How does one explain a game music soundtrack like Dance Dance Revolution? It isn't quite "game music" per se - and yet, viewed from a technical-gaming characterization, it really is. The way I see it, there's going to be two types of people who will approach this soundtrack. 1) Those who have played the game, and are looking for a means to acquire the music for it. And 2) Those who are not very acquainted with DDR at all, but wish to give it a try.
Allow me to address both parties at this point. First, to the newbies:
For those who have no idea what it's about, the Dance Dance Revolution soundtracks are large compilation albums of sorts, consisting of various different kinds of dance tunes featured in the game. The music itself is a combination of original dance numbers, done up by Konami's composers, and licensed songs from many different dance artists from around the world (though, for the most part, they're artists from Europe). The songs are not full-length, but rather shorter, abridged, cuts from the original artist's songs. These cuts coincide to the game's play length, with the time distance falling within a minute, to a minute and a half range, for each song. The cuts, however, are often nicely done - there's a beginning intro of a track, and an edited ending.
Now, for those more experienced in the know-how of DDR....well, you're basically getting exactly what it is; 50 tracks in total. (Included are the 35 songs from the arcade version, plus 5 selected songs from the 2nd Mix Link Version, and 3 songs from the Playstation 2nd ReMix version. The rest are in-game BGM music, such as the title theme, character selection, end credits, etc.) And, as stressed before, this is the original soundtrack for the GAME, so these songs are heard exactly as they APPEAR in the game.
Also, a quick note: this soundtrack does NOT contain any of the selections from 3rd Mix PLUS, or the Playstation version. These include tracks, such as Scotty D's Drop The Bomb, After The Game of Love, Bambee's Bumblebee, and E-rotic's Gimme Gimme Gimme. Those are reserved for the 4th Mix soundtrack.
Now that we have the formal introductions out of the way, we can dig right into the meat of what this album has to offer. Dance Dance Revolution 3rd Mix Original Soundtrack is a double disc set. The first disc contains the songs straight from the arcade game, while the second disc is a special, nonstop megamix collection. The songs, rich in diversity, are an intricately-chosen selection of rave, dance-pop, classic-dance, Euro, and others; certainly, DDR does not restrict itself to just one genre of dance.
Although, many of the artists may not be entirely well-known in the U.S., they are widely recognized within their respected countries. German dance artist "E-rotic" contributes a healthy number of songs for 3rd Mix, such as the voluptuous, yet highly-energetic, "Do It All Night," along with a speedy rendition of "Turn Me On" (Heavenly Mix). Swedish-pop princess "Papaya" also lends her sugary-sweet voice, with the song "Operator," while Captain Jack's intense dance number, "The Race," brings it on fast and furious. And, of course, we mustn't forget the reputable girl duo-group, Smile.dk, who offers up two pieces: "Mr. Wonderful," and a super-fast, rave-style arrangement of their proverbial mega-hit, "Butterfly."
Triple J's "Follow The Sun" follows suit with skyrocketing, happy-hardcore beats and lyrics, while Italo-dance group Coo Coo dishes out "Upside Down." Thomas Howard Lichenstein whips up the Ricky Martin-esque "La Senorita," as well as a seemingly misplaced, yet brisk Christmas-pop piece, "Silent Hill." And, one of the most highly-regarded dance songs of all is Joga's "Dam Dariram" - a number which possesses instantaneous dance appeal, with Joga, belting out a mellow-toned, yet powerful performance. Guaranteed to get you moving on the dance floor in no time flat!
Aside from modern dance, DDR also contains a number of classics. Tavares' original disco-fever hit, "It Only Takes A Minute," is one such example, as well as Chumbawamba's universally popular '70s song, "Tubthumping." Slightly more modern (yet still labeled classic-dance) is Kate Project's "If You Can Say Goodbye," as well as Freedom's Soul-Train style, "Get Up And Dance."
We also have a number of covers from original artists. Captain Jack features a cover of the Village People's "In The Navy," and 'Who's That Girl!' performs Madonna's original, "Holiday." Plus, another Olivia Newton John piece makes an appearance, her movie theme, "Xanadu." And, speaking of movie themes, Irene Cara's original "Flashdance - What A Feeling" is replaced with a much more upbeat, happy rave-core sound, courtesy of M.A.G.I.K.A. and Stixman.
In addition to the licensed material, many are actually original works, created by the Konami sound team. Naoki Maeda is DDR's main sound producer, and he's credited for many, if not ALL of the original Konami-based songs (or at least partial credit, anyway - he works under many different aliases). The best out of 3rd Mix's selection is undoubtedly the slamming "Dynamite Rave." Even the name in itself explodes with intensity, as the song drives killer beats, and booming hip-hop techno lyrics. Similarly, "End of The Century" takes Beethoven's famous Ode To Joy melody, and puts in into a fast and nifty rave context. Tiger Yamoto also supplements her highly-energetic (yet badly Engrished) Beatmania remix, "Luv To Me." Crazy jungle beats make up the insanely-fast "Afronova," while Maeda's ever-recurring "PARONOiA" also makes an appearance; drum and bass fans will be heaven with the "Rebirth Mix." Maeda also cranks out "Dead End," and DJ Taka has the fast and furious "Gradiusic Cyber," both very electronica-dance style songs.
I mentioned the second disc of this set as being a "Nonstop Megamix." Dancemania, a well-known subsidiary to the record company Toshiba Emi, produces their own, special version of dance compilation albums. They use professional remix editors, who weave together these albums into nonstop megamix form. (For those who don't know what a megamix is, they are tracks with no gaps in between, thereby giving the impression that the entire CD is actually one, seamless song.) Renowned dance remixers "Y & Co," "KCP," "B4 ZA Beat," among others, did 3rd Mix's nonstop, which places many (but not all) of the songs from the first disc. This is a very nicely-done megamix, too; it flows beautifully, and they've certainly picked the best songs. The infamous DDR announcer also spurts out comments said in the game, sometimes appropriate, sometimes not - personally, I wouldn't have preferred him at all.
For those who want to get into the dance music scene, I can't think of a more perfect way than with this soundtrack. As an extremist dance music fan, I can honestly say that my addiction first stemmed from Dance Dance Revolution itself. It offers a very wide range of different artists and styles, compacted on a single album - absolutely perfect for large-scale sampling. And as a personal preference toward the DDR series, I do like 3rd Mix the best - the song selection remains consistently solid throughout, with very few bad ones to be found. The sheer diversity of styles is matched only by the quality of the songs themselves. The nonstop megamix, too, is a very nifty bonus.
On a final note, I would like to state a generalization about Euro-dance music itself (since the style does make up more than half of the DDR series). Euro-dance music tends to be much livelier than American dance music could ever hope to be - and, without a doubt, it's certainly MUCH more catchier and melodic. The only tradeoff are lyrics that are often times less "serious," and sometimes considered even "cheesy" - but hey, that's perfectly fine with me. If you, too, can live with that, then by all means, give DDR a try.