Video Gamers Can Drive A Thousand Miles With Vanessa Carlton

Singer contributes new song, 'Dark Carnival,' to 'Spy Hunter 2.'

LOS ANGELES — Having written a batch of songs for her new album and one for the upcoming "Spy Hunter 2" video game, Vanessa Carlton's dark side is about to shine.

Carlton's "Dark Carnival" will be used in Midway Games' sequel to the classic driving and shooting game of the 1980s, according to a spokesperson for the video game publisher. The pianist premiered the song acoustically Wednesday at E³, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, a four-day video game conference that began Tuesday.

The edgy and brooding ballad, which Carlton promised would sound fuller when accompanied by a band, is about a mysterious femme fatale character — fitting since the game features a female character. The tune gets even more eerie when a sparse, plinky bridge reminiscent of the "Halloween" theme arises.

"Dark Carnival" was followed by two other new songs, including "Papa," which she also performed at the Rock the Vote Awards in February (see "Guns N' Roses Songs, Chuck D's Call To Arms Highlight Rock the Vote Awards"). She closed the short set with "the reason why I don't have to waitress now," her breakthrough hit, "A Thousand Miles."

Carlton, who confessed that she's not an avid gamer and prefers "the dorky stuff" like "Pac-Man" and "Mario Bros.," said her new material was indicative of the direction she's taking on the follow-up to last year's Be Not Nobody, though "Dark Carnival" probably won't be included on the new LP.

"I don't necessarily feel like I have to abide by certain rules or feel like I'm being put in a box," said the singer who prefers "really moody stuff" like Portishead and Groove Armada to her "TRL" peers. "My next record will be very eclectic."

Carlton's just about finished penning her as-yet-untitled second album, and she plans to begin recording in a couple of weeks, with help from Third Eye Blind's Stephan Jenkins, Interscope Records head Jimmy Iovine and singer/songwriter Jason Faulkner. And although it remains untitled, she described the first single as being "very Beatles-y and classic sounding," something she hinted at in January (see "Vanessa Carlton Aims for Solo Girl Sgt. Pepper's").

"It's a batch of songs that I'm so proud of, because it's so evolved," she explained. "I even notice a huge growth. I don't feel the pressure to write 'A Thousand Miles Part II.' It's all been very organic. ... There's nothing contrived; we're not laying out a map before we go in and record the track. It's like, 'Let's jam.' "

"Spy Hunter 2" is expected to hit stores this fall, according to Midway.