For much of the last decade in the world of pop music, it’s felt like you need to bring a Cyrus into the equation if you want to push the boundaries. Billy Ray Cyrus might have been a fairly traditional country and western singer, but his daughter Miley taught the world to twerk, gave pop music its edge back, and fascinated the tabloid press for several years before seemingly beginning to calm down more recently. It seems that the work of the Cyrus family isn’t over yet, though. As Miley settles into the comparative maturity of her late twenties, her younger sister Noah is preparing to take bigger steps onto the world stage at the age of twenty. In the process of doing so, it appears that she’s trying to tie the worlds of music and video gaming together.
The two entertainment entities of music and video gaming have been moving closer together for several years now. You could argue that the process started with Dire Straits’ computer-generated video for ‘Money for Nothing,’ which was followed up several years later by the ultra-slick Red Hot Chilli Peppers video for ‘Californication.’ Far more recently than that, we’ve seen various artists take to virtual stages inside the globally popular video game ‘Fortnite’ in search of a larger audience. DJ Marshmello started the trend, and then rapper Travis Scott took things to the next level when he played to more than twelve million people simultaneously during a huge in-game event. It’s now been proved beyond all doubt that audiences are receptive to engaging with their favorite music artists in this format, and we can expect more collaborations in the future.
It’s not just regular video games that are getting in on the act. Staging a performance inside a video game is one thing, but having a whole game devoted to you and your music is quite another. That’s the level that legendary rock bands like Alice Cooper and Guns n’ Roses have reached by licensing their own online slots. Heavy metal isn’t the only genre that’s opened itself up to online slots websites and the people who make games for them – even the Village People are represented there now – but it’s proven to be another way for artists to cash in on their back catalog and their likenesses. Even death isn’t a barrier to getting involved in online slots – Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix both have their own highly popular online slots, too. Given that players have to listen to something while the reels are spinning, it makes sense for it to be music by their favorite artists. It’s not inconceivable that every major new album launch will be accompanied by its own online slots game in the future.
As remarkable as all of these examples are, they all represent the same thing. They take an artist and put them inside a game as opposed to connecting the real artist and the virtual world together. That’s where Noah Cyrus has made herself stand out from the crowd. For the video for her single ‘July,’ Cyrus has created a music video inside an existing PlayStation video game, and in the process, she’s allowed Sony to showcase its ability to combine its video gaming platform and its music division together to great effect. It’s the first time Sony has co-operated on such a project, and in doing so, the massive entertainment company has allowed Cyrus to make musical history.
The video was created in a PlayStation game called ‘Dreams,’ which is exclusive to the Sony platform. ‘Dreams’ is not so much an orthodox video game as an open sandbox within which players can create games of their own – or indeed almost any entertainment product subject to the limits of the technology and their own imaginations. The game isn’t hugely popular as it appeals to a niche interest group within the PlayStation’s userbase, but some of the creations that have been made with it are so impressive that they could easily be considered as standalone games in their own right. Creating a music video in ‘Dreams’ is a simple process when compared to the complexity of putting a fully-fledged video game together, but Cyrus has beaten everybody else to the punch by doing it. That’s captured her a valuable amount of mainstream press attention as well as a place in the musical history books.
The pioneering move comes as part of Sony’s “One Sony” project, which aims to connect all of the company’s individual entertainment arms into one gargantuan whole. Any artist signed to a Sony label now has access to the company’s gaming and movie divisions, and with that, the chance to use the resources within those departments for their own game. As an artist signed to Columbia Records – Sony’s most prestigious musical brand – Cyrus was in a better position than most to make use of “One Sony,” and has done so to great effect. She certainly appears to be pleased with the results; in a statement, she said that any new means of allowing people to connect to music interests her, and that she now intends to take the idea further in the future.
While ‘Dreams’ has proven itself to be more than capable of creating music videos, there might be further integration to come in the future. Sony was clearly paying attention when DJ Marshmello and Travis Scott appeared in Fortnite because a few weeks ago, the company paid a quarter of a billion dollars for a share in Epic Games. As those of you who follow video games will doubtless already know, Epic Games is the company that produced ‘Fortnite.’ It seems that Sony wants a route into the game for its artists, and having paid such a significant sum of money, it now has one. We can almost certainly expect further co-operative projects between Sony artists and ‘Fortnite’ in years to come, and possibly even a degree of integration between ‘Fortnite’ and ‘Dreams.’ Nobody knows what that might look like right now, but then two or three years ago nobody would have known what a music video made inside ‘Dreams’ would look like either.
These are exciting times in the music industry. While there are fewer music-themed television shows on the air than ever before, artists appear to have found a way to engage with gamers instead. If fans are receptive to Noah Cyrus’ new video, this could be the beginning of a whole new era.