Bubblegum Bardcore: The Electrifying Hype Music of Fall Guys

Every element of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is designed to shape it into a manic, sprinkle-coated delight for players — the kaleidoscopic visuals, the goofy game show format, the obstacle course-style mini-games. But the perfect complement to the game’s hyper-colorful design is its gleefully hectic, sugar-sweet music.

Composers Jukio Kallio and Daniel Hagström created the game’s addictive soundtrack. The main theme, “Everybody Falls,” has over 2 million views on YouTube, and the candy-bright rush of music is as essential to the game’s aesthetic as the neon-colored design of the levels. To produce just the right musical vibe, the composers used a few tricks to maintain momentum and keep listeners guessing.

Soundtrack Serotonin

Some songs are just meant to make people happy — ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” These songs are engineered to get under your skin in the best way. They’re also written mostly in major key, meaning they use chords that sound “complete” or “right” to our ears. The jubilant music of Fall Guys is no exception. 

Most of the game’s score is written in a major key and the tempo is relentlessly upbeat. Kallio and Hagström tell me that the visuals of the game were “a huge part” of what determined the music’s overall sound. Their early sessions were spent recording sounds from old toys, household objects, and even Kallio inflating a balloon, which is audible in the theme song’s big drop.

Fall Guys is structured like a game show, in which players compete to earn Fame in rounds called Shows. While the developers at Mediatonic watched shows like Takeshi’s Castle and Wipeout for inspiration, the composers revisited over-the-top, nostalgic theme songs. “Initially, we experimented with the feel of old ’70s and ’80s sports TV themes and jingles,” they tell me. But after working on a few demos, they and the developers decided to go with the more modern synth sound we hear in the final version. 

The opposite of the “major key = happy music” rule is using minor key, which creates a more dissonant (or “wrong”) sound to the listener. Songs like “Mad World” by Tears for Fears are written in minor key, which help give them that angsty vibe we all needed to get through our teenage years. The Fall Guys soundtrack only has a few moments in minor key, and they’re used to convey frenzied panic rather than sadness. 

These refrains come up in tracks like “Survive the Fall,” which plays during team games like Fall Ball and Egg Scramble. As the level reaches its end, the music ramps up in pitch, speeding up the tempo until it sounds chaotic and discordant. As the timer ticks down, the melodies start tripping over each other, mirroring the frenetic pace of the gameplay. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ys4rkcMbtjY

Keeping It Fresh

Video game music often loops over and over, especially in games like Fall Guys, where players repeatedly encounter the same levels, so Kallio and Hagström did their best to keep the music ever-changing. “Creatively utilizing modulations in compositions and using contrasts in sound design between song parts,” they note, “plays a big role in keeping the music exciting after hundreds of listens.”  

During Slime Climb and See Saw, the song “Fall ‘N’ Roll” plays, switching between synthesized instruments like a buzzy electronic intro, a xylophone, and a jellybean chorus singing nonsense words. It has all the punch and energy of an anime theme song (especially when I try to sing along with no clue what I’m saying). The song crescendos to a high pitch, overlapping the different harmonies with the synth melody, finally spinning out in a funky free-for-all.

In addition to shuffling between instruments, the composers used modulations — changes in key that shift the notes up or down the scale. In the case of Fall Guys, the music is almost always ascending, taking the player to new heights as they reach for the crown. “We have this joke that in the Eurovision song contest, the song needs to have a half-step modulation in the last chorus. We call it the ‘Eurovision modulations,’” the composers tell me. “We tried to really bring that to the next level by using the modulations as many times as we could in the songs, even mid-riff. This gives the compositions a feel of never-ending progression, which is further enhanced by the soundwork.”

In the track “Fall for the Team,” which plays during Block Party and Roll Out, the music hops around the scale, from light jingling notes to a louder, heavier bass that sounds how falling off the edge feels. “In one part, the synths’ grooves might be very tight with less percussion, while the next part could have a more loosey groove with synths but a striking percussive element to keep up the pace,” Kallio and Hagström note. “These were some really fun challenges as composers and producers.”

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Fall Guys Season 2 New Games

Ye Olde Beanfolk

Season two of Fall Guys released on October 8th. Its medieval theme came with four new levels, themed skins, and new music to match. The composers put together four new songs, including a revamped main theme called “Everybody Falls (To the Middle Ages)” — it features the same melody that’s permanently looping in players’ brains, but incorporates different instruments for a more medieval sound.

“We thought about what we perceive as medieval instrumentation,” Kallio and Hagström say, “and came up with something like hurdy-gurdy, lute, flute, horns, and certain loose and low-pitched percussion.” After announcing its big drop with a horn fanfare, the newly mixed theme jangles ahead, with bass drums and dainty flute accompaniment. The medieval instruments work surprisingly well. Rather than sounding heavy or slow, they’re mixed with synths and chopped up in a way that sounds like a Renaissance faire mixed with an EDM festival. 

The new tracks, which Kallio called “bubblegum bardcore” in a Tweet, convey the same sugared up, high-momentum feel of the original soundtrack, with more harps and fanfare. “Fall for the Queen Bean,” which plays during Hoopsie Legends and Egg Siege, feature drums, flute, and strings alongside a zippy synth beat.

During the new Wall Guys level, where everyone competes to move and climb blocks to scale castle walls, “Sir Falls-a-Lot (William Fell)” provides musical motivation, alternating a chirpy melody with a solid bass, capturing the feel of earth-bound Fall Guys struggling to clamber over the walls. The song “Beans of the Round Table” builds an exciting tempo with bright xylophone elements, coalescing into the type of synth-y, disc-scratching bridge we expect from Fall Guys. Listening to this track, it’s easy to imagine a colorful bean DJ holding court at the castle feast.

The Future of Fall Guys

As Fall Guys moves into future seasons, it’s likely we’ll be hearing new music to suit new themes. A recent feedback survey asked players if they’d like to see seasons featuring themes like Futuristic/Sci-Fi, Arcade/Retro Games, and the ’90s, so there’s no shortage of twists and turns the music could take. 

Kallio and Hagström are surprised and grateful for all the attention the Fall Guys soundtrack has received, saying “It’s crazy to us that the music we created is being listened to all over the world and bringing so much joy into people’s lives!” They couldn’t tell me whether they’ll be working on more Fall Guys music in the future, but in the meantime, I’ll be humming along to their tunes nonstop, even as I topple into the slime again and again.

For more music and updates from Kallio, visit his website, Twitter, or find his music on Bandcamp and Spotify. Hagström can be found on his website and on Twitter.

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Jen Glifort

Jen Glifort is a writer and editor. When she’s not writing, she’s usually playing trumpet, replaying Crash Bandicoot games, or having too many emotions about robots. Follow her on Twitter @glifglomp.

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