Rock Band 4’s Full Setlist is Pretty Disappointing and Awfully Generic

Harmonix picked the worst possible time to reveal their full setlist for Rock Band 4. Last week, Activision invited the gaming press for extended hands-on time with their upcoming Guitar Hero Live and today’s consensus was that it was pretty great. Not only is Activision and FreeStyle’s game a complete reinvention of the Guitar Hero brand, but it also featured some incredible songs. Sleigh Bells’ “Bitter Rivals,” Surfer Blood’s “Demon Dance,” TV on the Radio’s “Lazerray” and alt-J’s “Left Hand Free” were among the stand-outs in the title. With the Rock Band series always having more of a focus on the songs themselves, many had high expectations for what its long-awaited sequel would contain. While what we’ve been teased with so far wasn’t all that impressive, the new songs announced today rounding out the package make it even worse.

Here’s the complete list:

.38 Special – Caught Up in You
4 Non Blondes – What’s Up?
Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic
Arctic Monkeys – Arabella
Avenged Sevenfold – Hail to the King
Benjamin Booker – Violent Shiver
The Black Keys – Fever
The Both – Milwaukee
Brad Paisley ft. Keith Urban – Start a Band
Brandie Carlile – Mainstream Kid
Cake – Short Skirt/Long Jacket
The Cure – Friday, I’m in Love
Dark Wheels – V-Bomb
Disturbed – Prayer
Dream Theater – Metropolis, Pt. 1: The Miracle and The Sleeper
Duck & Cover – Knock ‘Em Down
Eddie Japan – Albert
Elvis Presley – Suspicious Minds
Fall Out Boy – Centuries
Fleetwood Mac – You Make Loving Fun
Foo Fighters – The Feast and the Famine
Gary Clark Jr. – Ain’t Messin ‘Round
Gin Blossoms – Follow You Down
Grouplove – Tongue Tied
Halestorm – I Miss the Misery
Heart – Kick It Out
Heaven’s Basement – I Am Electric
Imagine Dragons – I Bet My Life
Jack White – Lazaretto
Jeff Allen – Recession
Johnny Blazes and the Pretty Boys – Cold Clear Light
Judas Priest – Halls of Valhalla
The Killers – Somebody Told Me
Lightning Bolt – Dream Genie
Little Big Town – Little White Church
Live – All Over You
Lucius – Turn It Around
Lynyrd Skynyrd – That Smell
Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – The Impression That I Get
Mumford & Sons – The Wolf
The Outfield – Your Love
Ozzy Osbourne – Miracle Man
Paramore – Still Into You
The Protomen – Light Up the Night
Queens of the Stone Age – My God is the Sun
R.E.M. – The One I Love
Rick Derringer – Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo
Rush – A Passage to Bangkok
Scandal – The Warrior
Scorpions – No One Like You
Slydigs – Light the Fuse
Soul Remnants – Dead Black (Heart of Ice)
Soundgarden – Superunknown
Spin Doctors – Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong
St. Vincent – Birth in Reverse
System of a Down – Spiders
Tijuana Sweetheart – Pistol Whipped
Van Halen – Panama
Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl
The Warning – Free Falling
White Denim – At Night in Dreams
The Who – The Seeker

Those scanning the list can see it’s not all bad. With highlights including Grouplove’s “Tongue Tied,” Arctic Monkeys’ “Arabella,” and St. Vincent’s “Birth in Reverse” (this one is seriously awesome and is sure to alienate anybody playing the game with you), there’s sure to be some memorable moments. The amount of straight-up bad songs, however, is worrisome. Of course it doesn’t help that 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up” (frequently considered one of the worst songs of all time) is one of the first songs listed, but moving down the list sees additions like Mumford & Sons’ “The Wolf” (I’m a huge Mumford fan, but that album and every song on it is terrible) and Spin Doctors’ “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.” As worrisome as the bad songs are, however, it’s the frequency of generic ones that’s the real problem.

Rock Band 4
The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me” is a great song, but it’s over ten years old now. Why not get some new synth-filled indie rock in the mix like PHASES or Saint Motel? Fall Out Boys’ “Centuries” has long been overused (and it’s not even that old), while Scorpions’ “No One Like You” is practically the definition of generic rock. Then there’s inexplicable additions like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “The Impression that I Get,” which was featured in Donkey Konga for Pete’s sake.

I’m the first to admit that I lean towards indie rock as my genre of choice, but I have a wide appreciation of genres new and old. While something like The Black Keys is sure to get me excited, Dick Dale’s “Esperanza” or Love’s “Alone Again Or” would just as easily sway my opinion of the setlist. What we have in Rock Band 4 is a glut of boring, generic rock songs peppered with a few exciting additions. Granted, Rock Band already has an extensive back catalog of songs to pull from and doesn’t have the luxury of being able to choose whatever it wants for its lineup as does Guitar Hero, but the latter game features a staggering amount of deep cuts. Rock Band 4 is positioning itself as the same old type of faux-rock god experience, while Guitar Hero Live has songs like Angus & Julia Stone’s “A Heartbreak” that allows for much more introspective play. Hopefully Rock Band 4 quickly adds more exciting songs as DLC, or it could see itself being left in the dust.