20 Mario Kart Courses and their Corresponding Essential Pop Albums

As WVUM’s reigning President of Pop, you’d probably assume I know my fair share of essential pop albums, and you’d be correct. However, I’m similarly as well-versed in Mario Kart Wii. I’ve found a new love for it this semester, using it as a refuge from my stressful workload. Why not combine my two of my greatest passions? Here is a list of 20 Mario Kart Wii courses matched with their corresponding pop essentials.

Moo Moo Meadows / Fleetwood Mac - Rumors


Dreamy instrumentation and Stevie Nicks’ soothing vocals transport me to a breezy landscape somewhere in rural Europe. Moo Moo Meadows and “Dreams” are basically synonymous.

Rainbow Road / Charli XCX - Pop 2


Charli’s latest output is full of futuristic tunes that show the direction of pop music to come. Listen to “Backseat” or “Track 10” and try to tell me they’re not the sonic personification of Rainbow Road.

Dry Dry Ruins / M.I.A. - Kala


Although M.I.A.’s debut album Arular is my favorite album of all time and, in my opinion, the best pop album ever made, her breakout and critically-acclaimed Kala is pretty close in comparison. It combines dance and world music in an unprecedented way, and some of the beats sound like they could have come from the heart of Dry Dry Ruins itself.

Bowser’s Castle / Michael Jackson - Thriller & Janet Jackson - The Velvet Rope


Thriller is an essential album for any genre or time period. Until this year, it stood as the best-selling album of all time. Bowser’s Castle falls somewhere between the scary aesthetics of Thriller’s title track and the bizarre luxury of Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope.

Mario Circuit / Beyoncé - Self-Titled


Beyoncé broke the internet when she surprise-released Beyoncé, complete with striking visuals for every track. This album cemented her status as the world’s biggest pop star. Some of the accompanying music videos, including “Partition”, “Haunted”, and “Mine”, look like they filmed in the luxurious castle located in Mario Circuit.

DK Summit / Lorde - Pure Heroine


Lorde’s debut Pure Heroine delivers minimalist beats and sharp lyrics that perfectly matches the winter weather in DK Summit.

Peach Beach / Madonna - Like A Prayer


I don’t know much about Madonna, but I do know three things: I know she’s an essential pop star, people like this album, and “Like A Prayer” is a bop. I’m sure if I was alive during Like A Prayer’s release, I would’ve been listening to it while basking in the sun on Peach Beach.

Moonview Highway / Prince - Purple Rain


Playing as Waluigi in a Zipper bike on this stage basically recreates the album cover of Prince’s classic album, Purple Rain.

Mushroom Gorge / Carly Rae Jepsen - Emotion, Emotion: Side B


Carly Rae Jepsen’s best work comes in the form of Emotion and Emotion: Side B. Because of these stellar albums, her legacy is now expanded beyond just being the “Call Me Maybe” singer. Listening to the soaring choruses on these albums makes me feel like I’m bouncing on the giant mushrooms in Mushroom Gorge.

Coconut Mall / Taylor Swift - 1989


Many critics consider 1989 to be the best album of 2014 and one of the best pop albums of all time. It’s definitely worth a listen to hear Taylor Swift’s first major departure from country music. However, the album’s major singles “Shake It Off”, “Blank Space”, and “Bad Blood” just sound like music that would be playing way too loudly in my local mall. Therefore, 1989’s corresponding Mario Kart course is Coconut Mall.

Sherbet Land / Björk - Homogenic


Homogenic’s electronic soundscapes closely resemble Sherbet Land’s icy terrain. It’s an album filled with boundary-pushing, electronic pop that still sounds as fresh as when it was released in 1997. With songs like “Hunter”, “Bachelorette”, “Pluto”, and “All Is Full of Love”, it’s no wonder Homogenic is considered Björk’s best work among a career full of classic albums.

Luigi Circuit / Adele - 21


Adele’s breakthrough album 21 is deservedly one of the biggest pop albums of the 21st century. Full of simple ballads and easy-listening tunes, it only makes sense to pair 21 with the easiest track on Mario Kart Wii — Luigi Circuit.

Grumble Volcano / Britney Spears - Blackout


Blackout comes from one of the darkest times in Britney Spears’ life. At some points, it seemed like she was ready to explode like a volcano in Grumble Volcano. However, these experiences resulted in one of the strangest and forward-thinking albums by a major pop star to date. Blackout shaped the current sound of pop music, so maybe it wasn’t that bad after all?

Wario’s Gold Mine / ABBA - Gold


This one’s pretty self-explanatory. ABBA’s Gold is filled with as many gold pop tunes as there is virtual gold in Wario’s Gold Mine.

Ghost Valley / FKA Twigs - LP1


FKA Twigs pushed boundaries and experimented with pop structures in her stellar debut album LP1. “Prelude”, “Video Girl”, and “Closer” sound spooky enough to be the soundtrack to Ghost Valley.

Peach Gardens / Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy


Kanye’s most critically-acclaimed album discusses concepts of stardom, power, and opulence. It’s almost if he wrote it while overlooking the lush hedges and flowing fountains in Peach Gardens. His best album is still Yeezus, though.

Delfino Square / Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster


Any pop music discussion in the 21st century is incomplete without the mention of Lady Gaga. The Fame Monster includes hits like “Alejandro”, “Paparazzi”, and “Just Dance”, which I’d definitely listen to in the cafes, penthouses, and clubs that inhabit the exotic Delfino Square.

DK Mountain / Rihanna - Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded


Somehow, when I see people talk about their essential pop albums, I never see a single mention of Rihanna’s Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded. This is criminal. “Shut Up and Drive” might as well be Mario Kart’s theme song. Anti may be full of sleeper hits, but any album with the immediate catchiness of “Umbrella”, “Disturbia”, and “Don’t Stop the Music” deserves recognition. Its corresponding essential course is DK Mountain because it’s underrated too.

Maple Treeway / Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

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Channel Orange’s lush vocals and instrumentation are the perfect match for the warm fall aesthetic of Maple Treeway. Blonde is a better album, but Channel Orange is more essential.

Toad’s Factory / Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid & Robyn - Self-Titled, Body Talk

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Between the futuristic storylines throughout The ArchAndroid and Robyn’s transhumanism bops “Robotboy” and “Fembot”, what better albums could be paired with Toad’s Factory? Also, yeah, maybe I just tried to fit as many albums as I could on this list, so what?

Catch Matt’s pop music musings live on WVUM 90.5FM Wednesdays 2-4pm during Poptropolis.

Matt Karas