Having earlier this week opined upon the stream soundtracks of both Ludwig “Zai” Wahlberg and Artour “Arteezy” Babaev, my quest to milk this whole Dota 2 music-review thing for as many articles as possible now turns to arguably more challenging ground. Zai and Arteezy are ideal subjects because their musical tastes are simultaneously varied and somehow aesthetically consistent, i.e. Zai will play just about anything as long as it’s chill, and Arteezy will play anything, like literally anything, with a bias towards stuff that seems intentionally hard to listen to. Some other streamers—PPD comes to mind—accompany their play with a potpourri of anodyne, genre-hopping tunes (EDM, alternative, hip hop, classic rock, etc.), never picking anything abstruse enough to get anybody’s Faceless Void undies in a bunch. That latter style of soundtrack makes for a broadly appealing stream, but it’s boring as shit to write about, so instead I’m going to investigate a pair of streamers with more eccentric taste: Jacky “EternalEnvy” Mao and Amer “Miracle” Al-Barkawi.
Miracle doesn’t look like a worshipper of Satan.
Miracle doesn’t look like a worshipper of Satan, but then, when my parents warned me about The Devil’s Music back in grade eight, they told me its supplicants would never be the ones I suspected. “Metal” is probably the broadest possible term used by people outside my immediate family to describe Miracle’s genre of choice, although the many flavors of brash electric guitar + screaming have never been my area of expertise. I’ve heard Miracle’s music described variously as “metalcore,” “mallcore,” and “teen emo bullshit metal.” Some people like it. A lot of other people, myself included, find it extremely unpalatable. Whether you think the music is awful or amazing, though, it’s hard to make the case that it’s particularly horizon-expanding. It seems like the music of someone who doesn’t care very much about music, who never bothered to delve deeper than the first metal playlist they came across. Fusillades of guitar & percussion? Check. Hoarse/screamy vocals? Check. There are no more items on the list.
EternalEnvy seems to put a lot more thought into his music than Miracle does, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less divisive. I don’t have a name for his preferred genre, so I’ll just call it Anime Stuff. Some of these songs straight-up own, e.g. “Crumbling” by Felt:
… but a lot of the others are not particularly swell to listen to if you’re not a fan of that kind of thing. The vocals are … distinctive. I don’t want to be reductive, but when EE plays certain songs, it’s basically like having Naruto’s long-lost kid sister keen at you for hours on end. (Apologies if Naruto does actually have a kid sister; I stopped watching that show after Vegeta showed up.) Other times he plays instrumental tracks with really really really long contemplative piano solos, and while that certainly aids the tragic-hero atmosphere the community likes to ascribe him, I personally find it tiresome by minute eight or nine.
It’s the music he likes the most.
Okay, hold up, though, because this is all beginning to get a bit negative, and the honest truth is that EternalEnvy is a generous, kind-hearted human being who very clearly loves his fans. Same with Miracle, Arteezy, Zai, and basically every Dota 2 professional: this is a community of players who remember what it was like to be absolutely nothing, and tend to be grateful and down-to-earth as a result. Jacky Mao is a guy who personally responds to obscure and enthusiastically-downvoted Reddit threads to help people identify individual songs they heard on his stream. A man who seems personally hurt, the way almost any of us would be, when people choose to spotlight his mistakes instead of his triumphs. He plays anime music not because he doesn’t care about his viewers, but because it’s the music he likes the most. EE’s stream is not a carefully-crafted commercial product. It’s his normal practice routine, warts and all. He plays as though Twitch chat and subscribers and donation messages don’t exist, indeed as though the viewers themselves do not exist. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. His true fans still appreciate the stream, appreciate his willingness to bare this profoundly personal side of himself, and their appreciation, in the end, is why he bothers streaming at all.