Ben Sledge 19th March 2018
By now, everybody knows that the FIFA World Cup is coming this summer, whether you want to or not. But not everybody knows that, since 1962, there has been an official song to play alongside the on-pitch shenanigans.
For many, these songs are better than the tournament itself. For England fans, the songs last longer in the memory than the team does in the competition. But for me, the (admittedly post-1998) songs serve as memories of summers spent crowded around a telly balanced on a bin outside, sharing barbecues with a bunch of people I barely know, and making the most out of a brand new 30 quid England shirt for the four games before we’re prematurely knocked out. For me, the music of a World Cup is as important as the football.
Well, some of it…
14. El Mundial — Buenos Aires Municipal Symphony — Argentina 1978
There are no real lyrics other than a lot of la-ing, there’s no real point to the song and it’s a thoroughly annoying tune. Jeez, this could possibly be worse than England’s attempt. At least you can laugh at the word Willie in England’s version.
13. World Cup Willie — Lonnie Donnegan — England 1966
Speaking of Willie… This is properly shit. Great innuendo aside, the song about the first ever World Cup mascot is a travesty, to be honest. This was the one time England didn’t make a total hash of everything on the pitch, so it’s good to know that we managed to fuck up in some small way at least.
12. Colours — Jason Derulo — Russia 2018
I am really, really sorry, to have to put this so low down the list. I was backing our Jason to pull something spectacular out of the bag here, but unfortunately he has come up with a big old bit of nothing. While the lyrics “represent your country”, “there’s beauty in the unity we’ve found”, and “show your true colours” may be full of well-meaning, they don’t really mean… well… anything. Do they? The song has a nifty little guitar riff, and what could kindly be described as a catchy chorus, but I imagine this will become mind-mushingly irritating by the fourth ad break of the tournament. Also, it really misses him singing his own name at the start, which is a necessity of any Jason Derulo banger. I would love to say that he tried with this effort, but I just don’t think he did.
11. We Are One — Pitbull ft. Jennifer Lopez & Claudia Leitte — Brazil 2014
J Lo. Pitbull. What more could you ask for? Perhaps a chorus that consists of a little more than “Ole ole, ole ole ola”? Or more of a Brazilian carnival inspired track? Perhaps just a better song? Essentially you could ask for a hell of a lot more. We Are One spreads a positive message of togetherness and pride in where you come from, but other than its nice sentiments this doesn’t have that much going for it, despite the all-star lineup.
10. The Time of Our Lives – Germany 2006
A bit slow, this song harks back to the Spanish style of many former World Cup songs (mostly those from Spanish-speaking countries) and the operatic Spanish 1982 effort. It has nothing to do with football other than some World Cup highlights in the music video, and a boyband standing on a CGI football pitch. Weird, un-German, and distinctly average.
9. Boom — Anastacia — South Korea 2002
This is where we can mark the beginnings of asking international superstars to perform the World Cup Song rather than someone from the host country, representing its culture or singing about football. While the song itself is Anastacia’s trademark euro-dance, it is ultimately just a song. It lacks any connection to South Korea, Japan, or football. Perhaps they thought the world wasn’t ready for K-pop yet. Perhaps they were right.
8. Gloryland – Daryl Hall and Sounds of Blackness — USA 1994
Despite the embarrassing title, the soulful chorus of America’s unknowing entrant into this competition is really quite good. The verses are pretty whiny but you can’t have it all, I guess. The USA’s performance in their first World Cup, is mirrored by the performance of their song in this equally prestigious competition, in that it scraped through the first round, only to be beaten by much better opposition.
7. Futbol Mexico 70 – Los Hermanos Zavala — Mexico 1970
Getting better now, but I mean, this still isn’t great… It’s just a touch too slow, and despite the fact it basically just repeats three words — “Futbol Mexico Setenta” — throughout, it’s not particularly catchy. It’s only managed to climb this high up the list because of the (lack of) quality of other songs, and the fact that it’s somehow still stuck in my head when I’ve come to edit this a week after writing. Maybe it is catchy.
