Rockstar always chooses its music carefully, and so the first few notes of GTA 6’s reveal trailer were telling. It’s a series that loves a needle drop, and while we only get a few bars to speculate upon, those fiery twangs could be very important. They belong to Tom Petty and his song Love Is a Long Road, the lead off single from his 1989 album Full Moon Fever. But what do they tell us about GTA 6, and the story of its heroes Lucia and Jason?
In some ways, it’s an odd choice. GTA 6 heading back to Vice City immediately begs the comparison to our first foray to the Miami-inspired hub. With GTA 6 coming 23 years later, it’s obviously going to be technically superior and, pains me as it does to admit it, Vice City may be so old that it’s beyond the realms of comparison for many players – but still, the original Vice City is set in the ’80s, and GTA 6 is set in the modern day. Why use an ’80s song to beckon us in?
Here’s a horrifying fact – there’s a greater time difference between now and Vice City’s release than there was between Vice City’s release and the year it was set.
Perhaps these ’80s notes are the point. I’ve written that I hope GTA 6 isn’t a pseudo-sequel to GTA 5 with some of the cast returning to cash in on their popularity, but if some of the younger stars of Vice City made a return as older, wiser crooks, that would be a fascinating direction for the series to go in. Beyond the song’s release date though, there’s a lot we can learn from the lyrics.
Yeah, we were desperate then
To have each other to hold
But love is a long, long road
The chorus is not complex. Petty is a gifted songwriter and has a history of exploring complex topics in relatable ways, but this is very surface level. Two desperate lovers who only needed each other, ripped apart by life and the struggles of love. It has seemed for a long time like GTA 6’s two protagonists would be of the Bonnie & Clyde mould, and this song underlines that. Miss Lucia and Mister Jason, they rob banks.
The verses aren’t that much more layered. There’s no vivid imagery of Free Fallin’, no symbolism of Wildflowers, no storytelling of Mary Jane’s Last Dance. The first verse is about a girl he cared about who cared about him and “tried to make my world the way she thought it should be”, which might mean Lucia is in jail because she took the fall for Jason – she does describe it dismissively as “bad luck”, after all.
The second verse describes sleepless nights, which I think would be a reach to try to apply to anything in GTA 6 specifically, and the third describes how hard it was to give up and let go of this love, which (like the chorus) could mean the pair growing apart, or could point to a betrayal by one lover to save themselves – the fact the song is all in past tense, about a former lover, hints at the same.
It’s the change to the later renditions of the chorus that seem most striking – they discuss “one last chance”, which might play into the themes a little more. In GTA 5, there are a variety of different motivations; Franklin is just trying to make it while Michael already has the American dream and gets pulled back in. Here, it seems we might be in for ‘one last score’, a theme that worked so well as we delved into the aftermath of its disaster in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Disappointingly, it’s not the most lyrically ambitious song, and that doesn’t give us a great deal to go off. However, the fact it’s an ’80s record playing over a city we all know from its ’80s setting, the link might not be in what the song says, but simply in what it is. If Tommy Vercetti comes back in GTA 6, you heard it here first.
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