Why Johnny Cash Was a Terrible Choice for the New Mass Effect Trailer

This is an epic space opera, not Firefly

I love Johnny Cash. I love Mass Effect. But man, are those two great tastes that taste weird together.

The next iteration of the epic sci-fi video game series was announced today via a first-look trailer at E3, and there's clearly a lot to look forward to with Mass Effect: Andromeda.

That said, let's talk a bit about the soundtrack selection: Cash's rendition of Western classic "Ghost Riders in the Sky." Specifically, let's talk about the fact that it was a dumb pick.

Joss Whedon's Firefly may have sold us all on the mashup of interstellar travel and cowboy culture, but Mass Effect certainly isn't Firefly.

The Mass Effect series' cerebral tone and gravitas have largely been fueled by its music, from the original Vengelis-inspired score in 2007 to the more orchestral theme of the 2010 sequel to the Hans Zimmer-esque braaaaaaaaam of 2012's Mass Effect 3.

You can revisit all three scores in this handy YouTube clip:

Personally, I was a bit sad to see the games move away from the minimalist, Blade Runner-reminiscent sound of the original, but it's hard to deny that the shifting score reflected the increasingly high-stakes and galactically sprawling atmosphere of the game.

But now, on the eve of relaunching the series into a new galaxy (the titular Andromeda), our first audio experience with the new Mass Effect is a crunchy bit of rootin' and tootin' that creates the impression you're not so much saving worlds as you are wandering around and starting gunfights over range disputes or whatever it is that makes gunslingers sling guns. 

To be clear, Johnny Cash's music certainly can be used in dramatic and unexpected ways. My favorite example of this kind of masterful genre-blending is the opening credits of 2004's Dawn of the Dead remake:

So with Mass Effect: Andromeda, am I overthinking the choice of a soundtrack to an admittedly early teaser trailer? (The game won't be out until late 2016.) Yes, probably, but I'm not nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking.

Bioware and Electronic Arts have a lot of ground to regain with Mass Effect. The third installment left many of the series' passionate fans baffled and frustrated by serving them up an ending that pleased almost literally no one. 

Thanks to a hastily revised and expanded finale that was later patched into the game, along with a few well-crafted bits of downloadable content (plus the passage of enough time for frustrations to fade), much of that fan backlash has dwindled. However, the series has to rebuild its goodwill anew, and every single piece of marketing matters between here and there.