6. Un’estate Italiana – Italy 1990
Italia ’90, home of the best football shirts of any World Cup and the lowest number of goals per game (2.21). The World Cup song, however, has not aged as well as the shirt patterns, unless you’re a big fan of ’90s heavyweights Westlife or Boyzone. The only thing that stops this emphatic duet from becoming the complete ’90s banger is the lack of a bold key change towards the end. While ’90s Irish-boyband-pop isn’t my go-to genre, this at least carries its own flavour, could have possibly held its own in the charts, and crucially, is quite catchy.
5. Mundial ’82 – Spain 1982
A more upbeat song than a lot of the older attempts, Spain mixed the old with the new for this operatic number, and it very nearly works. I’m not usually the biggest fan of opera but the chap just sounds so jolly I can’t help but smile. Listen at him. Lovely ey? Two minutes is probably enough though, rather than the whole song. Definitely skip ahead to the big finish though, that’s the good stuff.
4. Hot Hot Hot – Mexico 1986
This is great. Fantastically ’80s, fantastically Mexican (despite being performed by Arrow, of Caribbean island Monserrat), and just an all-round great tune. The one downside is that it is seven minutes long, and doesn’t vary much throughout. There’s only so many times you can sing the word Ole. My personal highlight of the song is the great use of the cowbell in the breakdown, although you will have to wait for about four minutes before you get to that bit. This is perfect for the barbecue playlist, telly precariously balanced on a wheelie bin, watching Argentina put five past Wales as a warm-up before the intense concentration for England’s inevitable disappointment.
3. Waka Waka – South Africa 2010
A controversial World Cup song, this tune was slated by many football fans. However, I am of the belief that it is in fact a bloody great tune. Colombian Shakira was not represented by her national team at this World Cup, however she went ahead and sang a song for it anyway. How nice. She inspired her then-husband Gerard Pique to lift the trophy with Spain, but in all honesty, I’m not quite sure why she was chosen to sing at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fucking belter, but why get Shakira to sing about Africa when you could get an African to sing the same, or perhaps a more African song? The only answer is for the global reach that comes with a household name like Shakira. Interestingly, after they made that decision in order to promote better promote the song, Waka Waka became the only World Cup song to ever do better in the charts after the World Cup than during it, and was really overshadowed by K’Naan’s Coca-Cola advert soundtrack, Waving Flag. It’s still an absolute banger though.
2. El Rock Del Mundial – The Ramblers — Chile 1962
This is a classic rock n’ roll tune performed by the Ramblers for the First Ever World Cup Song. Really great stuff. A ’60s tune for a ’60s World Cup. It all goes a bit Latin American in the middle, which is good, as I like to see distinct cultural influences from the host nation. If you want a three minute, musical snapshot of Chile in 1962, this is probably your best bet. The fantastic guitar work is matched by the passion and exuberance of this song, and although I am probably a little biased by a love for The Beatles and Elvis, second place deservedly goes to Chile (which is one better than they’ve ever done at a World Cup, in case you were wondering).
1. La Copa de la Vida — Ricky Martin — France 1998
Now we’re talking. I know we all hate it when France win anything, but let’s be fair; Ricky Martin pulled out all the stops for the 1998 tournament. OK, so it’s not very French, in fact it’s entirely Latin American in style and Spanish in language, but this tune shot Ricky Martin to fame so that he could later bring us Livin’ La Vida Loca, and does that alone not warrant it this prize? Potentially even better than his infamous party hit, it has a catchy chorus, a great samba style, and creates a party atmosphere ripe for any World Cup. It’s just a shame it was for France rather than Ricky’s home nation of Puerto Rica, or another Latin American country, where the style would have better reflected the host country’s culture.
Ben Sledge 19th March 2018