Keepin' it G ain't nothin': How classic GTA V trailers use music to highlight character personalities

Music has always played a large role in Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series. Through the use of in-world radio stations, the time period and character of the setting can be further defined. Prior to GTA V's first major release in 2013, 3 short trailers debuted and used music to highlight the personalities of each of the main characters.

Here's how the classic GTA V character trailers used music to effectively convey the problems Franklin, Michael, and Trevor would be facing in the story mode.

Keepin' it G ain't nothin' - Franklin

Franklin's story so far is perfectly illustrated by his 60-second character trailer. His dynamic with close friend Lamar Davis; his personal ambitions for a better life; and how these are going to conflict with one another are fully displayed to the viewer. Franklin feels he is held back by the hood lifestyle and thinks other gangbangers like Lamar and Stretch are delusional.

The chorus lyric: "You ain't gotta like it cause the hood gon' love it" perfectly describes a majority of Franklin's South Los Santos-based missions. He is always begrudgingly tagging along with Lamar - who sees the gunfights and violence as part of the lifestyle. Franklin's longing for a better life away from the street sets him up as the main character that the player follows through the events of GTA V.

Towards the end of the game when Lamar is set up and kidnapped, Franklin doesn't hesitate to seek him out and rescue him - even when this involves a shootout with Ballas gangsters - which is what Franklin has spent the entire game trying to distance himself from. Franklin may not like it but the hood gon' love it.

Same old tune - Trevor

The opening lyrics to the song: "same old tune, fiddle, and guitar" set up viewer expectations for Trevor. He hasn't changed in the years between the prologue chapter and the main game. Additionally, the lyric can be seen as a metaphor for the character dynamic between Trevor and Michael. The "tune" is robbing banks - and the instruments responsible - "fiddle and guitar" - are Trevor and Michael. The country sound encapsulates the simple livin' that players experience when traveling through Blaine County.

The title line "I don't think Hank done 'em this way" referred to the changing landscape of country music in the 1970s, evoking the idea that the old days are over and the newer wave of country music has taken its place. In the state of San Andreas, clear-cut aggressive psychopaths like Trevor are a dying breed - being replaced by the more nuanced, hipster-like strangers and freaks highlighted in the side-missions of the same name.

How music changes through the years - Michael

Michael's story's primary theme of nostalgia is expertly demonstrated through the use of Queen's "Radio Gaga". The lyrics pertain to radio becoming a more dated and forgotten form of media in the wake of Television and MTV's popularity. The speaker within the song can't let go of his feelings for radio - It means more to him than it should. Similarly, Michael is held hostage by his feelings of nostalgia for robbing banks with his friends. Even after faking his death and moving to the in-game version of LA, he cannot let himself be happy for he is too occupied with the past.

Michael's story leads him to relive his past life and find it not half as fun as he originally thought. Throughout most of the game, Michael is blackmailed and manipulated - the player only sees glimpses of his happiness at the end of bank-heist missions, before the euphoria fades and he is left alone again in the real world. The idea of Michael returning to activities of years passed and not satisfying his nostalgia can also be applied to the speaker in Radio Gaga, wherein returning to a strictly-audio based media experience may not be possible after so long spent enjoying the easy-going nature of TV.

In addition, the setting of former-professional criminal and therapist is reminiscent of another fictional crime-story protagonist: Tony Soprano. Similar to GTA V, The Sopranos addresses themes of nostalgia and changing times. These themes are undoubtedly favorites of long-time-writer and former vice president of creativity at Rockstar Games, Dan Houser, as they are present in other titles such as GTA IV's The Lost and the Damned, and both Red Dead Redemption 1 and 2.

Music has always played a large role in defining the world within GTA games. GTA Online's updates have allowed the game to implement new radio stations and expand on the previously existing ones, with approximately 440 tracks featuring in GTA Online right now.

The release of the "remastered" PS2-era GTA games disappointed many as a selection of fan-favorite songs including Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean' and N.W.A's 'Express Yourself' were removed. Going forward, fans can only hope Rockstar continues to put maximum effort into curating songs for their in-game radio stations.

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