The Best and Worst World Cup Theme Songs
The FIFA World Cup has been around since 1930 and with each tournament since ‘62, there have been several songs dedicated the event. This year’s World Cup has a whole album dedicated to it called “One Love, One Rhythm.” The focus of the tournament is clearly on the games on the pitch and not the music. But that being said, the World Cup has led to some great…and not so great songs to be recorded over the years. Let’s take a look at the best and worst songs to ever be associated with soccer’s grandest tournament.
|Pitbull feat. Jennifer Lopez - "We Are One (Ole Ola)"
The 2014 theme song making this list shouldn’t really be a shocker. There are very few songs that can feature Pitbull and not make a “worst of” list of some kind. Using the famous soccer chant of “Ole, Ole, Ole” wasn’t a terrible idea because who doesn’t enjoy that chant? It’s the opening verse that really puts a sour taste in your mouth and not even JLo can get rid of it. The chorus isn’t terrible and the parts of the music video that don’t show Pitbull are entertaining but it’s hardly a memorable World Cup theme.
It’s hard to tell if this song is trying to get you excited for the 1970 World Cup or if it’s trying to hypnotize you. Now, I don’t understand a ton of Spanish but I understood the large majority of this anthem. Why? Because the vocalists chant “Futbol Mexico Setenta” like 1,000 times over a three-minute span. There’s several kinds of Mexican music going on throughout the song but they don’t really blend together well. It’s hard to imagine that this song got many people excited about the 1970 World Cup but then again, it was the ‘70s so who knows.
In 1994, FIFA decided to let the United States have its first chance at hosting a World Cup. We foolishly decided that this gospel-like ballad would be the theme song for that tournament. Perhaps our music taste that year is why the States have never hosted a World Cup since. Not the best first impression from a music standpoint. “Gloryland” isn’t even a power ballad with cool guitar solos or anything. No, it’s a straight up gospel song based off “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah.” Perhaps the decision-makers were trying to play off the whole “soccer is a religion” thing but it didn’t quite work here. Its only redeeming quality is this particular performance, belted by the one and only Daryl Hall and introduced by a sprightly Oprah.
|New Order - "World in Motion"
British new wave kings New Order were a band that cool kids liked in the '80s, which made it all the more surprising that they would be motivating jocks come 1990. "World in Motion" actually isn't all that bad, for the most part. that is, until Liverpool player John Barnes attempts to drop a rap verse in the middle of it. What was a brighter take on the band's early britpop sound gets a bit squashed into a gimmicky bit of nostalgia.
|The Village People - "Far Away in America"
The '70s disco kings were better when left in the '70s. Here, the famous "YMCA" crooners are featured on a track with Die Deutsche Fußballnationalmannschaft, AKA the German national football squad. This seems like a poor decision, which it is, but let us also keep in mind that it's 1994 and just a few years before this, David Hasselhoff was one of the most beloved singers in that country so....
|Shakira - "Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)"
The 2010 theme song is in many ways the perfect blueprint for a successful World Cup ballad. It’s got Shakira, soccer, Shakira speaking Spanish and some great homages to the host country in South Africa. The music video starts off with the crucial penalty kick by Fabio Grosso that won the 2006 World Cup for Italy and then transitions to celebration both on and off the pitch. The song on its own is entertaining enough that you could still enjoy even today. The same goes for the music video. Not many World Cup ballads can claim either of those things. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with Shakira and football.
|Ricky Martin - "La Copa De La Vida (The Cup of Life)"
The 1998 theme is actually one of the better songs of singer Ricky Martin’s career. It’s classic Ricky on so many levels with its upbeat tempo, repetitive choruses and some great high notes. There’s some great Spanish themed music going on behind an honestly solid vocal performance on Martin’s part. Plus it’s got some great nostalgia factor for those who grew up when Ricky was at his peak.
|Gianna Nannini & Edoardo Bennato - "Un Estate Italiana"
If the U.S. wanted to do a proper World Cup ballad, it should have used this 1990 theme as a good case study. It’s got some great guitar riffs and that great sound of the later ‘80s and early ‘90s. Considering when and why it came out, it’s a decent song. Looking back, it’s a cute throwback to the music of yesterday and the 1990 Italy World Cup.