I never play Animal Crossing: New Horizons on mute. I love hearing the grass crunching under my character’s shoes, the cutesy language that all of the villagers speak, and, of course, the sound effects tied to all of the emotes, like the signature piano noise that plays right before you’re about to get messed up by a bunch of angry bees.
But what makes the game really worth listening to closely is the music — specifically K.K. Slider’s tunes. He’s the king of cool, a crooning pup star among a bunch of normies that inhabit your island. And for the kind of dreadful year that 2020 was shaping up to be when New Horizons released, hearing K.K. Slider’s work was a beam of positivity that took me and my apartment over completely.
If you’ve played Animal Crossing games before, then you may already know several of the songs. But despite seeing him guest DJ every night at Club LOL in New Leaf for the 3DS — my first serious foray into the franchise — the music didn’t really resonate with me then. Maybe it was the small screen or the tiny speakers. But when I hear one of K.K. Slider’s tunes in New Horizons with my Switch docked, I want to get up and dance… or at least engage in some serious head-bobbing. And for much of last year, that deep catalog of tunes was all I was humming between sessions.
Most of New Horizons’ music is comprised of acoustic, playful pop and light jazz grooves, but K.K.’s music dives more deeply into capturing different moods and genres. “K.K. Ska,” for instance, is a pop tune that can apparently be repurposed for wholesome memes. It didn’t really hit me just how good this song was until I heard it attached to this very cheerful video on YouTube.
If that kind of music doesn’t strike your fancy, how about something like “K.K. Cruisin’,” “K.K. Groove,” or “K.K. Metal”? The catalog of tunes runs the gamut of new and older popular genres, plus a few oddities to show off Nintendo’s music-writing chops even more. The art team clearly had fun designing the album covers, too.
“K.K. Jazz” cops the signature styling of a Blue Note Records jazz album — label insignia, two-toned layout, and all. Given the way New Horizons took off after launch, it’s no surprise people started drawing their own K.K. Slider-inspired album art for real music.
Most of the songs in New Horizons aren’t new, but my enjoyment this time around had a lot to do with Nintendo’s methodical rollout (or withholding, depending on how you look at it) of K.K. Slider. Instead of having him immediately available to jam out, he’s struck it big as a musician and doesn’t have time for you and your island until you’ve proven it’s a happening place. It’s the end goal for the narrative of New Horizons, and it feels like a real achievement.
While you work toward that goal, you can buy different K.K. Slider songs through the Nook Stop PC located in the Resident Services building. It’s usually possible to get a new song every couple of days. And with enough time, you’ll have a sizable catalog of songs that can play from a stereo in your home or a boombox to set up outside for other villagers to listen (and sometimes hum along) to. The music even sounds different, depending on the kind of stereo you purchase. Some gadgets add crackles to make K.K.’s songs sound like they’re on vinyl, and buying the full DJ kit really adds a lot of bass.
Nintendo could have easily let the player stream K.K. Slider tunes through the Nook Phone. Instead, it turned the game’s main musical act into something you had to work toward and pay dearly to fully experience.
According to the Animal Crossing hub on Fandom, there are 95 original compositions in the game. It’s well worth asking K.K. Slider to play one of them during his weekly visits, as you’ll get both a live acoustic performance and a bootleg for later use in a stereo at your home within the game. If you don’t want to go through that, just load some songs on YouTube. And if you really want to fall down a rabbit hole, people have contributed an endless trove of DIY covers in K.K. Slider’s vocal styling on YouTube.
Now that we’re at the anniversary of the launch of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there aren’t many stones (proverbial, or otherwise) that I’ve left unturned. But whenever I do boot up the game, I’m always pleased to hear the songs that helped make my experience of living through 2020 a bit more pleasant.