Friday, October 16, 2009

Sega’s Less-Than-Groovy Heart

Another from that “cloudbush” thread — and one that gets to reference “Groove Is in the Heart,” so it’s inherently extra special. You remember the song, of course.

Apparently sometime after this song by Deee-Lite hit it big, the singer, Lady Miss Kier got word of the existence of Space Channel 5, a music-based video game released by Sega in 1999. Kier concluded the game’s mascot, Ulala, bore more than a passing resemblance to her own stage persona — specifically by being a dancing girl sporting knee-high boots, a short skirt, a pink ponytail — and sued Sega. There is a similarity, I have to admit.

And according to Kier, Sega offered $16,000 to use her likeness in the game. When she declined, Sega used it anyway. Sega maintains that Ulala was different enough that they could legally use the character. Ultimately, a judge ruled in Sega’s favor and Kier was forced to pay the video game company $608,000 in legal fees, which surely took a big chunk out of any money Kier would have made with the success of “Grove Is in the Heart,” the band’s only real hit. (I mean, they had a cover of “You Sexy Thing” on the Dumb & Dumber soundtrack, but how many other songs by Deee-Lite have you ever heard?) And so ends the strange and acrimonious intersection of these two pop culture elements that I wouldn’t have imagined had a shared history.

That is, except for an even more curious epilogue: “Groove Is in the Heart” is featured in the 2008 Wii game Samba de Amigo — another Sega-produced music-based game — and notably the song appears in a stage that also features a cameo by Ulala. And that’s either an ironic little coincidence or a very purposeful fuck-you from the video game giant and to Kier.

Less-than-groovy indeed.

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