun.

In August, we learned that our office would be staying closed. In response, we released two songs by The Offspring – “Let The Bad Times Roll”, the title track from their 2021’s album and the classic anthem “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” from 2008’s Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace. Continuing with the comeback theme, we also released “We Are Between”, a new release from indie-rock heroes Modest Mouse. 


September was another eclectic month with releases that hit metal, pop, country, and everything in between. Olivia Rodrigo took us all by storm – her 2021 album, SOUR, was a monster release – deserving of its own blog release (debuted at #1, 4 top 10’s, etc…). We added “good 4 u” in late September, a song that puts Olivia Rodrigo’s ability to rock out on full display. The other September release I want to mention is the Elle King & Miranda Lambert collaboration, “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)”. Elle King is one of my sneaky favorite artists in contemporary music. We’ve released a fair amount of Elle King songs in Rock Band for the simple reason that I love everything I hear from her. She’s got a throwback croon and her songs tend to have this really rhythm forward jaunt to them. I imagine her singing in smoky speakeasy saloons, where she is the total boss.  “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” fits this bill. It’s a great collab.

October is where I get to spend more time talking about covers. Cards on the table: conceptually speaking, I’m a huge fan of the cover. In fact, there are tons of examples of covers that resonate with me MORESO than the original. Over the years, we’ve been sneakily amassing a decent stockpile of great covers in the RB DLC catalog. The break between Rivals seasons 23 and 24 saw us double down on the art of the cover through a bespoke bonus challenge (we also release 4 great free tracks for the 6th bday of RB4 [insert bday blog post link]). To highlight the bonus challenge theme, we added 3 new covers to the catalog: Fall Out Boy covering the Whitney Houston classic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”, Orgy covering New Order “Blue Monday” and Weezer’s exceedingly faithful cover of Toto “Africa”. This was super fun and something that I would like to do more of. So, get psyched for that in 2022. Oh, also, for Halloween, we finally brought “Time Warp” to the game, the song most people remember from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sing it with me: LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN!!!!

November. It feels like yesterday when we released Lil Nas X’s smash hit, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)”. We knew we were gonna have to dance circles around album art with this one but it was worth it. A few other highlights for me include “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John and “Euphoria” by Angels & Airwaves. There was a stretch earlier in the year where I had “Euphoria” in constant rotation on my stereo. I love it. “Physical” is basically a musical representation of 1981. If you were there, you knew this song. It’s held up remarkably well and is stupid fun to play in Rock Band.

And, finally, December. December was stacked, with “Peg”, from Steely Dan (I have a complicated relationship with Steely Dan – fodder for a different blog), “Hazy Shade of Winter” by The Bangles (covering Simon & Garfunkel – get psyched to play this again when we do another covers feature in 2022), our second Olivia Rodrigo track, “brutal” and more. 

It's been a banner year for RB4 and we can’t wait to do it all again in 2022. 

Thanks for reading and please take the conversation to our social pages – we’d love to hear what your highlights from this past year were.


Grandpa Rock Band and the RB4 team