In the last few weeks, The World Cup has taken over. Suddenly everyone has become avid soccer fanatics with a passionate sense of nationalism, and the matches have conquered TVs that used to play the likes of news or reality shows. Therefore, we decided to stick with this sentiment and invade Tunesday with the tournament as well. Although FIFA held the first World Cup in 1930, a theme song to coincide with the games only became a precedent in 1962. Every year since, there have been an increasing number of both official and unofficial anthems. The best singles over the history of the cup show pride for the country in which the match is held or promote world wide unity.
Los Ramblers—“El Rock del Mundial” (1962)
This track by Chilean rock band, Los Ramblers, sparked the tradition of official World Cup anthems, which did not exist for the first thirty years of the competition. Unlike the theme songs of today, “El Rock del Mundial” focuses specifically on Chile where FIFA held the 1962 games. The Spanish lyrics translate into “Get the rebound, goal, goal by Chile!” If only they had this song to push them through the penalty kicks that sealed their fate in their match against Brazil this year.
Gianna Nannini & Edoardo Bennato—“Un Estate Italiana” (1990)
Although the quality 90s graphics will likely win you over, Nannini & Bennato act as reinforcement with their Italian vocals that blend blues, rock and folk. The pair won the official anthem spot for the 1990 competition held in their home country, Italy. For those of you who don’t happen to speak Italian but would like a translation, here is the English version of the song. Italy took third place in these games, losing the win to Germany.
Daryl Hall, Sounds of Blackness—“Gloryland” (1994)
If you couldn’t tell by the video’s spanning images of national monuments, The US held 1994’s World Cup and chose Daryl Hall for the theme song. What’s more American than lyrics that read, “With a hunger in your heart/ And with fire in your soul,/ With passion rising high,/ You know that you can reach your goal”? However, The US didn’t exactly fulfill this prophecy when they lost in the second round of the tournament to Brazil. It’s excusable, though, since Brazil ultimately went on to win the World Cup title in a match that ended in penalty kicks. To create a track that was almost as dramatic as the ending to the series, Daryl Hall temporarily stepped aside from his project with John Oates. Unlike his more well-known collaboration pieces, such as “You Make My Dreams” and “Rich Girl”, Hall here adds more gospel and soul into his work.
Ricky Martin—“The Cup of Life” (1998)
Selecting an international pop star to perform at the 1998 games in France changed the tradition of World Cup anthems. Before Ricky Martin’s performance, the board chose artists native to the country in which the games were held. Los Ramblers performed in Chile, Plácido Domingo in Spain, and Buenos Aires Municipal Symphony in Argentina. However, in the following games the artists shifted to the likes of Shakira, Pitbull and Anastacia—names that people recognized worldwide but had no association with the country in which they performed. Even without a native to serenade them in these games, France still took the victory of the tournament held in their country in 1998.
Thank you Anastacia, for perfectly summing up pop culture of the early 2000s in one video: hip huggers, a crop top and some Britney-esque dance moves. South Korea and Japan, who cohosted the 2002 games, chose this American singer to perform the official song. This was the first and only World Cup held in Asia or by two countries thus countries. Unfortunately South Korea lost in the third-place match, and Japan failed in the second round, leaving Brazil to take the title.
Herbert Grönemeyer – “Zeit, dass sich was dreht (Celebrate The Day)” (2006)
Germany broke the stream of pop stars that performed at games directly before and after them by recruiting a native to sing the anthem for 2006 when they held the World Cup. This year brought a renewed sense of nationalism to Germany, who, since the end of the World Wars, had been reluctant to flaunt pride for their country. Citizens again raised their German flags in honor of their team and country. This song did not only play as the games opened and closed but also boomed through the German team locker room as players focused on the upcoming match. Although Italy ultimately won this series, Germany’s renewed since of pride brought a different type of win to the nation.
Bob Sinclair—“Love Generation” (2006)
This unofficial track of the German games features vocals by Gary Pine, a member of Bob Marley’s The Wailers. Filled with whistles and lyrics of “Peace on earth to everyone that you meet” and “I’ve got so much love in my heart/ No one can tear it apart”, “Love Generation” acts as a unifier for countries in the competition rather than calling for teams to go to battle. Although Sinclair gained most of his fame from this track, you may also recognize him for “World, Hold On”.
Shakira—“Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” (2010)
If you don’t remember trying to emulate this dance back in 2010, this video should refresh your memory. Once you manage to dismiss the cultural appropriation, you’ll realize why the track has sold nearly 10 million units across the world, far surpassing the sales of past World Cup anthems. Shakira works with South African band Freshlyground to combine pop and South African music, creating a blend of culture synonymous with the sentiment of The World Cup. Shakira performed “Waka Waka” at the opening ceremony of the 2010 competition in South Africa and again after Spain’s victory in the finals. Although Shakira returned for this year’s anthem, Spain did not fair as well. As the reigning World Cup and European champions, fans expected Spain to at least advance to the final rounds of the 2014 games. However, they fell off the charts in the first round.
K’naan—“Wavin’ Flag (Celebration Mix)” (2010)
K’naan originally wrote “Wavin’ Flag” to advocate for his people’s freedom in Somalia. However, Coca-Cola altered the lyrics to adopt a tone of celebration for their 2010 World Cup promotional song, making it the unofficial anthem of the games. The company stripped the song of its initial meaning to better suit its campaign, eradicating the lines “Born to a throne, stronger than Rome/ A violent prone, poor people zone/ But it’s my home, all I have known… So we struggling, fighting to eat/ And we wondering when we’ll be free”. The new version, which is more optimistic and holds a message of unity, reached the top ten charts in over twenty countries around the world.
Shakira—“La La La” (2014)
Shakira has apparently become the first choice of anthem singers, considering this is her third song FIFA has featured in The World Cup. However, for the Brazil games, Shakira’s track became the secondary theme song, while Pitbull’s piece with J. Lo received the title spot. “La La La” runs rife with drums and chants, and The World Cup version features Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown. The track’s video depicts tribal and Brazilian culture and a handful of well-endowed football players. If their track record over this competition says anything, it is likely that the country featured in her video will take home the championship.