The 8 Ball 02.01.14: Top 8 Sports Anthems
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 02.01.2014
From Queen's "We Will Rock You" and Eminem's "Lose Yourself" to Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train," AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 sports anthems of all time!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Music Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, I will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Welcome to the 411 Music 8 Ball, folks! The year in review is over, and we're moving right into Super Bowl time! Now, I'm not what you'd call a sports guy but I am a music guy and when I do watch, I always appreciate the music that is used to get crowds pumped up in the arena. This week with Super Bowl XLVIII set to take place this weekend, I thought we could take a look at the best sports anthems from popular music.
Caveat: For the purposes of this list, I was looking at those songs that often get played during sporting events to pump up the crowd or otherwise accompany the game in some way. The only caveat I would have is that I kept myself to popular music choices; this left things like college fight songs or "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" off the list. Otherwise, most songs were pretty fair game.
Just Missing The Cut
• The Ramones - "Blitzkrieg Bop"
• EMF - "Unbelievable"
• Zombie Nation - "Kernkraft 400"
• Guns 'n' Roses - "Welcome to the Jungle"
• Blur - "Song 2"
#8: Fort Minor - "Remember the Name"
First on our list is a song that may not be everyone's first choice, but it is certainly popular among NBA arenas. Fort Minor is better known as "that group the guy from Linkin Park sometimes does stuff with." In this case, "that guy" is Mike Shinoda; Fort Minor is his side project under which he has released more hip-hop oriented work than Linkin Park tends to do. "Remember The Name" isn't the group's biggest hit in terms of chart success; that would be "Where'd You Go" from the same LP, The Rising Tied. However, I daresay that thanks to heavy promotion around professional basketball, not to mention inclusion in films like Gridiron Gang and The Karate Kid, it is the group's most well-known song. And it's a good one for getting fans pumped up, too; it contains all the necessary hallmarks of a sports anthem from the inspirational lyrics to the quick, hard-hitting pace. It's also insanely catchy and can get stuck in your head easily, which is a must in order to grant it immediate recognizability to get fans pumped up. Again, this may not be everyone's pick but you certainly can't deny its influence and recognition factor.
#7: AC/DC - "Thunderstruck"
AC/DC is one of the greatest arena bands of all time, and perhaps the greatest stadium rock band period. There are any number of the group's songs that I could have put on this list, from "Hells Bells" and "Back in Black" to "Shoot to Thrill." But I feel like "Thunderstruck" is their clear winner for best sports anthem. The song is pure electric energy from start to finish, with the recognizable opening riff that leads into the easily-chantable "Ahh-ahh-ahh-ahh-ahh...THUNDER!" It's pure jock rock, the kind of song that really gets the crowd pumped up and ready for an epic collision of sports giants. Bryan Johnson's vocals start at ten (or eleven, in Spinal Tap terms) and never back down. This is a favorite of many sports teams because it provides everything that a stadium rocker should give; it builds itself up to a frenzy early in the song and just takes off from there. I'm not even a sports guy and when this song comes on I want to see some athletic prowess between two sides ready to destroy each other for the win. That's all I really need to say about that.
#6: Ozzy Osbourne - "Crazy Train"
"All aboard!" That's one way to get people swept away with enthusiasm. And it works, too. "Crazy Train" is one of the all-time great guitar songs thanks to the late Randy Rhoads' stunning guitar work, but it also contains all the elements needed to excel in stadium sports. That opening moment where Ozzy shouts and then the pounding drums turn into "Ay-ay-ay!" is one of the more famous song openings in metal history. This is a song that fits not only in terms of sound and structure, but also in a clear thematic way after a fashion. Sure, the song is actually about being afraid of death by nuclear annihilation in the face of the Cold War, but there is something to be said about "going off the rails on a crazy train" and how the drama of a high-stakes sports game can do exactly that to you. It's an incredibly memorable song that stands on its own outside of a sports arena better than some of the songs above it on this list. Rhoads' guitar solo is seriously one of the best of all time and while some stadiums switch this out for Trick Daddy's "Let's Go," let's be honest...even in those cases, it's about Ozzy. This is truly one of the all-time greats.
