The NieR series is one of the most unique gaming experiences out there, blending different genres into its gameplay alongside mind-blowing stories, interesting themes and superb characters.
However, no aspect of the NieR series stands out more than its music. The soundtracks of NieR Automata and NieR Replicant ver 1.22474487139 (itself remastered from Nier’s OST) are simply masterpieces, winning awards and acclaim for their bold and striking departure from the norm.
Since there’s nothing quite like a NieR soundtrack, some natural questions arise. Here is everything you need to know about the music of NieR.
What language is NieR’s music?
If you’re struggling to understand the lyrics of NieR’s best tracks, you’re not alone. As it turns out, the music of the NieR series is sung in a completely made-up language, dubbed the “Chaos Language” by its inventor Emi Evans. This features in Nier, NieR Automata and NieR Replicant ver 1.22474487139.
Though undoubtedly beautiful and unique, the next question that comes to mind is… why? Well, Yoko Taro has answered this one himself, explaining that an inability to understand the background lyrics would keep players from being distracted from the gameplay. I’m not sure if this actually works, as I found myself deliberately taking longer in some sections purely to listen to the music, but I’m not complaining.
There is the odd use of the English language, such as NieR Automata’s credits theme The Weight of the World, or the mantra “This cannot continue” repeated within Birth of a Wish. However, for the most part the music is either entirely instrumental or performed in the fictional Chaos language.
Who sings NieR’s music?
The main singer of NieR’s soundtrack is Emi Evans, an English lady who moved to Tokyo in 2000 after being scouted by Sony. It wasn’t until 2007 that she ventured into the world of video games with Etrian Odyssey, before shooting to wider fame for her work on the original Nier in 2010. This was released simply as Nier in the West but launched as two different titles in Japan – NieR Replicant and NieR Gestalt.
Evans features on some other gaming soundtracks, such as Dark Souls, Monster Hunter and the Drakengard series, which in itself is a prequel to the NieR games. She has also dabbled in some voice acting along the way, but has spoken of her particular love for working on video games where she is typically given more creative trust and freedom to let her artistic talents shine.
Which languages inspired NieR’s music?
There are actually a lot of languages that were used to construct the made-up lyrics, as explained by Emi Evans herself in a wide-ranging interview with Playstation.
The first song constructed in the Chaos language was Song of the Ancients, which drew inspiration from German, Hungarian, Welsh, Japanese, French and Latin. However, this mash-up of multiple languages ended up being atypical.
Most of the other songs saw Emi Evans pick a specific language and tailor its sounds to the song being created, thereby keeping the songs distinct from one another. She goes on to explain some of Nier/NieR Replicant’s specific tracks, revealing Grandma derives from French, The Wretched Automatons is from English, whilst Kainé’s theme is based on Gaelic.
Evans is generally given the melody, as well as some context of where the song will be played, allowing her to fit the Chaos language as she sees fit. This was the same method she carried into the creation of NieR Automata’s soundtrack. Evans stated she enjoyed making the NieR Automata soundtrack even more, as the praise for NieR’s music led her to approach it with more confidence.
Does the NieR soundtrack have English lyrics?
Nope. The creative process behind these songs did not entail any specific lyrics translated from the languages that inspired them:
On paper, my lyrics were just a series of meaningless sounds strung together, yet once I started singing them and layering up the tracks, these lyrics suddenly sprang to life and took on a meaning and personality, all of their own.
There are actually some lyrics drawn up phonetically in the Chaos language itself, if that floats your boat. They can be found here. If you find yourself absent-mindedly singing these in public, you may end up with some explaining to do.
Is there a live show?
Following in the footsteps of other legendary RPG scores such as Final Fantasy and Persona, NieR has indeed treated fans to its fair share of live performances.
Four sellout shows in Tokyo were followed by a 2020 worldwide tour that visited London, Los Angeles, Bangkok and Chicago.
Given the success of NieR Replicant ver 1.22474487139 with over a million units sold already and a phenomenal remastered soundtrack, hopefully further live performances will follow in future.
Who is the composer of NieR’s music?
Not to be left out, the main composer of Nier, NieR Automata and NieR Replicant ver 1.22474487139 is Keiichi Okabe.
Like Emi Evans, he worked on the Drakengard series, but in the gaming world he is otherwise best known for the Tekken games. He is also fairly prolific in Anime, earning dozens of credits including Yuki Yuna is a Hero, which features more songs from Emi Evans.
Whilst constructing the Nier soundtrack, Okabe explained that he tried to encapsulate a sombre, melancholic element to everything – even the intense battles. This ties back to one of the main themes of the series, which is the Japanese concept of ‘agaku’, whereby characters face a constant burden.
“I always made sure to convey the tragic fates that the protagonist and characters are burdened with”
It’s fair to say he nailed it.
What are the best NieR songs?
This is a borderline impossible task, but I’ve narrowed my favourites down to a few.
My fondest NieR Automata tracks are City Ruins (Shade), Amusement Park, and The Weight of the World.
As for NieR Replicant ver 1.22474487139, I’m going with Song of the Ancients, Hills of Radiant Winds and Kainé/Escape.
They’re just the tip of the iceberg, of course. There’s a reason NieR Automata won the Best Score/Soundtrack at the Video Game Awards.