The World Cup kas kicked off in full force, giving all Americans who usually never care about "footie" an excuse to drink lager at dawn and act like rowdy football hooligans at the neighborhood pub with local Euro ex-pats. This is a win-win situation, clearly. World Cup time is also an excuse for musicians of all genres, many of whom probably only show interest in sports every four years, to come up official and unofficial World Cup soccer songs. Some of these themes are proud, proper flag-flying anthems, while others fly in the face of tradition. But all of them are a real kick.
So here's our list of the most memorable recent World Cup songs during the past 20 years of modern pop. Game on!
New Order, "World In Motion" (1990) - Manchester mopery and terrace-shouty sportiness don't normally go hand in hand. But when doom-mongering '80s post-punks New Order recorded Britain's 1990 theme with lyrics co-written by Brit comedian Keith Allen (Lily Allen's dad) and a rap by footie player John Barnes, somehow it all worked. It was hardly New Order's best song, but it was one of the best-ever World Cup songs, and it was New Order's only U.K. number one hit. Too bad plans for a remake with David Beckham rapping never materialized...but maybe it was better to just leave this one alone.
The Farm, "All Together Now" (1990) - While this feelgood singalong was originally released by Liverpool band the Farm in 1990, it wasn't until years later that it became a football anthem--first in 1995 in association with the FA Cup Final, and then nine years later when it was remade as the English National Football Team's theme for the Euro 2004 tournament. British girl group Atomic Kitten also covered it for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, but the Farm's version holds up best.
Daryl Hall & The Sounds Of Blackness, "Gloryland" (1994) - Although Hall & Oates' "Maneater" would have been an awesome World Cup song (imagine these revised lyrics: "Whoa-oh, here we come..."), we here at Yahoo! wholeheartedly champion anything and everything Daryl Hall is involved in, even overblown, sap-soaked power-ballads like this gospel-tinged theme for the USA. Daryl Hall just makes us proud to be an American.
The Lightning Seeds, "Three Lions" (1996) - One of the most popular football songs to ever come out of England, this upbeat number-one hit by another Liverpudlian indie-pop group, Ian Broudie's Lightning Seeds, was the official anthem of the England football team for the 1996 European Championships, and it featured lyrics by U.K. comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner. Perhaps the song resonated with the British public so deeply because it addressed the ongoing disappointment among English footie fans still waiting for their team's big, long-overdue comeback. The overall vibe of "Three Lions (Football's Coming Home)," however, was hopeful and optimistic, and so this song remains an international favorite to this day.
Ricky Martin, "The Cup Of Life" (1998) - Recorded at the peak of Ricky's career just as he exploded internationally, this tour de force still has the power to inspire stadiums of sports fanatics to cry out, "Go, go, go! Allez, allez, allez!" in unison. A true classic.
Fat Les, "Vindaloo" (1998) - Fat Les was actually a fictional joke side project with a lineup that was no joke at all--we're talking credible types like Blur's Alex James, famous artist Damien Hirst, and Lily's father again, comedian Keith Allen. In 1998 Fat Les came up with their own unofficial World Cup theme, "Vindaloo," then upped the comedy even further by parodying the Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" in the song's video. It was winning formula, indeed: The single went to number two in the U.K. chart.
Nelly Furtado, "Forca" (2004) - This wasn't specifically a World Cup song, but as the official anthem of the 2004 European Football Championship, "Forca" perfectly captured the sport's feeling of glory and global unity. (As a side note, may we suggest Nelly's "Promiscuous" as a sequel-song theme of sorts for the British soap Footballers' Wives? Just a suggestion.)
Crazy Frog, "We Are The Champions" (2006) - Britain's most loved and loathed cartoon mascot, ringtone-shilling amphibian Crazy Frog, followed up his novelty cover of "Axel F" with this bothersome battle-cry during the last World Cup. (The album that spawned it, Football Crazy, also included the jock jams "Ole Ole Ole [Do The Froggy Wave]" and "Na Na Na, Hey Hey.") Freddie Mercury was probably spinning in his glittery grave, and Britain perhaps not coincidentally didn't win that year. But after one listen to this 2D's critter's Hi-NRG interpretation of Queen's arena anthem, it'll still get lodged in your brain until World Cup 2014. You have been warned: This will drive you crazy.
Chic-Pack, "Chiquiti Bum" (2006) - This uptempo rump-shaker from Mexico, also released in 2006, was almost as annoying as Crazy Frog's song. But hey, the video provided ample eye candy for fans who'd rather watch the cheerleaders than the players.
Lumidee, "Dance" (2006) - An aftergame partystarter off the FIFA 2006 official soundtrack album, "Dance" featured a fun Whitney Houston sample, and four years later it actually sounds fresher than anything on Whitney's most recent "comeback" album.
