This year marks two major milestones in the long-running Pokémon franchise by Nintendo and Game Freak: the 20th anniversary of the series’ Japanese debut with Pokémon Red and Green for the Game Boy, and–just this month–the release of the games’ seventh generation, Pokémon Sun and Moon for the Nintendo 3DS. As long-standing Poké-fans (well, one Poké-fan and one Poké-casual observer), we decided to mark the occasion with a new episode of our Imaginary Genres video series, dedicated to songs about and inspired by the lovable “electric mouse.” Check it out, then check below for extended Spotify and TIDAL playlists featuring tracks by Young Thug, Rustie, and others–including an official holiday-themed song that needs to be heard to be believed.
Imaginary Genres is a video series by Dystopian Dance Party, where we coin new genres to shed light on shared traits and common themes in music, film, and other forms of media.
This month, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Pokémon franchise, we’re looking at songs about and inspired by the series’ most iconic–and cutest–mascot. We call them, “Songs in the Key of Pikachu.”
Pikachu songs can be separated into roughly three discrete categories. The first is music officially commissioned by the Pokémon Company for one of the many games, films, or TV shows in the transmedia megafranchise. Here, for example, is “Pikachu (I Choose You),” performed in English by Élan Rivera, from the 2001 cartoon soundtrack Totally Pokémon.
The second category is songs that use Pikachu’s vocalizations from the cartoon, usually with a sense of irony or absurdity, to form the basis of an electronic beat. You’ll find a few of these on Spotify: like this 2014 track, aptly named “Pikachu,” by Oliver Heldens, Mr. Belt, and Wezol.
Third, and finally, we have a surprisingly robust category of songs in the key of Pikachu: rap songs that reference the popular Pokémon character, usually as a metaphor for yellow diamonds that glisten as if electrified. It sounds weird on paper, but actually makes a lot of sense: most of today’s hip-hop artists were at a formative age when Pokémon took off in the late ’90s; it’s part of the cultural fabric with which they grew up, just like kung-fu movies were for the generation that spawned Wu-Tang Clan. So here’s Swedish-American rapper Yo Truly with his recently-released single, also simply called “Pikachu.”
With the recent release of the seventh generation of the Pokémon series, Pokémon Sun and Moon, and its expansion onto mobile platforms with the augmented-reality game Pokémon Go, it’s likely that we’ll see more Songs in the Key of Pikachu in the near future; and in the meantime, you can visit dystopiandanceparty.com for extended Spotify and TIDAL playlists featuring more examples of the genre. Whether in a Pokémon battle or on your stereo, Pikachu is always a solid choice. For Dystopian Dance Party’s Imaginary Genres, this has been Zach Hoskins.
Video: Footage from Pokémon: The Series (OLM, Inc.)
Audio: “Peek a Boo” by Migos (from No Label II, 2014)
Video: “Pikachu Parade in Yokohama, Japan” (stolen from RocketNews24)
Video: Footage from Pokémon Red and Green Commercial, 1996
Video: Footage from I Choose You Pikachu! Commercial (Hasbro, 1998)
Audio/Video: “Pikachu (I Choose You)” (from “Pokémon Karaokemon,” 2001)
Audio/Video: “Pikachu” by Oliver Heldens, Mr. Belt & Wezol (2014)
Audio/Video: “Pikachu” by Yo Truly (2016)
Video: Footage from “Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon – A World Beyond” Trailer (Nintendo, 2016)
Video: “Desiigner Plays Pokémon Go” (stolen from GQ)