#5: Eminem - "Lose Yourself"
I realize that there's very little hip-hop on this list, and that is unfortunate. Rap just hasn't quite circulated itself through sports in the same way as rock, and that's in large part because of the relatively younger age that the genre has. But there are a few songs that really resonate at sports events and "Lose Yourself" is probably the best example. It all comes down to the driving beat and the thematic elements. The song, which is probably Eminem's most well-known hit among a general audience, is all about psyching yourself up and getting ready to deliver at the big moments that count. That's exactly the kind of thing that resonates with sports events and the fact that it's an Oscar winner gives it a certain credibility with non-rap fans which allows it greater penetration. The song first became popular as a stadium anthem with the English national rugby team in 2003 and has since expanded itself to MMA events, soccer, pro wrestling, ice hockey and many more. It's the peak of rap tracks for sports anthems in my book.
#4: Survivor - "Eye of the Tiger"
Okay, so is "Eye of the Tiger" cheesy? Of course it is. But it's cheesy in part because of how recognized the song is as an iconic sports anthem. Survivor's biggest hit (by far) served as the theme song for Rocky III and became synonymous with the idea of an underdog climbing their way through all the trials and tribulations to the top. It's all power chords and thundering drums with Dave Bickler's voice ringing the message clearly through. Some sports anthems only have one or two short portions or a chorus that are recognizable; Survivor's hit is one that you can hear any single point of and imagine that you're in an arena surrounded by screaming fans as the PA system tries to get everyone pumped up. Whether you're at a high school game, college football, professional or anything else, you are likely to hear this one because of its anthemic qualities. The song has sold over nine million copies since its release and over the past thirty years has stood the test of time, holding onto its position as one of the true great sports songs.
#3: Steam - "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye"
On its own, Steam's sole hit isn't a particularly good song. Let's get that out of the way right now. In fact, the group wasn't even a band when the song became famous; it was put together specifically to support Paul Leka, Gary DeCarlo and Dale Frashuer's surprise hit. The group quickly recorded an album to support the song but didn't last, leaving us with a song that would become famous in sports mythology. The song reportedly was first used as a sports anthem by University of Minnesota basketball coach Bill Musselman in pre-game warm-ups and then got picked up by Texas A&I University, who would use it when victory was almost assured. Since then the song has been a classic musical taunt to players who are taken out of a game. It's maliciously rude, but we're not talking about playing "Sharing is Caring" here. The song is a great example of how a bad pop song that was once described as "an embarrassing record" that was so bad that no one wanted their names connected with it can become one of the most famous of all sports musical numbers. This is one that will be around as long as there are winners and losers.
#2: Gary Glitter - "Rock n Roll Part 2"
Yeah, let's get the elephant out of the room on this one. It is exceedingly awkward to talk about the greatness of a song from a child pornography trafficker. However, I have always been vocal about the fact that I separate an artist's works from who he is as a person, and the fact that Gary Glitter's "Rock n Roll Part 2" is still such an indelible part of events after his conviction on said charges is a statement to the song's impact within the world of sports. This song plays around the world at nearly every professional sporting event for good reason: it's really one of the perfect songs from a sports anthem standpoint. It has an instantly-memorable and recognizable sound that relies strongly on instrumentals (which may be why it hasn't suffered more in the wake of Glitter's crimes). You don't have any lengthy lyrics to have to pay attention and the "Hey!" practically begs for fan interaction, which it always gets for obvious reasons. It's the musical equivalent of a chant, and that makes it pretty much perfect as a sports theme.
#1: Queen - "We Will Rock You"/"We Are the Champions"
Yes, I'm putting these two together. There are two reasons for this. First off, if I didn't they would likely be #1 and #2. Second, the two songs are often played back to back because of their presence on the arena rock band's 1977 album News of the World and they almost count as one song at this point. And their importance in sports arenas truly cannot be denied. "We Will Rock You" is THE quintessential sports anthem. When the game is on the line and something is needed to really pump the team up, this song is an absolute standard. The handclaps encourage audience participation, the lyrics are simple and powerful, the guitar work is great and it's short and to the point. Meanwhile, when it's time to celebrate that hard fought win is there really a better go-to song than "We Are the Champions?" It's a little on the nose sure, but since when has the celebration of a sports victory been subtle? Both of these songs are absolute classics and have helped make Queen one of the all-time great bands when it comes to anthems of any kind, including the stadium-set variety. Energetic and uplifting; operatic and powerful. Those qualities put Queen's duo of iconic hits on the top of my list.
MUSIC VIDEO A-GO-GO
For this week's Video A-Go-Go, we're going with an alternate look at one of the above selections. Fans of Supernatural will be familiar with this particular outtake, in which Jenson Ackles delivers a pretty epic lip synch job (complete with leg guitar) to "Eye of the Tiger." Check it out below!
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.