Can music hipsters make Americans care about soccer?
Aside from college fight songs and a handful of pro franchise crowd faves (like “Hail to the Redskins” and “Go New York Go New York Go”),American sports lack great team songs and anthems. Most stadiumsand arenas pump out the same Top 40 hits night after night, and when teamsdecide to make one song their go-to jam, it usually makes very little sense andhas nothing to do with the city. (For example, the Celtics always play”Welcome to the Jungle” during the fourth quarter, though no oneactually calls the TD Banknorth Garden “the jungle” anymore.) Meanwhile, crowdparticipation usually revolves around uninspired chants like”DE-FENSE!” and “Kobe is an a–hole!” (I actually like the latter).
Meanwhile, the football-crazed culture that reigns in mostother parts of the globe — in particular, Europe and SouthAmerica — has singing at its very core. Anyone who has beenfortunate enough to attend a Premier League match (or even watch a World Cupgame on TV) has heard the ceaseless chorus of club songs and incredibly inappropriatechants pouring out of the stands. Fans of England’snational team have anthems like Baddiel and Skinner’s “Three Lions,”while diehards can be brought to tears by thesounds of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Even musical missteps like the”Anfield Rap,” a ridiculous track recorded by Liverpool’s ’88 squad,have an organic feeling to them that had more to do with sporting zeitgeistthan commercial success (though it did reach No. 3 in the UK charts).
Now, after importing David Beckham to our shores, Major LeagueSoccer wants to get in on the tradition. Not surprisingly, its effortssmell deeply of corporate interference. Adidas has paired the 13 MLS teams withlocal artists and bands to create “anthems” that can be sung instadiums and downloaded for free at the “MLS Represent” website. Fanscan even create their own music videos with MLS footage and then send it tofriends or rivals! At least hooliganism should be kept under control — insteadof beating one another with brass knuckles, fans can just make a really greatPolyphonic Spree video with the title “FC Dallas ROCKZ!!!”
The problem is not so much that all of the songs are awful(though most are). “Here Comes the Fire” by OK Go (pictured) has an almost WhiteStripes-like bassline and passable lyrics, though admittedly the name Chicago Fireis more conducive to song-making than, say, the Kansas City Wizards. Mike Jones'”Houston Dynamo” track is incongruous enough to be enjoyable, and, toits credit, the Rapture’s cheesy “Whoo! Alright, Yeah… Uh Huh” sort ofmakes me want to drink a Red Bull… in New York (or New Jersey). Finally, “¡Chivas Explosivas!” makesup for terrible lyrics with some upbeat Latin flair — perfect for a soccercommunity that highjacks most of its traditions from South American fandomanyways.
The real problem is that this whole thing feels so forced, so contrived and so pointedly marketed at an audience that is probably definedaround the boardroom table as “young” and “urban.” Do theyreally think that fans are going to be chanting techno and indie rock songsduring matches? These tracks — each with a suspiciously high rate of repetitionon the team name — seem destined for 30-second commercial spots and lame entranceceremonies. Just as Beckham brings the red carpet to the soccer arena, these “anthems”create more auxiliary entertainment that may attract some momentary attention,but won’t create the type of passion that fuels long-term fandom.
Don’t get me wrong — I love soccer and I wish the MLS thebest of luck. But the league needs to understand that true fandom starts in thestands, not the boardroom.
And seriously: Would it have been too much to enlist Mrs. Beckham and her fellowSpice Girls to do the LA Galaxy song?