These are the tunes that pierce the air in loud stadiums, raising athlete morale and providing a soundtrack to cheers and tears of fans.
Football, hockey, baseball, basketball, rugby… all these are team sports that revel in crowd support. And when it comes to raising spirits in stadium games, nothing does the job better than a catchy tune.
With Kuala Lumpur set to host the 29th SEA Games & 9th ASEAN Para Games, it’s the perfect time to delve into the various aspects that create a great game – starting with music. Here are the top songs that never fail to rev up energy of sportspeople and fans alike.
Dare (La La La) by Shakira & Carlinhos Brown (2014)
Catchy hook? Check. Celebrity appearances? Check! One of the theme songs for the 2014 World Cup is a remixed version of Shakira’s single off her 2014 album – given the festive touch by Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown, and accompanied by a fun video depicting Afro-Brazilian heritage and tribal imagery, with cameos from Messi, Ronaldo and more. The use of traditional beats in an electro track proved infectious in the football fraternity – not for the first time, either.
Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) by Shakira (2010)
Shakira’s most notable musical accomplishment in sports would be this famous FIFA 2010 theme song – remember when the dance spread like wildfire worldwide? Delivered over Afro Colombian-rhythm and Caribbean-influenced beat, this pop song is not just a best-selling earworm, but a battle cry motivating one to pursue their goals relentlessly. Interestingly, it’s also where the singer met her partner Gerard Piqué (whose Spanish team emerged champion).
Wavin’ Flag by K’naan (2009)
What better ode to Africa than this modern Somali freedom song? K’naan sings ‘When I get older, I will be stronger, they’ll call me ‘Freedom’, just like a wavin’ flag’ – embodying pure ambition, energy and hope that compelled Coca-Cola to choose this track as its promotional anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Several versions were released with David Bisbal, will.i.am and David Guetta for a global audience, and K’naan published a children’s book about the song’s history a couple years later.
Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes (2003)
This ubiquitous riff was first turned into an anthem when Brugge K.V. fans were pregaming for a 2003 UEFA Champions League match. That moment of radio spontaneity spread from the streets of Italy all the way to the United States, where it has become a NFL and NBA mainstay. In the words of frontman Jack White, “Nothing is more beautiful than when people embrace a melody and allow it to enter the pantheon of folk music.”
You can’t help but chant along to the signature bass line; extrapolate this effect to an entire stadium for that bellow that really gets adrenaline pumping:
The Cup of Life by Ricky Martin (1998)
Can we ever forget that ‘Go, go go; Alle alle alle!’ cry that introduced the younger ones among us to this pop star? With the huge football following this side of the world, we’re hardly surprised that songs about La Copa de la Vida have endured the test of time. The upbeat percussion, festive horns, and Ricky Martin’s moves made it an instant success back during the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
Song 2 by Blur (1997)
Embrace the power of the wild ‘Woo-hoo!’, sure to send fists pumping in the air whether at a hockey or baseball match. Brash guitars, distorted bass, and the nonsensical ramble of lyrics made for an unlikely sports anthem, but two decades later, that’s just what it is. When Song 2 was picked up for the EA game FIFA: Road to the World Cup 98, it was the British band’s ticket to fame in America – and its sports stadiums. It’s energy is infectious; it’s nonchalant, anti-establishment agenda subtle but notable.
We are the Champions by Queen (1994)
Never has there been a classic rock song so attuned to the spirit of sportsmanship than this Queen hit. The anthem of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Freddy Mercury’s oft-strident vocals over building harmony is heard at other sporting events till this day. The band actually set out to craft a responsive tune all those years ago, with guitarist Brian May commenting, “We wanted to get the crowds waving and singing. It’s very unifying and positive.” In 2011, scientists found it to be the catchiest song in the history of popular music, despite never making it to #1.
We would be remiss to talk about Queen without an honorable mention of We Will Rock You, a warning of sorts before claiming championship (released as B-side to We are the Champions). In 2004, we saw Britney Spears, Beyoncé and Pink cover this in a Roman arena while Emperor Enrique Iglesias sipped Pepsi in the classic commercial. Fun fact: Queen’s surviving members make crowd cameos!
Jump Around by House of Pain (1992)
You may know this as a Trump rally song, but quarter of a century ago, this genre-mashing single (also used extensively in movies and TV) caught fire as a stadium anthem. Probably its most notable use is at Madison, Wisconsin, where it has become a half-time call-to-action for Badger fans at college football games. Music and sports epitomise unity and camaraderie, so when put together, the results can be quite spectacular.