Saturday, May 22, 2010

World Cup Music

With World Cup 2010 just around the corner ( if you’re an international footy fan, 6 months is nothing) it’s time to draw attention to an oft-neglected aspect of the tournament: the official anthems of the World Cup.

Many have been written over the years, but the vast majority of these are crap and were quickly forgotten. The reason being, in my humble musical opinion, is that they were far too specific in their subject and style and, as a result, didn’t stand the test of time. Nothing ages faster than bad pop music (except maybe Britney!).

When I think of marriages between football and pop music, one immediately comes to mind as being made in heaven (No, not Posh & Becks). My international fans (in particular those from Brazil) will have to forgive my ignorance, as the focus of this column will be (neigh, must be!) the 1990 chart-topping single by New Order, created for England’s World Cup campaign, World in Motion. Of course, it is only natural, that such a pop masterpiece would be created in England, as it represents that country’s two greatest passions coming together in one lovely, catchy, hooky tune!

As New Order tunes go, World in Motion is not particularly clever. It’s certainly shocking to learn that this was the bands only number one in the U.K. It has a very simple, unpretentious melody with (let’s face it) a rather cheesy rap from England player John Barnes, at the end. In other words, it absolutely pales in comparison with the brilliant synth-pop single Blue Monday, which rightly remains the bands signature song. But when one studies the period in which it is made and understands the context of the song, nothing better captures the optimism and laddish arrogance of the 90’s edition of England’s national side (epitomized by the yobish Paul Gascoigne). Best expressed at the end of the song with the hooligan type chant that is repeated over and over.

But what sets this song apart from so much other sports related music, is that it doesn’t associate itself too closely with football. The lyrics are not necessarily about football and could just as easily be adapted for use in many other sports. Like all intelligent pop musician’s, Bernard Sumner, et al, know that songs always work better when they tease the listener a bit. Hence the obviously ironic line “This ain’t a football song…”

When I think about the dearth of Hockey related pop music coming out of my own country, it shames me. Yes, I know the Hip tackled one of the sport’s legends quite movingly ( i.e. Fifty Mission Cap). But we have never cut a record with the sheer simple beauty and breadth of appeal of World in Motion. I suppose it’s too late to create an official song for our Olympic hockey team?

The Future is Unwritten

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