Goldie Lookin' Chain, "Beckham Tribute" (2007) - British culture is all about football and tearing down tabloid celebrities. So this bizarre performance by Welsh novelty rappers GLC, in which they dedicate their cult hit "Your Missus Is A Nutter" to David Beckham (whose wife purportedly "likes a drink"), simply must be included here. GLC had to apologize on behalf of all of Wales for this pre-game stunt, which took place at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. But when these nutters ask the musical question, "Are you ready to see some karaoke from men in tracksuits?"--well, our answer is a hearty affirmative.
Phil Mossman, "Damn Boots" (2008) - This isn't a World Cup song, exactly, but this cautionary tale about faulty footwear from the ex-LCD Soundsystem member ought to be required listening for any pro soccer player hoping to have a long and healthy career. Beware the dangers of painful football boots!
Angelique Kidjo, "Move On Up" (2010) - The Grammy-winning world music star was joined by John Legend, dancers from the Broadway musical Fela!, and even the one-and-only Bono this year during her World Cup concert performance of this rousing Curtis Mayfield classic. Talk about the perfect kickoff song!
K'naan, "Wavin' Flag" (2010) - Now here's an irresistibly triumphant anthem, seemingly ready-made for stadium shoutalongs. It's no wonder it was chosen as an official song of Coca-Cola for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, with various "Celebration Mixes" recorded with different artists (David Guetta, will.i.am, David Bisbal, et al) and in different languages. Clearly this winning song has international appeal.
Dizzee Rascal & James Corden, "Shout For England" (2010) - Mercury Prize-winning U.K. grime king Dizzee and Brit comedian James teamed up this year for a World Cup theme that borrows the chorus from Tears For Fears' 1985 hit "Shout" and is backed by none other than Simon Cowell. So how could they lose? As of this writing, Dizzee's charity single is being rush-released in the U.K. and is predicted to enter the Brit charts at number one.
We Are Scientists, "Goal England!" (2010) - We Are Scientists are American, but they're much more popular over in the U.K., so when it came time for them to declare their team allegiance this year, their choice was obvious. "People ask why we didn't record a football anthem for America," the group's Chris Cain told NME. "When you want to give your girlfriend a great gift, you give her something you know she wants, not something you want. We've never been huge football guys, but we're pretty big England guys, and we know her well enough to know she loves her a football anthem. So we made her one." These We Are Scientists blokes sure got game.
Weezer, "Represent" (2010) - Unlike We Are Scientists, American band Weezer got in the spirit for the good old U-S-of-A, giving away free downloads of their own U.S. soccer team theme during the World Cup's kickoff week. Frontman Rivers Cuomo, a huge soccer fan, announced he'd be watching the June 12 U.S/England match live on a TV backstage at Bonnaroo. "As soon as we realized we were going to confirm that show, we asked the promoter if they were going to be showing the game," he said. Apparently a flatscreen was in Weezer's rider!
Shakira, "Waka Waka" (2010) - This Colombian pop superstar has very shrewdly aligned herself with the World Cup world, performing in the 2006 opening ceremony in Germany and now returning this year with the official theme for South Africa, "Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)," based on by the Golden Sounds' Cameroonian song "Zangaléwa." Shake your non-lying hips to Shakira's rousing rendition below.
Macy Gray, "Beauty In The World" (2010) - Again, for the spectators who'd rather gawk at cheerleaders than players, Macy has shot her own FIFA video starring a team of fashion models hitting kicking a ball around the Los Angeles Coliseum. Considering that they're wearing stilettos, their footwork is impressive!
R. Kelly with the Soweto Spiritual Singers, "Sign Of A Victory" (2010) - R. Kelly is one of the more schizophrenic recording artists of modern times, flipping between the gospel spirtuality of "I Believe I Can Fly" and "U Saved Me" to the loverman freaky-deakiness of "Bump 'N' Grind" and "Feelin' On Yo Booty" to the downright insanity of his multi-chapter "Trapped In The Closet" hip-hopera. But his new World Cup anthem thankfully finds him in triumphantly classy, choir-flanked mode, more P.G. Kelly than R. Kelly. This one's suitable for World Cup viewers of all ages.
Shuttleworth with Mark E. Smith, "England's Heartbeat" (2010) - It makes sense that non-English-language World Cup songs would have to be subtitled. But this shambolic indie tune features vocals from the Fall's legendary Mark E. Smith that are so incoherent, he might as well be singing in Swahili. Follow along with the subtitles below and try to decipher his cryptic message of, we assume, positivity and triumph.
Rik Mayall, "Noble England" (2010) - Of course, we saved the very best for last. Mayall, mainly known in the U.S. as snotty, uppity university student Rik on the short-lived MTV-syndicated Brit sitcom The Young Ones, has delightfully gotten in the game with his own World Cup theme and hilarious video. Rik for the win!