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Now more than ever, we need Taylor Swift: Rock Band

Taylor Swift in concert from The Eras Tour.
Taylor Swift Productions

After months of anticipation and sleuthing for clues by her fans, Taylor Swift’s 11th studio album is finally out in the world. The Tortured Poets Department continues the pop megastar’s seemingly endless wave of momentum, following up a busy few years filled with enormous stadium tours, a smash-hit concert film, several rerecordings of her old work, and a Grammy-winning album in Midnights. It feels like Swift has done it all by now, but there’s one final frontier she’s yet to take on: video games.

Swift’s music has popped up in a handful of games over the years, from Guitar Hero to Just Dance, but she’s never been at the front and center of a music game. Perhaps she would have been 15 to 20 years ago during the height of Guitar Hero mania, but Swift wasn’t quite at the top of the mountain yet. Now she’s perhaps the biggest star in the world. I say that a revival is in order.

It’s time for Taylor Swift: Rock Band.

Am I pitching this knowing full well how much it’ll piss some people off? Absolutely, and I have no shame in it. I’m not just trolling here, though. There’s a strong case to be made that such a concept wouldn’t just work, but potentially revitalize a dormant multiplayer series that’s long deserved a comeback.

The Rock Band era

Let’s take a step back for those who weren’t around for a series that hasn’t been relevant in 15 years. Guitar Hero spinoff Rock Band was a sensation in the late 2000s. The music game let players jam along to a wide collection of songs using plastic drums, guitars, microphones, and even keyboards eventually. It wasn’t just the ultimate party game, but the ultimate music game too. The series was so popular that it allowed developer Harmonix to strike some pretty high-profile deals for sequels. That included 2009’s The Beatles: Rock Band and 2010’s Green Day: Rock Band, games that exclusively featured those artists’ songs.

A band jams out in Rock Band 3.
Harmonix

While the series saw multiple releases after that, including 2015’s Rock Band 4, its star has long since faded. Harmonix was acquired by Epic Games in 2021 and the studio is now creating music experiences in Fortnite, like the underwhelming Fortnite Festival mode. As an admirer of Harmonix’s peripheral-based work, I’ve always hoped the studio could get back to doing what it does best some day. And whether you love her or hate her, Swift might be the best way to bring enough eyes back to a series like Rock Band. And if anyone has the money to make the licensing nightmare happen, it’s Epic Games.

For the skeptics out there, I can sense the immediate rebuttal: Would Taylor Swift’s music really translate to a guitar-based rock game? The answer is yes, though it might be lopsided when it comes to the eras represented. Swift’s early albums are ripe with country pop bangers that easily lend themselves to a traditional drum/guitar/bass/vocal multiplayer session. Songs like Sparks Fly and Better Than Revenge are a perfect fit. You could more or less drop in the entirety of Speak Now and Fearless.

The best options could be found in Red, an album that genuinely rocks in its best moments. Opening track State of Grace starts with a distinct, pounding drumbeat that I can already visualize the drum map for. The title track is an all-time country rock jam featuring the kind of squealing guitar riffs that are a blast to strum out on a plastic controller. And of course, All Too Well (10 Minute Version) is a slow-burn gauntlet that begs to be hammed up by a tipsy singer at a party.

Taylor Swift - State Of Grace (Taylor's Version) (Lyric Video)

What’s more challenging is figuring out where Swift’s later era songs fit in. Tracks like Style and No Body, No Crime are fairly well suited to Rock Band’s format, but the singer’s ever-changing sound isn’t always as friendly. There aren’t many guitars on 1989, Midnights is awash in wispy synth textures, and producer Jack Antonoff is practically allergic to bass. Harmonix would need to get creative when translating synth lines to guitar, something that it’s had to do with Fortnite Festival with mixed results. It’s hard to imagine a must-include hit like Anti-Hero working without some serious tweaks.

Still, there are enough recent Swift tracks to pad out a track list with a little work. New Romantics, …Ready For It?, Cruel Summer, Lover, Paper Rings, The Last Great American Dynasty, and more come to mind. And let’s face it: By the time a game like this actually came out, we’d probably have four more Swift records to draw from. The biggest challenge at this point is just keeping up.

Taylor Swift - New Romantics (Taylor's Version) (Lyric Video)

And all of that is before taking in the visual potential. Part of the appeal of The Beatles: Rock Band is that each song features its own distinct backdrop that matches the band’s look and style at the time. Naturally, that same idea could be applied to Swift’s “Eras,” with backing visualizations that play on each album’s aesthetic.

Look, I get it. Some of you will hate this whole idea. Maybe you’re just sick of hearing about Taylor Swift at this point. Even as someone who enjoys her music, I don’t blame you anymore. The onslaught of Swift news over the past few years has been relentless, seeping into every facet of culture from cinema to the Super Bowl. We’re all a little tired. But if that dark power can be harnessed to restore one of the great multiplayer franchises back to prominence, I’ll take it.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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