World Cup songs: the good and the mad
Nothing says 'the soccer World Cup' like a football song. Well maybe the actual soccer World Cup says it better, but you get the idea.
The tournament proper begins on Friday morning (New Zealand time) and alongside the usual analysis of the best players of now and yesteryear, football songs also come into focus. The official tournament anthem, We Are One, by Pitbull with Jennifer Lopez and Claudia Leitte is going great guns on YouTube but has left Brazilians unhappy for its lack of Portugese lyrics and local singers. Brazilian singer-songwriter Edu Krieger has penned his own protest song, Desculpe Neymar (Sorry Neymar) about social inequality, while football is very much the focus of Zinedine Zidane by unsung Melbourne band Vaudeville Smash (with Les Murray on vocals) and of Noble England, the song which grieving Rik Mayall fans are campaigning to make this week's number one in the United Kingdom.
We've assembled an eclectic list of World Cup songs for you to compare, including a couple of admittedly rank outsiders. If you can put aside national pride for a few minutes help us decide the best-ever World Cup song.
Los Ramblers, El Rock Del Mundial - (Chile, 1962)
At least one song here should be able get your World Cup party started and this hip-shaking Chilean rockabilly number is it. Also, we may be hearing El Rock Del Mundial (Rock the World) again if Chile beats Australia on Saturday morning, as expected. According to our exhaustive research original Los Ramblers trombonist Gustavo Vidal is probably no relation whatsoever to Chile's current star player Arturo Vidal. But he did play the trombone nicely.
New Order, World in Motion - (England, 1990)
England's official 1990 song is another undoubted high point in sporting anthems, courtesy of new wave heavyweight band New Order and a co-writing credit from Lily Allen's football mad father Keith Allen (who also penned the cult world Cup song Vindaloo). It succeeds despite the rapping of star winger John Barnes, who lasted about as long on the pitch after a groin injury cruelly ended his tournament.
Monty Python, Always Look On The Bright Side of Life - (1991 / England 2014)
You've got to love the cheerful acceptance of defeat by the English. Every four years they aim to repeat their 1966 glory but have learned to accept failure like a dotty relative at Christmas. Monty Python's famous Life of Brian outro has become a fan favourite over the years and for Brazil 2014 the iconic comedy troupe recorded an additional verse: "When you're in the World Cup, and all your hopes are up, and everybody wants your team to win. Then they go and let you down, and come slinking back to town, it's time for this daft song to begin."
Ricky Martin, La Copa De La Vida (Cup of Life) - (France, 1998)
Before he was a judge on The Voice, Ricky Martin had quite a big career in pop music. This huge bold anthem, the official song for the 1998 World Cup in France, launched his crossover success into the English-speaking world and helped the rise of Latin pop in general. Martin sang it to a television audience of over a billion people and it topped singles charts worldwide. But nowhere was The Cup of Life more successful than Australia, where it was the biggest-selling song of 1998.
Del Amitri, Don't Come Home Too Soon - (Scotland, 1998)
Somewhat less exhuberant was Del Amitri's mournful ode for Scotland's ill-fated French World Cup adventure. The title reflected the muted public expectation for the 'Tartan Army', which was ranked 41st in the world. "Even long shots make it," urged Del Amitri singer Justin Currie, but the team was out 13 days after the tournament began following a 3-0 drubbing by Morocco.
Shakira and Freshlyground, Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) - (South Africa, 2010)
The most popular World Cup song ever, a number one hit around the world and the eighth-most watched YouTube video in history (with 678 million views), was controversial at the time for its focus on white (Colombian) singer Shakira when it was the anthem for the first African World Cup. Waka Waka was undoubtedly a watered-down African song, but for a true global audience it was a triumph.
Rik Mayall, Noble England - (England, 2010)
The sadly departed comedy legend co-opted act 3 scene 1 of Shakespeare's Henry V to produce a rousing anthem aimed at firing up the English team for the African World Cup. Unfortunately England crashed out 4-1 to Germany in the round of 16. A campaign is underway to make the song number one in the United Kingdom this week and so far the numbers are looking good.
Pitbull with Jennifer Lopez & Claudia Leitte - We Are One (Ole Ola) - (Brazil, 2014)
This song has received a ton of criticism in host country Brazil especially (for bland lyrics and not including any of the local tongue, Portuguese) and there are worries self-proclaimed "Mr International" Pitbull might be booed when he sings it. But it does have a carnivale vibe and the rap by Jennifer Lopez works well. Pity she doesn't want to go to Brazil to sing it. It is however very very popular on YouTube with more than 72 million views.
Edu Krieger, Desculpe Neymar (Sorry Neymar) - (2014)
Great football is one thing but Brazil is also place of considerable social inequality and unrest, exacerbated by the World Cup, according to critics of governments and organisers. Here acclaimed singer-songwriter Edu Krieger sings passionately about the troubles he sees: "we won't be champions, spending more than 10 billion bucks, to host a World Cup in this country, we have built beautiful and large stadiums, while the schools and the hospitals, are almost collapsing". A serious message sweetly delivered.
Vaudeville Smash, Zinedine Zidane - (Australia, 2014)
Okay, so technically this unknown Melbourne band's playful viral YouTube hit (which has more than half a million views) is not a World Cup song, but it's ended up that way given the release date, 10 days ago. For anyone who doesn't know, Frenchman Zidane was a World Cup winner and three times world footballer of the year but perhaps best remembered for the ignomonious end to his career when he headbutted Italian player Marco Materazzi during the 2006 final. In a completely unrelated twist of fate, Zidane turns 43 during Australia's match with Spain on June 23.