09 June 2010

Top 3: World Cup Songs

It's World Cup time! Finally!

What are my Top 3 World Cup songs? Read on!

Songwriter Rule No. 340: Do not write a song about a sport.

Songs written specifically for a sport or a sporting event usually ends in shambles. So why do it at all?

Unless you're Hank Williams, Jr. and you re-work "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" for Monday Night Football on ABC. (I would have some snarky comment about "how the mighty have fallen" but I suppose one would have to be "mighty" in the first place, and, well, let's be honest here, I love that damn song.)

Otherwise, sports-related songs generally suck ass.

But every four years the greatest sports spectacle of all time comes around and there are many bold artists that attempt to write that song about soccer football for the FIFA World Cup.

Singing and chanting in the stands at a football match overseas is something that is a bit foreign to American spectators who are encouraged to simply cheer, jeer and gesture wildly at the field at the whim of some jumbotron operator.

Elsewhere in the world, there is a bit more melody and motion in the terraces at a football match. Swelling chants, epic songs, clever death threats sung to a cheery tune. You can't beat that.

So, with all that song and chant in the stands, it's no wonder that football spawns a great deal of football-related songs.

I won't go through the shitty ones (but feel free to comment and add the football songs you love or love to hate!) but I will give you my Top 3 favorite World Cup-related football songs.

N.B. Not surprisingly, there aren't - if any? - good American "soccer" songs. And, frankly, I don't speak a lot of languages so I have omitted a lot of potentially great non-English songs as well. So, that pretty much leaves us with my Top 3 favorite football songs from England. Deal with it.

3. "Shout For England" - Dizzee Rascal & James Cordon
Take one British rapper (Rascal), add another British entertainer (Cordon), mix in a classic song ("Shout" by Tears For Fears), ignore references to English footballers you've probably never heard of, wait for that chorus and you get this magic:

The FA didn't commission an official 2010 World Cup song (perhaps they were still reeling from the solid but frustratingly mellow effort by Embrace back in 2006) but "Shout For England" seems to be one of the most inspired football songs(mashup?) in a long time.

2. "World In Motion" - New Order
Ironically, this is New Order's only Number 1 single in the UK.

It was written for England's 1990 World Cup campaign. The song was stellar, England's performance was a heartache. Typical England, right?

"World In Motion" is deliciously New Order. This has all the marks of a great football song: An uplifting Italian house vibe, the requisite sound bites from past World Cups and a fantastic fist-pumping chant at the end.


1. "Three Lions" - The Lightning Seeds
Originally written as a song for England in their Euro '96 campaign, this has song has grown to become one of the most popular football songs ever, capturing the seemingly ever-present agony of England football but retaining that chip-on-the-shoulder optimism.

Just how popular is this song?

In 1996, the song was #1 on the UK singles chart for two weeks.

In 1998, (yep, they re-worked it and released it for the '98 World Cup in France) the song was #1 for three weeks.

In 2002, the World Cup was in Korea/Japan. "Three Lions" (the '98 version) went to #16.

In 2006, the World Cup was hosted by Germany and "Three Lions" hosted the #9 position without having to blink.

In 2010, Robbie Williams, Russell Brand and the Lightning Seeds guys got together as The Squad and re-released a slightly more epic and operatic version of the song and the single peaked at #21. If England turns in some inspiring performances and go deep into the tournament, you'll probably see this song shoot up the charts.

This song is pretty much a classic.

I'm still a fan of the 1998 version.

England bias? Sure. But until a decent American band decides to release a song about soccer (unlikely) and until I learn Spanish, French, German, Italian and Russian, I'm probably going to miss out on a lot of good football songs. That's the way it goes.

Someone buy me Rosetta Stone. Thanks.

Listen Up! The Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Album
{Amazon.com is selling this official 2010 FIFA World Cup album. It looks to be pretty terrible. Don't buy it.}