From the Department of Doomed From the Start comes adidas’ “Represent” campaign, the centerpiece of which is a custom downloadable song written for each team. There are some pretty decent bands in the lineup, so I’m trying to figure out why most of the songs are such a disaster. Music and sports do work, as American fight songs and terrace anthems prove. And it’s not just that current music is lousy for sports adaptation; Arsenal’s group of lyric-changing, CD-producing fans produce some hilarious stuff.
Is there just something hokey and forced about bands yelling out team names and players? Probably. It’s hard to take a good melody and beat seriously when the lyrics would have been rejected by Big Ten song-writers of the 1920s as too corny. And of course, it’s hard to take corporate-sponsored music seriously as a fan expression.
On the other hand, OK Go’s Chicago Fire entry rocks.
UPDATE: An addendum after the jump.
Having apparently rained all over the DCenters’ parade, I felt compelled to re-attempt-to-listen to these songs, and yep, they still suck.
The problem is that a sponsored team “anthem” is emblematic of all the lamest parts of American sports fandom. Songs like these are expressly meant to be pump-up music (or worse, TV-ad music) for the standard U.S. sports audience, so what you get is, by necessity, inoffensive and vaguely reminiscent of Jock Jams. It’s got bass and the team name so can play it to generate some canned enthusiasm and kid-dancing for the Jumbotron, but it’s not authentic, it’s not interesting, and it’s certainly not linkable to American soccer’s fairly mild hardcore. No supporter’s group is going to be able to sing along to Latinoish pop or indie rock even if it wanted to.
So what we get with the “Represent” songs is basically the muddle of cheesy mediocrity you’d expect. The ones that work the best are OK Go’s Chicago Fire song and, despite myself, The Rapture’s Red Bull anthem, but they’re only OK since they’re both amped-up electronic rock songs where the lyrics barely matter since the sound is cool. Mike Jones’ Dynamo song isn’t that bad largely since modern rap lyrics are such utter crap that it couldn’t possibly matter less what he’s talking about. But the others are just truly awful; avoid the TFC and Real Salt Lake songs if you value your ear drums.
(By the way, it’s worth mentioning that good “produced” sports music knows its place. The “Represent” songs aren’t just bad, they’re annoying since they seem to take themselves way too seriously AND they sound like complete tools. Seriously, what in God’s name sounds worse or ruins a decent song quicker than an “indie” band chanting “R! E! A! L!” or a repetitive “DC! United!” intro at corporate behest? Do they or adidas realize just how slimy it feels, let alone sounds? Contrast that to the aforementioned Arsenal rip-off songs, or Chas and Dave, or die Toten Hosen’s hilarious soccer song “Bayern.” You’ll see what I mean.)
This is just a case of adidas forgetting that soccer benefits from product differentiation, not the same stuff that works in baseball stadiums. The best music in soccer comes from the stands on gameday, and that’s not a formula to be messed with.